Kindle Forum banner
1 - 20 of 61 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,885 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I live in the land of Uber and Fitbit, where Apple is king and Google Glass is normal. Where Elon Musk holds court and billionaires seek the next Youtube. San Francisco is a fascinating culture with different rules, and a wholly different religion. It's called 10x Thinking, the art of Dreaming Big. Those who embrace it risk everything playing the great game of business. They invite criticism, and they listen attentively when it is given. They make bold choices, and study failures closely.

This religion is not for everyone. For every successful startup there are dozens of flameouts. It is high risk, high reward. If you have a day job you hate, or need immediate income then you should give very serious consideration to the publish often methodology many successful authors espouse here.

Publishing often will help hone your craft, and give you invaluable experience. It can show you what works and doesn't, because you are iterating very quickly. My religion refers to this as prototyping. Without it you are simply too slow. Too ungainly. We recognize the value in rapid releases, but not at the expense of quality.

Thou Shalt Be Agile

The startup world adheres to the Agile methodology. We have scrum masters and sprints, software suites and epic debates. All surrounding one simple principle. What was true yesterday may not be true today. It will definitely not be true tomorrow. We embrace Wayne Gretzky's philosophy that good players go where the puck is. Great players go where the puck will be.

This often means a sharp pivot, a dramatic change to your business. For writers that can be identifying a potential hot new genre, or experimenting with shorter (or longer) works. You must be able to react quickly, which is the essence of any successful business.

This is why you hear the drum beat of publish quickly, but as you'll see below this must be done very carefully.

Thou Shalt Breakout

There are hundreds of billions of dollars in funding available in San Francisco. CellScope (my company) has already raised 5.6 million dollars. We're a tiny fish in a very large pond.

Every investor is looking for the same thing. They want to back The Next Big Thing. They don't care if you can make a profit quickly. They care whether you can create or fundamentally redefine a market.

Nothing else matters. I understand the advocates of publishing quickly, because as some users have pointed out that gives you more swings at the ball. More chances for a home run. But it risks sacrificing brand to do it. Mediocrity is dangerous, and excessive speed risks falling into that trap.

Thou Shalt Brand

Brand is everything. Your audience must not only know you exist, but eagerly await every product. They must become devotees of your religion, advocates in the quest for more converts.

Achieving this is the holy grail, the reason Apple succeeded and Blackberry face planted. It requires polish, consistency and patience. Your brand is like a garden, requiring constant care and attention if you want it to bloom.

You must not just create good products, but great ones. In our world that means amazing covers. Incredible blurbs. Stellar reviews, awarded to stellar products. Fail in any of these areas and readers will lose faith.

There can't be any weak spots in your brand, any chinks in your armor. This is why investors give startups millions of dollars over several years before they expect them to show their work to anyone.

I'm guessing almost everyone here was an avid reader growing up. I devoured a fantasy novel every single day for years. I couldn't tell you the names of the vast majority of books I read. I have no idea who the authors are.

But I remember Tad Williams. I remember Robert Jordan. I remember Michael Crichton. There was something different about their books, something that set them apart. My religion is all about identifying that something, then harnessing it.

If you want to break out you must master your craft, creating incredible stories readers absolutely love. The kind of books they will wait years for, just like they do for George R.R. Martin. Otherwise you are forgettable, and there is no worse fate.

Thou Shalt Beta Test

We all know how bad our first drafts are compared to a releasable product. Software works exactly the same way. You make a minimum viable product, then you show it to a handful of people.

You listen closely to their feedback and add or remove features accordingly. You show it to a larger group of people and see how they react, then iterate again. This process is repeated many times before you end up with a product worthy of The Almighty Brand.

Advocates of quick publishing iterate many times, often with disposable brand names. This allows them to learn while insulating them from the consequences of mistakes. I nearly took this approach for that very reason, but my time in software has taught me the value of user experience testing.

Releasing a product means immediate profit. It means seeing what things people will buy, but it doesn't necessarily tell you why they bought it. To understand that you need to ask the right questions, and measure the trends in a limited subgroup of customers.

In our case that means finding your potential audience and having them beta read your book. Not just one or two people, but twenty or thirty. It means asking meaningful questions about what worked for them and what didn't, then refining your product accordingly.

I re-wrote the first forty thousand works of No Such Thing As Werewolves almost from scratch after my first round of beta reading. My characters gained more definition, plot holes closed and my pace tightened.

Then I showed it to my writing coach, who tore apart my prose and pointed out the remaining flaws in the plot. I integrated her feedback, then showed the book to another crop of beta readers. They had a few last minute suggestions, but in general they loved it.

This process made me an immeasurably better writer, which made the first draft of the second book much stronger. I'm following the same process for that book now, and by the time I release it will be closer to mastery of my craft.

If Thou be a Real Artist Thou Shalt Ship

There is a point of diminishing returns, and many writers never release a product because they are forever tinkering in a vain quest for perfection. I don't think you should pump out unpolished products every month, but you DO need to put out products.

No Such Thing As Werewolves wasn't perfect when I released it. There were over 20 typos, and several inaccuracies about the military hardware (*cringes*). But that didn't matter. What did was reader reception.

Almost every beta reader and reviewer responded with one of two statements. Where is the next book, or I can't wait to see the movie. This is gold in the 10x World. It means you have a chance to breakout.

Thou Shalt Iterate

I aimed for a small initial test market. 10s of copies a day, not hundreds or thousands. I listened to what my audience is saying, and am making changes based on that feedback.

I hired a proofreader to give the manuscript another pass. I tightened my blurb. Very soon I'll be redoing my covers to be more uniform. The initial 2,000-3,000 people who bought my book will see a beta version of it.

The rest will see a polished uniformly branded product.

My Plan for 2015

In April when book 2 launches I will aim for my first Bookbub. I will market anywhere and everywhere to drive readers into my sales funnel, knowing that the product they are about to consume is the best one I could have produced.

I plan to stay agile, to adjust my strategy as often as necessary to make better products and to continue honing my craft until I am the type of writer that inspires fandom.

This means consistently releasing products. A novel every six months, something readers can depend on. If they like my novellas (The First Ark is doing well so far, but its too early to tell) then I will release one three months after every novel so something comes out every quarter.

Will that be enough to keep readers interested? If my stories are good enough, yes. If my user testing was accurate the books will spread, hopefully like wildfire.

I will help that along of course. As I've said elsewhere marketing is key. I need to get my books in front of people who will love them. That will be the topic of its own post, but many of the tools for doing this are things we're already familiar with. Boxed sets is a great example.

With every book I'll become a better writer and I will learn more about what my audience craves. In doing so I plan to redefine a currently underserved market.

Vampires have been huge for years. So have zombies. But there is a dearth of good werewolf books, and those that do exist take a completely different approach than I do. So I'm re-defining werewolves. Watch carefully what happens next Halloween. If I do my job right werewolves will be The Next Big Thing.

Am I both arrogant and ignorant for not releasing a short novella every month? Maybe. I'm gambling that my path leads to mastery of my craft and the existence of a strong brand marketed to a user tested audience.

It will be interesting looking back at this post in 6 or 12 months to see if I face plant like Blackberry or soar like Apple. In the mean time I'd love to answer questions and to hear about flaws in my plan.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,305 Posts
Chris Fox, we are of a similar mind on different coasts. I've rubbed elbows with computer visionaries from my years as a member of the Charleston SC Linux Users Group. It's a scary and thrilling crowd to hang out in. My favorite part of the VC or San Fran style of business is there's never the sentiment that it CAN'T be done, but just it HASN'T been done. . . yet. :)

I married a lot of what you talk about with an efficient publishing schedule. And Blackberry didn't face plant exactly, they forgot to keep innovating. I think that's an apt metaphor for what might be happening now. There was always the murmurs about what were indies going to do when trad pub started pricing low, and I think that prediction is starting to arrive. One set says "then we must go lower!" and the other says "beat them at their own game." I'm in the last camp.

And you may not realize it, but your plan of a novella every 3 months, novel every 6 IS publishing fast. It is faster than every trad pubbed author and faster than even most indies. It's not as fast as Grovnice or maybe my plans, but it's up there as far as release schedule goes. Conventional scheduling is ONE novel a year. That's it. One. And that's what many are talking about when they say writing just one novel a year hoping for it to break out is like taking just one swing when it was your turn to bat. :)

Really great post, I like the 10x thinking. I will be off looking for some more material on that I can hack and co-opt into my plans. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,732 Posts
An awesome and inspiring read, Chris, thanks for taking the time to write it! Looking forward to seeing your plan come to fruition this year, man :) :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,722 Posts
Very inspiring.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
226 Posts
Chris Fox said:
I live in the land of Uber and Fitbit, where Apple is king and Google Glass is normal. Where Elon Musk holds court and billionaires seek the next Youtube.
You had me right at the first sentence and if you ever decide to write a motivational self-help book I will happily buy it. Just brilliant.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,601 Posts
Great post -- lots to digest.

I am not a techie but what strikes me is that the new world of publishing is now technology driven, in that e-publishing and e-commerce and e-readers have all shifted the industry and playing fields. This means that the approaches in the tech field might be quite suited to success in the new world of publishing. The internet, etailers like Amazon, Kindle and electronic book software changed a lot about the old system and it is slowly adapting. The entire industry is now much faster, bigger, and for authors, at least, requiring more of a business approach than before. Not everyone likes this new system or can work within it, but it is the new system. There are opportunities for those who can adapt. The old system is still in place, but eBooks have forced changes to their business models as well.

A question authors have to face that they never did before is which approach do I take? Trade publishing or self publishing? Self-publishig was never a real viable option until very recently. The author has to ask, if I go self-publishing, how do I gain visibility and build a brand on my own? How do I get readers, and have a career, if that is what I want?

The new system also changes far more rapidly than the old system did because technology changes so fast. Just keeping up with Amazon algorithm changes requires being in touch with those who study these things and figuring out how to adapt.

It's exhilarating and exciting and scary at the same time.

Anyone who wants to, can publish their book and see it on Amazon or B&N or iBooks in 24 - 48 hours. Getting your book read is a whole other kettle of fish. I will watch your thread eagerly for your marketing tips, which is why I came to Kboards in the first place so consider me an eager reader of your posts.

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,163 Posts
Rad post.

By the way, the "publish 1+ shorter works every month" thing doesn't really apply to spec fic. I am absolutely positive there are exceptions, but if you go hang out on the SF/F/H bestseller lists, virtually every single title is novel-length, with the occasional novella from a trad bestseller mixed in there.

That means the pace of publication in spec fic is slightly less frantic. Slightly. ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,601 Posts
Edward W. Robertson said:
Rad post.

By the way, the "publish 1+ shorter works every month" thing doesn't really apply to spec fic. I am absolutely positive there are exceptions, but if you go hang out on the SF/F/H bestseller lists, virtually every single title is novel-length, with the occasional novella from a trad bestseller mixed in there.

That means the pace of publication in spec fic is slightly less frantic. Slightly. ;)
I think there is a market for short sf the way there is in no other genre besides erotica. So you could write a 10K SF short each couple of weeks and probably do quite well, maybe even expanding some to longer serials, the way Hugh Howey did with Wool. Short fiction was always a way to break in to publishing longer SF works and in fact was a strategy even the SF editors advocated to aspiring SF writers.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,163 Posts
Sela said:
I think there is a market for short sf the way there is in no other genre besides erotica. So you could write a 10K SF short each couple of weeks and probably do quite well, maybe even expanding some to longer serials, the way Hugh Howey did with Wool. Short fiction was always a way to break in to publishing longer SF works and in fact was a strategy even the SF editors advocated to aspiring SF writers.
I wish it were true, but I don't think it is. I just checked the top 100 SF titles on Amazon. Here is the list of books significantly shorter than 200 pages:

#1 - Animal Farm
#2 - A new installment from a sci-fi romance serial
#3 - A new novella in a very popular series by BV Larson (huge indie SF author)

That's it. I think the algos have changed significantly since Hugh and the SF serials of people like Sean Platt and David Wright. 2011 was a long time ago in ebook-years!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,610 Posts
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine has been selling the world short works of SF fiction for more than 30 years. Clarkesworld is a respected SF & F magazine that's been around for 9 years now.

I think there are definitely readers out there for short SF and F stories.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,086 Posts
I'd say an article by Forbes does a good job of laying out what doesn't work.  Forbes states that 8 out of 10 businesses will fail in the first 18 months.  The basic causes are:

1) You don't have a clue what your customers want.
2) Your product isn't any different from umpteen other products.
3) You fail to communicate why your product is worth buying.
4) The person in charge isn't any good at business and makes lousy decisions.
5) You fail to make money according to the revenue model you've set up.

A guy who used to assess business plans for potential bank loans once blogged that most of the plans he saw were obviously bad.  You had a lot of people who were in love with a lousy business idea, and they were too air-headed to be bothered with paperwork, accounting, or figuring out how to make enough money to sustain their business.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
53 Posts
MyraScott said:
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine has been selling the world short works of SF fiction for more than 30 years. Clarkesworld is a respected SF & F magazine that's been around for 9 years now.

I think there are definitely readers out there for short SF and F stories.
I agree, MyraScott. The top sellers in Erotica are almost all novel-length and many are well-known names like EL Gray and Zane. But there is still a market for short erotica and many many authors make good money writing shorts.

At the same time I think OP's post is more for people who want to make the very topselling lists and be well-known in the field and innovative. That's different from publishing short erotica (and maybe short SF? I don't know), where it's about steady sales from frequent short publishing and there's not a lot of time to worry about perfecting the product or sending it to beta readers etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,885 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Elizabeth Ann West said:
I married a lot of what you talk about with an efficient publishing schedule. And Blackberry didn't face plant exactly, they forgot to keep innovating. I think that's an apt metaphor for what might be happening now. There was always the murmurs about what were indies going to do when trad pub started pricing low, and I think that prediction is starting to arrive. One set says "then we must go lower!" and the other says "beat them at their own game." I'm in the last camp.

And you may not realize it, but your plan of a novella every 3 months, novel every 6 IS publishing fast. It is faster than every trad pubbed author and faster than even most indies. It's not as fast as Grovnice or maybe my plans, but it's up there as far as release schedule goes. Conventional scheduling is ONE novel a year. That's it. One. And that's what many are talking about when they say writing just one novel a year hoping for it to break out is like taking just one swing when it was your turn to bat. :)

Really great post, I like the 10x thinking. I will be off looking for some more material on that I can hack and co-opt into my plans. :)
I completely agree about beating them at their own game. Indie authors can move faster than traditional publishing, which will continue to be a huge advantage. I'll be raising the prices on my books at the end of the month after the Christmas Kindle rush dies down. That sort of fine grain control is something a traditional publisher will never have.

I do agree that 2 novellas a 2 novels a year is fast. Even two novels is crazy fast to me, but then I ran into the authors here who say 7 months is an eternity in the current market. It's difficult for me to disagree, as I haven't been in indie publishing for 7 months yet ;)

Love that you're a tech geek too. You're also one of our most inspirational posters, so thank you for that.

Sever Bronny said:
An awesome and inspiring read, Chris, thanks for taking the time to write it! Looking forward to seeing your plan come to fruition this year, man :) :)
You too Sever. It's been amazing watching us both launch at the same time. 2015 is going to be a good year for us and a lot of fellow authors on Kboards =)

Sela said:
The new system also changes far more rapidly than the old system did because technology changes so fast. Just keeping up with Amazon algorithm changes requires being in touch with those who study these things and figuring out how to adapt.

Anyone who wants to, can publish their book and see it on Amazon or B&N or iBooks in 24 - 48 hours. Getting your book read is a whole other kettle of fish. I will watch your thread eagerly for your marketing tips, which is why I came to Kboards in the first place so consider me an eager reader of your posts.
A thousand times this. Our entire world has been redefined by the internet, and we're in the bronze age of computing. In ten years four billion people will be online. Dominating a very tiny niche (like werewolves) can net you hundreds of thousands of sales over a several year period. Maybe more if you have a hit on your hands. We're at a unique stage where indies finally have the advantage. We can experiment daily with keywords until we find a set that works.

Traditional publishers can't do that. They can't alter their blurb or throw up a new cover or fix typos. They can't rebrand or even add a link to their mailing list in the back matter. We can do all that and more, and authors who capitalize on that are already making money hand over fist. Those who think long term will profit from it. You just have to find your 1,000 fans, which leads us back to marketing.

I'll be making a separate post on that later this week, but I've got word quotas to hit =p

As a teaser I will say this. Find the authors who already have the success you're looking for, and see what they're doing. Then find the readers you think will market your book, and make sure they know it exists. In my case there are werewolf forums all over the internet, and most are starving for decent fiction in a genre they're incredibly passionate about. Some have already discovered my book and I get to lurk with a huge grin while they discuss my book.

Others don't know about it, so I contribute to the forums and bring up the book if and when it's relevant.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,602 Posts
Chris Fox said:
Traditional publishers can't do that. They can't alter their blurb or throw up a new cover or fix typos. They can't rebrand or even add a link to their mailing list in the back matter.
They do all that and more and anything that indies are doing that would aid their business plan they will adopt as they have done with BookBub adverts. Your claim is up their with your claim that Blackberry fell flat on their face, just because they are not from California does not mean that they were not once the business. Saying that Blackberry fell on their face while Apple succeeded is like saying that Lotus 123 failed while Excel succeeded or Wordperfect failed while Word succeeded. If you want to use tech examples try to get your history right, if you want to comment on mainstream publishing try to get their business practices right.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,163 Posts
ericaroswell said:
I agree, MyraScott. The top sellers in Erotica are almost all novel-length and many are well-known names like EL Gray and Zane. But there is still a market for short erotica and many many authors make good money writing shorts.

At the same time I think OP's post is more for people who want to make the very topselling lists and be well-known in the field and innovative. That's different from publishing short erotica (and maybe short SF? I don't know), where it's about steady sales from frequent short publishing and there's not a lot of time to worry about perfecting the product or sending it to beta readers etc.
Almost all top-selling erotica is novel-length? I don't spend much time watching the erotica bestseller lists. But right now, 44 of the top 100 titles listed in erotica are under 200 pages long. 43 of those 44 titles are under 162 pages. Most of those are under 120 pages, including a good number between 25-40 pages. One was as short as 10 pages.

I don't mean to derail the topic, but the SF/F/H ebook market is completely different when it comes to short works. There have been a lot of good advice threads lately about how to succeed, but in my observation, the advice in those threads about writing novellas and shorts does not apply to SF/F.

Let me put it in less forceful terms -- if you're writing spec fic, and thinking about going short (and I got a bit of this from Chris' post), please take a long, long look at the bestseller lists of the subgenre you're writing in. And count up how many of those top-selling titles are shorter than novel-length.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,299 Posts
Avis Black said:
2) Your product isn't any different from umpteen other products.
To me, this is a critical factor and is why we should be studying the most successful authors. When I think of all the writers I follow, the authors whose releases I never miss, they all have one thing in common--they wrote stories I'll never forget. They didn't just blend in with all the other novels in their genre, and because of that, I will remember them whether they publish every six months or they wait two years.

That's my goal--to write stories people won't forget.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,885 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Mercia McMahon said:
They do all that and more and anything that indies are doing that would aid their business plan they will adopt as they have done with BookBub adverts. Your claim is up their with your claim that Blackberry fell flat on their face, just because they are not from California does not mean that they were not once the business. Saying that Blackberry fell on their face while Apple succeeded is like saying that Lotus 123 failed while Excel succeeded or Wordperfect failed while Word succeeded. If you want to use tech examples try to get your history right, if you want to comment on mainstream publishing try to get their business practices right.
You honestly believe traditional publishers play with keywords, blurbs and covers on a regular basis? Seriously? My copy of Jurassic Park is riddled with typos, because they simply scanned the book, dumped it on Amazon and left it. If they aren't going to polish a book like that what makes you think they'll do it for a mid-lister? And are you speaking from experience? Do you have books with traditional publishers? If not, where are you getting your data?

I do have my history right. What was Blackberry's share of the market in 2006? What is it today? What was Apple's in 2006? What is it now? Apple out innovated Blackberry, and Blackberry lost a huge swathe of market share, first to Apple and then to Samsung. This is an indisputable fact. What that has to do with a three decade old spreadsheet program or a word processor that didn't use a mouse I'm not sure.

I'm not meaning to be rude, but I've been in the tech industry for 20 years. I know my history well, because I lived a lot of it.

vlmain said:
That's my goal--to write stories people won't forget.
Mine too. If we can do that we've got readers for life.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,462 Posts
I looove reading about startups and Silicon Valley and venture capital.

I have a big plan for my series - something that hasn't been done before - but I'm not confident enough to try a kickstarter or anything for it. I also had it written into my publishing contract that I can do this. But I'll have to wait until I make enough to get it happening :D

So, if I'm to understand your post correctly, your big, overarching plan (that is different to what everyone else is doing) is make yourself the go-to author for werewolf lit and to make werewolf lit hugely popular in time for Halloween? Will be interested to see how you make that happen :)
 
1 - 20 of 61 Posts
Top