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?


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Free short story!

I know it's not the same of a nice Thursday blog post, but I have a new short story out, and it's a free download today. (It's only available on Amazon at the moment, sorry; it'll be available on other vendors in about 3 months.)

"Full Rune" (free today, 1/28)

This is genuinely a short story—about 3k words, plus an excerpt from Thrice Uncharmed.

It'll show up on Amazon in a few days, but shipping costs mean I doubt anybody's going to grab it unless they're already placing some orders. In any event, if you're shopping on the CreateSpace eStore anyway, use the coupon code G55ELYAK to save $2 on the print version.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Murphy's Law Strikes Again

And now that my computer problems are evidently resolved, my Internet isn't working for more than 15 seconds at a time (not exaggerating), so please forgive the lack of post today. :(

ETA: But does it help to know there'll be a new short story released soon? It's in proofreading now.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

On Common Wisdom

Ever happen to overhear a question on something you know about, so you approach them and join the conversation?

I do—and so readily do it that, if I want to go work at a coffee shop, I have to keep in mind that I might not get much done. Sometimes I end up distracted for hours, chatting… It can also happen, to a lesser degree, when I happen to be shopping. I recently spotted someone eyeing two types of sock knitting looms and helped her figure out which she wanted…and we ended up chatting for quite a bit about knitting and crocheting and some other stuff.

Now, common wisdom is that butting in on others' conversations is rude, yes?

I actually got called "charming" yesterday. And people I've chatted with before, if I happen to run into them again? Are, more often than not, pleased to see me.

So I am a living example that butting in on others' conversations is not necessarily rude.

Can it be? Yes. Need it be? No.

It's all in how you handle it.

An example in the writing world is the question: Should an author respond to their reviews? A quite vehement group of people insist that no, an author should never respond to their reviews—reviews are intended for fellow readers, not for writers.

But I know of some authors like Hugh Howey who answer every single review, and what's interesting about that?

Those authors are all bestsellers.

Now, very few authors answer every review, and the sample size is far too small to assume correlation indicates at least partial causation, but I've noticed something about my own practice of review responding.

See, I only respond to reviews 1. that have been sent to me, or 2. are put on Wattpad. I respond to essentially every single review on Wattpad.

And with that practice, I've become solidly popular on that site. I'm one of the most-followed users, though my number of "reads" is lower than others—but that's to be expected, because I post my stories in fewer "parts" than most. Each post gets a single read for each unique reader, which is why A Fistful of Water has so much more reads than A Fistful of Earth, over there—because AFoW was posted in first draft form, it has a lot more sections, so each reader counts for about 3.5x as many reads.

Responding to reviews—even negative ones—takes a specific personality type to be able to handle it. I can read a harsh review, wince, and calmly analyze where the reviewer's coming from. A lot of writers can't do that.

The second problem with responding to every review is that text can't hold tone. No matter what you write, someone will misread you, and there are some readers who will think you defensive even when you aren't. And some will refuse to read your work on principle, so you'll lose those particular readers.

But if it's done right, the evidence seems to suggest that an author who responds politely to reviews will gain more readers than they lose. So while the common wisdom is correct in that most people can't respond well to every review, it's apparently wrong for assuming that it's not worth doing if you can.

I've been considering going back and responding to my reviews on various vendors, myself, though it's been nearly 3 years for some of them. But if I start doing it, I'll have to keep doing it, and I can't be 100% sure that the correlation I've seen between responses and popularity has any bearing on causation.

The thing about common wisdom is that it's common wisdom for a reason. Figuring out what those reasons are…that's the hard part.

What do you think of common wisdom and its general applicability? What do you think about joining others' conversations uninvited? What do you think about authors responding to reviews?


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Murphy's Law Fun

My computer's been having problems with software (program) AND hardware (physical parts), so sorry for the quiet today—I'm backing everything up to prepare for a stop at the computer shop tomorrow. I suspect I'll probably end up doing a software wipe and reinstall. Ulgh.

Oh, and I'll also be cooking a fairly involved meal for my brother's birthday dinner. Two days early, but the next two nights are spoken for. Lord willing, I won't completely screw up my first attempt to gut a fish and fillet it.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome the 2014!

Well, the year's off to an interesting start. I've slept in the past two mornings (which means I got up at 8-ish). Probably because I stayed up comparatively late on New Year's Eve, and then last night I got woken up in the middle of the night by my cat because she was thirsty. (Either there's a fissure in her water bowl, or it's so dry in here that her water's evaporating, because I'm filling that bowl 2x per day. She isn't drinking that much.)

I didn't make as much progress on Grandpa's slippers as I wanted (I'm crocheting him a pair), but that's partly because I kept being not counting how many stitches I had and mostly because I read a lot yesterday. (1 novelette + 2 novellas + 2.5 novels. The 3 shorter titles were in one compilation: Lindsay Buroker's Swords and Salt mini-series, which is priced at $2.99 [Smashwords | Amazon | B&N])

Goals for the year include getting healthy enough to be able to exercise (and then to exercise once I am). I'm making progress on that front, at least. Last time I exercised, I actually got a slight energy boost while exercising, rather than tanking while in the process of exercising.

But that's life. You want to know about the writing, yes?

I've temporarily posted the sequel to Thrice Uncharmed on Wattpad, which won't stay up for long. (And Thrice Uncharmed itself is $0.99 on at least one vendor, right now. I don't know how long it'll be that way, because I'm not the one who sets the prices, but you can find the links to the story on various vendors here.)

As for the drawing for those who signed up for my newsletter…the random number generator picked Pneumarian! He chose to have a story written about Mrs. Strongman. (For those who don't know, she's a character in a story I've since unpublished because it was a can't-stand-alone flash fic. I plan to release it again once I have a good story or collection to put it with.)

As for other things, I'm trying to avoid making specific plans, because life's been kicking me off-track lately whenever I've made those, lately, but I'm looking to have at least 1 new title under each of my pennames either published or to a publisher by the end of the month. Pneumarian's promised story might take a bit longer, but I'll be endeavoring to have that done ASAP.

I have some other "plans" which are more "ideas" at the moment, so I'll wait until they get more solid before I talk about them.

How are you? What are you planning for 2014?


Popular Posts
(of the last month)