Thursday, February 21, 2019

Why Writing to Market is Dumb


So. I've been doing this indie writer thing for a while now (eight years) and I've gotten pretty good at it. Good enough that I quit my job and went full time. It hasn't been all wine and roses, and there were definitely some disappointments along the way. But I've learned the business. I've also learned how to make money at it.

Writing to market (WTM) is where you hear of a hot market, you immediate write a story to be published in the market and publish it, in an attempt to sucker in, I mean, make quick money. Unfortunately ten thousand other people also heard about that market and have raced in there as well, to dump their 'finely crafted' stories in the same market.

The end result of course is that you and all the rest of them just shit all over everything. People stop buying anything in the market, unless it's by a name they recognize, and your trash lingers on just stinking up the place and destroying the chances for any truly talented people to make a name for themselves in that market, because you chased everyone away. You end up with a few bucks (if you're lucky) and ten weeks later you're chasing another market, where you are sure to 'make it this time!'

The fact of the matter is, you're never going to make it. Writing to market doesn't work. If you were good enough to drop a story in any market and do well there, you would know this, and you would have already gone out and found a place to make a name for yourself. Which means you wouldn't be writing to market. When you write to market you are just endlessly chasing the golden ticket, you don't know a damn thing about the market and it shows to everyone who reads your book.

So rule number one, if you want to be a successful writer, don't write to market.

I have a little joke I used to tell people that the way to be successful is to write to market, as long as you love the market and know everything about it. The point of that is two-fold: The first is that if you do not know and love the market you're writing in, it shows! People can tell if you're a fraud and that you're just phoning it in. The second is that when you decide you want to write something, pick a 'market' that you know and understand and will enjoy writing in. Don't chase the trends! It's a waste of your time and creativity, not to mention your reputation.

Let's look at Michael Anderle for a moment. What market or genre if you like, do you think he writes in? Trick question! There isn't one. Or rather there wasn't one until he created it himself. That's part of why he's so successful. He took a bunch of stuff that he knew, and he thought it would be fun to throw all of it together in a way that's never been done before. Then: profit! And remember, he was only trying to make fifty thousand a year, not what he ended up making. His stories, when they first came out, suffered from terrible grammar, spelling mistakes, and bad editing. But he still sold tens of thousands of copies. Because he loved what he was doing and it showed. He was having fun, so everyone reading had fun too. And wanted more.

I did the same thing when I started the Valens Legacy series. I already had one successful series under my belt: Portals of Infinity. But I wanted to try something different, and while I'd been having some success, I wasn't doing as well as I wanted with some of the other things I was working on. Until I sat down one night and decided to write something that played to all of my strengths, using everything I'd learned to date. That's a big part of it right there: everything I'd learned. There were lessons I'd learned from the stories and series that I'd written, lessons about sales and marketing, readers and genres, things that I would never have learned by just constantly chasing the markets.

Of course now others are coming in and shitting all over that market with their whole 'write to market' BS because of my success. And they're not making much, if any, money. They've all but killed the field — if you're not already a name; forget trying to write in it nowadays. Which is sad cause there's some good stuff and authors out there not getting the exposure they deserve.

This is why I tell people to get out of groups like the '20K' one. First off, it is full of scammers, copycats, and write to market people. If you go in there and say 'Hey, look at this! I just found a hot market to make money in!' Thirty days later all of those people are going to be doing their damnedest to put you out of business and take all that money for themselves. Because that's their mindset: Grab the money and run. They're not there to build a name or a successful career (most write to market authors never use the same name twice), they're there to make a quick buck, because writing is easy.

Secondly; what are you going to learn from people who aren't looking to build a career, who aren't looking to build a name, but who are only looking to grab as much cash as they can and run with it? It's the 49er gold rush all over again, mining (writing) is hard work, so let's find a way to bypass that hard work and get our hands on some real cash!

So please, don't write to market, you won't be successful, you won't make a name for yourself, you won't have a career, and you won't enjoy what you're doing. Write what you enjoy and learn your craft. Rise to the top and people will read you. And for heaven's sake, if you do find yourself doing well, DO NOT go telling all those other people where to go. It's not just you you're hurting, but the readers too as a ton of crap gets dumped into the genre and, thanks to the way Amazon works, it will be there until the heat death of the universe.

Don't feel bad if your first book doesn't sell well, or sell at all. I've had flops; I've had some amazing flops. Written even after I'd already found a good paying series (because I wanted to diversify a little). You learn from your mistakes, you grow and improve. But as everything you're doing that's 'write to market' is a mistake, you're not growing because you're not learning. How many successful authors are there, who write in a different market every time they put out a book? Zero.

Now if you desperately feel that you have to write to market, write porn. It pays well, even if it's bad. You only have to write five to twelve thousand words per story, so you have less time and effort invested. And you can charge more because it's porn. Porn is probably the only field where WTM has a chance to work, because you already know about, and (hopefully) enjoy, sex. 


Friday, February 15, 2019

Just a heads up

From Podium Press:
Here's your friendly heads-up that the release date for The Valens Legacy Publisher's Pack 5 (Books 9 & 10) will be March 5th. The assets were recently submitted to Audible, so the listing should be up within the next week or so.

Monday, February 11, 2019

So, went down to the local library today

I decided to stop by the local library today and stop in. I drive by it fairly regularly now whenever I go into town. For a small town, it is a pretty good sized library. Part of the problem has always been going by it when it's open. Usually when I go into town it's closed.

They really don't have much of a science fiction or fantasy selection. Honestly, I'm tempted to do something about that, there's definitely a lot of stuff they could use, I may ask the Baen people about that when I see them at LibertyCon in a couple of months. I'd be happy to pay the costs, but maybe I can get a deal if I go through them directly.

They YA section however was huge. Definitely going to buy some of Jon Del Arroz's stuff and donate it to them, he really is a good YA writer, and it's steampunk. The world needs more steampunk. I know some people consider my Valens' series to be YA, but I don't think it belongs there, I feel it belongs in the New Adult category, which is the one right after that age wise. But then, what do I know? YA has changed a lot over the years.

So, it felt kind of weird going in there and talking to them. It's pretty much bragging to go in and say 'hey, I'm a local author, I just moved here, and would you be interested in free copies of my books and oh, by the way, I'm very successful.' I know these days there are a lot of folks running around introducing themselves as authors who really haven't sold much (if at all) and who try to act like they're up there with the big names, when they're obviously not. I still have trouble at times coming to grips with just how well I've done. When folks like Larry Correia remember your name and introduce you to his fans at a book signing because he sees you're in the audience, it's a moment you're never going to forget.

Anyway, now they have to 'vet' me, mainly read some of my stuff so they know if it'll fit in or not. Make sure I'm not writing the kind of stuff that they don't want in the library, which again, I can understand. It'll be cool if they decide they want my stuff, I'll be more than happy to give them a set or two of everything. If they don't want it, that's fine too. But if nothing else, it's practice at going out there and dealing with folks at a promotional level.

I haven't dealt with libraries before, because I found out that at the big one where I used to live, if you donated books, they wouldn't put them in the library, they'd just sell them. They only put in books that they bought themselves. Apparently that's the way the big libraries operate, and again I can understand it on the one hand, they want to be sure nothing 'crazy' gets in there. But on the other hand, my junior high school and high school library had hard core porn in them, because those books were on the 'recommended' lists and the local librarian obviously never read them, (and no, being a typical teenager I never told them either, I just read 'em).

But on the other hand, I've never been a big fan of gate keepers. People should be free to read what they want to read. After all, it's the gate keepers in trad pub who wouldn't allow me to publish my stories, and look at me now, my sales are right up there with the big boys. Yet they still won't touch me, even though I'm a proven money maker. It'd be cool to be in the book stores, but I know that'll never happen. At least not until the current gate keepers are replaced, if then.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Audio version of the first Wives Tales book is now up - Free!

The first of the Wives’ Tales is live on AudFans - you can stream without a login but if you want to download then you will need to make a signin.  The next Wives’ Tales will go up Feb 28

Here's the link: Wilves Tales #1


Monday, January 21, 2019

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Dead Authors


This is something that's been stuck in the craw for a looooong time now. It has to deal with people who, for whatever reason, decide that they're going to write a dead author's works. Now few have the gall to re-write a dead author's work to 'improve on it', and I'm quite sure that there is a special place in hell for those people. It's the real reason that I have a strong dislike and disregard for a particular third-rate author out there, beyond his inability to ever come up with something original on his own.

Next you have the people who wish to write stories in the existing universe of a dead author. These people I'm fine with actually. As long as they stay true to the universe, that's about all I'd want to see. But regardless of whether or not they do, they're at least trying to do something original and hopefully they got whatever permissions needed and again, hopefully, they're trying to pay some respects to an author that they enjoyed.

The last group are those who try to pick up a dead author's characters and write new stories with them, and that's what I want to talk about today.

Now, before I start, how many albums did Jimi Hendrix release after he died? Dozens if not hundreds. You may ask how that came to be, that a famous musician released more albums after his death and the answer is simple: They took all of his studio recordings, the stuff that he felt was shit and not good enough to release, and they released it. (Yes, I have listened to people who knew Jimi Hendrix and they're the ones that talked about this - they were not pleased).

I bring this up not to cast dispersions on those who would try to continue a dead author's works, but to make the point that we authors have a lot of shit lying around that we will NEVER publish. Because we don't think it's good enough. We may use it for inspiration at some later date for a new book (I'm actually thinking about that right now) but I think I'm gonna put in my will that my unpublished works are to remain just that - unpublished - after I die.

Now what brought this on was reading that they're going to release ANOTHER Karres book. 'Witches of Karres' is one of my all time favorite books. It has had an impact on my writing, if you're a fan of mine and you should read it, you may even see some of it. James H. Schmitz was, and is, one of my favorite authors. Yes, his stuff is very dated, but you have to remember the times when it was written and the themes remain very much intact today. The Telzey Amberdon stories are also among my favorites. I've read just about everything the man wrote and there are times I'm sorry I didn't try to meet him (I didn't live all that far from him for a number of years and met one of his good friends once), but I'm not the type to search out 'famous' people. I figure they're already busy enough without me bothering them.

But I digress.

When I heard that this group of authors had written a sequel to 'Witches of Karres', I was excited. The three authors were all people with experience and established names. So when I got the chance I picked it up.

I couldn't get past the first chapter. It sucked. Now, I don't know if it was a matter of 'too many cooks' or what, but honestly, these people just didn't know Schmitz, they didn't know his bones. They didn't 'get' him.

First of all, Schmitz was a short story writer. He wasn't a writer of novels. He only wrote six novels in his entire career and if I recall correctly two of those were collections. His main forte was writing short stories. He wasn't really a novelist, and while most don't understand it, there is a significant difference in the two forms of writing.

A brief aside here: I started out as a novelist. My first real writing was a novel which thanks to bit rot is lost to all time (which is fine, it sucked) my second attempt was 'Children of Steel'. I wrote another novel (Danger Money) and as I couldn't find an outlet for that work (pre-web days) I stopped writing. I then discovered an outlet, but I could only submit short stories. My first attempts weren't very good, but with the help of Gerald Perkins and more than a few things that I read, I figured it out. Then I wrote nothing but short stories for years. Dialene is actually three different short stories stuck together to make a novella.

So switching back to writing novels was not an easy task, but I did (obviously) figure it out and got back into it. So I have a lot of experience with writing each and I understand the very basic differences between the two styles. Schmitz wrote his novels as a collection of short stories. My book 'Shadow' (written as Jan Stryvant) was a collection of short stories. They weren't even written in the order that they appear in the book, (also I never intended to publish them, but that's another story). When it was suggested to me that I publish them, I reworked them into the correct chronological order, then tied them together so that they flowed.

When I look at Agent of Vega or Witches of Karres or The Universe Against her, it's obvious that Schmitz was still writing them as short stories and then stitching them together. It's like the difference between an album that's just a bunch of songs and a theme album. Yes, it's one story, but the 'breaks' are still there.

So when I picked up the sequel and the first thing I see is the story is picking up exactly where Schmitz left off in Witches, I knew they didn't get him.

First off, Schmitz had more than enough time to write a sequel to the book, yet he never did. Oh, he may have considered it, may have even made some notes about it, but the fact is: he didn't do it. So any notes or unfinished work he may have left lying around, was left lying around for a reason: He didn't think it would work.

Second off, if you're going to write a sequel, you need the damn break! You cannot pick up an hour or a day later. You cannot pick up with the humorous denouement of the story and run with it! It's the damn denouement, it wasn't meant to be picked up on! If you're going to carry forward with anything about the 'baby' vatch in the next book, the only way to really do it would be as a series of 'remembered' lessons, or snide comments made by Goth. That is very much a tell don't show, like when Captain Pausert discusses how he got rid of all that junk cargo.

I can't comment more on the book, because I didn't want my childhood memories destroyed. I don't know why they picked the authors that they did to write the sequel(s). I don't know if an editor said 'I think these will do well at it' or if they asked for volunteers. Whichever it was, they failed miserably on the hook, and the hook is the most important part of the story. If you can't get that right, well, there's no way you got the rest of it right.

James H. Schmitz was one of the three authors whose writings had the biggest impact on my style. Robert H. Heinlein and Roger Zelazny were the other two. Yes, I would love to see another Karres book about Pausert, Goth, and The Leewit. I daresay I know how to write one. But I won't, not even for myself (and trust me, it was something I thought about many times years ago when I was starting out) because James H. Schmitz has died, and I don't want to be the one digging up his grave. Let him and his characters rest in peace.