Author Topic: When the book just WON'T sell  (Read 6769 times)  

Offline Decon

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Re: When the book just WON'T sell
« Reply #75 on: June 23, 2020, 04:42:20 pm »
I don't hang out here much anymore, and posts like this are part of the reason why. I published my first book eight years ago. I set aside $1,000 to support my effort to become an author. All the money I've spent since then has come from book royalties. My first five years, I grossed a total of $14,200. The past 2-1/2 years I've grossed $700,000. I spend about 10% on expenses and advertising.

No one ever sold a book by whining. No one was ever promised that even one of your books would sell a single copy. A lot of them don't. Most of the books published - whether trad or indie - aren't worth reading, in my humble opinion. My books aren't worth reading in a lot of people's opinion. But no one ever sold a book by whining.

LOL. Love this post. If anything it reminds me that participating in forums like this sucks up valuable time that could be spent writing and marketing. Long may your success continue.


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    Offline jb1111

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #76 on: June 23, 2020, 05:34:09 pm »
    I don't hang out here much anymore, and posts like this are part of the reason why. I published my first book eight years ago. I set aside $1,000 to support my effort to become an author. All the money I've spent since then has come from book royalties. My first five years, I grossed a total of $14,200. The past 2-1/2 years I've grossed $700,000. I spend about 10% on expenses and advertising.

    No one ever sold a book by whining. No one was ever promised that even one of your books would sell a single copy. A lot of them don't. Most of the books published - whether trad or indie - aren't worth reading, in my humble opinion. My books aren't worth reading in a lot of people's opinion. But no one ever sold a book by whining.

    No one ever sold a book without learning, either. A lot of these 'whining' posts are by people who probably have something they could learn from others. The OP has a couple books out. I wonder if anyone bothered to look to see what the issue might be that he has with sales, if any.

    (You have to write a book people want to read.) Was the statement made previously and I politely have to disagree with your answer.

    They write books they THINK people want to read. Why do so many authors ask where to place their book? That is a red flag that the story in question  is all over the place. If the author cant figure their own book out, what do you think the reader is going to experience?

     Want another one? Their book (in any genre minus sci fi) is 146k thousand words long. Another flag? Asking the same questions, getting the same answers and not fixing a single thing they have been advised on. This is not a one off, but rather a continuous cycle one can discover on kboards.Some people are asking the same question every year...how is my cover...why wont this sell.

    To make a living at this requires a number of things which every article, kboard post,youtube video etc talks about. Imagine a list, ten things to improve your odds of making a career in self publishing. Hand that list out and you will find most authors (those that are struggling) maybe have checked off five, seven but never all ten. The funny thing is, pride and other excuses will stop them from every completing the list.
     When you check all ten you will find things change. Until then you will continue buying 'advance secrets to making 5k a day ' while  searching for some mystical answer.

    Most of what you say I agree with. I just don't agree with the general attitude that crops up on KB periodically that good books don't sell because Amazon is "filled with so much dreck", "too many cr*p books out there", etc. It's all subjective. I've looked at the competition in my genre and those genres close to it and most of what I've seen is adequately well written. Same with most of the covers. Yet their rankings can often be all over the map. I attribute it to the massive amount of competition.

    I understand the frustrations expressed periodically on forums like this one. I don't think there is a checklist that will guarantee sales, but you're right in that if an author pays attention to what the more successful ones say here, they have a better chance at tweaking the math. Those who consistently do well must be doing something right -- something the newbies perhaps should pay closer attention to.

    Offline Frank the author

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #77 on: June 24, 2020, 07:48:17 am »
    wow. THANK YOU all who have taken time to reply
    I never thought this would hit 4 pages of replies but along the way I learned a few things about the marketplace

    One of them is this....
    At the end of the day I'll just have to double my efforts

    thanks again to any and all who have shared their story. I wish you all luck

    Offline KevinMcLaughlin

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #78 on: June 24, 2020, 07:55:51 am »
    I'll chime in on this, but before I do, I should note that in my experience there's no such thing as a silver bullet in publishing. For every "rule" someone can come up with, there's another person who's an exception. Keep that in mind when thinking about all of this... Learning from the experiences of others is good, but not everything that worked for me will work for you, and vice versa. Therefore, please understand that EVERYTHING I write below is meant as a "generally speaking" thing, not an absolute.

    Equally important is knowing your goal. Not everyone really WANTS to write full-time. Even many of the folks who say/think they do, don't. Full-time writing is like being a full-time anything else; that is, we work at it 2000+ hours a year. Most of those 2000 hours are spent writing new words, for the majority of us. Some folks manage to work less and still make full-time income, but they're the exception, not the norm. Much like I wouldn't expect to make a full-time living as a doctor if I only saw patients five hours a week, I wouldn't expect to make a living writing if I am only writing new words for five hours a week.

    This can make it incredibly difficult to jump to full-time when working a FT day job, with kids at home, etc. Writers who really want to go FT will find a way anyway; they'll put in the work. Most entrepreneurs of all sorts work one job while starting their first startup on the side. That often means working 40 hours a week at their day job and then ALSO working another 40 hours a week at the side hustle while it gets going.

    In writing, we've got a little leeway. Much more than in most entrepreneurial fields. Because books are effectively forever, we can still advertise books written ten years ago and get income from them. This means that even the book a year writer can eventually get to the point where they're able to quit a day job; it just takes twice as long as the 2 book a year writer and twelve times as long as the 12 book a year writer, on average.

    Writing is growing MUCH more competitive than it was in the early indie days. Back then, most indie authors were novices. We hit the ground running and did our best to learn as we went along. Our competition was trad pub - which had ALL KINDS of disadvantages. The biggest was probably price, at least at first. We were cheaper, so we sold well. But very rapidly experience actually surpassed price as the biggest indie advantage.

    The average traditionally published author has written less than three books. That includes all the Big Names who've written 20+. Most authors write 1-3 books and then vanish, in the trad world. But the indie explosion changed a lot. Instead of taking three years to get those three books out (and thus reach the skill level of the average trad pub author) indie writers were doing this in a year. Or less.

    Today, there are more actively writing authors with 50+ books out than ever before. When you consider that in fiction publishing a writer is considered a novice until they have a million published words of fiction, then journey person work doesn't really begin until somewhere around book #10 to book #20. Mastery is...sometime significantly beyond that. (Again, remember: this is all generally speaking. There are some extremely gifted authors who produce masterpiece works much sooner, but they're rare; we're discussing the norm here.) I'm at over 60 books as of this writing and do not consider myself to have attained mastery of our craft yet. Maybe I will at 100 books. We'll see.

    Practice results in greater skill. The more books one has written, in general and all other things being equal, the better that person will write. Now that authors are routinely producing 4+ books per year, and many writers are publishing 12+ books per year, the average skill level has skyrocketed. An author spending twelve times as many hours writing new words will tend to improve their craft twelve times as rapidly. This is an incredible advantage for the authors who've stuck around for a few years and produced a lot of work, and I don't think it's given enough weight in these discussions. A more experienced writer will do less revision, will write cleaner, will produce more words per hour, and so on. The finished story of the more experienced writer will, on average, be better received by readers.

    That doesn't mean it's hopeless for new writers! Far from it. But a very high focus on getting work done and out there is key. Novice writing is often no longer enough, now that there is a veritable sea of journeyperson writers out there producing bunches of new books. Craft is CRUCIAL to success. Readers don't read bad books. A "bad" novel is one that particular reader didn't enjoy. Getting books done and out is how we learn and grow as writers, so continue writing. Keep producing new books. Eventually any writer who does this will see their skills improve.

    Marketing is largely no longer optional. Again, I've seen exceptions. I know some folks who do zero or near zero advertising, and manage to get by just on nonstop rapid releases. But those folks are generally in the 12+ books a year range. The constant stream of new releases gives them greater visibility and much more rapid skill improvement, which combine to give better sales. Even for those writers, running ads will help a ton. But someone who is a decent writer and writes very fast can probably still make a modest living without paid ads.

    The fewer books per year you produce, the more reliant on ads you become. The more reliant on ads you are, the more crucial writing in long series is. In terms of work hours, this means it's possible for a writer to shift their working hours. For example:

    Writer A writes 1000 words per hour and her books average 60k words. She spends 2000 hours a year working. Of those hours, only 100 are spent on marketing. 1500 are spent on new words. This gives her 1,500,000 new words per year, or about 25 new books per year. The constant stream of new releases plus the massive boost in backlist allows this writer to have a good income from her work.

    Writer B also writes 1000 words per hour and their books average 60k words, too. They spend 2000 hours a year working, but only 500 of those are spent on writing and 1000 are spent on marketing (that's about 20 hours a week setting up, reviewing, and otherwise working with ads!). This writer only produces 500,000 words a year, or about 8 books a year. Despite producing only a third as many new books per year, this writer can ALSO make a decent living via the ads route. However, it's worth noting that this route requires a cash investment as well as a time investment. Even if you double the money you spend on ads (generally, the minimum anyone should be shooting for), you still have to have the money to spend, and if you're working on ads 20 hours a week you're probably spending four figures a month+ on advertising.

    There are lots of roads to success. These are just two examples.

    But writing full-time isn't for everyone. A lot of folks look at the numbers above and say "that's not me!" They cannot *imagine* spending 2000 hours a year on their writing business. That's not what they want from their lives. And there is *nothing wrong with that*. There's just as much room for semi-pro writers as there is for semi-pro artists of any other sort.

    But nobody should really be expecting a full-time income from working part-time hours at something.
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    Offline Crystal_

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #79 on: June 24, 2020, 02:59:21 pm »
    If I was planning a full-time schedule, I'd allot 20 hours a week for writing, 10 for marketing and packaging, and 5 for admin, long term strategy, other tasks. (Yes that's leaving five hours free).

    I don't think indie authors are best served by spending 100% of their time writing. Hell, I'd say anything about 75% is cutting too much into marketing and packaging--which generally do the heavy lifting in actually selling the book.

    But of course YMMV.

    (I find most people do not actually work 40 hours a week. They may be at their computer for 40 hours, but 10 of those are on FB, 5 are on Reddit, etc. I believe the research says most people word 4-5 hours a day at their full-time jobs. Writing isn't any different).

    Offline Corvid

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #80 on: June 25, 2020, 05:51:10 pm »
    Writers overemphasize craft. Meeting reader expectations for a given subgenre is branding which is a branch of your marketing, not craft. Your craft can be absolute crud, and you'll still sell a ton if the thing's made ultra-visible, nails the packaging aspects, and meets that sub's reader expectations. Simple, but not easy. And then, you have to factor in arbitrariness and randomness too, which happens sometimes.

    But, honestly, the emperor really does have no clothes. We are locked in a matrix of sorts. Pretty much everything is marketing. Books are no different. Really, writing isn't writing. Successful, making-a-living writing, that is. It's almost all marketing.

    And, marketers have long known the levers to pull to elicit an emotional response from would-be consumers understanding that manipulating emotions brings in the cash. But, the individual content of a given thing isn't really the deciding factor, so much as how it dovetails with other considerations.

    Huge numbers of artists didn't become big names based on merit. Tons of big name musical acts and other celebs grew up rich and connected. Getting pushed into out-sized visibility by money, and shaped into a brand with money, got them to where they are. The "quality" of their voice, their "chops" with the guitar, the poetry of their lyrics, or if they're an actor, their ability to act? How much does any/all of it matter?

    Okay, they're competent with that stuff, but THAT much better than many, many others as the trad industries would have you believe? Nah. That's all meritocracy pablum pushed by marketers to keep the consumerism pump primed. The most amazing singer who ever lived probably never made it out from the behind the checkout counter. Meanwhile, Johnny Mediocre made millions with lab-created hooks, well-targeted ad buys, and neck liposuction.

    Heck, American Idol and The Voice were just genius marketing schemes built on monetizing the fact that diamond-selling talent ain't as rare as record companies used to market the public into believing for the sake of selling the public a "rare" kind of "specialness". Just like Amazon capitalized on monetizing the publishing slush pile.

    Regardless, marketing is what reigns supreme.

    The scaffolding of what elicits an emotional response, and therefore entices people to part with their money for a given piece of art was constructed a long time ago. Everything now just requires money to shape and to hone THING so it properly hangs from said scaffolding, so that it looks like other KNOWN THING "that made me feel a certain way", and so it gets in front of enough eyeballs to be considered 'successful' or even 'special', thereby increasing it's marketing potential in a process that feeds on itself, and churns to generate even more revenue.

    To be a bestselling indie author you don't need to worry about your talent for crafting prose, your word choice, how you layer themes, the quality of your dialogue, etc. That's all hand-wavy stuff often bandied about for 'reasons', or often just out of confusion among artists struggling to navigate toward what truly works. Your words merely need to be a couple notches above 'coherence', and you're fine in that department.

    So, setting the handwavium aside, branding simply requires that you meet readers' trope expectations for the subgenre, that you end the story a certain way, that your protagonist is like "this", speaks like "this", looks like "this". You're branding when you construct these things, you're nailing those aspects long ago proven to work - proven to elicit an emotional response. The work's been done for you. Decades of heavy lifting on that end is over, thankfully. Then it's a matter of lining things up, but I'll grant you, it's trickier than it sounds.

    Anyway, point is, just as an artist getting a "push" still requires some level of competence in order to reach expectations, that level of competence isn't as important as the other aspects that make any push work. So, making sure you know when your POV character "Crosses the Threshold" or "Returns with the Elixir" are not craft considerations, they're branding. You're ensuring your Thing looks like Other Successful Thing. You can write dreadful prose, and still nail this. Happens all the time. But, then you've got to package THING so that it hits those familiar pleasure centers the marketers have already proven are the ones that matter, then you've got to do the same with ads, and get enough of a push going to get visible.

    Which brings me back to the matrix we're all locked into. Our reality, shaped by marketing.

    The Beatles aren't THE BEATLES because they're just magically, meritoriously THE BEATLES. They're THE BEATLES, and not simply 'the beatles' expressly because they're not Doug and the Do-gooders. Meaning, they were there, and not someone else. That's it. That's the how and the why of their iconic-ness. If it hadn't been them, it'd have been someone else. If Michael Jordan hadn't picked up a basketball, MICHAEL JORDAN would've been INSERT OTHER NAME HERE. Yes, he's crazy talented. But, crazy talent's everywhere. He existed as HIM because he was pushed into being HIM by marketing. He existed because he had to, because: money.

    So, back to THE BEATLES.

    There is no spoon.

    If the industry had instead opted to push Doug and his three mulleted cohorts back when the Fab Four were readying for take off, we'd all be singing "I Wear Denim to the Opera" with tears in our eyes instead of "Hey Jude".

    "How dare you! Lennon and McCartney were singular songwriting geniuses!"

    I won't dispute their competence, but guaranteed there were writers just as talented and prolific if not more so, who, for whatever reasons didn't enter the public consciousness or never got that chance. Could be what part of the world they inhabited. Could be their level of poverty, their access to 'x' in determining 'x'. Could be who they knew, who they didn't know, where they played, where they didn't play. Many factors involved.

    Point is, the difference between the biggest band of all time and the band stuck in their garage is just about all down to marketing. It's this person, and not this person, because money says this person gets the attention, and this person does not. That's it. Craft? Means next to nothing.

    What does that mean for you, fellow indie, trying to make a living?

    Well, unfortunately, you're not a writer so much as you're a marketer. You're a brand more than you are beautiful wordsmith. You're making your cover look a certain way. Making your blurb read a certain way. Pricing a certain way. Making your protagonist conform to expectation 'x'. Making sure they're snarky. Making sure there's a MacGuffin. Making sure you hit 'x' trope about 2/3rds of the way through the story.

    All branding, packaging, marketing. Not craft. And, again, getting all of that just so, like shaping a bonsai tree, is for naught if you don't effectively make the thing visible.

    The good news is, you no longer have to rely on the industry to decide to "push" you. You can push yourself. But, the bad news is, you have to push yourself. That means, thankfully you don't necessarily have to wind up like Doug, who wound up quitting the Do-Gooders to sell insurance in Wichita, but to make yourself into a big name it's gonna require a heck of a lot of branding/marketing work and savvy, with some extra arbitrary sauce and random juices thrown on top, just to keep things interesting.

    But, craft? If only that mattered as much as writers say.


    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #81 on: June 25, 2020, 10:44:38 pm »
    It's all too easy to dismiss "craft" as being a thing that writers are obsessed with and therefore unimportant.

    That would throw the baby out with the bathwater. It's not that type of craft that's important, I agree. Or, I should say, writing craft is important up to a point, where it aid the reader's understanding of the story.

    It's not about pretty sentences or beautiful descriptions, or cutting all instances of the word "that" or eliminating "passive" language. Because most of that is BS and not really that important--unless it gets in the way of the reader's enjoyment. But still not a huge dealbreaker.

    The craft that I'm talking about is the one that reads the room and designs a story with an engaging premise, and then writes a story that DELIVERS, and probably over-delivers, on that premise. A story that engages with the intended audience in a way the audience wants to be engaged. Romance readers want an emotionally-satisfying love story and HEA. Crime readers want the crime to be solved. Mystery readers want to see and understand the mystery.

    Craft is building that story and seeing it through, with the right characters in a believable way. That's the type of craft.

    You can chuck limitless amounts of money at a book, and it will sell the book you're advertising. But if it doesn't satisfy, no one will buy book 2. Sure, you can advertise that up the wazoo as well, but the returns are small.

    A good book and a decent advertising budget augment each other. Because a book responds well to ads, you can spend more on the ads (not vice versa). And if your book doesn't deliver, ads alone will be a very hard slog and unlikely to be profitable.

    If a book sells well over a decent period of time, it's highly unlikely to be just because of ads. Ads may help, but would an author or publisher really keep chucking long-term money at ads that don't turn a profit?

    In this game, you (general you) should forget about your own reading preferences and what you think is rubbish. It's not going to line up with the top 25 or whatever. Those books in the top 25 are doing something right that makes readers enjoy and recommend those books. Rather than complain that they're rubbish, you might try to find out what those elements are. Is it emotional punch? Is it adventure? Is it a fast-moving story?

    Offline antcurious

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #82 on: June 26, 2020, 12:52:37 am »
    Writers overemphasize craft. Meeting reader expectations for a given subgenre is branding which is a branch of your marketing, not craft. Your craft can be absolute crud, and you'll still sell a ton if the thing's made ultra-visible, nails the packaging aspects, and meets that sub's reader expectations. Simple, but not easy. And then, you have to factor in arbitrariness and randomness too, which happens sometimes.

    But, honestly, the emperor really does have no clothes. We are locked in a matrix of sorts. Pretty much everything is marketing. Books are no different. Really, writing isn't writing. Successful, making-a-living writing, that is. It's almost all marketing.

    And, marketers have long known the levers to pull to elicit an emotional response from would-be consumers understanding that manipulating emotions brings in the cash. But, the individual content of a given thing isn't really the deciding factor, so much as how it dovetails with other considerations.

    Huge numbers of artists didn't become big names based on merit. Tons of big name musical acts and other celebs grew up rich and connected. Getting pushed into out-sized visibility by money, and shaped into a brand with money, got them to where they are. The "quality" of their voice, their "chops" with the guitar, the poetry of their lyrics, or if they're an actor, their ability to act? How much does any/all of it matter?

    Okay, they're competent with that stuff, but THAT much better than many, many others as the trad industries would have you believe? Nah. That's all meritocracy pablum pushed by marketers to keep the consumerism pump primed. The most amazing singer who ever lived probably never made it out from the behind the checkout counter. Meanwhile, Johnny Mediocre made millions with lab-created hooks, well-targeted ad buys, and neck liposuction.

    Heck, American Idol and The Voice were just genius marketing schemes built on monetizing the fact that diamond-selling talent ain't as rare as record companies used to market the public into believing for the sake of selling the public a "rare" kind of "specialness". Just like Amazon capitalized on monetizing the publishing slush pile.

    Regardless, marketing is what reigns supreme.

    The scaffolding of what elicits an emotional response, and therefore entices people to part with their money for a given piece of art was constructed a long time ago. Everything now just requires money to shape and to hone THING so it properly hangs from said scaffolding, so that it looks like other KNOWN THING "that made me feel a certain way", and so it gets in front of enough eyeballs to be considered 'successful' or even 'special', thereby increasing it's marketing potential in a process that feeds on itself, and churns to generate even more revenue.

    To be a bestselling indie author you don't need to worry about your talent for crafting prose, your word choice, how you layer themes, the quality of your dialogue, etc. That's all hand-wavy stuff often bandied about for 'reasons', or often just out of confusion among artists struggling to navigate toward what truly works. Your words merely need to be a couple notches above 'coherence', and you're fine in that department.

    So, setting the handwavium aside, branding simply requires that you meet readers' trope expectations for the subgenre, that you end the story a certain way, that your protagonist is like "this", speaks like "this", looks like "this". You're branding when you construct these things, you're nailing those aspects long ago proven to work - proven to elicit an emotional response. The work's been done for you. Decades of heavy lifting on that end is over, thankfully. Then it's a matter of lining things up, but I'll grant you, it's trickier than it sounds.

    Anyway, point is, just as an artist getting a "push" still requires some level of competence in order to reach expectations, that level of competence isn't as important as the other aspects that make any push work. So, making sure you know when your POV character "Crosses the Threshold" or "Returns with the Elixir" are not craft considerations, they're branding. You're ensuring your Thing looks like Other Successful Thing. You can write dreadful prose, and still nail this. Happens all the time. But, then you've got to package THING so that it hits those familiar pleasure centers the marketers have already proven are the ones that matter, then you've got to do the same with ads, and get enough of a push going to get visible.

    Which brings me back to the matrix we're all locked into. Our reality, shaped by marketing.

    The Beatles aren't THE BEATLES because they're just magically, meritoriously THE BEATLES. They're THE BEATLES, and not simply 'the beatles' expressly because they're not Doug and the Do-gooders. Meaning, they were there, and not someone else. That's it. That's the how and the why of their iconic-ness. If it hadn't been them, it'd have been someone else. If Michael Jordan hadn't picked up a basketball, MICHAEL JORDAN would've been INSERT OTHER NAME HERE. Yes, he's crazy talented. But, crazy talent's everywhere. He existed as HIM because he was pushed into being HIM by marketing. He existed because he had to, because: money.

    So, back to THE BEATLES.

    There is no spoon.

    If the industry had instead opted to push Doug and his three mulleted cohorts back when the Fab Four were readying for take off, we'd all be singing "I Wear Denim to the Opera" with tears in our eyes instead of "Hey Jude".

    "How dare you! Lennon and McCartney were singular songwriting geniuses!"

    I won't dispute their competence, but guaranteed there were writers just as talented and prolific if not more so, who, for whatever reasons didn't enter the public consciousness or never got that chance. Could be what part of the world they inhabited. Could be their level of poverty, their access to 'x' in determining 'x'. Could be who they knew, who they didn't know, where they played, where they didn't play. Many factors involved.

    Point is, the difference between the biggest band of all time and the band stuck in their garage is just about all down to marketing. It's this person, and not this person, because money says this person gets the attention, and this person does not. That's it. Craft? Means next to nothing.

    What does that mean for you, fellow indie, trying to make a living?

    Well, unfortunately, you're not a writer so much as you're a marketer. You're a brand more than you are beautiful wordsmith. You're making your cover look a certain way. Making your blurb read a certain way. Pricing a certain way. Making your protagonist conform to expectation 'x'. Making sure they're snarky. Making sure there's a MacGuffin. Making sure you hit 'x' trope about 2/3rds of the way through the story.

    All branding, packaging, marketing. Not craft. And, again, getting all of that just so, like shaping a bonsai tree, is for naught if you don't effectively make the thing visible.

    The good news is, you no longer have to rely on the industry to decide to "push" you. You can push yourself. But, the bad news is, you have to push yourself. That means, thankfully you don't necessarily have to wind up like Doug, who wound up quitting the Do-Gooders to sell insurance in Wichita, but to make yourself into a big name it's gonna require a heck of a lot of branding/marketing work and savvy, with some extra arbitrary sauce and random juices thrown on top, just to keep things interesting.

    But, craft? If only that mattered as much as writers say.

    I agree to a point. Your example of The Beatles is a good one, in that, if it wasn't that band it would be someone else. (Whatever happened to Doug and his buddies anyway?) People don't seem to recognise the concept of outliers and are even worse at recognising when they're an outlier themselves, making statements about the industry and best practices as if it's LAW based on THEIR own experience.

    Where I disagree is that craft only needs to be mediocre, unless we're both talking about selling one book, or Book One. In the sea of options and limited time I have reading, I will most likely never give an author another look if the writing was merely adequate. No amount of marketing will sell me Book Two. Life's too short to read terrible writing.

    The above is not to be mistaken with bad prose and grammar used to tell a good story. In that case, if I HAVE to know what happens next or love the characters, I might very well buy further books with no marketing involved, despite the bad prose.

    Branding is 1) Awareness and 2) Perception. Marketing aims to increase awareness and influence perception. All of which will be undermined by a bad product. The bad product, in this case, being mediocre or average writing.

    JK Neve | Goodreads

    Offline Decon

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #83 on: June 26, 2020, 03:07:54 am »

    Writers overemphasize craft.




    The Beatles aren't THE BEATLES because they're just magically, meritoriously THE BEATLES. They're THE BEATLES, and not simply 'the beatles' expressly because they're not Doug and the Do-gooders. Meaning, they were there, and not someone else. That's it. That's the how and the why of their iconic-ness. If it hadn't been them, it'd have been someone else.

    So, back to THE BEATLES.

    There is no spoon.

    If the industry had instead opted to push Doug and his three mulleted cohorts back when the Fab Four were readying for take off, we'd all be singing "I Wear Denim to the Opera" with tears in our eyes instead of "Hey Jude".

    "How dare you! Lennon and McCartney were singular songwriting geniuses!"

    I won't dispute their competence, but guaranteed there were writers just as talented and prolific if not more so, who, for whatever reasons didn't enter the public consciousness or never got that chance. Could be what part of the world they inhabited. Could be their level of poverty, their access to 'x' in determining 'x'. Could be who they knew, who they didn't know, where they played, where they didn't play. Many factors involved.

    Point is, the difference between the biggest band of all time and the band stuck in their garage is just about all down to marketing. It's this person, and not this person, because money says this person gets the attention, and this person does not. That's it. Craft? Means next to nothing.

    Some good analogies in there among your full post, but I would take issue with your ideas on craft and that part about the BEATLES prompted me to reply, using them as my own analogy as to why craft has to be a given before all else. By craft, I don't just mean grammar, it encompasses everything to do with the entire structure.

    In their day, just as in publishing, the only way to get your stuff out there to be worth anything was by way of a contract, in their case a recording contract and in a writer's case, a publishing contract. As self-published, we don't need a contract and so if someone so wishes the can miss out on the journey part of what follows in my post.

    You can't look at at it solely from where they signed on the dotted line, you have to look at the journey.

    For one thing even as teens, they had a desire to be pop stars, influenced by many successful pop stars and bands of the 1950s as rock n roll appeared. Without that desire there would be no beatles.

    They spent hours as teenagers, listening to records and working out how to play the chords, or drum beats on their instruments, and learning the lyrics. Most of the music only needed them to play 3 chords,, but they expanded from there. From this dedication they learned structure. They even cut their teeth on song writing, penning some 200 songs of their own that they couldn't use for their set as venues only wanted covers of famous artists. You could liken this to writers having a passion for for literature and reading many books of a particular genre they enjoyed, and maybe writing short stories, but not being able to do anything with them.

    As they progressed, they sought paid gigs, but were not considered as competent by venues as other groups at the time and for very little money they took what they could get to gain experience at venues who who had gaps in their bookings, until they became  more competent to the extent they built a small following locally. This period would be were those lovers of literature turned to wanting to be writers and would put pen and ink to paper, maybe sending short stories off to magazines or whatever, and experiencing rejection, but maybe getting a few accepted as they developed their writing skills.

    Then they went to Germany at the chance of regular work. In a lot of ways this would be like studying literature full time, or knuckling down to write that full length book you always wanted to write.

    They gigged for 7 hours per day, 7 days per week, and had to practice new songs for just as many hours. Think about that and how many songs they would have to learn and perform per day. The norm is 2 sets on stage at 30/45 minutes each for a full gig, with a total of around 20 to 25 songs in the full gig. It was from this that they transformed from not considered over competent, to being competent musicians and vocalists, learning stage craft and becoming tight as a group with their craft on stage. It also allowed them to present and develop some of their own music on stage.

    On their return, as a competent group, they acquired an agent, just like a writer would need, and they produced a demo tape for their agent to tout around record labels in the way a literary agent would try to sell an author's book. This would never have happened without they had developed a distinct musical voice and learned their craft, and their success was down to this originality of voice they had developed, using original work. Voice is developed as part of craft. Take away the title and author name and I know when I am reading Lee Child, just as I would know Rod Stewart if he were singing a cover of Hey Jude.

    Then the marketing started. So before success can be contemplated, you have to learn and hone your craft and be very competent at what you are doing. Someone who writes a first book without learning their craft and who goes on to success are very few and far between, and those the do are likely to be one hit wonders.

    As for the band in the garage you mentioned, just like us self-published authors, they can now put their music out there without a contract and if they have learned their craft and market well, they might just make it.

    Okay that's it for music, but I think you get the idea as to how important craft is in anything you want to be successful at doing.

    Fast forward to recent times and the publishing industry was disrupted by Amazon. In its quest to build a catalogue to sell kindle it opened the door to all comers. What happened was that many hadn't learned their craft, but published anyway and that gave a perception at the time that self-published books were crud, just like a band who lost their timing and sang off key to the dismay of the audience. Marketing might get people to fill the seats in the audience giving the appearance of success, but I doubt anyone would be buying tickets to see them again.

    Here endeth my analogy on craft.

    Craft matters before anything.








     
    « Last Edit: June 26, 2020, 04:39:25 am by Decon »


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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #84 on: June 26, 2020, 05:00:52 am »
    So, back to THE BEATLES.

    There is no spoon.

    All this talk about The Beatles got me hooked. I always thought 'she came in through the bathroom window protected by a silver spoon' but you appear to be saying 'she came in through the bathroom window ... completely unprotected'.

    (I know I have a bit of an unusual sense of humour)

    Anyway, I think you make a lot of good points and you certainly have reminded me that I am a good enough writer, so thank you for that :)

    Then the marketing started

    You are right about all the stuff that preceded the marketing and I agree, they learned their craft and got good at it first. But, I just wanted to point out that Brian Epstein used his knowledge about how the UK music charts worked to effectively cheat the system. That's what really got The Beatles and many of his other acts, started.

    Offline Gareth K Pengelly

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #85 on: June 26, 2020, 06:18:30 am »
    So basically, after reading everyone's input on this thread, it boils down to this then:

    There's an element of luck.
    There's an element of talent, or should I say craft.
    There's an element of hardwork.

    Two of those things you can control, one of them you can't.

    I mean... we kinda already knew all that anyway, didn't we, haha?

    Still, nice to see people debating, always fun hearing other people's points of view.
    « Last Edit: June 26, 2020, 06:32:21 am by Gareth K Pengelly »

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #86 on: June 26, 2020, 06:25:29 am »
    Not to keep sidestepping the thread here, but the marketing didn't necessarily make the Beatles, although it definitely helped -- the hair, the suits, the happy image, the flawless delivery -- all made a magnificent package for marketing their talents.

    There were other heavily marketed groups that flopped, however. Spice Girls is one of them (at least here in the US). Big, big marketing campaign, yet they just didn't take off here. Then you have Nirvana, who took off with virtually no marketing whatsoever. The marketing with them came after the fact.

    Where marketing seems to make a real difference is when something (book, movie, musical artist) already has some traction. Then it can kick it into high gear.

    Marketing before something gains traction probably helps, but doesn't guarantee a good return.

    It's a mixed bag.
    « Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 06:33:17 pm by jb1111 »

    Offline boba1823

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #87 on: June 26, 2020, 09:38:43 am »
    I'd say that craft - including not just writing craft but also, crucially, storytelling craft - is actually by far the most important factor in book success, because it's the hardest thing to do well, and there are relatively fewer people who can/could do it well as compared to e.g. marketing.

    But books can fail commercially (or just perform worse than they might otherwise) for many reasons, and there is no single factor - even craft - that is enough to give a book a strong chance at success:

    General concept. Nobody wants to read my full-length novel about the day that ordinary dude Bob re-arranged his clothing closet, getting rid of  old clothing he had not worn in years and thereby making it much easier to organise what he still wears. Right? He's not a vampire-hamster or a spy, there's no long lost treasure in there, and the process does not require surviving an assassination attempt by the Belgian Mafia. So unless I just use misleading marketing, potential readers will inevitably think that my novel must be boring. Bad news for me.

    Limited audience. Most writers (sadly, not all) try to make their stories a bit more exciting than Bob the Closet Reorganizer. But many do choose stories that have a quite limited readership. Sometimes this seems to be related to an apparently popular indie writer strategy of trying to 'dominate the Amazon charts' for some niche sub-sub-genre (that almost no one actually reads). Which.. hey, if that's your dream, then you go for it. But if you're hoping to make a lot of sales, it's probably wiser to pick a more mainstream genre. Like.. something that at least occasionally shows up on the NYT list. Or ideally, some genre that regularly shows up there.

    Poor packaging. Title, cover, blurb. This gets pretty good coverage here on Kboards, so no need for details. Still, most indies just don't package well.

    Poor promotion. The most obvious form being.. no marketing activities at all. Now sure, there are those inspiring examples of books that just 'took off' with little on no marketing from the writer. It can happen. But it's not magic. Someone is still promoting those books; people can't buy a book if they never see it. It may be Amazon promoting it through various mechanisms, because a book has somehow tickled the mysterious algorithms. It may be word of mouth from readers who are deeply moved by the story, or promotion by a popular blogger, celebrity, whatever. Or some combination of these. If that happens, great. But simply hoping that it happens is not a good business plan. So if you want sales, market that book. The most efficient way is simply to pay for advertising.

    Bad writing craft. Yup. But don't think about badness v. goodness of craft in terms of something fancy like 'beautifully crafted sentences' or all that wishy washy stuff. Not if we're talking about commercial fiction intended for a wide audience. This is more about the writing just being.. easily readable. Generally simple, clear and direct, and yes, with correct grammar. It's true that few readers actually care, specifically, about correct grammar any more than they care about style. But they do care about the reading experience, and these things impact that experience. Bad writing craft makes a book harder and less pleasant to read. Readers have to work harder to overcome writing that is clunky, confusing, etc. This is a real problem, especially among indies. To be frank, probably at least 90 percent of the self-published books I come across are lacking in writing craft to such an extent that it will have a severe negative impact on sales potential. Adequate writing craft is definitely not the norm among writers.

    Bad storytelling craft. This one is sort of tricky, because the majority of the elements of storytelling can only be evaluated after reading much (or all) of a book. So those things, e.g. building tension to the point of an exciting climax and a satisfying ending, will not directly affect sales in most cases - though there's an indirect effect insofar as they impact reader satisfaction, which affects word of mouth and the like as well as future sales. Still, for those potential readers who take the time to check out the first few pages (which not all book buyers even do), certain storytelling craft features can be make-or-break. Maybe the writing is perfectly clear and easily readable, but.. is anything interesting happening on page one? Or does the story start with characters doing ordinary things, having mundane conversations? Some readers will stick it out, assuming that the writer is building to something. But many are impatient and will not. Is there a bunch of seemingly pointless description, or backstory the reader doesn't (yet) care about? There are all manner of possible sins here, some worse than others. Existing fans will usually give you the benefit of the doubt, but potential new readers may not.

    There's probably more, but it's getting near my bedtime and that's what I can think of at the moment. It's simply not true that it's all marketing, and there are just thousands and thousands of books that could be super successful out there. Probably 99 percent of all indie books out there simply do not meet the threshold of the minimal writing+storytelling craft quality to become super successful, period. (The numbers will look a bit better for writers hanging around Kboards, as they tend to me more serious than the average self-pubber.) And then even among those with good enough craft, relatively few also have a story or basic concept that is highly appealing to a large audience. Hey, success is relative. I'm sure it's possible to make a living publishing books with okay-level craft, pretty good but not great packaging, story concepts that are reasonably appealing to a modestly sized audience, and middling marketing skills. Improving in any of these areas, though, will make it easier.


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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #88 on: June 26, 2020, 09:52:07 am »
    In my experience as a writer and a reader, to really succeed you have to hook your reader via cover, blurb, title, and concept. In a way, that is all marketing, as concept is all about knowing what delights your reader. Then as others have said, you have to deliver on the promise. Get them reading, draw them in right away. Make them stay up late reading. Delight them at the end. Make them preorder the next book based on zero information.

    As others have said above, craft is not just pretty prose. Storytelling craft is about how one paragraph flows into another, how you end and begin a chapter, how the characters are revealed gradually to the reader, how appealing the characters are. How much of a twist or surprise you throw in, and not just in suspense stories (I write both contemporary romance and romantic suspense, myself). How the reader realizes that the twist or surprise makes perfect sense for those characters and stories. Immersive writing. It is a thing.

    Writing good enough books can provide a living wage, but it keeps you on a treadmill. Not everybody can keep up a book-a-month pace for long. Kudos to those who do. Success where you can relax a bit requires hooky, immersive writing. An X factor. But you can get better at the X factor.

    I will not address marketing as others do that much better.

    ETA: The Beatles are still iconic and listened to, something like 50 years after they disbanded. Not so much McCartney solo despite his talent and massive name recognition. There is a reason for that. The work is more forgettable.
    « Last Edit: June 26, 2020, 09:57:32 am by Usedtoposthere »

    Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #89 on: June 26, 2020, 12:03:15 pm »
    OP, just keep writing and adding to your bookshelf.  I don't pay for much advertising (BookFunnel promos and Fussy Librarian are the exceptions) and I spend time on social media.  I'm not a huge seller, but it steadily goes up each year.  Eventually, I might pay for more advertising...but not until I write more books.  I don't plan to live on my writing today.  This is my retirement project.  8)

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #90 on: June 26, 2020, 01:52:06 pm »
    Good is a meaningless term without a definition.

    My idea of good may be different than yours. It's certainly different than genre fiction readers'. Many of the things I think make a good book are things genre fiction readers hate.

    I like complicated characters, complicated emotions, dialogue with subtext, and endings that don't tie things in too neat of a bow.

    Lots of people want that.

    Lots of people don't want that.

    Lots of people need everything over-explained, and underlined to a degree I find nauseating. And lots of people would probably find my books over-explained. (I do explain more than I would like).

    Some readers are more sophisticated. Some are less. Few have the language to explain what they actually want. They may say they want three-dimensional characters and mean they want clearly labeled archetypes. (I've seen that a lot).

    Just look at the romance term "alpha hero." Ask ten authors what it means and you'll get ten answers.

    I don't think it's all that helpful to label books as good or bad. Write the books that you consider good that (some) readers also consider good. You'll have some overlap, even if it's not as much as you want.

    And, well, it's true that quality isn't as big a deal for selling. So just enjoy that you can do things that aren't necessarily what readers want and still sell books.

    But remember: no one ever threw out a book because the prose was too clear.

    Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #91 on: June 26, 2020, 02:27:56 pm »
    ETA: The Beatles are still iconic and listened to, something like 50 years after they disbanded. Not so much McCartney solo despite his talent and massive name recognition. There is a reason for that. The work is more forgettable.

    Since we're talking about marketing, I think this is one of his most famous songs.  It helps to be the theme for a James Bond movie!
    <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYQZHNwIUq8" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYQZHNwIUq8</a>

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    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #92 on: June 30, 2020, 06:28:29 pm »
    Just re-read the Terms of Service for the fifth time, and I don't think I'm violating any rule by using a throwaway account.

    You are violating the rules. You're only allowed to have one account here unless you get permission from a mod.
             

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #93 on: June 30, 2020, 06:44:40 pm »
    Interesting information, nonetheless.

    It reminds me of the stories I'd heard of the major book bestsellers' lists being played by some publishers shipping boxes of books to various 'customers', or something like that.

    Whether that is actually true or not, I have no idea. I know such practices were mentioned here on a thread on KB last year.

    Offline iwishtoremainsilent

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #94 on: June 30, 2020, 09:02:00 pm »
    You are violating the rules. You're only allowed to have one account here unless you get permission from a mod.

    True. Didn't saw it that way.

    Oh well. Post removed. Throwaway account abandoned. The information posted will remain forever lost and will exist from now on only in the minds and hearts of those who managed to get a glimpse before I removed it.

    Let the discussion continue.
    « Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 09:04:43 pm by iwishtoremainsilent »

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: When the book just WON'T sell
    « Reply #95 on: June 30, 2020, 09:22:12 pm »
    True. Didn't saw it that way.

    Oh well. Post removed. Throwaway account abandoned. The information posted will remain forever lost and will exist from now on only in the minds and hearts of those who managed to get a glimpse before I removed it.

    Let the discussion continue.

    That's too bad, in a way. What was posted was a fascinating glimpse at how some books are sold -- if true.

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