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On With The Show

Discussion in 'Café Life' started by Paul Whybrow, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    The commercial side of publishing takes a good while for a fresh writer to come to terms with—and, even then, you'll never fully understand it.

    It's easy when starting out to focus on the technique of writing to create an engrossing story. Then, your book written, there's the stinking swamp of editing, when you start to doubt your intelligence and it feels like you're never going to leave this gloomy place as missing and repeated words and punctuation howlers crowd around you.

    Manuscript polished, to the best of your abilities, there comes the thorny problem of how to sell the damned thing! You know how wonderful it is, but how do you persuade others to even take a look? You become a supplicant, crawling over broken glass to the tradesman's entrance of literary agents' castles.

    Maybe you try self-publishing, uploading your precious novel onto Smashwords and Amazon to join millions of others, including famous authors and fellow anonymous writers. Your book disappears like a snowflake in a blizzard.

    Slowly, you comprehend that to achieve any success at all, you need to sell yourself too....

    You thought that what you were doing in writing a book, was something connected to an intelligent world where readers, critics and other scribes admired you for your skills in narration and plotting. You naively believed that the quality of your manuscript would sell itself, with minimal input from you as a personality.

    Perhaps you imagined doing the occasional interview, book signing or public appearance at a literary festival—but not often—nothing that would interfere with your writing the next book.

    You were wrong. Far from entering the refined and genteel environment of literature by writing a book, instead you've flung yourself into the world of showbusiness, along with unknown actors, musicians, comedians, painters and photgraphers—all of whom are trying to sell themselves and their skills.

    For every member of the public who likes what you do, there'll be hundreds who deride your talent or who completely ignore you for no logical reason that you can see.

    On with the show....

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    Well, I don’t altogether buy this, Paul. Parts of what you say are certainly correct. But the takeaway isn’t, although I surely can understand a degree or two of world-weary cynicism when you’ve been round the authorial block a few times.



    A few counter-arguments…



    Yes, publishers are obsessed with “platform” (i.e. Youtube subscribers) at the moment, but that’s just short-term crazy thinking. It’s not actually a sustainable model for selling books & authors.



    Books and reading have always, since the days of Gutenberg, been a pursuit for the few. Never mass market in the way of, say, beans. All it takes is a few thousand enthused readers, and you’ve got a bestseller.



    Some authors do very-well-thank-you without any personal publicity whatsoever.



    Despite everything you may have been told, books still mostly sell in the way they always have done… word of mouth.



    Which means that….



    If you write compelling, page-turning prose, they will indeed come… eventually.
     
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  3. Carol Rose

    Carol Rose Venerated Member Founding Member

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    In the six-plus years I've been published, with close to 100 books under my belt, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that what sells books is writing the next one. Building a backlist. Word of mouth. No amount of tweeting, blogging, pestering others to host me on their blog, writing Facebook posts, or sending out monthly newsletters has done as much for me in terms of building a readership as writing more books has done. And reviews haven't really done much either, to be perfectly honest. Sure, it's great to get glowing ones, but they don't sell books, anymore than the stinkers I've received have turned readers away. Reviews, like marketing, provide exposure, which indirectly sells books. But if you ask readers, they rarely buy a book based on one review, anymore than they decide to buy a book because of a Facebook post or a tweet. They buy them because they know what to expect from me as a writer. And they tell their friends ... who give me a shot. If they like what they read, they buy more books. If they don't, they move on to the next writer.
     
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  4. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    Thank you for the response, Agent Pete.

    I wrote this post slightly tongue-in-cheek, though with the serious intention of alerting fellow Colony members to the notion that what they were doing in trying to achieve success through being published was indeed a modest entry into the world of show business.

    I'm very surprised that you reckon the emphasis placed on an author having a platform will fade with time, as presently it's the one thing that's most emphasised as being crucial to success on writing advice websites. Over the last three years, I've subscribed to about 100 writers' blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. I did so initially, as a way of discovering how to run my own neglected social media profiles, but have come to enjoy perhaps half-a-dozen newsletters. The rest, I largely ignore as they frantically recirculate publishing news or offer fatuous advice on basic writing skills. There's a desperation to generate content for their newsletters that seeps through and I'm sure that some writers devote more time to their blog than creating fresh fiction.

    Worse are the Tweets made by literary agents. Occasionally, there's a gushy declaration about a client being published, but much of the content is pointless, comprising of photos of the agent's cats, cakes, flowers in vases and snaps of the agent herself squiffy at some book launch.

    I agree that the quality of a good story should sell itself by word of mouth, but unfortunately, an awful lot of crap succeeds in the same way. And, that's the trick to master—how do you get people talking about your book?
     
  5. AgentPete

    AgentPete Capo Famiglia Staff Member

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    I think the “Platform” word should be treated with extreme suspicion, because depending on one’s definition, it can be highly misleading. Publishers are chasing anyone who has good numbers on YouTube at the moment, on the basis that even 1% of 1,000,000 subscribers is still a reasonable number of books to sell. This is ephemeral thinking at its worst, and does nothing to build a sustainable publishing industry. Or even an authorial brand.

    Mindlessly trying to “build a platform” will, unless you are careful, lead to nothing more than intense frustration and wasted time. However, intelligently developing your readership is clearly a good thing to do. There’s a world of difference between the two.

    Absolutely they do. Unnecessary and unsustainable.

    Friggin right! Avoid.

    Well, that’s the central problem writers have always had, internet or no. In my case, I was fortunate… Wogan, Six O’Clock News and tons more took me and my book from nowhere to widespread awareness very quickly. And that kind of thing can still happen, in rather different ways.

    Carol is right. Write – publish – promote – repeat. Focus 90% of your efforts on producing compelling prose, stuff people must read. The rest will follow, at its own pace.
     
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  6. Matnov

    Matnov Well-Known Member

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    For me the reality is that writing fiction is primarily one aspect of the entertainment industry. And that if you want the fame and fortune then you have to be willing to put yourself out there.

    I am simply not willing to do so for a variety of reasons and I write for fun. Sure, I will publish on Amazon and get a thrill when somebody reads it and if something was to go viral, as I believe all the pretty young things call it, then I would sit back and happily take the money and run. But if you are serious about going down the entire conventional publishing route then surely this has always been part of the game for the overwhelming majority of authors?
     
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  7. Carol Rose

    Carol Rose Venerated Member Founding Member

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    But there are degrees of putting yourself out there that don't take precious time away from writing. Yes, you need exposure, even if you're releasing as often as I am. But I know writers who spend literally days studying trends, doing freaking algebra for the love of all that's holy, in order to figure out algorithms, and how many extra tweets it takes them to sell X number of books.

    Good golly, Miss Molly. Stick a fork in that. And then those same authors whine all day long on Facebook about how BUSY they are... ya think??? I want to scream at them, WRITE THE NEXT BOOK!!

    I'm lucky if I have time every day to get in 3,000 words, let alone study Twitter. I used to spend a lot more time on social media than I do now, and it didn't sell books. All it did was my precious waste time on Facebook drama that did absolutely nothing to advance my career. It may have hurt it, in fact. Readers don't like to see their authors ranting about stuff too often. Yes, we're human, but they hold us to a higher standard.

    I do believe in treating this like a business, but I also believe in spending the majority of the time I have to write... writing. :) I'm fortunate to be with a publisher who does a great deal of promo on behalf of their authors, and that does help, but again it's only exposure.
     
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  8. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    An interesting conversation. One that hits home for me as I try to find a balance between marketing and writing. I actually enjoy the public appearance side of marketing--the readings, school programmes, etc--the face-to-face marketing. As an educator who has done public outreach for decades, it feels natural to me to do stuff like that. Unfortunately, there are only so many potential readers you can meet face-to-face. It's the impersonal marketing where I get overwhelmed. The decisions around what and how to blog (I blog in the non-fiction areas I wish I was writing in...doesn't help sell my fiction in the least), how to structure social media so I can separate the personal from the professional. How to structure my web presence to sell both fiction and non-fiction without setting up entirely separate stuff for each (thus doubling the work load), how to set up and build a mail list, how to do all this stuff without spending a small fortune...It's easy to get sucked into the marketing vortex.
     
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  9. James Marinero

    James Marinero Venerated Member Founding Member

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    The rule of thumb that I follow is that 40% of effort should go into marketing. When you start out, you have one book. That needs to be pushed hard. It's easier, as @Carol Rose says, when you have a body of work and a band of loyal readers (I'm still working on that), and easier still when you have a publisher who will market actively - I don't, so I spend 40% on marketing (that includes several hundred tasks just to launch a book). For me, the 40% is lumpy - it's not 3.2 hrs every day. Unlike @Robinne Weiss I don't enjoy the face to face stuff, although I can do it. As I start my 6th book, the whole marketing process is becoming more mechanized and I can leverage (hate that expression) what has gone before and the efficiency improves. I just lean on the good old mantra - 'It's all bollocks and then you're dead'. It keeps me going...
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2017
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