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What is Important?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by BWFoster78, Sep 25, 2015.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    To be honest, I think that erotica is probably just like any other genre. It's not like I see a ton of posts saying, "I'm making millions writing erotica!"

    I haven't given it a lot of consideration, but just from browsing a few threads, there are some challenges. For example, apparently if you cross certain lines, Amazon makes it very hard to find your books. More importantly, though, a lot of the promotion opportunities are closed to erotica writers (I think - not 100% sure on that).

    If you really want to choose a genre based solely on earning potential, I think that romance might win out. It is my understanding, though, that fantasy is not a bad choice at all for indie authors.
     
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I'm sure there is - but I have feeling we'd better steer the discussion back on track. :p


    When it comes to writing, what's important to me is to produce a story I can take pride in.

    The cool thing is, I've done that already, several times. I may not be nearly as proud of these stories now as I were when I wrote them, but that's a different matter.

    Like I posted at the beginning of this thread I believe that one of the keys to success, whether commercial or personal, is persistence. You have to keep going and you have to keep trying. This won't guartantee success, but stopping will guarantee "failure"
     
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  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Believe it or not, the topic "Elvish Bodice Ripper" has been discussed on this forum in the past.
     
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    That's kinda what I was trying to do :)

    I can agree with that. The question is: what criteria does a story have to possess in order for you to take pride in it?

    For me, the main criterion is that my readers enjoyed it.

    I definitely agree with you there!
     
  5. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    My ideal would be to create a story that exhibits an emergent property. Meaning the whole piece should be greater than the sum of its discrete parts. To me, that is what is important.
     
  6. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Some of the best, highest quality, best selling writers in the world think a book a year is a good pace. Very few go much slower than that.

    As noted above Moorcock banged out genre changing and top award winning novels in a couple of weeks. Of course he had been writing for a living since about age 17 in multiple formats. Tons of practice had built up his skill and speed.
     
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  7. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    To add in a couple of different useful elements to becoming a successful commercial fiction writer:

    1) develop your self editing to a very high standard. Make is a priority. Have a thorough, harsh, editing system for your work.

    2) Considering in both the traditional and self pub sides these days that authors are required to participate a great deal more in marketing their own work it really helps to have the social skills to deal well with people (online and elsewhere) as well as keeping abreast on marketing trends.
     
  8. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Some additional thoughts on the importance of quality

    The strategy that successful indie authors are talking about (vastly simplified) is to publish a series, drop the price of the first book, and promote the heck out of that discounted book.

    You're not going to make much off the discounted book. Your profit comes in the sell through to the other books in the series.

    So let's think about quality.

    No matter how good a book is, not everyone who downloads the discounted book is going to continue the series. By the same token, it doesn't seem that, no matter how bad a book is, everyone isn't going to continue the series. Logically, the better the book entertains readers, the more people will continue reading.

    Quality is so subjective, however, that it is difficult to ascertain just how much an incremental increase in quality moves the needle to more sales. Quantity, on the other hand, is easy to evaluate. The percentage of readers will decrease book over book for the sequels, but each book will give you definite sales.

    That's my main argument against the importance of quality for an indie author - quantity is clearly a factor while I can't find any non-subjective data that defines exactly how much quality impacts sales.

    Note, though, that this analysis only applies to following the dominant sales strategy for indie authors.

    If you are in the position where that dominant strategy turns your stomach, what do you do?

    Perhaps you should consider traditional publishing. People like GRRM and Rothfuss put out books very infrequently, but when they do, each book is consumed in mass quantities. Subjectively, I think most people would say that the quality level of both those authors (even if not to your individual taste) is much higher than the average indie author.

    The downside is that you're going to have to be patient.

    I'll be honest - I do not think that my craft level is good enough yet to get a contract with a traditional publisher. It takes some authors decades to get their skill level up to where they need it to be.

    Regardless of which path you choose, though, I think that the inescapable conclusion is that you absolutely have a lot of hard work ahead of you if you want to have a career writing fiction.
     
  9. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    My primary goal at the moment isn't to make a living out of my writing. That's the long term goal and I hope to get there eventually. For now I just want to improve my craft. I'm currently in the enviable position of having an easy job with a steady income and plenty of free time. This gives me the opportunity to tinker around with my writing without the pressure of having to produce a commercially viable story.

    I figure this is a very good time for me to learn the craft and to try and increase the quality of my work as much as I can. Once I get more confident I know what I'm doing I'll try and focus on the productivity side of things. Three years on a novel is a bit on the slow side, but just knowing what I'm doing is probably going to cut that in at least half - probably more.

    While I'm currently writing to learn, I'm still aiming to publish what I produce and it keeps me motivated to try and improve on craft. This also means that once I feel ready to go full time on this, I'll have a bit of a back catalogue for readers to explore. It will also be all in the same setting. The stories will not all be connected in series, but the basic world will be the same and I'm hoping that this will appeal to at least some readers.

    On Pride:
    I mentioned earlier that I want to produce stories I can take pride in.
    It feels like it's hard define any exact criteria for that, but I'll try (in no particular order):
    - The writing needs to be of the highest possible quality I'm reasonably capable of at my skill level.
    - The story should have a theme and a message that I can fully support and that I won't have any doubts about putting my name on.
    - Those characters of the story that matter need to be fully realized and believable people.
    - I want the story to be enjoyable to someone who likes the kind of story I've written.
    - I want to feel that it's my story and not something I've copied from someone else.

    Makes sense?
     
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  10. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    This is a very smart strategy. Truthfully, I'm kinda wishing I had waited to publish until I had a few more books lying around in order to capitalize on momentum.
     
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    This describes me exactly, as well. I'm not in the position to need to earn a living from writing, have a very cushy job–although my general goal is to reach a stage where I can write exclusively once I retire.

    Makes perfect sense and also fits me perfectly.

    I think though that, when all is said and done, how a person achieves her individual level of desired success in writing doesn't matter much, as long as she reaches it. Different people will have different goals and different methods of reaching that point. Deciding what methods best fit an individual goal seems to be the main purpose of this thread.
     
  12. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    Wow, Svrtnsse. You've described me and my situation almost to the letter. Very well put.
     
  13. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    My anecdotal experience is that quality really does matter.

    I agree that it is very hard to measure quality in things like writing, but that does not mean that each reader does not make that subjective judgment or obviate the need to make that judgment yourself or listen to others judgments on that subject.

    I suspect that if a reader thinks your work is poor quality their likelihood of buying any more books in the series or from the author are virtually zero.

    There are massive obstacles in dealing with an idea like quality in scientific or objective data driven terms, but that does not mean we should ignore that factor. Not all things are easily reduced to numbers but that does not mean they are not vital and important things.
     
  14. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    My issue is that it takes a massive amount of effort to improve quality, and there is no proof beyond anecdotal that any specific improvement actually increases readership.

    If you delete all adverbs from your work per Mr. King's advice, will more people buy your book? I kinda doubt the vast majority of people will even notice.

    It does make sense that increasing quality will have an impact on sell through - but what increase and what impact? From an ROI standpoint, is the increase in sales worth the effort required to increase the quality?

    Indie publishing is a business. Businesses are all about ROI. If the only evidence of any ROI is anecdotal, how can any business owner make decisions based on it?
     
  15. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    As a lawyer I do it all the time. Especially in Canada where we are not allowed to interview jurors. I have to assess how a jury will react to multiple factors without hard data to do so.

    ROI on indy writing for the vast majority of indy writers really sucks. If you calculate the numbers of hours that go into writing, marketing etc versus the income I bet the hourly rate is a joke.

    How do you value your time in your equations?
     
  16. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    ROI in this context is interesting, mostly for the "I".

    I know from my experience (yes, anecdotal), I've pushed the 1-click buy button on Amazon to purchase relatively cheap indie-published novels by unknown authors for my Kindle, and have experienced these results:

    a. A surprising, very enjoyable read.
    b. A major disappointment, usually leading to never finishing the read after a handful of chapters, but sometimes just a mediocre read not reaching the level of "a" above for me.
    c. An unread .mobi file on my Kindle Fire HD that sits on my tablet forever, probably unread forever.

    I can say that, for myself, "a" is the rarest of those three results, by a significant margin. Probably "b" and "c" are about even in numbers, although I've never performed an actual count.

    But in each of those cases, the author got the sale.

    In the case of "b," I'm almost 100% likely to never buy another book by the author. I can't commit to a 100% figure, because the chance always exists that I'll forget a bad experience and in a moment of browsing and casting my cash to the wind, I might buy another.

    I don't know how my experience compares to the experience of other readers. But with millions of Kindle users, the "give it a try" consumer habit might lead to an awful lot of sales. A large library of self-published novels for any given author can increase the chances of 1-click impulse buys.

    And if an author can produce a few novels a year that fall into the "a" category for enough readers, that's an added bonus.

    Does an author who writes 3-4 novels a year "I"–invest–more in the process, or less in the process, than an author who writes only 1 novel a year? Or is it about the same, on average?
     
  17. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    It's the same for me.

    For the longest time, I advocated quality as the most essential ingredient for success. Now, I read stories about indie authors making major bank and go check out their books. For the most part, I can't get past the first page.

    So where are their sales coming from?

    It could be like you said, that it's a bunch of "give it a try" consumers.

    I don't think that's the case, though. Look at their reviews. Sure, there are a ton of, "This sux!!! 1 Star!" but there are also a bunch of people exclaiming over how they can't wait for the next in the series.

    Sell through on a series ranges anywhere from .5% to 50%, depending on too many factors to get into in this post. If you get thousands of downloads, though, and you have a bunch of books in the series, you're likely to come out pretty good even at the lower range of those percentages.

    I really, really think that the majority of readers who buy indie books simply don't care as much about the writing quality or story quality as we do.

    Truthfully, before I learned the "right" way to write, I was much less picky about what I read. Some of the books that I wouldn't even consider reading now, I liked okay back then.
     
  18. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I don't mean this as offensive to anyone's intelligence--ever--but I read a while ago somewhere online that the majority of people here in the states have a reading average at an 8th grade level. For those of us who write books, we probably were way more interested in grammar & Language Arts in school than our peers with different interests. So we continued learning about how to use words in order to tell stories, whereas they went on to do other things with their lives. And just read for fun.

    To the trained eye, adverbs, starting opening scenes with "it was", shallow characters, etc are big no-nos...but many readers can look past that. Whether an author is a professional or a hobbyist, their knowledge of language, grammar, story structure, etc is exercised more than someone who doesn't do this for a living. Meaning, WE can't get past the first page because we're used to something different and our minds are warped into thinking that only books with limited adverbs are good, for example.

    I believe this is one of the reasons that many Indies do well. They have enough craft to clearly communicate their stories to readers, which is all those readers care about. Indies are versatile in the way they use language, they publish different types of books than traditional publishers (not all, but many I've read do), they have way more liberty than those with contracts.

    Another reason is that Indies are able to publish more often than traditional publishers. They work with freelancers and are able to move through the process of preparing books in less time. If there's two authors I like and one has five books vs two for the other, guess who's going to get most of my money? The author with five books.

    We all seem to agree that quality is subjective. Readers just want to be entertained and move on to the next story, like tv shows. Once I run out of a season of my currently favorite show on Netflix, I'm on to the next one. Some of those are good, some not so good, but I watch them all anyway. Why? Because it's entertainment and it fulfills that need for something to keep me busy for an hour. It's the same way with books, I think.
     
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  19. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Chesterama,

    I agree with your sentiment. I would add that it's not just with writing. The more one learns about any subject, the more discerning (for lack of a better word) one becomes.

    I like to eat relatively simple fare. If I trained to be a chef, however, my guess is that my palate would become more complex.

    It's hard to judge the quality a reader demands by the standards of a writer.
     
  20. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I'd agree many readers won't notice these things at the surface level. However, I think these aspects can affect enjoyment, immersion, engagement, etc.

    Storytelling still trumps all, but I still believe it's important to pay attention to the writing. Not in a "do it like this" sense, but more as developing a style and voice that stands apart from the common prose or narratives.
     
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