As I grow as a business man, I learn more about some of the decisions writers make, and I felt it was appropriate to discuss some of these issues in an open forum. I’m really just taking a few minutes to gain a sense as to what the rest of the community of authors out there thinks about a few things that have come up during conversations or conventions.

BobsGreatestMistakeThe Amazon formula: At Awesomecon, I spoke with a few authors about a practice that I find a bit underhanded. It’s one thing for an author to release segments of a book. One wise piece of advice I’ve heard about long-form authors is to release segments, and then release an omnibus book when everything is done. However, the more sly tool I’m opening for discussion is the habit some authors have of publishing a book. Amazon tracks “Hot New Releases” for 90 days. What some due (and it works for them, so how mad should I be), is then slap a new cover on the book and re-release it. Thus restarting that 90-day tracker and keeping the book appearing on the relevant pages. As I look at covers every day, I see this on occasion, and I hear about it more (admittedly more than I actually see it). The first topic of discussion is: Is this practice bad form or what it takes to get out there? What do you authors think about the practice as a whole an any who do it? What information do you have on the subject? (I have word of mouth and a few discussions here or there.)

Writing the story that’s in your head or the story that might earn you more: Having done more research now than I have, I understand just how small the Fantasy/Science Fiction audience really is. (Horror is that much smaller.) I have a few friends who jump at opportunity. I’ll be honest here. I don’t have any issues with writers sitting down and producing quality work for any reason. Getting other products out and bylines completed is a great strategy. I’ve had people loop me in on anthologies. I’ve only volunteered for one, and that was because I had the idea kicking around my head already. I can’t seem to write anything but the story playing out in my head. This is why Bob came out when it did, and was then followed by the much darker Caught. To be honest, it’s hard to keep my mind on Oneiros because Perception of War is playing like an X-D theater in my mind. Writing Kaitlyn’s short story has done a good job to help get the Oneiros juices flowing, which is one of the two major reasons I decided to make that my main project. I’m also aware that some genres simply sell better. I have friends that insist I’d be a best seller by now if I wrote romance. I’m not actually against any writer producing any quality work. I just don’t have a lot of “romance-specific” stories running around my head. Also, those novels are much tighter, fast-paced stories. I have to force my self to keep the word count down. How many of you struggle to write in a metaphorical box? This may mean you’re writing to try to satisfy an audience or produce a story for something for the sake of a byline. Again, I can’t stress enough how OK I am with it, I simply don’t have that ability. I have to write what’s in my mind and in my heart.

ElelefinalGetting Product Out in a Timely Manner: This leads me to the third topic (and I think I’ll stop here even though I could go on much more).  I love epic fantasy. Most of my projects are large. But it takes time to write 400,000 words (or even 100,000).  So when an idea for a shorter format story came to mind, I went at it. What this will do is something I feel is a financially beneficial decision to keep me in the lighter shades of red while I produce the deeper, wider-scoped stories I love most. I would’t be able to do this on the spot. Even Sojourn was a tangental project that was made harder for me because my mind wanted to focus on Images of Truth. The main reason I was able to work on it as quickly as I did was Elele is in both books.  This other world captured my fancy. The theory is I can do one “large” project a year (like Caught or 1,200), and one or two smaller projects. I’m holding off on releasing until I build a buffer of sorts that allows me to release product more frequently, but that’s the ideal pace for me. I still admit I don’t prefer this method at the moment. I like to work on a thing until it’s done (or the draft is done) and then step away to something else. Based on where I am with Oneiros and 1,200, my newer short-fiction saga (called Mercer in case you’re wondering) is what will be my “step away” project while I’m in between drafts of the Oneiros log (not to mention trying to get 1,200 out there).  The question here is, what is your ideal pace, and what do you all think is a solid “release” year?

I’d ask any author to comment below. If you could, please state what you have out and some record of where you are in terms of being a business author.  What are your thoughts on these topics? What works for you?

I thought this was a good chance just to open the doors to the community and get a dialogue  going on these subjects. If this goes well, I’ll make it an occasional post.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “The Art of Writing vs The Business of Being an Author: A request for discussion.

  1. I’m currently working on my 12th novel (and FB just reminded me that my first novel came out 4 years ago). I don’t have a comment on the first topic as I haven’t noticed this trend. It doesn’t sound very ethical to me, though. With regard to your second topic, I firmly believe that you should write what you love and not what will earn you money. How great can a book be if the author is not passionate about the subject? Sure, the writing may be good but what about the story? The third topic is more difficult to comment upon as earning money is not my number 1 goal with writing. I don’t think there’s a tried and true formula about releasing books (although there are definitely months of the year when releasing a book is better than other months). My release schedule varies depending on what I’m working on. Mysteries and romcoms are quick writes for me whereas my suspense and historical novels take much longer. Personally, I use my backlog to run a sale for one book per month.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the info. I agree with pretty much everything you’re saying. While I’m not in it for the money, I would like to one day quit my day job and focus on writing full time. I’d even be okay if my books simply paid for themselves, which I understand just takes time and a solid backlog. The first and second points were the largest reasons I thought about this post. If I wanted JUST to make money, I think there are ways to do it, but the writing is what I love. Thanks again for the thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One sounds unethical. These kinds of scams may work in the short term, but I doubt they do in the Long term.

    Second, write what you love. You’re the one that spends hours upon hours with the material. Spend it with material you love. As a romance writer, I can tell you I’ve been reading the genre for almost 30 years. I write it because I love it. I can tell when someone is writing romance but doesn’t get it. I tend to dislike their work.

    Three, I can’t comment on. I don’t have anything published yet. Still querying agents.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t see how a fresh cover would help with the 90-day cliff (or whatever it’s called now), as the title remains the same, and so it is not a new book. Maybe it’s more to do with promotion, but I can’t help thinking paying for promotion would be cheaper than a new cover every three months.
    Your second point – I’ve heard and read a lot about the whole ‘write to market’ thing, but I don’t think it has to be a black-and-white choice between ‘write what you want’ and ‘write what sells’. Chris Fox, in his ‘Write To Market’ book is pretty clear on this – aim for the overlap between what you like to write and what sells.
    Not that I think I could manage that. I prefer quirky books that eschew standard tropes anyway.
    On your third point – maybe you have an advantage writing epic fantasy. Longer books take longer to read, and readers want to be consumed by the world. Seems to me they are probably willing to wait longer for the next book, whereas voracious romance readers who devour a book a day will want their next fix asap. But interspersing full novels with shorter works makes sense, even if they are only for your mailing list — at least that keeps you fresh in your dedicated readers’ minds. And if the shorts are in the same world as the novel, it isn’t too much of a problem going from one to another.
    But what do I know? I’m selling enough to keep me firmly in the red at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts. Those are all solid points. I agree that the covers might not make sense. The ones I’ve seen that do it use very cheap stock photos and slap some text in it. But one I saw recently had somewhere near 100 reviews too. So it’s not like they’re spending more than perhaps $50-$75 per run rather than the few hundred BookBub would run (one day I’ll get on that email list!) That sweet spot you mentioned between what’s in my head and what’s hot is what I hope to be doing. Time will tell if it works. Again, thank you so much for offering your thoughts. I hope those sales skyrocket.

      Like

  4. Please keep in mind that I’m answering as half of a team; my “clone-sibling” and I collaborate a lot, and yes, I did ask him what he thinks about these questions.

    “Is this practice [of re-releasing a book with a new cover as a “new” book] bad form or what it takes to get out there?” It’s dishonest. Release it as a new EDITION if there’s more new about it than just the cover art, but don’t trick readers into thinking it’s a new story when nothing has changed except the packaging. Also keep in mind that Amazon usually ends up banning authors who engage in anything Amazon considers fraudulent.

    “How many of you struggle to write in a metaphorical box?” We don’t believe in boxes (except the kind our feline overlords like to play in). We also have more than enough ideas already, so we’re unlikely to write whatever’s trendy in a given week just because it may sell better to people who don’t like the kinds of fiction we like.

    “The question here is, what is your ideal pace, and what do you all think is a solid ‘release’ year?” It’s better to write one GOOD novel every year or two than to write three or four BAD novels each year. If you can write faster than that and write well, great, but don’t rush it just to get something published.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can get behind those thoughts. I like the idea of two quality products a year (one small and one large.). I’m trying to build a buffer, but I’ll only release when I’ve gone through my process. Thanks for the comments. Good food for thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is coming from an author who has released 9 books, 4 of which are series, and spanning very different genres with little overlap of readership. Bear in mind that I do not make enough to not have to work several contract jobs to cover expenses so my input might be more of a “What not to do.” lol.

    1. I think what you are referring to is serializing a book. They aren’t releasing a “new book with a slightly reworked cover” they are releasing the second section of a novel with a slightly re-worked cover. I am in the process of doing this with my latest work because I got to 80K words and realized I don’t have a full book, can’t divide it into two stories, and don’t want to. But I realized a clever way to do it was to release each “chapter” similar to the way a comic book does. I think when done right, it’s clever and allows you to produce more quickly. But my struggle is that I want to make sure I have everything worked out before I hit go, so I can hit that release schedule, which has caused two of my other projects to get delayed. There are, unfortunately, too many who are just doing it to game the system. They release a 17K “book” and play the KDP market for page reads. That’s their main focus and I think it’s cruddy. That is not MY goal at all.

    2. I think part of my struggle with writing the story in my head is that I write as broadly as I read, and every time I have to completely rebuild my audience, which hurts my bottom line at the moment. However, it will keep me from being pigeonholed into only one type of story, and as I want to be a prolific writer more than I want to be the next JK Rowling, I will suffer through it.

    3. I struggle with the concept of “Writing fast.” I set goals every year to add the next book for each series, and I fail most years, leaving those fans mad at me. There are days where I kick myself for spreading myself so thin, and I made a new rule this year that I am not allowed to publish any more books in another series until I wrap up the two I have with clear endings. (Which has my clean romance story very, very, very disappointed with me.) At the end of the day, I ask myself, do I want to write quality stories, dime-store novels, or be a flash in the pan (E.L. James, anyone?) At the end of it, I want my stories to have depth, to make people think.

    At the end of the day, you have to decide why you are writing. Then you need to pursue that purpose. If I were looking to get rich, I would be submitting to publishing houses and getting that bigger market. I would focus on one genre and plan out my whole series. I would try to crack the Amazon Code and wouldn’t publish wide. But my hope is to create the kind of stories that will endure.

    I saw a really cool Goodreads thread where someone was asking what were the top 10 Fantasy stories he missed out on in the 90s and I loved that although there were a couple of common ones that showed up in most lists. (Dragon Lance series, Sword of Shannara) there were also hundreds that I had never read. But to the person making the list, they were 1 of 10 books that person thought everyone did/ should read. I want to end up on someone’s list like that one day. Even cooler if I end up on their list 30 years from now 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have a problem with serializing. I’m actually doing that with Bob to increase the options people have. (I was told it was a bit intimidating as a full volume.) I don’t mind that at all, but I have seen people take stock-art covers, swap it out, and call it a day. I think there are those like you and me who just want to create options or produce quality work more quickly, but I also think there are those who, as you said, game the system. They are worse than cruddy.

      I’m with you on writing. As I mentioned, even finish Oneiros is a challenge for me because it’s not necessarily what I want to write at the moment, but I don’t want to leave out those (all five of them 🙂 ) waiting for the next installment. My new release format allows me to still get the louder voices in my imagination out without stalling people who may actually want to read the next book in a series.

      I’m also completely behind your goal. I want to create endearing stories with compelling characters. I want these stories to be great. I think to take on the test of time, one has to take a bit more time. I love Bob and Oneiros is fun in an action movie way. I actually wrote Caught because I needed a fun break between deeper plots. However, Mercer and Perception of War is the direction I’m going. Sooner or later (when I feel like I’m as sharp as possible) I’ll take on my own little story of dragons. But that’s very far down the road at the moment. Sure, I’d like to pay my rent with writing, but I’d be happier the way I am now (not impressive in sales, but the greater majority of those who read my book like it) than sell a million books people hate.
      This new plan of mine is just a way to try and find a balance and keep my creativity flowing the way it’s designed to. At least until I can write full time.
      Thanks for the comments! They were very helpful and thought provoking. One of these days we’ll have a Nerd Rage panel I can actually make it to. #toomanyjobs

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t been able to make nerdrage either 😦 Tuesday is family stuff. However, I heard a rumor they’re moving it back to the weekend *Fingers Crossed* If not, you and I should start our own thing 😉 I’m sure we can find others to join in!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, I write military science fiction and you’ve seen my resume! 😛 But 3 novels, a novella, a novelette and a short story in an anthology. Oh, and a fourth novel that is currently in the developmental editing phase.

    1) I think that any update to your book would reset the date for the Amazon algorithms? If it assigns a new ASIN, it resets the 30 Day Cliff. I have a publisher, so I’m still learning the mechanics, but as long as whatever you’re doing isn’t messing with your readers, the rest is just business. However, if you already have a good cover, changing it seems stupid. I mean, you’d be screwing with your branding for the series and your brand. I can’t imagine the upside would be that great?

    2) I suppose I’m lucky, I love military science fiction and I read it. I love science fiction writ large, so as long as it’s in that large genre, I’m writing what I love. At least for now, what I love IS the good for the current market. I’ll worry about my thoughts on that when and if the market does change on me. I’m sympathetic to those not in that position.

    3) I can write pretty quickly, but I draw to a stop when I hit the editing phase. It’s definitely too slow, and I’m trying to work out a strategy that increases my speed and works around my health issues. If I figure anything out, I’ll be sure to circle back and let you know. In the end, however, I think I’ll take as long as it takes to get out a good product. I wouldn’t wanna put my name on a book if I didn’t think it was the best I could do.

    Anyway, those are my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And your thoughts are as welcome as always. Honestly, the sneaks I see pulling that trick never have a good any good cover. It’s usually just something slapped together each time, so there’s not drop off or increase in that. Some genres are better suited. It’s a perfect storm when you love to write what’s selling. That goes without saying. I slow down when I’m revising as well (said the guy revising three books, and should be revising a fourth, at once). It just take time. I’m all in on 2019. My hope is the Anthology I’m doing does well, Repressed and the rest of Oneiros works. After that, it’s up to the readers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I’m not a fan of people scamming the system because it hurts the readers too. And since most authors are also readers, it’s something we should always worry about. And I always hope your books do well too! But having a full time job definitely gets in your way! 🙂 You’ve got my respect for what you accomplish, given how dedicated you are to your students.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s