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.