Ten Quick Observations About the Writing Bizniz

It’s a quirky industry, writing books.

Some take it seriously. Others not so much.

Some work with an entirely homegrown approach. Others hire professional muscle to do their dirty work marketing. Most use a mix of the two.

One of the biggest vehicles for so-called ‘indie’ authors (I hate that term) is social media. Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Tumblr, Instagram, and my personal sneak-attack source, dating sites, including Tinder and Bumble. (Don’t laugh…it works.) There are many ways of publicizing a book, but most cost money and/or require authors to either sell their work for pennies or list it for free. Such is the world we work in.

In this new environment, everyone has a strategy. Or at least, everyone probably should. There is no silver bullet for literary success. Much of what we do involves throwing our work into the wind and hoping someone catches it.

And so…

The following are my somewhat satirical thoughts on what authors do and how they do it.

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1. What’s with all the memes?

Look, I get it. People nowadays communicate their feelings via memes. It’s cute, I guess. At least for a little while. To research this observation, I scrolled up and down the pages of some of the authors whom I follow. What did I find? Memes. Tons and fucking tons of memes. Most of which pretty much said the same things, including: Quotes by Stephen King, how much writers surf the web while they’re supposed to be writing, and how you can tell so-and-so is a writer because (insert some stupid stereotype here.) Ok. That’s all well and good. But while these people are busy posting memes, some of us are writing giant fucking circles around them. It’s also probably worth noting that if one’s audience is primarily made up of readers, one should probably target the commentary at them, not to other authors. Readers probably don’t give a rip about how much you surf Facebook while you’re writing vampire porn. Just a thought. 🙂

Pie Chart

If this is what you do when you’re ‘writing,’ it’s time for a new career choice.

 

2. Spamming on social media will only go so far.

Like anything involving people, images and links will only cut so deep. To really get people’s attention, you have to engage their minds. Authors shouldn’t want followers; authors should want fans. The best way to capture the hearts of your audience is to be in the moment with them. Talk to them. Show them how you’re a real person and you give a shit. Your product is only as awesome as you are. Whenever I see a writer or an artist having a conversation with their audience, I crack a smile. Whenever I see a pile of memes or spammed Amazon links, I shake my head.

3. Content, content, content

The state of the indie art seems to be: write book/pitch book. And then: write another book/pitch another book. I guess this approach might work if you’re A. A fucking badass author, or B. Lucky to  hit the right genre at the right time. But in case you’re not a badass or lucky, I suggest you spend a LOT more time creating content. And by content I mean shit that engages the audience, but doesn’t make a direct pitch at selling them stuff. Write about your life, your experiences, or just some funny stuff your cat did. But don’t expect to just write a book and sell 10,000 copies based on the work itself. Create content that has nothing to do with salesmanship. Entertain audiences for free…and then maybe they’ll consider forking over cash to buy your stuff. I dunno. Just a thought.

4. Your cover art is beautiful. Your book sucks.

There’s a famous saying. Goes something like, “Never judge a…” Oh hell, you know what I’m talking about. The modern state of the business is this: Kickass cover art is available to everyone. Good (and truly great) artists are out there, and they’re willing to take authors’ cash in exchange for creating cool-as-hell book art. The ish here is that for every one awesome storyteller selling his or her book for pennies on Amazon, there are ten people who couldn’t word their way out of a 1st grade creative writing class. Meaning…there’s some dude out there who just shelled out $500 for a sexy vampire slut on his book cover, but who didn’t spend a damn dime on getting the same book edited. His grandma and his sister’s barely-literate coworker were the only ones who read it before he hoisted his book, Vampire Sluts from Hell, onto Amazon. And yeah, you just bought that shit for $5.99. This probably sounds like sour grapes. It’s not. All I’m saying is…don’t judge a book by its cover…and don’t buy Vampire Sluts from Hell.

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“That book was awful. It was two hours of my life I’ll never get back.” “Well, you prolly should’ve looked past the boobs on the cover.”

 

5. No, I don’t want to ‘check out’ your new book.

Name a sales pitch that would grab your attention. Now name one that wouldn’t stand a chance. Chances are, if you saw a product on tv stating simply to ‘check out’ some new product, you’d gloss over that shit. (Imagine the Dos Equis ‘most interesting man’ if all he said was, ‘Check out this cool beer.’) If an ad features a unique take or maybe something funny, you might actually look into the product. If not…you won’t. And that brings me to this: if an author is trying to sell something, they should never ever use the words ‘check out’ in the sales pitch. Seriously. Never. Pretty much 40% of the book ads I see (or ads for any kind of art, really) use the exact phrase “Hey, check out my new ____.” Really? Is that supposed to grab a reader’s attention? Hint: it doesn’t. Try harder. Actually, since you’re all my competition, don’t. Ha.

Also…try not to use superlatives. Nobody’s book is the bestest ever of all time. 🙂

6. I can feel the love.

There’s at least one good thing that has come of the ‘indie’ author movement and the rise of online self-marketing. It’s called teamwork, and I’m happy to say I see it every day. People who would otherwise be stuck on lonely little art islands are now able to talk, vent, and most importantly, help each other. Artists can collaborate at the speed of light. It’s easier to have a voice than ever before. And yeah, I know I said I’m in competition with every other author in the world, but even so… Twenty years ago we were all slaves to the big publishers. Now…fuck those guys. Other authors and painters might be my competitors, but at least we’re all on the same battlefield. Now excuse me while I go retweet my twenty favorite writers and painters. Even if it involves a bunch of bullshit memes. 🙂

7. Why, why, why all the man abs?

Ok. This isn’t a serious question. All I’m asking is for all my cool-as-hell female authors to occasionally put an image up on the internet I can share for you that doesn’t include Captain Situp and his 74-pack abs. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the title of at least half the romance novels out there.) But seriously…that shit’s intimidating. I do a fuckload of crunches every day, but I can’t live up to these dudes. I can’t in good faith share an image that makes me look pathetic. Now boobs, on the other hand…

abs

Jesus Christ, man. Eat a pizza or something.

 

8. We all need a better work ethic.

Myself especially. I mean…what excuse do we have? Thanks to computers, super-fast internet, and this wonderful little site called WordPress, reaching audiences is easier than ever before in the history of mankind. I’ve published 23 books in the last few years, which a hundred years ago would’ve taken most of my lifetime to finish (not to mention try to sell.) And yet here I am, knowing that if I worked harder, I could’ve done more. Look, I’m not gonna pitch statistics to you. Every writer in the world worth his or her salt will confess to needing to do more. It seems convenience is a double-edged sword. Technology gives artists the tools, but is utterly distracting at the same time. What’s the answer? Hell if I know. Smash your tv and dump your girlfriend, maybe? Worth a shot. 🙂

9. Automated Replies kill your business, not grow it.

See # 2 in this list, way up there near the top? Well there’s this sector of modern art marketing dedicated to using auto-replies instead of actual human engagement. I don’t know about you, but when I see an auto-reply for anything, not just books or art, I lose interest immediately. What it says is that I, the customer, am not worth a moment of personal time. What it also says is that the offending artist believes that the first contact with me should be a sales pitch, and usually a pretty boring one at that. Honestly, when trying to connect with new people online, I’d rather they not answer me at all than send me an auto-reply. That shit is annoying. Please stop. Thanks.

10. Despite all the mess, the writing world is a better place today.

You wanna know why? Because nowadays, if you’re a good storyteller with a tale to tell, you’ve got a shot. You’ve got some power. Your ability and effort matter. Ten little ole years ago, this just wasn’t true. So even though there’s a ton of straight-up awkward stuff going on in the biz, there’s also a lot of good. And to me, that good is great.

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Hey look, I’m breaking my own rules. Eat some of these delicious words. And be happier for it.

J Edward Neill

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