I KNOW YOU’RE A WRITER, BUT HAVE YOU GOT AN ELEPHANT?

In mid-nineteenth century Britain the Theatre was changing. Theatre audiences were demanding entertaining acts and Shakespeare was no longer classed as entertaining by the hoi pilloi. So, classically trained actors had the choice of either working to diminishing audiences or becoming a variety act in the burgeoning Music Hall, complete with elephants. Elephant1Barbara Ewing illustrates this very well in her novel, ‘The Mesmerist’, which, in passing, is well worth a read, if a little expensive.

Today, fiction publishing is changing for everyone concerned: writers, agents publishers; no one is sure of the model, or if there even is a model.

Major publishers have reacted to the threat of Amazon and Indie publishing by becoming vanity publishers, charging novice authors several thousand pounds to see their work in print. They do it through surrogate companies so as not to sully their, ahem, reputations. Meanwhile, middle ranking, traditionally published authors are finding it difficult to either get a reasonable advance or make a living from writing. The superstars of writing are safe from this reversal of fortune for the moment, but that will not last.

Publishers have missed the point.

Chaps and chapesses of the CFLB, or ceaseless free literary beano, it’s all changed and you are surplus to requirements. I have no idea if that’s a good thing or not, but it is the current reality. 256px-Gustave_Courbet_auto-retrato

Writers too have missed the point.

The arithmetic is simple. The more authors there are, the less visibility any one new author will get. Forget about building a platform of twenty-three readers; unless you have a lot of money and a PR company you will struggle to find an audience, or rather the audience will struggle to find you. Sure, there will always be the ’50 Shades’, ‘Twilight’ and ‘Hunger Games’ phenomena, but they succeeded because they gained a little traction for a variety of unpredictable reasons and then the money men piled in, sniffing gold.19

I’ll make a prediction. One day and soon, every book, except those of superstar writers, will be free.

Currently, around eighty per cent of all Indie books for the Kindle are offered free at some point on Amazon KDP Select. My own novel, NORTHMAN, went that route and in just a few days amassed over 7000 downloads. The aim was to increase visibility and ‘discoverability’ to ‘build a platform’, creep up the Amazon rankings and get a few paid sales in the aftermath. I’d read this was a good strategy and a cunning plan.

It was a waste of time.

At one point NORTHMAN was #1 in the Mystery/Thrillers/Supernatural Amazon list, or somesuch. When the promotion ended perhaps twenty books were sold at the normal price of £3.99 before tailing off into single figures per week.  Increase ‘discoverability’ and visibility? Build a platform? I’m neither a lost continent, transparent nor a railway engineer, but any idea appeals when a cunning plan fails. Three new reviews, twenty new Twitter followers and two or three new blog followers disabused me of the notion. 7267 people have NORTHMAN on their Kindles and I have no way of finding out if they have even read it.Amazon_Kindle_Touch

Was there any purpose to the promotion?

Absolutely.

It taught me what not to do and what not to be.

First, I learned I was not a marketeer. The ‘how to’ writing pundits tell me that lack of marketing nous represents obscurity and starvation. Promote, promote, promote is their mantra and I would find it difficult to disagree with them if it were not for the fact that I don’t give a flying fart. I hate marketing. I hate cold calling. I hate all the energy wasted in trying to sell books when I’m primarily interested, as a writer, in two ways of justifying my life.

Writing. Reading. The first is so I can tell stories. I love telling stories. The second is so I can wonder at the stories of other writers and marvel at how complex is the human mind, how imaginative, how unique, how full of infinite variety. Minds like these can conquer the universe and will.

Writing. Reading. Not marketing.  Timeless_Books

Not waving my arms about and shouting ‘look at me’. I did that as a child. Then I became an adult (almost) and no longer felt the need to be patted on the head. Not  as much, anyway.

The promotion also taught me that people like free stuff, but are not keen on paying. I do. You do. We all do. It’s in our DNA to gravitate towards free stuff and gorge ourselves on it in case tomorrow, there is no more. Check your Kindle. How many free books are languishing there, never to be read?

Jane_AustenJane Austen didn’t need to make money. In some ways she was a dilettante writer: a posh lass having an ironical,  gentrified giggle about and with her awfully nice chums. For her – and I know Austen fans will disagree – writing was a hobby. There were few female fiction writers at the time so she captured the imagination of a generation of women with her works, almost by default. The TV ‘reality’ show, ‘Made in Chelsea’ springs to mind as a dumbed down version of her social commentary. It’s interesting to note that Austen only became truly popular after her death, so the writers and stars of ‘Made in Chelsea’ obviously have a better cunning plan than had dear old Jane.

There are, perhaps two ways for fiction writing to go. One is the Billions way, where a billion writers, some of whom can write and others who struggle, flood the streets with their pamphlets in the vague hope that someone will be interested enough to read them and not use them for lighting the stove. For ‘street’, substitute Amazon and you’ll see where that’s going. They will all – with a few exceptions – be hobby writers: not because they write badly, but because they cannot make a living from writing through sheer weight of free reading material and because few read their books. My heart goes out to them (us) all. Fiction has to be wrung from the soul and it deserves to be more than kindle-ing.

The second way is to find a new model.

I know what I think the new model should look like and in it everything is free.

There will be no publishers. No agents. Indies rule, okay? I’m going to test the model later this year. I won’t be able to do  comparative testing, so it won’t be a fair test or even definitive, because I have no intention of wasting my hard earned dosh on shiny-faced 14 year old marketeers so they can buy a new Ferrari, or spending endless days tweeting, getting passengers to my platform, being found with a gasp of surprise around a bend in the Orinoco or wearing a clown’s outfit to increase visibility. 256px-Pipo_de_ClownMy wife tells me I don’t need an outfit to be a clown.

It should produce more information, but won’t be a model that suits everyone. What I have in mind doesn’t suit me too well, but the alternatives are not pleasant.

It will enable me to write with fewer restrictions or possibly more and remove the present concept of marketing when I could be writing, or just  staring at a cloud that looks like Buddha or Groucho Marx. There will be a price. There is always a price for every human action.

I’ll give you a clue.

I know you’re a writer. But have you got an elephant? Certain_Elephant

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About J.D.Hughes

Fiction writer. Supernatural Horror Mystery AND SOON THE SONG. Supernatural Writer of supernatural thrillers, NORTHMAN, AND SOON THE SONG on Amazon and three short stories: BOMBER, ISSUE 49 and THE 500 on Amazon and Smashwords. New novel to be published mid 2018, but on current performance might be posthumously...
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42 Responses to I KNOW YOU’RE A WRITER, BUT HAVE YOU GOT AN ELEPHANT?

  1. I will be quite interested in seeing how your circus does! I’m happy to pay for a book, but I do like free too! I feel sure that whatever you have up you publishing sleeve, it will be quite awesome!

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  2. J.D.Hughes says:

    As I fall away into even more obscurity I’ll remember your words, Connie!

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  3. Paula Cappa says:

    I agree, J.D. that freebies don’t pay off in readers or reviews. I did the ebook freebie test and found it a huge disappointment. Live and learn, I suppose. One thing I am finding is that people are more interested in reading a physical book than ebooks on Kindle or Nook. Since my book came out in soft cover, I’ve gotten far more sales, and interest from local bookshops and libraries. I just did a book signing which went quite well. I think people are more likely to actually read your book if they see it sitting on their coffee table or nightstand, or on a bookshelf than if it’s electronically buried in the long scroll of other books on a Kindle. Anyway, I loved Northman and look forward to your next!

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    • J.D.Hughes says:

      That’s interesting, Paula. Other writers have said much the same re paper books. There is still a magic about paper that electronic devices haven’t yet captured. The next Kindle should have olfactory appeal, I think. The sight of people sniffing their Kindles on the 8.45 might be a little odd, though!

      What sort of ratio of paper to electronic do you estimate? Is it about equal? I ask because two well-known indie authors told me it’s around 2:1 and one said 1:1.

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  4. Terry Tyler says:

    I await the details of your future plans with interest!

    Re your comments on the free promotion and usefulness of, it works if you have more than one novel out! The point of the free promotion is, I think, so that people will buy all your other books, too. I was one of the lucky ones who did my first free promotion before free books were everywhere – but the boost doesn’t last forever. It’s usually only good for two or three months afterwards – what you experienced was normal! But, aside from the fact that free promotions have not really ‘worked’ except for a very few, for nearly 2 years, now, if you only have one novel, then there is nowhere else for those readers to go, once they have bought it. But even if you do have more than one, of all the people who either download it for free or buy it, you then have to take away all those who haven’t read it yet. Out of the (much smaller) group that HAVE read it, you can then divide them into these categories:
    1. The ones who loved it, and would definitely buy another by you
    2. The ones who quite liked it and might buy another by you
    3. The ones who didn’t much like it and probably wouldn’t read you again
    4. The ones who didn’t finish it and, thus, would definitely not read you again.
    It’s the small percentage in the first category who you must nurture!!!! Remember their names, if they’ve tweeted to you, or reviewed you! I remember reading something Jeff Bennington wrote about this – he said, when you do start to find your regular readers, treat them like gold dust!

    Re the marketing thing, yes, of course it’s up to the indivdual how much they want to do – you’ve made the decision not to do very much because it doesn’t suit you, and three cheers for that, sez moi. I do more then you but less than some people. You probably won’t sell many without it, unless you’re very lucky; never mind the 50 Shades type books (which are freaks of nature and can be forgotten when we’re talking about this sort of thing!), some books just do happen to appeal to lots of people; I remember asking David Leadbeater about it once, ages ago, for instance; he said, “I dunno, they just always sold!” I suppose it depends, too, on how you measure your own success. If I sell 80 books in a month and get a few good new reviews, I’m very happy, though some people would think that was crap. It all depends on your own expectations, dunnit, Mr H? Like you, though, for me the pleasure is in the writing and the knowing that other people like what I do. I’ll stop now – it’s that comment-longer-than-blog-post thing!!

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  5. J.D.Hughes says:

    Thanks for that, Terry. I appreciate you taking the time for such a comprehensive reply. The number of books you’ve released and the timing of your promotions is a great example of how to maximize the old model. I wonder if you were to double the number of books and do your free promos, do you think you’d get diminishing returns or continue to sell at the same comparative rate?

    But, I have my doubts that this original KDP Select model works as well as it did. You touch on that in your great post. The writers I’ve spoken to say things have changed profoundly in the last eighteen months, confirming your experience.

    Although I only had one novel out when I did my last freebie, 7k downloads had minimal effect on the sales of my three shorts. Using your formula that might mean that none of the readers liked the novel enough to buy the shorts or none of them have read it yet. It might also mean that the formula no longer holds true, since it is unlikely that all 7k are unread. Conceivably, it could mean that full length novel readers don’t read shorts. With so many variables and unknowns it’s not possible to say which is true. I’d like to try to address that lack of information with a new model, if I can.

    Have you tried Paula’s way and gone to paperback, yet, or are you sticking to electrons? If you haven’t, what would persuade you to do so? How would it affect your writing if you didn’t have to do any marketing?

    By the way, I know a few writers, myself included, who would be very happy with 80 books a month – that’s pretty damn good!

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    • Terry Tyler says:

      I do want to do paperback, JD, I just haven’t got around to it!!! I would love to, though.

      Re what you put about my ‘formula’, which isn’t really one at all, just my thoughts (!!), I think that yes, your idea about long epic sized novel readers not bothering to buy a short story are about right. I love Emily Barr, and have read all her novels, but didn’t bother to buy her new novella for ages, until I had a novella-reading-sized train journey. For my short story collection, about 10 of the reviews say ‘I’m not usually a fan of short stories’. btw, it just occurred to me – have you thought of putting them all together, in one book? I bet if you did that and put them on a free promotion they’d have a good effect on the now two (!!!) novels. When I brought out Nine Lives and put it free on publication it worked well – especially as I put a chapter of the latest novel in the end. Food for thought!

      I think also there is the problem of, like you say in this article, the huge mound of books free all the time. I have, for instance, read one of Zoe Saadia’s and thought it was an absolute gem, but haven’t got round to reading another of hers yet because there is always SO MUCH to look at!

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      • J.D.Hughes says:

        Createspace and Feed-a Read seem to be favourites for Indies. Bev Spicer prefers Feed-a-Read but I’m investigating both at the moment. I’ll let you know what happens.

        I had thought of slapping the shorts into one compilation book, but perhaps I need a few more and I’m not writing shorts because of the new WIP. It’s a good idea though, as is the one about adding a taster chapter at the end. Yet more marketing!

        You’ve reminded me about Nine Lives, now, so I’ll have to get that too. Can’t keep up with your output, young lady… 🙂

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  6. Great post, J.D.

    Elephantine as the presence in the room may be, I can’t see it. I look forward to finding out what it is!

    I’ve yet to embrace the self-publishing approach. Like you, I find self-promotion rather distasteful. All that trumpeting about the great virtues of one’s own work cuts completely against the grain. It becomes tedious very quickly. My last effort took me six years to write and has been read by eleven friends and acquaintances to date. It’s a tiny number but I think I’d take that over spending all day on Twitter blathering about my ‘YA Dark Urban Fantasy Vampire Romance Crossover given five stars, blah blah blah…’

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    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Not sure I find it distasteful, Paul, but I do find it spirit sapping. I think one has to decide which route feels comfortable. Having had an agent in the 90s, I began with Kindle self-publishing because it was the path of least resistance, but may follow Paula into paper – to see what happens.

      There is a benefit to Twitter apart from the obvious. I’ve met some great people and read work I would not have even considered before. It’s been both revelatory and humbling. Can’t stand Facebook, however – too much like navel gazing!

      So, do you intend to self-publish? You don’t have to promote if you don’t want to do so.

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      • Terry Tyler says:

        ….. and, promotion on Twitter isn’t just about endless pumping out of tweets, it’s also about blog posts, commenting on others’ posts, reading interesting stuff, doing guest posts, reviews on book blogs, and, as you say, ‘meeting’ interesting, nice and helpful people. As for Facebook, my personal page is nothing to do with all this, but I see my author page more as a place for passing on information, such as a helpful article, or something funny, or letting people know when I have a new book out, rather than promotional posts. I’m sure you’ll agree that social media is a wonderful thing when it comes to the self-publishing thing, but it depends how you use it.

        Paul – I’ve recently submitted to an agent again having not done so since I started self-publishing. Whereas I haven’t yet found anyone gagging to represent me, I have, 5 times in my life (and I cherished every one!) had an agent come back to me and say, yes, we like the sample, we’d like to read the whole thing. I am going to write an article soon (when I’ve researched it a bit more) about submitting to agents, as I presume I am doing something right – you might find it interesting, with relation to your own experiences.

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  7. I’ve met some interesting people through Twitter too but I find it impossible to look at due to the constant stream of self-promotion. Facebook is equally difficult to look at but it’s helped me reconnect with some old friends.

    I’m very divided about self-publishing. My instinct is against but I can’t find a publisher for my fiction.

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  8. J.D.Hughes says:

    The stream of ads is off putting and I have been one of the guilty, Mea culpa. But, I do like to see new book covers – it’s a perversion – so I skim the feed and sometimes post like a rabbit on heat. Can a rabbit post…?

    In the 90s, I had a decent chap called Michael Thomas of A.M Heath as my agent. He was agent for Len Deighton and other genre luminaries, so I considered myself fortunate, but he couldn’t sell my book. He got close, but the publishers – Hodder – backed out, citing the fact that even their established authors were being shelved. I was a busy writer/director/producer in commercials and promos, so I let it slide and concentrated on making money. I don’t regret it, but even then it was difficult to break new authors. Amazon changed all that.

    Yes, they are a faceless multinational, but I might not be published if they didn’t exist. It is self- publishing, but it’s not vanity publishing – there is a difference – and ultimately readers decide if one’s work is to their taste or not. My post is about how we, as Indie authors, might gain readers without undue self-promotion.

    Despite, my feelings about marketing I love having control over the publishing process. You have a stark choice, Paul, as I’m sure you are aware. Do you wait for a publisher or do you go the Indie route? It’s your decision, but I wouldn’t change any aspect – except marketing – of my own decision to become an Indie. Dammit, people have actually read my books and some have liked them 🙂

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  9. But your ads are actually witty and personalised, JD, so they can be forgiven!

    I too came very close to having my fiction published in the ’90s and had a publisher back out. I concentrated on not making money instead…

    I don’t know that the choice is so stark. I circulate hard copies of my work among friends and acquaintances. As I remarked, eleven people have read my last novel to date, a few of whom loved it. That validates the process for me. In any case, writing is what I do and I’d probably continue to do so if nobody at all read the end result.

    I’m aware that I’ve butted into your post as a non-self-publisher so I’ll stop rambling now! Good luck with your latest venture – I hope it finds lots of readers.

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  10. J.D.Hughes says:

    Paul, I accept and completely understand your choice may not be stark if you validate the process by having friends and acquaintances read your work without exposure to a general readership. I also empathise with the idea of writing for its own sake – it’s a model in the long traditions of Literature and as such cannot be criticised. Apart from absolution from the necessity of marketing, it enables an author to write without the pressure of the acceptance of strangers, so you’ve cracked it!

    But, If you ask an Indie writer what their heart’s desire might be, a large percentage would say they want to be read. Of course, some do it to make enough money to eat, or because they cannot do anything else and some will want to be famous, rich or have an eternal supply of Islay malt whiskey (maybe the latter is just me…), but in the main they write because they enjoy it AND want to be widely read.

    That’s where marketing rears it’s head. Many Indie writers spend inordinate amounts of time doing something for which they are ill-equipped and which, taken in the round, has little effect when set alongside the huge promotions of superstar authors. There has to be a better way than trying to flog books to other writers on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads or waving banner ads in the hope that someone will take notice.

    And you haven’t butted in. I’m grateful for your comments – I sometimes forget how, as a teenager, I would write stuff, read it and then burn it. It was sufficient unto itself. Art has many ways of manifesting. 🙂

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    • Terry Tyler says:

      INteresting last two comments (I signed up for notifications of new ones on my email about this, so keep getting them!). JD, exactly – getting read and enjoyed by complete strangers is a completely different ball game from friends, family, and friends of friends reading and enjoying; there is also, too, the possibility that they might give it the benefit of the doubt, or possibly even say they liked it more than they did. Being read and enjoyed by an unknown public means you KNOW you’re on the right track. I look at Amazon a lot and often see books with five or six glowing reviews within a month of publication then – nothing. Or a couple of not so glowing ones. On the other hand, many have equally glowing ones from the public – AND I’d be the first to say that there is nothing wrong with a friend who has read and enjoyed your work reviewing it. Their opinion is as valuable as anyone else’s. Most of us have started off our Amazon careers with reviews from friends, let us be honest. Also, I have now become online friends with many of my regular readers, so the distinction is a bit blurred.

      You’re so right about so many ‘indie’ writers being ill-equipped for the marketing side. Some haven’t a clue – thus, the robotic churned out tweets and RTs, the tweets that wouldn’t sell water to a dying man, the very, very good books that remain relatively unknown. I know one in particular who has a background in sales and marketing, though and she has made a VERY good job of it; I think a lot of it is common sense, though, and just having an understanding of people – and the mechanics of Twitter, FB and GR!

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  11. Terry Tyler says:

    ps, I really should read through my comments before I post them. This looks as though I am ‘dissing’ (dude!) the opinions of friends and family, which is rude to Paul – sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, not at all. And also it reads as though I am being off-hand about indie writers who aren’t very good at marketing… that was unintentional, too! For the most part, I think it’s a shame that many who are very good writers AREN’T much good at that side; one of the best indie books I have ever read (The Purpose of a Man by Daniel Brevitt) hardly sells at all, for this reason.

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  12. J.D.Hughes says:

    I didn’t feel that you were either offhand about non-marketing Indies or were dissing friends and relatives, but I always appreciate your pithy comments, Terry. I know that I’ll get an honest opinion, too.

    I suppose what I’m trying to address – somewhat blindly – is the waste of writing time involved in marketing. Even those with agents and mainstream publishing deals have to do it. In one sense, Paul is right when he says ‘the play’s the thing’ and screw the selling. Ideally, that is so. But for us poor souls who need an audience of strangers there will always be an element of selling involved in writing for a mass market. What I’d like to do is see if there’s a way to make this less time consuming, more efficient and ultimately more satisfying. Several such ways spring to mind, but most writers won’t like them or connect with them, so the third condition cannot be satisfied. Yet.

    Now, I’m off to buy ‘The Purpose of a Man’, since you recommended it!

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    • Terry Tyler says:

      I look forward to hearing about what springs to mind!!!! TPOAM is intelligent lad lit, if you like.

      Re what you and Paul were saying about marketing – I think too much emphasis is put on that wretched word! Some seem to think they have to become ghastly buzz word using salesmen, but what you are really doing is just letting the world know about your book. That’s why I’ve said to some people who hate it, don’t think of it as oh-God-it’s-Twitter-time, but as …. well, letting people know about your book. If you started any business you would have to advertise it, wouldn’t you? It’s like any job ~ there are bits you like more than others. ‘The play’s the thing’ is fine – if you only want it to be seen by your friends and family! To expect to be able to sit there and create every day is fine, too, if that’s all you want to do. It’s up to the individual. Anyhoo, glad I didn’t say owt offensive, and I look forward to your elephant!

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  13. J.D.Hughes says:

    What you say is true, if writing is a business. To me, writing straddles an uneasy line between art and business. That’s not to say that art is not business – witness the brilliant, non-marketing marketing of Banksy – but it’s not flogging used cars either, although I’ll admit to a few similarities.

    I know of few writers who wouldn’t jump at the chance of doing less selling and more writing. With a growing mound of Indie books threatening to throw the world off axis, active selling… call it revealing if you like… is necessary to address mass markets. But the only ones I know who enjoy the process are those who have a sales background and for whom it’s second nature.

    As you say, it’s up to the individual, but it would be good and creatively useful if the individual could avoid full time marketing to get a readership.

    My elephant might be in the room when I’m not looking. They do that, elephants 🙂

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    • Terry Tyler says:

      No, writing isn’t a business, but publishing is. And yes, I would love to just be able to write and never do the marketing bit. I would also love it if I was an effortless size 12, and The Wire would do at least one more series, but alas I do not live in an ideal world! The point I was trying to make which I didn’t do very clearly is that the two needn’t be so terribly at odds. I can feel a blog post coming on!

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      • J.D.Hughes says:

        You’re not a size 12? I never suspected. 🙂

        I got your point, Terry and it was clear. I don’t think the two are at odds. Marketing or No Marketing are points on a curve and individuals can choose how little or how much to do. I’m not looking for an ideal, but rather a practical way of eliminating or almost eliminating the energy expended by writers on flogging their books.

        Of course Publishing is a business, but the addition of the word ‘Vanity’ might more closely describe the way in which mainstream publishers are dealing with their own demise.

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  14. chinahand11 says:

    Outstanding article, sir, thank you. My Twitter is flooded with ads for Kindle books. Never ends. I hate marketing, and I thank you so much for the warning because I get a lot of those ads also. Oh, and “short stories of a dark nature?” Count me in, J.D.

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    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thank you, my friend, kind of you to say. There are so many writers now that there are bound to be the sort of pestering entreaties with which we are all familiar, since most writers want a readership. I’m one of the entreaters, but hopefully not too aggressive and certainly not very well organised. I’ve almost given up because it’s counterproductive. Perhaps it’s time to give Twitter back to social interactions, with the occasional announcement.

      I won’t try to flog you any of my stories since you might be just a little tired of that. 🙂

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      • chinahand11 says:

        No problem J.D., we’ve walked a similar path in this part of life. I’ve done so much to get my writing career off the ground … and so has everyone else. 🙂

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  15. J.D.Hughes says:

    Good luck with your writing – it’s tougher out there than it ever was, but I’m optimistic that every writer who has a good tale to tell will be heard, when the dust has settled.

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  16. Katrina says:

    Excellent blog, JD. My first novel won’t be published until later this year so I’m just starting to explore the murky world of online marketing. Like the rest of you, I hate it, particularly Twitter, and find the number of ways people disguise the statement ‘buy my book’, distasteful and dispiriting. I’m far more interested in making contacts among the community of people masochistic enough to want to be writers! I look forward to your future blog posts.

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    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thank you, Katrina 🙂

      My feeling is that initially, you may have to do a little tweeting and Facebook’ing in order to establish your novel a little. Twitter has been okay for me. I’ve met some genuinely kind and generous people and without them I doubt if I would have sold many books. Gradually, hearing what people have to say becomes more important than moving books. I don’t have much time for FB because I’ve never understood it.

      Let me know when your novel is out and I’ll tweet it like mad, until even you are sick of hearing about your own book!

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      • Katrina says:

        Hi JD. Thanks SO much. It’s encouraging to know that there are people out there with such generous spirit. I’ll persist with the tweeting, FB etc. I prefer FB because I’ve used it for years as a means to keep in touch with distant friends. But when I stumbled on this blog, I thought, ah, maybe I see the point of social networking now. This has been genuinely useful. Let me know how I can help you 🙂

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      • J.D.Hughes says:

        Apologies for my late reply, Katrina – I’ve been away for a few days doing ‘research’ in Malta and my dumbphone collapsed.

        The downside of Twitter is the accretion of tweets when left unattended! I’m happy you took something useful from the post and if you’re on FB, you are ahead of me.

        The current model for self-publishing means writers have to climb on the treadmill in order to be ‘visible’. This visibility is, in the main, amongst other writers, but if it’s possible to forget the book flogging then it seems to become more enjoyable, since other writers are usually interesting folks!

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  17. Lene says:

    Most brilliant post title I’ve seen. Ever. And god, I hope you’re wrong. I need to pay my rent.

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    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Many thanks, Lene. In some ways I hope I’m wrong, too, but fear I may not be. But, I wouldn’t worry too much if you have to give your work away. There’s more than one way to turn deathless prose or experiential writing into bacon…or lentils, if you’re a Veggie 🙂

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  18. Great article, agree completely. Also I love elephants and would definately buy one, if only I had the space. As an aspiring writer my expectations are small, but if you’ve ever got a minute to read a few short stories or poems there’s some on my blog.

    http://writersstream.wordpress.com/

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    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thanks, LJV. I suppose having a real elephant might attract attention to your writing, but might be a little more expensive than an ad campaign! I’ll take a look at your stories 🙂

      Like

  19. Calla May Diamond says:

    Reblogged this on CALLA MAY DIAMOND.

    Like

  20. terzahcain says:

    My elephant distracts me from my writing practice. While this doesn’t hurt me much at present since I have a fine paying job I can count on, I hope to have lost my fondness for Dumbo by the time I jump off the very proverbial cliff I’ve carved. This brings up a different point. No, not the sarcastic question, “What if your elephant can fly?” Rather, what if the elephants end up actually separating the wheat from the chaff, thus reducing the parity? So many writers fall prey to the draw of their social media accounts and end up wasting time they could be using to fine tune their craft. Maybe the spoils belong to the priority victors!

    P.S. Thanks for following.

    Like

  21. J.D.Hughes says:

    I must apologise for not replying to your post sooner. Somehow, it was lost to view in the bowels of WordPress and I’ve only just discovered it!

    Anyway, belatedly, thank you for your post. If you are being distracted by your current elephant, then how about choosing another? It seems to be true that unless you have one – and the right one – obscurity and eventual starvation will follow the lack thereof. Having a paying job helps, of course, since you don’t actually need one right now, but if you have to live by your words you might find you will need one.

    You are right when you speak of the time drain of social media. My own experience tells me Twitter has limitations, but others, like my friend Terry Tyler (see above) find it absolutely marvellous and I can’t argue with that since she sells far more books than me and is a very prolific and accomplished author!

    Like

    • Terry Tyler says:

      Will this article and subsequent discussions never end??!!! Thank you for the mention. Yes, the necessary social media-ing (I bet some wanker really DOES start using that as a verb, if they haven’t already!!!) is a time drain, but all aspects of life come with the bits you love and the bits that take you away from them but are necessary.

      Incidentally, JD, here’s a good example of the wonder of Twitter, though nowt to do with the last couple of comments. On Sunday I was ‘talking’ to someone on here about our mutual interest, the Tudors. At some point, she said, I really must buy your book (it being Tudor orientated). She did. Then a friend of hers chimed in with ‘oh, that looks like just the sort of thing I need for my long train journey home from France’, and bought it too – please note, that wouldn’t have happened if I just pumped out promo tweets via @SomeCrapApp. The first has already tweeted to me to say that she’s ‘hooked’. As she is followed by others who are Tudor fixated, maybe she will recommend the book. Yee-hah, as they say (well, I do, anyway). More and more, lately, I’m becoming aware of what a slow thing it is. The other day I read a blog post about a woman who was wondering why her books don’t ‘go viral’. Few do; most of us just find a modest readership over time.

      Hang on – I was mid-write and I just flicked back to my emails, then saw this, and had to comment, and….. oh look, I’ve got some messages on Twitter, better answer them….

      Like

  22. J.D.Hughes says:

    Thinking out loud, there are two way to go here: the slow, cheap build and the fast, expensive blitz. I know you favour the former and that’s completely logical. The fast method was in vogue Before Amazon, but After Amazon I noticed a huge drop off in mass media blitzes. Now, expensive is not even an option for all but the superstars. Which leaves sub superstar and middle ranking authors doing the slow build and the long book signing treks – for those with paper books. Indie ebook authors without the odd hundred grand hanging around have few ways except social media to promote their books.

    I watched Stephen King do a reading of a short story the other night and, although I know he enjoys connecting with readers, particularly academic ones, I wondered if that was the only reason he was there. (I didn’t really wonder, because he’s a smart cookie). If he has to do that, then it makes social media relationships perhaps the ONLY way to promote an indie book, using the current marketing model.

    Viral selling is, I think, a demon sent to tempt the unwary with promises of gold – can happen, but rarely does. But, the way you interact with your readers will give you the best shot and I will be delighted if it happens for you, despite your ‘modest readership’ – mine is much more modest!

    Like

  23. G. William McDonald says:

    J.D. It’s been ages since I raised my hand to say “Hi!” and be acknowledged by you – suffice to say this post of yours has been flirting on the outskirts of my in-box and attention for the better part of the year and only now do I reply!
    I have read all the above replies with relish – and a little mustard!
    First let me proffer my bona fides – I too have travelled that broad road of Amazon “free”dom and, after a momerntary flirtation with “best sellerdom”, promptly saw my work slide so far down I’m afraid to stir the waters in search for it again (God only knows what resides there in the muck at the bottom of the list).
    My take away is this: Unless one can utilize the immediate, yet fleeting, best seller elevation that giving one’s work away in order to rank gives an author, then it has no value whatsoever – other than being able to tag your next work as being produced by a “Best Selling Author”. Those authors that HAVE made such a ranking pay are those who use the honor to showcase their other products. I make reference, specifically, to those who sell books on marketing, SEO, sales, personal appearances, etc. Joel Comm comes to mind.
    The point I’m getting at (I am nothing, if not circumloquatious) is: Go for the ranking just before you have a show you want people to attend, a seminar you wish to promote, a book reading, etc.
    I say this having only a scent of peanuts in the room as I have not ridden that elephant myself, yet!
    Do good things always!
    Doc

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Good to hear from you again, my friend! What you say, as a marketeer par excellence, with regard to taking advantage of the temporary nature of a ‘bestseller’ should be engraved on stone and given to every new writer for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The market is capricious and swallows new writers whole, so any peek above the tidemark should be thought out and part of a plan, as you suggest.

      I think you have a choice of an elephant or a tiger. You can dismount one, but not the other!

      Like

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