C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: Are you in the echo chamber?

I love my writing community here. I’ve learned a lot from others and, as indies, we share a lot of information. We’re a generous bunch with each other. I appreciate your comments and participation on my little writing and publishing blog. Because I’m a sweet bunny pooping love everywhere, I have to tell you something with love:

Writers talk to other writers too much. We must talk to readers more.

Let’s make this go down easy by using an example from another industry.

When massage therapists try to figure out their businesses, they ask their peers and senior massage therapists for their opinions. They want to drink from the well of experience. It’s a good notion that frequently goes awry. Their peers are often as clueless as they are and senior therapists either don’t have the same problems or their advice is out of date. Take pricing, for example. They’ll set fees based on what they’d pay. But many massage therapists would never pay for massage. They don’t have enough money or they swap treatments with other therapists. Massage treatment is for people with real jobs and insurance coverage, not us.

Stick with me and hold my hand, because this is about to get uncomfortable.

Writers need to listen to readers more.

Sadly, writers often don’t have much money to spare so we use libraries or search for free a lot. Most of us buy books when we can, but with budgets as tight as they are, we’re often not your audience. As a result, many of our industry’s book prices are artificially depressed. We’re asking the wrong audience what we should do. (I’ve taken this advice. I just raised prices on some of my books and generally, the trend will be up.)

A veteran writer who’s “made it” (whatever that means) often doesn’t know all the variables that contributed to his or her success. If someone coasted to indie success from a high in traditional publishing, they can’t tell you much about the current scene. Precious few people attribute any of their success to luck. It had to be their sheer brilliance. However, many of us are brilliant and we’re still eating boot soup.

So, what not to do?

If you don’t tweet others at all, you may as well be on Mars.

If you rarely check your direct messages, you’re in the bubble.

If you only check your mentions on Twitter, you’re screaming into the echo chamber.

If you follow three people and two of those are your other Twitter accounts, you’re only hearing yourself plus you’re a raging narcissist (and not in a good way).

If you only have conversations with people who don’t buy books, you’re surveying the wrong people.

If you only speak to people who “buy” free books, you’re engaging the wrong audience. (Readers who buy with money instead of a click are often suspicious if your book is priced too low, for instance.)

If you don’t take new information in and seriously consider change, you’re for slavery. (Your own.)

If you do have conversations with readers from time to time and you talk about them, you’re on a smoother path.

If you don’t cultivate supportive friends, you’ll be alone, surrounded by fiends and without a fire ax or holy water.

If you only attend conventions with other writers instead of fans, you’ll have a great time talking to people who agree with you: “Wow, it sure is hard to connect to new readers!”

If you never get out and talk to real people in the real world and only connect with people on a safe and cyber basis, who will you learn to hate so you can kill them in your next novel?

If somebody says, “I prefer paper books,” and you reflexively say, “How Amish of you! Ebooks are the only future!”, that was kind of funny, but you should be listening instead of cracking that same joke open again. It’s rotten on the inside.

If you say all this social engagement is too hard and it takes away from your writing time, I’m sorry. I thought you were writing to be read. Get a calendar or time management software. At least tweet or email during commercials.

If you immediately dismiss everyone with whom you disagree, you’ll never learn the secret to…well, anything really. Plus, you’ll come across as a jerk.

I’m not suggesting you allow me or readers or reviewers or anyone else to run your life. I am saying that if you recognize yourself in this list and it gives you that squirmy squirts feeling, adapt accordingly. Listen.

You should listen to me. I’m a writer.

Filed under: author platform, getting it done, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bookstores are disappearing. Time to sell my book collection.

Malcolm Ingram, Canadian independent film dire...

Image via Wikipedia

I came to two realizations about books today:

1. We aren’t being brave enough.

and

2. It’s time to sell my book collection.

Two film directors (Kevin Smith and the guy behind Donny Darko) talked on a podcast about cross-promotion with their movies and how five years from now there will be no bookstores. Though they are both authors as well, their main focus is film so they could be dispassionate about our sick industry. Contrary to what you may have heard, that’s a reason to take their assessment of bookstore extinction more seriously, not less. People inside the publishing industry often have their judgment clouded.

When confronted with such dim prospects for bookstores, many inside the book industry answer:

1. Nonsense! Horrors! Unthinkable!

or

2. It won’t happen that fast. We still have lots of time to bleed the old paradigm dry.

But five bookstores a day are closing across the United States. E-book sales are growing faster than most publishers anticipated. It won’t be long before even your Grammy is buying her books in an electronic format. At first she’ll hold back on buying in, but when the variety of large print books diminishes—they always were a marginal asset—those electronic readers that allow her to easily bump up the text size will push her over the edge. The rise in e-book reading tells me we’re already past the time when digital book consumption is only about the early adopters. That goes double once Christmas morning hits.

Sure, there will still be specialty bookstores, or rather, premium collectibles bookstores. You’ll come for the books, but it’s the coffee they sell which will make the serious money.

I write this without glee. I love bookstores. They are my last retreat. Where else besides my office, will I go willingly? Bookstores and libraries are to me what graveyards and remote girls’ schools with lax curfews are to vampires.

I hope many bookstores find a way to survive. A bunch of them may do it, but those will be digital books on the shelves, mocked up to look like tree books. Yes, grandfather, there will still be tree books, but you’ll pay substantially more for them. Big print runs keep the unit price low by producing large volumes. Those print runs are about to be cut (further) so that paper book you’re so attached to will be a specialty item. (Have you noticed the rise in the prices of buggy whips lately? It’s crazy.)

Then I listened to another podcast. Blowhard’s Malcolm Ingram was speaking with a porn actor/director. Ingram observed that the skills are transferable to mainstream film. (Insert your own joke here.) But he was talking about technical skills. Then he mentioned that it’s never been easier to make a film. It’s true. The cameras come fancier and cheaper than ever. YouTube is a young filmmaker’s playground (search Nigahiga and you’ll see what I mean.)  Technology has democratized filmmaking. “I’ve directed two documentaries,” Ingram said, “and I’m borderline retarded.”

That, ladies and germs, is indie spirit.It’s brave. It’s what we’re lacking.

What’s true for film is also true for publishing. Becoming an independent publisher has never been easier and the technology to make a book and market it is only getting better. People have done it. A bunch of industry experts with their own agendas are holding with opinions which were once valid. They get less valid each day (and another five more bookstores go extinct.) They have their reasons to mistrust self-publishing, but if they’re still confusing self-publishing with vanity publishing…frankly, now those people are boring me.

We’ve already hit the iceberg so stop wringing your hands about whether we’ll make it to New York harbor. Honestly, your obstinacy is titanic.

Oh. That other dire conclusion? Paper books are on the way out. I have thousands of them.

It’s time for me to sell them while someone’s still interested in buying them.

 

Filed under: Books, DIY, ebooks, getting it done, Media, movies, publishing, Rant, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

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