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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First off, I'm writing this because another member here asked me to.  So I'm going to try and break down, as simply as possible, what I think are a couple of the best ways to succeed in the current ebook market.

Of course, I can't go into every detail or possibility, so some will naturally be left out or broader statements made.

Firstly, you must have craft, but only enough craft to allow for a good story.  Nowadays (contrary to popular opinion amongst writers) readers are increasingly LESS demanding of writing craft and more demanding of the author delivering a good story.  And a good story is one that pulls us in, sometimes regardless of the writer's ability to hone a perfect sentence.

The next thing you must have is speed and you must create volume.  This is to give you the BEST chance at success.  Are there writers who succeed without putting out a large volume of work?  Yes, but its much harder to accomplish.  The less work you put out, the less chance you have of success.  You can argue this point all you want.  And I don't care if some world-crushing literary light only had one book in his whole life and he was feted by the entire literary establishment.

If you can't put out a large volume of work, quickly, than you will have more difficulty finding success in this business.

Once you have (just) enough craft, and you have speed and are willing to create volume, you must choose your genre and your niche.  The best way to do this is to study the markets on all retailers.  That means not just Amazon, but Kobo, B&N, iTunes.  You study the top selling INDIE books in every genre that you have a chance in, and you read widely.  You sample widely.  You don't necessarily to read deeply, you don't need to have read thousands of sci-fi books to write in the genre.

The caveat here is that I assume, at some point in life, you've read enough that you understand plot and story an structure at an innate level.  Most writers have, because we love reading enough to have done that work, mostly in childhood.  If you haven't, it will become a problem, in all likelihood.  Although other good areas to have bolstered this ability is by watching movies and TV and thinking about how they achieve what they achieve.

After you've sampled widely, and after you've made a study of the bestseller lists in the genres and niches that you feel you could write in, you must then choose a story and a plot that is in line with what some of the other current bestsellers are doing.  That means using elements and pieces, taking the basic underpinnings that other authors are finding success with, and making them your own.

An example (hypothetical, of course).  I am on the lists and I see that there happen to be a fair amount of recent books that have cyber-terrorism as a backdrop.  And these books are all doing very well, very recently.  There's jus a smattering of them but they're clearly doing well, selling a lot.  I try to dig deeper and see if I can identify a market there.  Is it a fluke or is a trend occurring?  In the end, I have to just go for it.  So I come up with a plot composed of that backdrop and using story elements that seem to appeal to the readership. 

I try to identify what is so appealing about these books.  Is it the cyber-terrorism itself, is it fear of our machines, is it end of the world stuff?  Is it the hero getting to be a nerdy computer programmer and that somehow plays into the readers' deepest desires because they're mostly nerdy computer programmers themselves?

This is somewhat tongue in cheek, but the point is to get you thinking deeply about the reason behind these books' success.  If they're truly filling a need, it behooves you to understand the need as best you can.

Once you have a handle on it, you write a story, and you must find a way to use your own talents and ingenuity to make it come alive and make the characters real, to transport the reader.  This is the craft element that I was referring to earlier.  Craft is you making this somewhat "generic" piece of genre fiction your own, while still including the stuff that the fans of the genre and niche want.

It's up to you to get good at identifying needs and then providing the readers what they want.

In order to do this work, you must be fast.  I say that at a minimum, you want to be doing 2-3k words of nearly publishable fiction per day, five days a week.  That gives you the ability to churn out 10-15k words a week, and so you're getting out a short book a month, or perhaps a few shorter serialized books a month.

If you get a hit, you keep churning out books in the series while continuing to look for other opportunities.  if the book doesn't hit, you move on.  You do not continue to beat a dead or dying horse.  Series' can be resurrected in the future, if necessary.  But for now, if it's not a hit--you just move on.

What is a hit?  A hit is a book that allows you to gain readership quickly, so that each following book makes more and more money, until you hit a tipping point in which you become able to write full-time.  It will not necessarily be a straight shot up, there will be ups and downs.  But in general, sales and earnings are going up from one month to the next, with the occasional dip.

In terms of workflow, you should endeavor to do as much as possible yourself, only farming work out when you absolutely must, and paying as little as possible for each stage of production.

I do all writing myself, I edit my own work with no revisions from any other person.  I used to have my partner read and revise all my work but I got better and faster and now I just do it myself.  My partner does my covers because I'm not so good at it.  Many self-pubbed authors do their own covers quite well--like Bella Andre and Holly Ward. 

Every piece that you farm out will slow you down.  Each single piece of production should be as streamlined as humanly possible.  If you find that your skill set will not allow you to turn out good enough work, then you must outsource.  But be aware that this will slow you down.

In the end, no matter whether you do everything DIY or you farm out large pieces of your business, you want to make this a volume business.  You want to get as much work out as you can, and then--when you get a hit--you want to keep beating that drum, whilst looking for more opportunities.

This is just scratching the surface, but if you actually use this blue print, and if you write even faster and work harder, I'd be surprised if you do not succeed beyond what the average writer will accomplish using traditional methods.

This method isn't easy and most will not and cannot do it.  But most writers will not succeed in this business over the longterm.  If you really decide you must succeed, then you can do it with the proper work ethic and mindset, assuming you have some basic skills in place before you begin.

If you do not have the skills, you will not succeed no matter what you do.  If you have the skills, then you must maximize your efficiency and business sense.

More can be said about pricing and so forth, but much of that can be solved by studying the bestsellers.



 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Sever Bronny said:
Good post, thank you for taking the time to write it :)
You're welcome! I'm open to questions, too. That was just a top line group of big picture suggestions to work from...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Jim Johnson said:
Might be useful to provide your baseline definition of 'success'.
Success in this case refers to building a career in which you can eventually write full-time, if desired. Success will vary from person to person, but here I assume that the writer eventually wants this to be their "job."
 

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Hmm, this is all looks to be surprisingly accurate... I imagine you will be insulted and belittled quite heavily as a result  :p

The one thing I disagree with is not outsourcing some elements of your work. This depends on your genre and whatnot, of course.
 

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Wonderful post. 
I want to add that sentence structure is not near as important as making sure you can write a readable story.  If one has too many obvious errors,  the book will not sell.  Keep your reader in the story.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
dirtiestdevil said:
Hmm, this is all looks to be surprisingly accurate... I imagine you will be insulted and belittled quite heavily as a result :p

The one thing I disagree with is not outsourcing some elements of your work. This depends on your genre and whatnot, of course.
Haha, yes, I hope to get slammed with hateful responses anytime now :)
As for outsourcing, I knew that one would be controversial. I say that you do AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE YOURSELF.

For some, that means outsourcing covers and editing.

But look at Bella, does her own covers and they're some of the best in the business….I'm lucky to have a partner that does awesome covers, so that's just nice if you can get it.

As for editing, I got to a place where I edit my own work and don't hear many complaints. It took me a few years of being heavily edited and critiqued by my partner and stuff with agents, editors, etc. But if you're good enough, you can do that if you like.

Speed is king from where I stand.
 

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Speed is king. Our attention spans are so short. Here's a quick question, can any of you say who was the top author in your genre last month? Unless it's a household name, I bet you can't. Even I, who watch my genre lists on a regular basis can only tell you Stephanie Laurens has been on there consistently. And I look and watch every day the top 20.

Here are some other time sucks to think about.

I write in Wordpress. That way, it's just as easy for me to write a blog post and have it programmed to tweet out and facebook out with a new chapter of a work in progress as clicking a button. That is the real key to helping me build up steam this summer and a plan I will be going back to since I will no longer be exclusive with Amazon. That's a perk I think I want back, the ability to give whatever percentage of my book for free as I want when I want to who I want.

I also like Wordpress because I can tag things easily, see how much I wrote in a day, and one click backup everything. And while I can't write offline, I CAN write on my work in progress on ANY computer in the world with Internet. As much as I travel and the # of computers I use in my household, that's a godsend.

I do use an editor, but she edits AS I write. So as soon as I finish a chapter in wordpress, I tag her, tell her and she edits it. Then we do a run through at the end.
 

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cinisajoy said:
Wonderful post.
I want to add that sentence structure is not near as important as making sure you can write a readable story. If one has too many obvious errors, the book will not sell. Keep your reader in the story.
I've seen books with misspelled titles, let alone interiors!! do very well on the charts. Reader forgiveness is quite surprising...
 

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gorvnice said:
Haha, yes, I hope to get slammed with hateful responses anytime now :)
As for outsourcing, I knew that one would be controversial. I say that you do AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE YOURSELF.

For some, that means outsourcing covers and editing.

But look at Bella, does her own covers and they're some of the best in the business....I'm lucky to have a partner that does awesome covers, so that's just nice if you can get it.

As for editing, I got to a place where I edit my own work and don't hear many complaints. It took me a few years of being heavily edited and critiqued by my partner and stuff with agents, editors, etc. But if you're good enough, you can do that if you like.

Speed is king from where I stand.
There's certainly not a 'requirement' to outsource, but the people need to learn those other skills themselves. My covers are pretty abysmal -- but I took some time to learn photoediting to make them 'usable' :p

And here I thought spending 3 years working on your masterpiece was the best way to attain success...

The problem is people are brainwashed by what a writer 'should' be that they self-sabotage themselves from the beginning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Elizabeth Ann West said:
I do use an editor, but she edits AS I write. So as soon as I finish a chapter in wordpress, I tag her, tell her and she edits it. Then we do a run through at the end.
Yes, this is exactly what I mean. Streamline your production, people! Stop being so slow. Elizabeth needs an editor, fine, so she gets someone who edits AS she writes, not after. Don't make excuses to be slow.

And this is why you, Elizabeth, among other reasons, are killing it!
 

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Elizabeth Ann West said:
Speed is king. Our attention spans are so short. Here's a quick question, can any of you say who was the top author in your genre last month? Unless it's a household name, I bet you can't. Even I, who watch my genre lists on a regular basis can only tell you Stephanie Laurens has been on there consistently. And I look and watch every day the top 20.

Here are some other time sucks to think about.

I write in Wordpress. That way, it's just as easy for me to write a blog post and have it programmed to tweet out and facebook out with a new chapter of a work in progress as clicking a button. That is the real key to helping me build up steam this summer and a plan I will be going back to since I will no longer be exclusive with Amazon. That's a perk I think I want back, the ability to give whatever percentage of my book for free as I want when I want to who I want.

I also like Wordpress because I can tag things easily, see how much I wrote in a day, and one click backup everything. And while I can't write offline, I CAN write on my work in progress on ANY computer in the world with Internet. As much as I travel and the # of computers I use in my household, that's a godsend.

I do use an editor, but she edits AS I write. So as soon as I finish a chapter in wordpress, I tag her, tell her and she edits it. Then we do a run through at the end.
That's ... that's genius.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
dirtiestdevil said:
There's certainly not a 'requirement' to outsource, but the people need to learn those other skills themselves. My covers are pretty abysmal -- but I took some time to learn photoediting to make them 'usable' :p

And here I thought spending 3 years working on your masterpiece was the best way to attain success...

The problem is people are brainwashed by what a writer 'should' be that they self-sabotage themselves from the beginning.
Yeah, it's sad how so many writer/artist myths just kill potential writers where they stand. At the same time, its true that most will fail, sadly. Even with some success, keeping going is not easy.
 

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gorvnice said:
In order to do this work, you must be fast. I say that at a minimum, you want to be doing 2-3k words of nearly publishable fiction per day, five days a week. That gives you the ability to churn out 10-15k words a week, and so you're getting out a short book a month, or perhaps a few shorter serialized books a month.
While writing well, and writing quickly may be the ideal, I wouldn't say it is a must. There are a lot of very talented writers who work full time and have family commitments, who may only be able to get 500 words out per day. I would hate for them to think it's hopeless if they can't put out 2,000 a day, because it isn't.

If you can only do 250 a day, fine, do 250 a day. If you can only get 500 words written, then write 500 words. The most important thing is to do it. Whether it's a little or a lot, just do it. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
vlmain said:
While writing well, and writing quickly may be the ideal, I wouldn't say it is a must. There are a lot of very talented writers who work full time and have family commitments, who may only be able to get 500 words out per day. I would hate for them to think it's hopeless if they can't put out 2,000 a day, because it isn't.

If you can only do 250 a day, fine, do 250 a day. If you can only get 500 words written, then write 500 words. The most important thing is to do it. Whether it's a little or a lot, just do it. ;)
That is a recipe for continuing to write. It is not a recipe to succeed in the current market.

That doesn't mean you should stop writing, but you should probably adjust your expectations, as that type of slow output will hamper the chances of you making a living at this work.
 

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gorvnice said:
You're welcome! I'm open to questions, too. That was just a top line group of big picture suggestions to work from...
I have a question. My approach is quite a bit different in that I only plan to release two novels a year. All titles are in a series of related trilogies, and all are designed to build on each other. My goal is to build a long term following similar to what I've seen authors like Butcher do (yes, I know I'm nowhere near his level but some day I hope to be). I figure that in four years when I have three trilogies and a number of novellas out my initial readers will still be buying books, and hopefully telling their friends about them.

Is that sort of slow growth suicidal? Am I risking readers forgetting about me at that pace? I try to use myself as a benchmark. I don't care how many years go by. If Sanderson or Butcher releases a new book in a series I love I'm all over it. Is it naive to assume my readers might do the same?
 
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