“Penguin, if you’re out there—I hope you’re listening…”

A web beacon (or a pixel tag) is a small, invisible piece of text or image on a website that is used to monitor traffic on a website. In order to do this, various data about each site visitor is stored using web beacons.”

So what? Why should a writer care about this arcane bit of programmerease? Are the rules of grammar or the strength of one’s imagination not more important to a writer?

Of course. Except…

In the new world of Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publish vs. Indy Publishing, the most marketable skills may not be the inky variety so much as the slinky variety.

Let me ‘splain you: I live 90 minutes from the Winnipeg Floodway. My location is a bit remote, and in terms of population density, it ain’t Brooklyn. However, my Android phone has, in its logarithmic digital wisdom identified Bloodvein First Nation as my nearest population hub.


Hilarious. BFN is a small place. It’s far away. There are dozens of towns that are closer and larger, and yet, this is what Samsung gives me as my location. My point is not to cast shade on Bloodvein but to illustrate the level of technical advancement available to me as an average citizen. It’s pretty sad.

Sure, I can scrape a little basic data from Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress analytics, but it’s meagre at best.

Now go back up to the web beacon description in the lede. See the potential difference? A big-arse publishing house can hire brainy types who love math, puzzles, and Star Trek to pin-point all the Whos in all the Whovilles across the globe! They can ID the entire population of Romantic Space-Fantasy Adventure Horror aficionados to within a pixel point of accuracy, plus or minus one redhead.

Me? I could spend most of the Toews fortune* on marketing and end up with a garage full of UNSOLD, shabbily printed grit-lit, collecting dust and angst.

*Such as it is, we are mostly invested in books, windsurfing equipment, and sewing machines & sewing machine accessories…

And it need not mean that dust-gathering library of Prose by Toews is second-rate—that is not my point. (In fact, I’m hoping you’ll take the opposite inference here.) The point is that FEW in the grit-lit-identity-seeking-Menno-odd-syntax-unusual-language-and-extremely-long-hyphenated-word cohort of worldwide readers will know that my awesome book even exists. The Whos in Whoville will remain drearily unaware. Toewsproseless.

So, it is by definition, existential. Dude. If I want to exist as a published writer, I must not only write good, gooder, goodest—but I have to shout it from the digital mountaintops too. Or aim to be the best-selling author in Bloodvein? (That may be tougher than I think…)

Here’s an interesting related post by Poet-Author Elizabeth Estochen:


2 thoughts on ““Penguin, if you’re out there—I hope you’re listening…”

  1. Hi Mitch, Are you saying it is really hard to break into the big leagues, unless someone in the big leagues recognizes what you’ve got and takes it from there? While in Brazil here I finished Kyle Penner’s book. I found it very interesting, but I wonder how wide a readership he can expect. His book is not fiction. Would fiction or non-fiction make a difference? All the best, Jack


  2. I’m writing a lot, submitting widely, experimenting with diffetent styles, working with my betters to develope my writing craft, and trying to be bold in my subject and storyline choices. I have an interest in how it all works, publishing-wise, but see myself still on all fours in the crawl-walk-run evoloution. 🙂

    I am pretty sure creative non-fiction, memoirs, and poetry have somewhat divergrent paths when compared to lit fic. But I don’t what those paths are or the relative degree of difficulty.

    I take inspiration from the many Steinbach writers in the struggle these days, from the famous to those who, like me, are at the baby turtle in the surf stage. 🙂 My approach is via publication in lit journals, others jump more quickly into self-publish. Many ways to go.


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