Interview: Published on Feedbooks #3 – Nick Name

A couple of weeks before I had a great pleasure to be interviewed via Google Wave by the founder of Feedbooks, Hadrien Gardeur. The interview had originally appeared at the Feedbooks Blog.
Feedbooks is my favourite website for self-published authors and mobile e-book fans. If you haven’t been there yet, it’s high time to do it right now!

Nick Name is a tech-absurdist from Poland. His ironic short stories show how deeply our lives depend on technology. Runs litexperimental projects including Twitter’s #hashtagstory and Google-translated fiction. Guest writer at TeleRead, Publetariat and Fiction Matters. Believes in mobile e-books. They can bring the joy of reading to those, who don’t feel like consuming books the old-fashioned way. His dream is to be a default fiction author for any mobile device with eReading capabilities.

FeedbooksHello Nick Name, you write both in Polish and in English. How hard is it for an author to write in two languages ?

My mother tongue is Polish. Beautiful, rich, melodious language. On the other side I don’t think I’ll ever feel good enough to write stories in English. But web 2.0 opens so many doors for a writer, that I decided to spend some money on a professional English translation of my stories. This was after I discovered Feedbooks and all the great things an author can benefit from. So now I have two versions of the same book – in Polish and in English. This gives me one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compare chances of reaching readers at home and abroad.

What’s the current status of the e-book market in Poland ?

We are months behind the leading countries. Existing e-book stores offer publications in pdf format. Polish readers are not ready for e-books as they haven’t actually seen e-books in action and there are few people who feel obliged to explain e-benefits. Publishers aren’t rushing into e-publishing, because they are afraid of piracy.

In general in our country there is a strong, traditional approach to selling and reading books.

But currently there are two factors, which can bring e-books closer to tipping point. A first one is an International Kindle. Polish opinion leaders already have them. Words spread. More people get interested. Less people feel reluctant.

The second factor is much more important. It’s the launch of the Polish e-book platform, which in many aspects is similar to Interead’s Cool-er. The project is called eClicto and officially starts on 10th of December. This is surely going to redefine our e-book market. It will upgrade it to the “ePub phase”.

You define your works as “tech absurd”, could you explain why ?

A first beauty of publishing 2.0 is that a niche writer has bigger chances to succeed than the one, who tries to join an army of Dan Brown’s followers. That’s why I don’t describe my stories as sci-fi or speculative fiction. Yes, those tags say more, but they are actually not so to the point. People compare my writing to Topor, Vian or Keret, and it makes a lot of sense – I love that kind of literature. And I hope I’m bringing some fresh air with my focus on technology, which was always an absurduum-mobile.

For many people “absurd” is something wrong and unpleasant, something to avoid. But there is another point of view. Alfred Hitchcock once said: “absurdity can be only overcome with humor”. This is exactly my world. I don’t want the reader to escape from reality into a fictional world. I want the reader to recover from stress, to turn into laughter those little absurdly ridiculous things, which don’t deserve to be stressful.

So, I call myself a tech-absurdist and my stories are tech-absurd. If I use “tech-fiction”, that means that in this particular moment I just have lost faith. It’s very rare – as there is a second beauty of publishing 2.0.

The second beauty of self-publishing is that you can find your readers in any place in the world. Being niche in one country usually means no readers. Thanks to Feedbooks, “Password Incorrect” was being read by almost 10 000 readers from all over the world! I was never expecting that much!

How do you reach out to this niche and help them to discover your book ?

I’m using social media to get to the potential readers. My favourite network is Twitter. It’s informal and simple, what allows to combine a large variety of messages/tools. For a non-English writer it’s also the least stressful place to write. And actually it’s a great place for inspiration. The paradox is that 140-character limit has caused an explosion of creativity. In case of literature it’s twitter fiction. I am glad, that I can be a part of it – with my own #vss stories, as well as an original #hashtagstory project. The idea behind the latter one is very simple – I put together the stories from current Twitter hashtags. A crazy way to write fiction in English without actually writing it.

At Twitter I share my fiction tweets, but also promote a new approach to reading, which is involving all advances of technology. I’m sharing news about e-books, eReaders and everything, which helps to switch from a mobility of a paper book directly to a mobility of a new generation e-book – just jumping over the old computer screen e-book.

But Twitter is not the only social network I use. With my addiction to web 2.0 and technology, I’m just chasing for any new tool possible, and If I find one, I grab a username, start a profile and get pinged from Twitter. What I’m doing sounds like a semi-bot , and I sometimes feel like that. Currently I ping messages to 18 services. All of them are linked back to my blog and a 10k-download book at Feedbooks.

Another thing is Google Translate. English writers don’t need it. Writers should avoid using it professionally. But I’m a tech-absurdist, and this gives me some kind of license to do weird things. Google-translated fiction, as you might guess is a litexperimental project, where I involve translation script into writing process. My latest idea is to write a short story in such a way, that it could be easily translated by Google Translate. Just imagine: one story, written in a single language, available without any costs to 40 foreign language speakers!

So, you’re not only writing about the absurdity of technology but use it too to turn your writing into something different ? Would it still be tech absurd if you distributed your book on paper rather than as an e-book ?

This is exactly what I’m trying to do. We live in such times, that writing about them is just not enough. Technology is giving us so many tools to get involved, that writing no longer is a remote kind of activity. Especially if you are writing about how technology affects our lives.

When it comes to the form of a book, I’m already on the “e” side with no need for an emergency escape to paper. Because paper is not good for a book any more. It’s the books, which brought human civilization so far. I just don’t understand why we should keep them in a form, which is 600 years old.

The book has to change. Comparing to other forms of spending free time, reading seems to be less and less attractive. I believe that enriching the content with interactive elements, which engage you to watch, hear and share is the best way to evolve.

So probably instead of paper I’ll go for nano technology or in-the-eye reading component to have my book published. This would be the essence of tech-absurd.

And the last question. Why did you choose “Nick Name” as your pen name?

At first I wanted to have a universal name with a hook. Nick Name was a perfect choice to suggest a technology issue. Another thing is that nowadays every single person has many identities, and actually the one in ID card is not the most important. The web presence of a person means in many cases different nicknames for different purposes. Such a web-based personality split is a common denominator for our times and I wanted to grab it for myself.

When I started to self-publish, “Nick Name” received another meaning – you just need to register (for example to Feedbooks) and you can have your book published. There are lots of fantastic authors, who don’t have big chances to be spotted by big publishers. Now we can self-publish, and this is the best possible way to be spotted by people far more important – the readers.

In other words: you don’t need to have a big name to have your book published. A decent nickname is enough.

Find Nick Name on the Web:

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