Author Topic: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us  (Read 2811 times)  

Online Shane Lochlann Black

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As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
« on: August 01, 2020, 03:13:35 pm »
If just the people on this board were to cooperate with each other long enough to set up a promotional list of the books we want to sell the most, we could create the greatest marketing platform in human history. 

I've been coding for more than 40 years. I could write, in a week, a search engine that could narrow down the marketable features of a book to the point where that author's readers could be targeted with pinpoint precision.  I could write a search function that could separate books by what the billionaire is WEARING on the first date. 

In a weekend I could train anyone's grandmother to write a "best books list" application on the web that would list books by genre category with a custom URL.   

We could create our own bestseller lists. As long as we established some basic ground rules ahead of time and set it up so it can't be gamed by someone trying to cut their way to the front of the line. We could market and promote our books on whatever platform we like for free forever.  Basically we would just be sharing our mailing lists. It just isn't that complicated.  We wouldn't have to write someone a $1200 check and we wouldn't have to work ourselves into a psychiatric ward to stay visible.

It wouldn't cost anybody anything. It wouldn't take a lot of work to set up. 

It would also re-establish the level playing field we were once sold.  Books would sell based on their merits and would rise to their maximum potential.  Winners wouldn't be chosen in advance. 

In fact, people who participate wouldn't even have to market other people's books. Just market your own and let the others get discovered organically. Remember organic sales? Remember discoverability? Yeah, me too. 

Best way to keep people honest?  Simple. Just have an incognito membership on all the participant mailing lists.  If a member doesn't promote the group, they don't get to participate. 

We could all have 100,000 new targeted readers in 30 days and it wouldn't cost us a cent. Take a look at what you've spent on marketing so far in 2020 and compare that number to zero.  How would that change your revenue picture?   

Ask yourself this question: How much long green are you laying down every year to buy visibility on a technology platform the sole purpose of which is to create visibility?

We're blowing it.   
« Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 04:01:38 pm by Shane Lochlann Black »

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #1 on: August 01, 2020, 03:46:16 pm »
    I don't know how to express this in a way that sounds kind, but Shane... if it's so easy, why haven't you already done it?

    Online Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #2 on: August 01, 2020, 03:54:24 pm »
    Quote
    I don't know how to express this in a way that sounds kind, but Shane... if it's so easy, why haven't you already done it?
       

    I've brought this up annually for oh, about six years now.   

    Just imagine if you could write books in two different genres and not have one hidden by default?  Why, you could have an imagination again!   


     
    « Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 04:01:21 pm by Shane Lochlann Black »

    Online J. Tanner

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #3 on: August 01, 2020, 05:23:56 pm »
    1. Easily create the greatest marketing platform in human history.
    2. ...
    3. PROFIT!!!

    Your problem is somewhere in step 2.

    I can't even wrap my head around what you're suggesting. People share mailing lists all the time. How is this different? What do bestsellers have to do with it? How does just marketing my books end up marketing your books organically?

    Most of us won't ever have bestsellers. So how does this help us? (Or are we not the target audience for this idea?)

    -J
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    Online Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #4 on: August 01, 2020, 05:43:48 pm »
    Quote
    People share mailing lists all the time.
       

    Then it must work.   

    Quote
    How is this different?
       

    Why does it have to be different? 

    Quote
    What do bestsellers have to do with it?
       

    We could create our own bestseller list.  There's no rule against creating your own marketing gimmick.  (All bestseller lists are ultimately marketing gimmicks, just like most book awards) 

    Quote
    How does just marketing my books end up marketing your books organically?
     

    Because both books are on the same virtual shelf.   

    What I'm more interested in is why anyone who pops up and says "hey, maybe there's a better alternative than peeing cash down a hole forever" gets ridiculed? I'm more interested in why every discussion about book marketing on a message board that is ostensibly focused on book marketing stars people like yourself who are here to do nothing but pick a fight. 

    Now that I've answered your questions, why don't you answer mine?  Why are we all fighting each other for visibility on a technology platform designed to create visibility?  Hmm?   

    You don't want to answer that question for the same reason the incumbents and the Bubclub don't. When only the wealthy can afford visibility, the rest get locked out, and that's just fine as far as you're concerned, because as long as the poor authors lose, you win. 

    Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. 

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #5 on: August 01, 2020, 05:46:22 pm »
    I guess if enough authors participated, we could create our own Bookbub. But someone would have to put in the time to run it, which would be a full time job.

    Online Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #6 on: August 01, 2020, 05:51:27 pm »
    Quote
    But someone would have to put in the time to run it, which would be a full time job.
       

    The whole thing could be automated with a $10 web server and a LAMP stack.  Hell, I've got half the code written and live on my site now.  If people would be willing to take a break from picking fights in this thread for a few minutes, I might even be persuaded to explain how to automate it. 


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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #7 on: August 01, 2020, 06:00:00 pm »
    Shane, I for one am not picking a fight. Id love it if we could start our own marketing platform, but am saddened by what happened when Tobias tried to do that. I was rooting for him to succeed, but you saw what happened.

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #8 on: August 01, 2020, 06:02:46 pm »
    This relies on the promoted books being in similar, if not the same genres. The quickest way to lose Newsletter subscribers is to throw books at readers they have no interest in reading.

    That said, I'm not against the idea of cross-promotion. As someone who's written a LOT of books in the Romance genre and done my share of cross-promo, it's not all that simple.

    Online Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #9 on: August 01, 2020, 06:12:08 pm »
    Quote
    I was rooting for him to succeed, but you saw what happened.
       

    Yes I did. I find it curious that every time someone questions the status quo, where all the authors are in these tiny little cages, the usual suspects pop up and derail the thread, or just throw [crap] at everyone and scream obscenities until it gets locked.

    Oh, and they've also carefully trained everyone to view all unsolicited e-mail as SPAM SCAMMER FILTHY SC4MAR SCAMR! so any attempt to gather support outside of the heavily-controlled, monitored, demonetizable, deplatformable, bannable and lockable channels is also blocked. 

    It's almost as if someone has an interest in maintaining the status quo and therefore seeks to drive all alternative energy to ground. 

    But I'm sure that's all just a coincidence.   
    « Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 06:19:54 pm by Shane Lochlann Black »

    Online J. Tanner

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #10 on: August 01, 2020, 08:06:53 pm »
    Why does it have to be different? 

    Well, we're all "blowing it" somehow so your idea must be different from what people are already doing all the time right?

    Quote
    What I'm more interested in is why anyone who pops up and says "hey, maybe there's a better alternative than peeing cash down a hole forever" gets ridiculed? I'm more interested in why every discussion about book marketing on a message board that is ostensibly focused on book marketing stars people like yourself who are here to do nothing but pick a fight.

    Except I'm not. I'm saying whatever it is you're suggesting is unclear (in a mildly snarky way, because why not, it's your stock in trade and I thought you might appreciate it). I genuinely have no idea if it's a good idea or a bad idea because I don't know what your idea is. 

    Quote
    Now that I've answered your questions, why don't you answer mine?  Why are we all fighting each other for visibility on a technology platform designed to create visibility?  Hmm?

    You don't want to answer that question for the same reason the incumbents and the Bubclub don't. When only the wealthy can afford visibility, the rest get locked out, and that's just fine as far as you're concerned, because as long as the poor authors lose, you win. 

    Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

    You're wrong. I have no problem answering your question. It's not a platform designed to create visibility in the first place so your premise is flawed. But your idea could be good. I just don't know what it is yet. I hope you'll actually explain it at some point. I'm all for new opportunities for authors.

    But what's the value of authors creating a bestseller list? Who's going to care what's on it to trust it? How will be it different from the NYT, WSJ or USAT lists, and why would readers trust this over those (to their eyes) reasonably credible lists? Do readers even care about bestseller lists? Like reviews, I think authors have it mostly backwards--reviews and bestseller lists are the results of sales, not a catalyst to generate them (for the most part.)

    Maybe others get what you're suggesting, but I don't. I may be dense.  ;D
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    Online Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #11 on: August 01, 2020, 08:18:33 pm »
    Quote
    It's not a platform designed to create visibility in the first place so your premise is flawed.
       

    Yes it is. The hyperlink was specifically designed to create two things: discoverability and visibility. When you click a link, you discover the next page of information. When links aren't being blocked and deplatformed, they create visibility. 

    Quote
    But what's the value of authors creating a bestseller list? Who's going to care what's on it to trust it? How will be it different from the NYT, WSJ or USAT lists, and why would readers trust this over those (to their eyes) reasonably credible lists? Do readers even care about bestseller lists?
     

    No, they don't. Readers don't care about anything. We should all surrender and get minimum-intelligence retail jobs. Every last ****er for himself. I'm out. Carry on.   

    P.S. There was a time long ago when the Internet wasn't soaked in poison.  But that was then.   

    Offline Cecelia

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #12 on: August 01, 2020, 09:17:38 pm »
    If you write the ap, some of us would even pay to join you. However - if you mean do it on Kboards - doesn't Kboards have an owner who would need to be onboard?

    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #13 on: August 01, 2020, 10:37:59 pm »
    If just the people on this board were to cooperate with each other long enough to set up a promotional list of the books we want to sell the most, we could create the greatest marketing platform in human history. 

    So how would it work? What has to happen to get it going?
             

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #14 on: August 01, 2020, 11:02:20 pm »
    I would like to know how it is supposed to work. I'm not sharing my list of historical fiction readers with someone who writes sci-fi or fantasy or anything else. What's more, when they signed up, they were promised their email address would never be shared with anyone else.


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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #15 on: August 02, 2020, 01:31:15 pm »
    I would like to know how it is supposed to work. I'm not sharing my list of historical fiction readers with someone who writes sci-fi or fantasy or anything else. What's more, when they signed up, they were promised their email address would never be shared with anyone else.

    I think the ap would need to garner it's own subscribers - or else what is the point?

    Offline C. Gockel

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #16 on: August 02, 2020, 03:54:37 pm »
    Sharing our lists is something many of us have promised not to do. If I want to swap with an author I go to Facebook pages in my genres and set them up there.


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    Offline Marian

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #17 on: August 02, 2020, 06:31:32 pm »
     

     

     Why are we all fighting each other for visibility on a technology platform designed to create visibility?  Hmm?   


    We shouldn't be fighting each other. I had hopes for Tobias's plan and was disappointed when he was run off the road. That thread got really mean.

    I believe indies should have their own platform for promotion and sales. That said, I don't have the skills to make it happen. But I'm open to ideas and hope others are also. Indies should be running their own show. Instead, their books are being used to lure people into Prime so they put more money into Amazon's pockets.

    Offline Kathy Dee

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #18 on: August 03, 2020, 06:20:34 am »
    I have been doing this stuff for many years and I have always tried to adopt a win-win attitude. However, it seems that there are at least some people who cannot get their heads around the principle of cooperating for mutual benefit. That however, should not stop those of us who do think there may be other, better ways, whether or not we have yet discovered them.

    Offline Patrick1980

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    Another way of looking at it
    « Reply #19 on: August 03, 2020, 06:50:48 am »
    I don't completely grasp what Shane has in mind, and I suspect his idea might need multiple iterations before it would be workable. That's true with any big idea.

    That said, here's what I would say:

    1.) Most of us are not independent businesspeople. We're Amazon subcontractors. We did that, not Amazon.

    2.) Kindle Unlimited now drives everything. We aren't indie novelists. We're KU content producers. We did that, not Amazon.

    For example: consider the skewed emphasis on series.. Series are great. But what about standalones? Stephen King, John Grisham, etc all wrote standalones. Are standalones now invalid? On many of the podcasts, etc. I've noticed that they only refer to "series" and never to "novels".

    3.) AMS, FB, Bookbub are taxes on our lack of platform outside of Amazon. I'm sorry, but spending high five and six figures annually on AMS? That's a very precarious situation. This basically means that most authors have no platform outside of Amazon and Facebook. And Facebook is now under fire by people of all political persuasions.

    What (I think) Shane is getting at is that authors need to think outside the box on the marketing side. IMO, this might mean shoveling less content into KU and increasing visibility in other places. But I'll admit, while I see a problem here, I'm not sure of the answer.







    Online Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #20 on: August 03, 2020, 08:08:13 am »
    I'm going to explain how this works with the understanding that if a gaggle of [crap]-throwers shows up again, I'm out. For good this time.   

    You do not have to share your list with anyone. We don't need anyone's permission because the site would be completely independent. All you would have to do is promote your own books to your own subscribers. All your subscribers will see in the e-mail you send them is a link to your book listings on the new domain. 

    When your subscribers click the link and arrive, there will be other books like yours on the page. The site will categorize books by genre and type so there won't be any clashes. Any traffic from your link to other authors' books of that type would be completely organic and driven by the interests of your readers.

    The whole thing can be completely automated and set up so it doesn't cost anyone a cent.  That said, there may be some justification for a minimal subscription fee of some kind to serve as an [Uranus] tax and keep the idiots out.  The subscription fee would be incidental, fixed and the same for everyone.  No the site will not take a percentage of sales. No it will not be part of an affiliate program. No it will not allow outside ads. No your readers don't have to pay extra. No your readers will not be siphoned away to someone else's list.  The central site will be designed to be as dumb as possible. It's only purpose is to show readers books they might like. That's it. 

    You would register your book and mailing list with the site. The site will track your inbound traffic from your mailing list from that point forward. If you fail to promote the site (by simply forgetting to link to it for weeks at a time, for example), your book will simply cycle off the "shelf" until you do.  It will still be visible to your subscribers, but it won't appear in any other results. From a programming standpoint, this is sixth grade stuff. I could code it in a week. 

    From a marketing standpoint, the more authors that participate, the more visibility and discoverability all our books would get. 

    From a logistics standpoint, each genre page would end up as the equivalent of a big boxed set without the up-front expense, public bickering and lawsuits.  My interest in it would be the same as everyone else's: visibility without having to write a four-figure check. 

    For verification purposes I could even set the thing up to regularly publish statistics on inbound and outbound traffic, book positioning and so on. 

    Before we have a six-page argument over it, yes, authors with larger mailing lists will receive proportionally less benefit over time when compared to other individual authors. The alternative is to give authors with larger mailing lists an insurmountable advantage which would neutralize the benefits for everyone and put us right back where we started.  Like it or not, I have no magic. I can't overcome math. 

    To be fair, those of you with gigantic mailing lists have no viable options for moving the needle dramatically anyway, so expecting a project like this to do what entrenched marketing options cannot is unrealistic in the first place. We are not offering anyone superstar potential here. Like all marketing this will be a slow, agonizing grind, even for you.   

    Yes, I am proposing this with the full understanding that most of our readers don't like things that are different. Then again, most of our readers have no idea what they want until they see it, so they're just going to have to learn to live with it, because the authors they like have bills to pay. 

    Done right this will give authors visibility and discoverability and potentially new readers and sales, which is what we all want.   

    There it is.   
    « Last Edit: August 03, 2020, 08:28:23 am by Shane Lochlann Black »

    Offline Kathy Dee

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #21 on: August 03, 2020, 09:00:38 am »
    It sounds like a good idea to me Shane. I wish you well with it.

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #22 on: August 03, 2020, 09:14:42 am »
    Before we have a six-page argument over it, yes, authors with larger mailing lists will receive proportionally less benefit over time when compared to other individual authors. The alternative is to give authors with larger mailing lists an insurmountable advantage which would neutralize the benefits for everyone and put us right back where we started.  Like it or not, I have no magic. I can't overcome math. 

    Your idea is very interesting and noble. Just the above para is where the niggles lie. 

    Of course, authors with large mailing lists would think twice to join and share unless there is some benefit for them, if not an insurmountable advantage. They must get the gratifying feeling that they had eaten a bigger slice of the cake even though they get the same proportion, just like the other authors.

    One way would be to enable authors to network with each other in the site. They can be given the option to add fellow authors as friends. Authors only. No readers. That means the author's author friends are also displayed whenever a reader clicks author details while checking a book. Moreover, total subscribers provided by an author is also displayed alongside. So, this will boost an author's credibility in the eyes of the readers.

    Now the big advantage here to overcome your problem which I highlighted at the top of this post:

    Authors can be allowed to write a formal recommendation for their fellow authors, but only whoever they friend. This helps small authors to get leverage whenever they get reccomendation from big name authors. The big name authors also benefit by getting reccomendations from other big name authors. So, everyone in the author community offers a ladder of help for others. 
     

    Online J. Tanner

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #23 on: August 03, 2020, 09:49:11 am »
    So the core idea is Books2Read with a also-bought carousel. (Conceptually, I understand the metric will be different for determining what appears in the carousel.)

    The core idea is pretty good.

    Books2Read is great, but recreating it isn't the biggest tech challenge in the world. Probably more than the week suggested.

    Getting lower sales authors involved will be easy. Free and as good as Books2Read and it adds convenience.

    Getting higher sales authors involved is the rub. You're asking them to allow a portion of their traffic to be siphoned off for the good of the whole. This could be a tough row. Frankly, they're better off sticking with Books2Read in this model.

    But what if you allowed them another incentive? Their affiliate links for all books on their book pages. (I believe Books2Read or StoryOrigin has similar affiliate link support. Don't recall the details, but it's doable.)

    Maybe bringing more traffic into the site puts your books into more carousels? This causes a rich-get-richer problem but it's manageable.
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    Offline boxer44

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    Re: As Authors We're Blowing It - All of us
    « Reply #24 on: August 03, 2020, 10:13:33 am »
    Seems to me even tho' small list authors will gain the most at the beginning, small list authors would eventually become larger list authors, and would hopefully pass that gain on to newer small list authors.

    As authors, we should note that we sell ONE copy of a book to each person.  Once that happens, that person (aside from recommending a few friends) has no interest in buying a second copy.  In order to continue growing reader lists, we need to add more readers, not pester the same readers again with the same book, but rather with our new work.  And it's still generally speaking, a one-off each time. It's not like selling a favorite brand of dog food, over and over each month, maybe adding a new flavor occasionally. 

    With that in mind, even larger list authors will gain at least some new exposure and assist those small list authors who are now in a place where the larger list authors once stood.  We all begin somewhere, and just because we reach a higher place in sales lists is no reason to abandon authors lower on that "begin somewhere" list.  Most of us climb stairs one tread at a time.

    I do like the idea of author control of the interaction, rather than control sitting in the hands of those who ALL want a piece of our work product and profits with no guarantee of sales. :)   B

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