Thursday, January 30, 2014

Context, Context, Context

As you likely know if you've followed me for long, I'm a fan of the Business Rusch posts by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and I also read all her husband's posts on writing as a business. (Along with reading Jami Gold, Janice Hardy, Passive Guy, Courtney Milan, and more recently Hugh Howey; if you aren't a writer, Passive Guy might be of most interest to you.)

But in any event, Kris Rusch has been running a series on Discoverability where, much like me with my old Realities of Self-Editing Series, she drafts out her topic on her blog and then will later reorganize it and all into a book (something I still need to do for Realities of Self-Editing).

Kris makes no secret that's the plan and that she's coming up with parts out of order, which means there are naturally transitions missing entirely from how one week's post connects to the other. She's also a targeted communicator—she picks a specific point and spends a few thousand words or so expounding on it.

Kris Rusch has decades of experience in the industry, as an author, editor, and publisher. She knows how quickly the scene of publishing can change; that's why her old company Pulphouse Publishing closed, unless my memory's off. Her focus has always been on making a sustainable living as a writer without relying on gimmicks or luck to keep your career going—and she also focuses on how broad audience and readership actually are.

Last week, she wrote a blog post that got a lot of, um, pushback on one forum where I'm a member.

The bulk of it seemed to come from folks reading her week's post without the context…some of which hadn't even been written, which is why this week's post is a clarification one, detailing some of the basics that she was speaking from but that she'd forgotten a lot of her readers wouldn't know. (I knew the gist, at least, which may explain how I understood her original post fine.)

Okay, omission of a particular context is a legitimate reason to miss her point. I already knew what she was talking about, so I automatically filled in the gaps.

But some of the reactions seemed…extreme, and based more on the person's preconception about what they expected her to say rather than what she actually said.

For instance, in Kris's misunderstood post, she said, "All business books recommend that a limited number of loss leaders," which has a variety of sales psychology aspects behind it, but she was speaking of the self-publishing practice of setting the first book free or highly discounted for an unlimited time. (This practice is called "permafree".) Kris pointed out that temporary deals are more valuable to the reader and prevent reader stockpiling of the product, like readers are now doing with freebies, filling their e-readers with freebies that probably most don't read.

Now, the thrust of her post was talking about the effects of permafree and loss leaders on the self-publisher's income: delayed recompense, if any.

You'll need sufficient product (books in a series) or time (for readers to get through it and buy the next) to get your money back. Using free to goose the Amazon rankings and therefore sales of a single product can work, but it's a crapshoot—one that Amazon will surely make less effective as time goes by. She explicitly "recommended" against buying an ad to promote a free book "unless" you had several titles in the series and could afford to lose the money.

Several people somehow read those above points as "Never put your book free, EVER! You're goosing the rankings, and it won't be effective forever!" and "NEVER buy an ad for a paid book! It's not worth it!"

Erm, right. (And on that topic, I sometimes wonder about writers & reading comprehension…)

So this week's post clarified some things that they should've known already (I and others have pointed it out on the forum before), and corrected some of the "common sense" that they spouted, like critiquing her right to comment on pricing when her Amazon sales rankings were so low*…

*(If you don't see the faulty logic there, consider that "discoverability" = "ability to be discovered", not "high sales volume on one vendor in the time period being referenced whenever a person checks out the author".)

But that lack of paying attention to context (and definitions) seems to be getting increasingly frequent…or maybe I'm just getting less tolerant of it. Maybe it's the cold or economy or stress or something, but people in general seem to have had more of a "jump on the bandwagon" mindset, lately.

Do you observe more people omitting context? What do you think of taking things out of context, things taken out of context, or things written out of context?


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