Business Musings: Shifting Attitudes (Planning For 2019 Part 7)

Business Musings: Shifting Attitudes (Planning For 2019 Part 7)

This is my final post in the series, because otherwise I’ll be spending the rest of my life reviewing 2018 and looking toward 2019—while 2019 is passing me by.

2018 marked the crossover moment in the disruption in publishing where we firmly left the old model and accept the new model as normal. Old industries (like traditional publishing) are still grappling with the new, but they’re making changes as well. And the folks who’ve been in the new for a long time are either leaving (because they can’t handle the actual business) or settling in.

But what about the newbies coming into publishing for the first time?

Many still believe all the old traditional publishing myths, and I fear for those writers. They’ll get scammed, lose their copyrights, and lose their money. They’re the future victims of the things that traditional publishing has moved toward, which I discussed in past posts. Many of these writers have been warned away from traditional publishing for novels, and most of those writers aren’t listening.

It’s the indies who have, are, and will continue to change the future.

And the coolest part about indie is the attitude. Even though there are a lot of myths and “have-to”s in the indie movement, there’s a lot of good in it as well.

I’m going to highlight two attitudinal shifts that have already trickled into other industries and will alter this one greatly. The change will continue into 2019, 2020, and beyond, because the new writers coming in are being raised in this system, so it’s what they know.

That’s true of readers as well. Their attitudes are shifting along with the rest of the culture.

So what are those two attitudinal shifts?

  1. Being prolific is good. It’s not only good, but desirable.
  2. Micro influencers are more important than one-fits-all curation.

Let’s start with the second one, because I’m not going to go into too much depth on it.

Micro influencers

Yeah, yeah, the trendy buzz phrase of 2018. But an accurate one.

I went to the Consumer Electronics Show here in Vegas at the beginning of January. (And I blogged about it on my Patreon page at the time.) I think one of the main reasons I got into the show, which heavily vets its attendees, is because the organizers see me as a micro influencer.

For those of you who haven’t been following the trends (welcome to my 2018), here’s SnapApp blog’s definition of micro influencer (I love this of all the definitions I found):

Micro-influencers are brand advocates who have a deeply engaged, niche audience. They generally have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers, and while they don’t boast Kardashian levels of stock-affecting social influence, they do offer opinions that are deeply trusted by their followers, who are generally like-minded folks looking for real talk.

If you want to see a good analysis of how micro influencing works, read the entire article that quote comes from.

Why do I think micro influencers are important for writers? Because when I talk about building a fan base one reader at a time, I’m talking about you—the writer—becoming your own little micro influencer. You have your readers who love what you do, the worlds you create, the characters you invent, and those people then go out and influence their friends and family.

We make small networks, and finally, finally! the marketing gurus have come to accept that’s how marketing gets done.

This is a sea change in marketing, and it reflects our noise-driven society. It’s rare for someone to cut through all of the noise. It used to be easier when everything was curated by the same people—three TV channels, two newspapers in major cities, only a handful of critically acclaimed book journals, and of course, the traditional publishers, who hired editors not for their book savvy, but for their connections to The People Who Matter.

Unfortunately, the People Who Matter were mostly white, mostly male, mostly (in the U.S.) from the East Coast, and mostly country club wealthy. The rest of us had to read what they read, whether we liked it or not. (We also had to watch their movies and TV shows.)

If you want to see how pervasive this was (and still is), look at this Twitter thread from mystery writer Laura Lippman which she wrote the day after the marvelous director Penny Marshall died.  I’m not going to summarize it here. You get the full impact only if you read it.

Micro influencers have been an important part of marketing all along. They’ve been an important part of life, really. We just didn’t have a buzz word for it.

Writers need to figure out two things. First, they are micro influencers (with their worlds and their brands and their newsletters and all of that fun stuff). Second, writers  should value the micro influencers who already love their work.  If writers do those two things, then they won’t chase those pipe dreams of instant fame and success. Those pipe dreams are the most deadly dreams of all, because they make writers give up important things like copyright in order to make those dreams come true.

That’s like spending your entire salary on a lottery ticket, folks. Better to build up a nest egg, which is what acknowledging and working with micro influencers is.

So study this trend, understand it, and figure out how to apply it to your writing business. Because this one is here to stay.

And frankly, I’m thrilled about that.

The other trend I’m thrilled about is…

Being Prolific Is Good

The corollary to that is “writing fast is good.” Remember when writing fast was bad? Remember when writers suffered through that hogwash of 10 or 20 rewrites and one book every five years?

No one could make a living at that, but it sure worked well for traditional publishers, because they didn’t have the attention span, marketing budget, or ability to publish writers quickly. Professors, who also shoveled that BS, didn’t have to grade as many papers if they made their students rewrite things to death.

A lot of writers still believe that myth. Dean and I have been fighting it for decades. We do it in our online classes and Dean deals with it almost weekly on his blog.

But now the world has turned, and the attitude is shifting. Not just in writing, but everywhere.

First, let’s look at writing.

Indie writers learned early that a lot of product equaled a lot of sales. Indies might not sell 100,000 copies of a novel in the first week of publication, but indies learned that a new release spiked the sales of previous books as well. So cumulatively, all of the indies’ books in a series might sell 100,000 copies over three months.

When the indie earns 70% within 60 days of publication, as opposed to 8% against an advance that was already paid, then the indie has a financial incentive to write more books. And more. And more.

Readers keep an eye on quality. If the quality drops off or wasn’t really there in the first place, sales drop precipitously. Readers determine what works and what doesn’t, not some country club martini swilling white guy who doesn’t know anyone outside of his New York enclave.

Readers have come to expect a lot of content, because readers like to binge.

Readers are modern consumers, and binging is what we do now. I wrote this post during the holiday season where all of the media was abuzz with articles about TV viewers binging on Hallmark Christmas movies. (Hallmark has a boatload of content on that front.)

Consumers can be patient, though. They know it takes time to create content. So they’re willing to wait for the next installment—as long as that installment drops completely. (All of season 2 arrives at the same time, for instance.)

We have moved from appointment entertainment to on demand. When I was growing up, and there were only three TV channels (and we walked uphill in the snow both ways just to see a TV set), we had to be home to watch our favorite shows, because we might miss the episode forever otherwise (or so we thought. Who anticipated the return of all of those shows in the 1990s on Nick at Night? Or streaming now?). Except for soap operas, most shows did not have linked storylines because no one could guarantee that viewers saw the previous week’s episode.

Now, you can watch the entire run of some show in a weekend. You can catch up on the hot thing that you missed.

And in fact, you might choose not to watch that hot thing in first run because you don’t have time, figuring you can see it later.

We’re doing this with movies, TV, games—and now books, particularly if those books are indie published. (As I mentioned last time, traditional publishers are only just starting to understand the importance of backlist).

But, the other major attitudinal shift related to this, is that it is finally acceptable to work hard at your art. I know that sounds weird, but the three-martini-lunch curator folks looked down their noses at prolific writers. When I came into the field in the 1980s, the romance genre was in a fight for acceptability—partly because it was geared toward women (and we all “know” that women didn’t read quality fiction. Sigh) and partly because the authors wrote fast. The RWA conference every year had at least one panel on how to be prolific and justify that work ethic to friends and family. Double sigh.

Stephen King even made a plot point out of his prolificness in Bag of Bones. His writer protagonist wrote too fast for the (then) market, and would put books in drawers for those times when the writer got ill and couldn’t meet a deadline. Clearly, that’s what King—who is prolific—did back in the day.

But now, writers can write a lot and not worry about what “others” will think. Readers don’t really care how the writer finished the story. Readers just want the next book.

What made me realize that the attitude shift had become baked in was this article in Entertainment Weekly. It’s about music producer Mike Dean, who put in a heck of a nine-month period in 2018, producing some high profile albums while working on other projects. Entertainment Weekly didn’t suggest that his work was inferior because he worked hard; instead, they were in awe that he did as much as he did. The expectation of quality threads through the article. No mention at all about fast equals bad.

That’s when I realized that I hadn’t seen fast equals bad in the entertainment trade press for years now—except in the old bastions like The New York Times Book Review. And those folks are a company publication in a traditional publishing town.

In fact, being prolific has become a goal state. That was one of the things I liked about being at the 20BooksTo50K conference in November. We didn’t have to justify our writing speed. We could talk about writing a lot without someone looking down their long nose and worrying about “quality.”

There was a lot of talk about quality, but it was about maintaining storytelling quality and interest while doing all the other things connected to publishing.

Traditional publishing can’t publish a lot of books from the same author fast. The economics of the traditional book publishing system doesn’t allow it. Even James Patterson has to partner with other writers, and he’s got his own little minipublisher in his major publishing house. (They set that up so they could accommodate his schedule—and his books earn enough to justify it.) He’s considered a rarity—and he is in traditional. He’s just one of the crowd in indie.

What Does all this mean?

It means that writers can write their books, in their own micro influencing category at whatever pace they want to write those books. They can get all of that old curated attitude out of their heads.

Consumers are already ahead of us on all of this. So let’s just go with it and enjoy this part of the future.

We can relax and have fun telling our stories to the people who want to read that type of tale.

And, if we’re indie, we can make a lot of money doing so.

***

I binge-wrote these blog posts because I didn’t want to talk about 2018 in 2019. So I finished before the new year, and then put them up on Patreon first.

I’m able to write more because my health has returned, so I’m working hard and enjoying the heck out of it. Because I’m doing a lot better, I’m putting up some Patreon-only content now. For example, I blogged about CES while attending it, and will mine some of those blogs for a future post. But that content is exclusive to Patreon.

I’m also enjoying the interaction with all of you here on the website. Thank you so much for your support in the past year. I hope you stick with me going forward. It’s going to be a fascinating year, with a focus on conferences and licensing and learning.

Thanks again.

Click paypal.me/kristinekathrynrusch to go to PayPal.

“Business Musings: Shifting Attitudes (Planning For 2019 Part 7),” copyright © 2019 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © © Can Stock Photo / andrewgenn.

18 responses to “Business Musings: Shifting Attitudes (Planning For 2019 Part 7)”

  1. Janice says:

    Hello! I am new to your blog. I was linked to this series by a friend, and spent the morning reading through all seven parts, and then some of your older posts as well. My husband and I both quit our day jobs and officially became aspiring writers this year. Since June, I’ve written two novels (both of which still need a lot of work) and am working on a third. He’s written one novel and several short stories.

    The thrust of this series seems to be ‘go indie’. The idea appeals to me, but I have one question. I haven’t found the answer to it in your older blog posts, but perhaps I haven’t read far enough back yet.

    How do you know when your writing is good enough to publish? I’ve been writing for years, but not things that I could earn money for writing. I want to improve as an original fiction writer, and I’ve read again and again that the way to become a better writer is to WRITE. But until I read your articles, I figured that what determined whether I was “a good writer” was whether my writing was accepted and published. If one takes a truly self-published route, how does one make that determination? At what point does one decide that a novel is ready to be released for sale? I don’t want to release prematurely, nor do I want to spend too long polishing one book.

    You don’t know me and don’t owe me a response or free advice, but if you do choose to respond, any advice you can give me would be so very much appreciated. (It might also benefit my husband, who is dead set on publishing traditionally, at least at first. If I can find success through self-publishing, maybe I can help him do it, too!) Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and for all the thoughtful work you’ve put into your blog. It’s been eye-opening so far, and I’m sure it will continue to be so.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful post, Janice. You might want to read through the Freelancer’s Survival Guide posts (https://kriswrites.com/freelancers-survival-guide-table-of-contents/) or pick up the book, since you’ve both quit your day jobs. (The posts are out of order and free; the book isn’t either of those things.) The posts are old, but relevant to what you’re doing. Also, you and your husband should read the contracts and dealbreakers section here as well: https://kriswrites.com/business-musings/contracts-and-dealbreakers/.

      And about writing and releasing, here’s my thought. Just release. Readers will decide if your work is “good enough,” not you. You might be surprised at the response…or not surprised at the lack of response. Some writers are fine storytellers and readers will see that right off. Workshops, agents, and editors often kill the storytelling aspect of a writer by focusing on the words instead.

      The key is to write a lot. You will get better with practice. And if the first books aren’t up to snuff, then no one will remember them. That’s how it works. Do you remember a book you didn’t think much of that you tried to read in 2015? I sure don’t.

      Again, write and release. I would also recommend that for practice as well. You can’t practice by revising something over and over. Only by trying something new. Take classes from writers who are farther down the road you want to walk. Read for enjoyment. And write a lot.

      Good luck!

      • Janice says:

        Thank you so much for your reply and your advice! I will take it to heart.

        By the way, your links to your amazon ebook and audiobook are broken, at least as of this moment. I was able to find the book when I went directly to Amazon and typed in “Freelancer’s Guide to Survival”, but the links from your webpage (below the table of contents) take me to a “Website Temporarily Unavailable” page. I don’t know if it really is just a temporary glitch, but they were broken all morning for me, so you might want to check on them.

        Thank you again for your time!

  2. Jodi says:

    Just a random comment about speed.

    I’m down with writing faster, and have been for a while. But it was difficult to manage. Then I finally gave in and invested in dictation equipment and software, and I wrote 60,000 words in about 14 days (not all consecutive, for I was sick a day or two and I took Sundays off). But it finally gave me the tool I needed to write fast. Even better, I could make use of my commute time, so when I got home from work, I didn’t have to conjure up energy to write a few hours. Most of it was done already.

    Before dictation, I worked against myself–or rather my myriad doubts and short attention span did. I usually backburnered a novel somewhere around the midpoint, because I was tired of working on it.

    I’m still learning dictating (I only really started on it in January of this year). My eventual goal is to improve the quality and output. The first to minimize editing. The second to accomplish the “one week draft.”

    Thanks for promoting writing more, for you still hear so much of the opposite, and it’s nice to be in like company.

  3. Suz Korb says:

    Thanks so much for this blog post! I’m actually going to blog post on my own about how I’ve followed yours and Dean’s blogs since 2011, how I’ve done everything for everyone else, and how I’m trying to become a writer who actually does something for herself.

    But I was wondering if you have links to the best sites to study about micro influencers. Thanks again, suzkorb@icloud.com

  4. Wow. Great post! I’m really glad I discovered your site! 🙂

  5. There’s an interesting corollary here, in that writers seem to be bifurcating socially. There’s the successful, or at least those who’ve been so, under the old model and it’s evolving current iteration. And that group of writers, many of them, are vocal on social media, and have enough followers so that their view of the world is echoed at what seems like a great deal more volume than appropriate to the numbers of working writers generating it. (As opposed to the dollar values of each of those writer’s putative contracts.) Many of the old-model writers have celebrity, and its baggage, associated with them, so that noise is involved as well.

    And then there’s the rest of us. New Pulp, and we’re operating in the social outer realms, at least for the old-model followers, just as all the original generations of pulp writers did before Raymond Chandler broke through the “respectability” wall.

    Most of this is harmless, if you’ve thick enough skin to write and keep at it, hearing from the self-anointed doesn’t mean anything. Though we are also getting the New Victorian prudery that goes along with this behavior for our troubles. There’s a development I don’t think anyone ever would have predicted, not among fiction writers at least.

    I did giggle when I saw the “masterclass” business with some well-known old-model Name writers involved. I read more than a few comments from the old-model writers, not all that long ago, bagging on writers such as you, Kris and Dean, for making money teaching writers. And yet, here we are down the road and the high priests have apparently given their blessing to the practice.

  6. I’ve been thinking about your series since you started writing it. I have been linking to it in my weekly roundups of publishing news and writing tips all year so far. What you are writing about is so important for writers to understand. I meet with so many traditionally published writers who are just beginning to grasp how important their IP is. Last weeks blog should be mandatory reading in every creative writing classroom. You have been my micro influencer for all things writing business related. I am grateful to have discovered your blog all those years ago. Kia Kaha Mana Wahine. Arohanui

  7. Kevin says:

    Hi Kris! 🙂 No comments??? aghast Can’t have that.

    I’ve been with you and Dean on the “write a lot = good” thing for around a decade now. Been one of the indies pushing it for a long time, too. At this point in my career, I know that I make at least 10c on every word that I write and publish.

    This means a 5000 word day is a $500+ word day. That’s a pretty decent day.

    Lately though I have been merging that concept with a few others. I’ve read “10X”, for one thing, and I’m borrowing some of the principals from there. (Also read “Digital Minimalism” to win more time for the things I value most.) The core idea in 10X is to put out what the author calls “massive effort”.

    So I did the math.

    I write 2500 words an hour. If I write six one-hour sprints a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year, I ought to be able to come up with about 3,750,000 words a year.

    I’ve never come close to that. My best year was 600k. But if that’s my maximum potential, then I have a LONG way to go. This year, I’m aiming for two million words, more than three times my best year ever.

    Why?

    Because I want to see what happens when I start working at 53% of my potential, instead of 16% (2018).

    Writing fast is damned good and very fun. The more I write, the better I get at writing, and the more stories I have out there making me income. It’s a self-sustaining loop that just keeps getting better! 🙂

    • Not to mention resales, subsidiary rights, and a whole host of other things that your IP can earn…

    • Jason M says:

      2500 words an hour??
      Color me skeptical.
      But I think the same way, in total word count. My goal is 1,000,000 this year.

      • Kevin says:

        That’s average; I might do 2000 on a slow hour and have been over 3000 on occasions. Writing into the dark. With clean first drafts that go straight to my editor without revision.

        But I’ve been hanging out on Dean’s blog for over a decade now, and practicing what he talks about. You get better with practice. And every writer is different, with our own strengths. This happens to be mine. 🙂

      • Suz Korb says:

        I million words in 1 year? I haven’t even managed 1 million since 2009. Go you.

      • wyrdbard says:

        It’s only around 40-45 words a minute typing time. Not that bad. Typically staying in the zone and going rather than getting distracted is the difficulty.

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