Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Wordsmith
TnTexas
Posts: 884
Registered: ‎10-22-2011

Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

5ivedom: No, it's not a gamble.

 

If you study and analzye what works for books that become successful and websites that become successful and apps that become successful and movies that become successful there are REPEATABLE patterns.

 

It's just easier to say - It's a gamble.

 

It's a lot of hard work and a lot of strategy and taking a lot of shots. So, yes, you can hide behind that crutch of saying 'That writer found success by chance'. However, the truth is that the writer did a lot of things right and had better strategy and was more OPEN to opportunity.

 

There's more to writing and publishing a book than simple analyzation. All of the analyzation in the world isn't going to do a writer a lick of good if the public is tired of what he's produced and is ready for something new. All of the analyzation in the world isn't going to do a writer a lick of good if his work is seen as being just a pale imitation of Famous Author Who Has Already Made A Name For Himself In The Genre. All of the analyzation in the world isn't going to do a writer a lick of good if he doesn't know how to connect with potential readers and potential readers don't know how to find him amidst the plethora of available titles. In other words, it's a gamble as to whether or not a particular work will be a big success - more like an unexpected strike of lightening than anything else.

 

As far as dismissing someone's success by saying "That writer found success by chance"l, I didn't say that. I never would. Just the work itself that goes into writing a good book is hard work. But there are plenty of writers who have worked hard (traditional and self-pubbed) and never had much success so obviously there's an element of chance involved in the equation as well. It's not just a simple, work-hard-enough-and-success-is-guaranteed formula.

 

Think about it. Are all these indie authors who find big success mad? JA Konrath, the Donovan Steele guy, Hugh Howey.

 

Why are all of them sharing everything about their success?

 

Because it's a HUGE opportunity for authors.

 

And for anyone who UNDERSTANDS it's maddening. That everything writers want - millions of readers, good money, recognition - is right there for the taking. But they won't take the blindfolds off.

 

You make it sound as though all one has to do is write the book and then work hard to sell it - that if you do that, it's a done deal. How about the self-pubbed authors who've worked just as hard as the big names you've mentioned and haven't seen much for their efforts? Where do they fit into the equation? Because I can guarantee that that group vastly outnumbesr the one who are highly successful.  

 

Look, I'm not knocking self- publishing. I think it's a good thing for many. What I'm knocking is the glorification of self-publishing - the selling it as the goose that lays the golden egg for everyone. The fact of the matter is, it doesn't. For most, the goose is simply going to lay regular old eggs - just like it does for the majority who publish via traditional publishing routes.

 

 

flyingtoastr
Posts: 3,019
Topics: 55
Kudos: 2,947
Registered: ‎11-11-2009
0 Kudos

Re: Publishing jargon


bobstro wrote:

Well yes, toaster, that I get. But Keri didn't point me to his books, initially. I'm more interested in whether there are any clever ways of capturing or quantifying such "referrers". Word of mouth is great, but how to quantify it, short of a "how did you hear about us?" survey?


The usual method always seems to be affiliate links, but it really isn't an easy thing to qualify.

Distinguished Bibliophile
keriflur
Posts: 6,624
Registered: ‎01-05-2010
0 Kudos

Re: Publishing jargon


bobstro wrote:

Well yes, toaster, that I get. But Keri didn't point me to his books, initially. I'm more interested in whether there are any clever ways of capturing or quantifying such "referrers". Word of mouth is great, but how to quantify it, short of a "how did you hear about us?" survey?


I think it's still word-of-mouth (or in this case, word-of-fingers).  You could also say his platform was responsible, in that I referred you to his platform (his blog) where he was also marketing his books.

 

This is why platform is so big in nonfic - Chuck's blog about writing brings in writers.  If they like what he's saying, they buy his books on writing, and probably his other stuff too.  It's a direct line to a specific market.

 

As for how to quantify referrers - I'll ask my husband, but I don't think there's any way to get decent numbers on it.  I do have this book on word-of-mouth marketing, but I haven't read it in so long that I can't remember what it said, if I even read it all the way through.  I see there's a couple of sequels now.

Distinguished Bibliophile
bobstro
Posts: 3,767
Registered: ‎01-01-2012
0 Kudos

Re: Publishing jargon


keriflur wrote:

I think it's still word-of-mouth (or in this case, word-of-fingers).  You could also say his platform was responsible, in that I referred you to his platform (his blog) where he was also marketing his books.

 

If nothing else, it's a good example of the importance of having a "complete" presence. Not just a book in the various markets. Not just a blog. Your reference turned into sales because he's deeply integrated the two.

 

I think that underscores a lot of what you've been saying in this thread. The means of publishing is just one small part of the story of what it takes to "succeed". Having those books on the market for sale would have done him no good in my case, had he not had both enough goodwill for you to reference him, as well as easy-to-find links to a number of sources to make buying easy. It was definitely impulse buying.

 

Of course, by tradition, now we should devolve into an argument over what "success" means. I'm going to channel 5ivedom from earlier posts and argue that if you haven't made over 50,000 sales, you aren't successful. Discuss. :smileyhappy:

 

This is why platform is so big in nonfic - Chuck's blog about writing brings in writers.  If they like what he's saying, they buy his books on writing, and probably his other stuff too.  It's a direct line to a specific market.

 

Good news for me. I'm targeting a very specific vertical market. 99.9% of the population won't care about it. Those that do will care very much.

 

As for how to quantify referrers - I'll ask my husband, but I don't think there's any way to get decent numbers on it.  I do have this book on word-of-mouth marketing, but I haven't read it in so long that I can't remember what it said, if I even read it all the way through.  I see there's a couple of sequels now.

 

 

I expected "The Anatomy of Buzz" to be sage advice on enjoying a night on the town without a nasty hangover the next day. Good stuff. I've marked it for later review. (Enough impulse buys!)

Distinguished Bibliophile
keriflur
Posts: 6,624
Registered: ‎01-05-2010
0 Kudos

Re: Publishing jargon

Success is another one of those terms that IMO you have to define for yourself.  To me, being a successful writer will mean that I can quit my day job and never write code, requirements, or process documents again unless I choose to do so.  By my definition, Chuck Wendig is successful.

Inspired Wordsmith
petesnook
Posts: 405
Registered: ‎12-08-2010

Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

Having no interest in publishing, I have no idea if this article from earlier today is useful to those of you interesteed in self-pub. If it isn't, ignore it.

 

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/04/09/news-barnes-noble-introduces-nook-press-for-author....

Bibliophile
5ivedom
Posts: 3,544
Registered: ‎12-03-2011

Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

[ Edited ]

TnTexas, think of it as switches.

 

So you're in a room. It's dark. And a voice tells you -

 

Here are ten switches you can slide. It gets harder and harder to slide them. Some you're naturally better at. Some you're not.

 

 

If you can turn on enough switches all the way OR if you can turn on most switches half of the way, then the light will come on.

 

*****

 

In your model, you're saying there are a few switches (perhaps 4 or 5). And that one of them is not controlled by you.

 

Which is fine.

 

However, what if you just make a jump of faith and assume - The REALITY is that there are 15 switches, not just 5.

 

No one let you know that there are more switches. They just happen to be a bit harder to find.

 

So you have all these switches

 

 

Product Market Fit - whether there's a market for what you are writing.

 

Marketing - How to create awareness

 

Quality of Writing - How well you write

 

Plot and Story - The story itself. This is completely different from quality of writing.

 

Pre-Sales - How do you get people ready to buy.

 

Sales - how do you get people to actually buy.

 

Monetization - How to make money from your work.

 

Influence & Psychology - Open Loops, Hooks, Getting people invested in character, social proof.

 

Book Cross Marketing - How to market other books from one book.

 

Book Cover Design & Psychology - How to get attention and get user ready to buy the title.

 

Likability - Whether readers like you.

 

Relatability - Whether readers can relate to you and your story and your characters.

 

And so forth.

 

*****

 

There are two things that are KEY

 

1) There are some switches that you can push ALL the way and they, by themselves will guarantee you success.

 

Example: Product Market Fit. Write something people want and the writing matters less.

 

Example: Marketing & Sales. Get very strong marketing and sales channels and the writing is almost unimportant.

 

Key: Most writers DO NOT UNDERSTAND this. It goes AGAINST everything a writer would like to believe.

 

It's heresy - to say that someone who writes 1/10th as well as you is going to get 10 times the success.

 

But it happens ALL THE TIME.

 

*****

 

2) There are some switches that you can push ALL the way and they, by themselves, will do NOTHING.

 

Example: Quality of your writing.

Example: Strength of plot and story.

 

Key: Again, most writers DO NOT UNDERSTAND this AT ALL.

 

Every writer at some deep level likes to think that 'the best writing in the world' will lead to success all on its own. The truth couldn't be further from that.

 

 

3) If you can push enough switches half way, then you can win on any combination.

 

This is the single most important thing to realize. Because almost anyone can develop the skills to push 6 to 10 of these switches half way and guarantee success.

 

First hurdle: Most people don't even know such things exist. They think there are 4-5 switches and ignore the other 10-15.

 

Second hurdle: Most people get stuck on the wrong switches. Quality of writing - even though it alone can do NOTHING. Chance - it's not controlled by ANYONE so what's the point of focusing on it.

 

*****

 

Now consider the switches model and contrast that with whatever model you have in your head right now of what will get you your definition of SUCCESS.

 

There are a few KEY advantages of the Switches Model

 

A) Firstly, it gives you freedom to focus on the particular switches you can excel in. Finding 5-8 out of 15-20 switches to push is MUCH easier than trying to push 3 out of 4.

 

B) It frees you of the misconception that 'hard work' on 'writing' alone will get you success.

 

C) It frees you of the idea that there's some 'Chance' switch that overrides everything else.

 

Because, whether or not this Chance switch exists, believing it exists only REDUCES your chances of success.

 

If you adopt the switches mindset and say - There are 3 switches I can master and there are another 4 I can push half the way.

 

Now I just need to do that and I'm set.

 

That gives you the impetus to work well and smartly and hard.

 

*****

 

Whether or not that Chance Switch exists, it's in your best interests to believe that it doesn't matter whether the chance switch exists or not.

 

You can push enough other switches to get your definition of success - without ever depending on the chance switch.

 

And what if it doesn't exist?

 

*****

 

Finally, if you actually analyze what some of the successful authors are doing, and contrast it with the authors you would classify as 'working hard' it would AMAZE you just how far ahead the successful ones are in areas like

 

- marketing

- social network presence

- analyzing for product market fit

- cross promoting

- creating relationships with readers

 

******

 

I'm not talking about 10% better. I'm talking about 5,000% better.

 

*****

 

So you could take a writer who's

 

90 out of 100 on writing

50 out of 100 on getting an Agent and a Publisher

5 out of 100 on marketing

0 out of 100 on all the other switches

 

And then wonder why this 'super hard working' and 'super talented writer' isn't successful.

 

OR you could look at someone who's

 

70 out of 100 on writing (at which point you've dismissed her, so have Publishers)

5 out of 100 on getting an Agent and a Publisher

70 out of 100 on marketing

90 out of 100 on likability

75 out of 100 on cross marketing

55 out of 100 on social networking

80 out of 100 on building relationships with customers

90 out of 100 on presales (really good website, cover, description, title)

70 out of 100 on social proof and influence

80 out of 100 on hooks and open loops and getting users invested into characters

 

*****

 

And you and I could sit ALL DAY and wonder why Author #2 is selling 50K copies a month while Author 1 who is 90/100 on writing skills and has an agent and is hard working is selling 50 copies a month.

 

It's about rethinking your ENTIRE model of how success in publishing happens.

 

Distinguished Bibliophile
bobstro
Posts: 3,767
Registered: ‎01-01-2012

Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

[ Edited ]

5ivedom wrote:

[...] 1) There are some switches that you can push ALL the way and they, by themselves will guarantee you success.

 

I tend to think of switches as binary. On or off. This sounds more like a DJ mixing panel. Another problem with the switch analogy is that it implies you can set something and then ignore.

 

Are you truly saying that just "doing something" is a guarantee of success? If so, why aren't more people just doing that thing?

 

Example: Product Market Fit. Write something people want and the writing matters less.

 

I think this will quickly get into another discussion of what "success" means. You can imitate or pander, and perhaps achieve a certain level of success (sales). One need only peruse the look-alike covers on books in the fiction section to see this in action. I can remember seeing a dozen titles trying very hard to mimic William Gibson at the height of cyberpunk. They may have achieved some success by doing so, but I don't think even that could be described as "automatic". Did those look-alike authors "succeed"? They pushed all those buttons. Did that guarantee anything?

 

Example: Marketing & Sales. Get very strong marketing and sales channels and the writing is almost unimportant.

 

Again, depending on your measure of success. How many TV shows have been touted as the ultimate <whatever>, only to fall flat after a single season. Similarly, there have been shows that the industry decided were failures that the fanbase clamored for (Firefly). "Almost unimportant" is not "unimportant". Again, it depends on your measure of "success". Yes, there's lots of drivel out there. I don't think setting out to write drivel, then market it is a good plan.

 

[...] 3) If you can push enough switches half way, then you can win on any combination.

 

This is the single most important thing to realize. Because almost anyone can develop the skills to push 6 to 10 of these switches half way and guarantee success.

 

Again, that word "guarantee". You can increase your odds. You can position yourself. I don't think you can guarantee anyting 100% when it comes to publishing. There are certainly authors who do things so well it seems they're achieving automatic success (Clarke's Third Law), but typically you'll find a lot of work behind the scenes.

 

[...] Second hurdle: Most people get stuck on the wrong switches. Quality of writing - even though it alone can do NOTHING. Chance - it's not controlled by ANYONE so what's the point of focusing on it.

 

You seem to be downplaying the importance of telling a good story. Is that what you mean? If so, aren't we almost at the point where machines can start cranking out successful fiction? If not, why not? I suspect because writing is still important. 

 

[...] Whether or not that Chance Switch exists, it's in your best interests to believe that it doesn't matter whether the chance switch exists or not. You can push enough other switches to get your definition of success - without ever depending on the chance switch.

 

How exactly would one "push" the chance switch? Hell, even winning the lottery requires buying a ticket and turning it in. (Well, usually.)

 

Again, I think this is more positioning oneself to succeed. Keri's link to the terribleminds blog is a good example.  Chuck Wendig "chanced" into selling me some ebooks, but only because he had invested the time and money into setting up infrastructure to allow me to make a spontaneous purchase. Yes, it could be called chance, but he capitalized on it. Presumably for far more than my 4 purchases. He has created an ecosystem of Chuckiness. For all that, though, he fundamentally has something to say that I was willing to spend a few bucks to read offline. I only found it because he said enough interesting things for Keri to bother with that first link. Without that, the slickest web site in the world wouldn't have compelled me to buy, nor would I have found it.

 

I'm OK with the idea that there's a mixing board full of factors that have to be considered, even if not addressed, to succeed, but I'm having a hard time accepting your notion (if, indeed, it is your notion) that one can more-or-less ignore the "writing" slider (switch, if you prefer). I think writing is the good bass line that everything else builds on (to run with the mixing board analogy). You can't ignore it. At least not to be anything more than a one-hit wonder.

 

[...] Finally, if you actually analyze what some of the successful authors are doing, and contrast it with the authors you would classify as 'working hard' it would AMAZE you just how far ahead the successful ones are in areas like [...]

 

 

What I think you're trying to say is that there are a lot of factors that can contribute to success. I'm just suspicious when you add the word "guarantee" to the mix. Max out the bass and reverb, and you still won't be guaranteeing anything. (OK, enough of that analogy.)

 

I don't think you're surprising too many people when you explain that there are a lot of factors, no matter how many words you use to do it with. I'm not sure why you think this isn't something that's obvious, or why it's beyond the comprehension of readers here. Look at the Wendig-Howey brouhaha and they're both saying many of the same things, even if they emphasize different factors.

 

 

Distinguished Bibliophile
keriflur
Posts: 6,624
Registered: ‎01-05-2010

Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

[ Edited ]

I really, really want 5ivedom to prove his model for us.

 

In the meantime, I will stock up on popcorn.  I love good car crash train wreck entertainment.

 

Did you forget the word-of-mouth switch?  I hear you get great WoM with a crappily written book with no plot and cardboard characters.  Everyone wants to recommend those to their friends. :smileysurprised:

 

--

 

For the record, for anyone reading this thread who's ACTUALLY GOING TO WRITE A BOOK:

 

Likeability has nothing to do with whether readers like you, it's whether readers like your characters.  They don't give a hoot about you, and in fact are more likely to treat you as either a robot or a doormat, *especially* if they like your characters.

If you don't believe me, read this: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/425907.html

 

Plot and story are a huge part of great writing.  If you can write pretty words but can't write plot, you may have a future in the literary genre, but if you can't write story, you can't write.  Period.

 

If you actually want to know how to be successful as a writer, and want to write a book that sits on the bestseller lists for a year or more, read this:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/writing-21st-century-fiction-donald-maass/1114795079?ean=97815996340...

Donald Maass is a bestseller, and represents bestsellers, so he knows what he's talking about.  His advice is based on ACTUAL market research (not convoluted speculation) and a solid knowledge of the industry.

Distinguished Scribe
Omnigeek
Posts: 893
Registered: ‎01-25-2011

Re: Hugh Howey: Self-Publishing is Great for Writers

Anyone who thinks self-publishing is this huge game changer that will destroy traditional publishing and bring out new fantastic authors who've somehow been squashed by the traditional publishing houses really needs to go back and read what published authors have said about their editors and the grooming provided by traditional publishing houses. There certainly are opportunities for certain authors (not all of J.K. Rowling's wealth either) but self-publishing doesn't provide the development or market research that traditional publishing has. There will certainly be instant markets provided by fanfic circles -- surprise, surprise, there has been a fairly robust market for indy authors in fanfic for decades so the what the new technologies bring to play are larger venues for distribution and ease of access. BTW, there are occasional gems but a lot of fanfic -- like a lot of self-pubbed stuff anywhere -- really isn't worth reading. I suspect all this great enthusiasm will bring one or two more gems to light and a whole lot more drek that has to be waded through to find those gems. As an example, I could see another asteroid/comet scare bringing up dozens more manuscripts (both fictional and factual) on how to deal with it and most of them won't even bother mentioning the Rocket Equation or mass ratios or calculate actual interplanetary travel times. At least one of them will probably postulate solutions along the lines of building an actual Death Star to blow the threatening object to bits. Yeah, great development of the author and the industry. [rolling eyes]
Currently reading: Destiny of the Republic, The Knight of the Word, The Dark Knight Returns, Appleseed