Think like a pro

This is a quasi-follow up to last week’s post. In this case, I’m not necessarily saying to think like a “pro” writer but think like a business pro. This means sitting back and considering how what you just wrote as a blog post or FB status post or Tweet or whatever the social media platform of the day is called — and doing so before you hit the enter button. It means looking at the long term as well as the short term benefits of any action you are considering when it comes to your career. It also means doing what is best for you in this ever-changing career of ours.

So let’s start with the elephant in the room: social media. Almost every author and editor, publisher and agent, has a Facebook page. They Tweet and Reddit and whatever else is out there. Because is it an election year, our feeds are filled with a number of political posts. Some are thoughtful and well thought out. They look at the issues and the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. In short, they are the sort of posts where debate are encouraged and personal attacks aren’t tolerated. Then there are the ones where the pro in question starts out by condemning — or worse — anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their political beliefs. They ridicule those who don’t think the “right” way. They will instantly block or unfriend those who aren’t as liberal or conservative or whatever as they are.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy discussing politics — or just about anything else — with people who are willing to discuss and debate the issues with me. I also remember those who dig their heels in the sand, put their fingers in their ears and try to shout me down. In other words, online behavior can and does impact my decision on what books I buy.

But it goes beyond political discussion or diatribe. It is behavior in general. As noted in last week’s post, if a writer takes to social media to do a hatchet job on an agent or editor and doesn’t back up what they are saying, well, that author comes across as a prima donna and only does himself harm. When an agent or editor take to social media and make fun of an author, especially someone trying to break into the business, they are no better than the prima donna author. They go on my little list (that is getting longer with each month that passes) of folks I don’t necessarily want to do business with.

Then there are the authors — or anyone else, for that matter — who look at social media as their own private promotion train. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those authors or agents who Tweet constantly about their books. Every other Facebook post is about this book they have written or that book they are about to publish. They fill your feed with what are nothing but ads and, all too often, poorly written ones. I get the need to promote your work. Everyone in this business does. But there is a reason why folks love using their DVRs. They can fast-forward through the commercials and when you social media feed is little more than one ongoing infomercial, folks are going to do the FB version of  fast-forwarding. They will block your posts on their feed or unfriend you or both.

Even worse in some ways than the constant informercial postings are when authors (or others) create Facebook pages or groups and add folks to it without their permission. Guys, I can’t stress highly enough what a big no-no this is. I know it is easier and less time consuming to just add folks and let them then decide if they want to stay in the group or not but it isn’t cool. Instead of doing that, add a few folks you know want to take part. Ask them to help spread word about your page and then grow your fanbase that way. Most of all, when someone you have added without their permission calls you on the carpet for it, admit you screwed up and apologize. Don’t then be a dick about it and attack them. Man up — or woman up — and admit you made a mistake and ask them to hang around because you will do everything you can to make it worth their while.

There is more when it comes to social media but it all basically comes down to this: If you were talking to someone face-to-face, would you say to them what you are about to post on social media? A second question you need to ask is if you would say it to them in a crowded room where everyone can and will hear you say it? Finally, ask yourself if you would say it in front of your mother or grandmother, priest or pastor, or how about your child? If you answered “no” to any of this, you might want to seriously consider whether you want to put it out on social media where the world can see it.

Always remember, your social media presence is the only interaction most of your fans and potential fans will ever have with you. This is your chance to win them over to your side, not alienate them because you are being a douche.

Social media isn’t the only thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to acting like a pro. Some of us are more than happy to take the risk of indie publishing. We know we face an uphill battle getting our books into brick and mortar stores. We have to decide if we want to put all our e-book eggs into the Amazon basket or spread them far and wide with different online vendors as well. We have to deal with our own bookkeeping and making sure our work is edited, etc. However, we also know we can get our work out at our own schedule and not be limited by the number of slots a publisher has or working our way through slush piles. The indie route isn’t right for everyone just as the traditional route isn’t the only way.

However, there is a quote that caught my eye this morning that I’d like to share with you. It comes from an interview with agent Molly Friedrich. She has been in the game for some time now and represents such authors as Sue Grafton and Frank McCourt, among others.

When asked if ebooks and they way they have changed the industry has impacted her, Friedrich responded:

Ebooks have been very healthy for publishers. They have not been healthy for authors. Publishers are making a load of money — very little of which is going to the author’s statement.

I know that doesn’t surprise most of us, or it shouldn’t. We have seen publishers trying to claim they have to re-edit ebooks or redesign covers, etc. They have tried double-dipping on their so-called expenses to lower the monies they have to pay out to authors. Then we have the debacle of the price-fixing attempt some of them did with Apple in an attempt to hurt Amazon. The only ones hurt then were the authors and readers. It has become clear that publishers either don’t understand the economics of ebooks (or of customer demand and price points) or they don’t care.

At a time when most folks balk at paying cover prices for books, hard cover or soft, why do publishers think we will pay $12.99 for an ebook? When they should be realizing that more units could be sold if they would lower prices (even if it was simply to $9.99) why are they continuing to raise prices? New ebooks by J. D. Robb and David Baldacci are now listed at $14.99.


Nope, this reader is not going to pay that much for a book, no matter how much I like the author. The only exception might be for research books but not for fiction. Not now and probably not ever. That is especially true when I can and have found indie authors and small press authors who sell their books at half that price or less.

The lesson from this is to recognize that even a pro on the traditional side recognizes the fact that the publishers are not working in the best interest of authors when it comes to ebook pricing. That means you need to take this into consideration when you are contemplating whether to go indie or traditional.

I guess what I’m saying is that, no matter whether you are looking at promoting your work or trying to decide which route is best for you, approach it like you would anything else in business. Look at the strengths and weaknesses. Look at what will best serve your needs and help you reach your goals. Then go for it. Just remember that this is your profession and you need to always remember that.

23 thoughts on “Think like a pro

  1. The realization that I have come to about writing is that being a fiction author is not a writing job, it is a sales job that involves some writing.

    1. Then again, the most effective thing I’ve found to market my books is to write and release the next one as soon as possible, ideally within 90 days of the last book (without sacrificing quality, wherein lies the rub). I only started earning a decent income after I had ten books out, just as Sara Hoyt has often said. New releases and building a mailing list probably account for 80% of my sales. And most of the big success stories in indie are very prolific.

        1. I’ve only managed to do it once so far. I was hoping to do four or even five this year, and next thing I know the sequel to my new series took me six months to complete. I haven’t gotten writing down to where I can produce x amount of words per day every day until completion, and I’m beginning to think I just can’t, not without sacrificing quality.

        2. I know that I can’t do that, either, Misha.

          Which is why I’m planning to do just that… (The writing, that is. The putzing around to get it ready for publishing added another month to the schedule that I finally committed to writing on Sunday.)

          I’m not letting even myself (especially myself) tell that I can’t do anything.

  2. Yep – writing the book is only half the job – the other half is getting it out there in front of people who want to read it.

    And $15 for an e-book? You are out of your cotton-picking mind. I’ll wait and buy a used paperback version of it for 1 cent and 3.99 in postage.

    1. and tradpub keeps complaining about ebook sales declining… and indi makes more and more… these events are connected.

  3. Due to chronic illness, I have realized the only way Pride’s Children will take off is if 1) I go viral, and 2) it isn’t my doing.

    This is an odd business model, but I really have no choice. I have only hurt my writing time, which is extremely limited as it is, by attempting the marketing and promotion.

    So it stops here, and I’ll finish the trilogy as I meant to do it, instead. There is a certain peace in that.

    And I really really write to have the book I always wanted to read. It will have to do. With Amazon and Createspace, this means actual physical volumes (and ebooks) without much further effort (compared to the first time).

    I get some very nice reviews and comments – and have already attracted haters. I will do the tiny bits I’ve already planned. But I’m mostly going underground – and it will probably take five years to finish. But it would take a lot longer if I stay above ground. And the book’s the thing.

    Really. This is what professional means to me: get the book written.

    1. I think that’s the best thing you can do. Every minute you spend marketing a book is a minute you aren’t writing the next one. A lot of potential readers don’t even give an author a second glance until they can see several titles listed under that name. I spend most of my marketing time during a new release, and generally keep to myself the rest of the time (which is why my blog post count is pitifully low).

    2. The thing about promotion in the digital age is that it can take place any time in your writer’s life. Admittedly, the first 90 days after hitting publish is optimal, but the moment you finish your trilogy, *then* you can do discounts and advertising. At least, that’s my own plan. Write, hope the reviews turn up, and when I actually have a backshelf, promote.

      1. Very true. Unlike trad publishers, indies most certainly don’t get 80% of their lifetime sales over the first eight weeks after publication. In a way, not being in bookstores is something of a blessing, because online our books aren’t removed from the shelves, stripped of their covers, and shipped back two months later.
        My first novel’s biggest sales month happened two years after publication, when three sequels were out. It’s far better to concentrate in releasing sequels (or even completely different books) than trying to push the first book of series, or even a stand-alone first book, IMHO.

      2. I sympathize with Alicia. I’ve all but let my blog lapse, and practically never posted on Facebook. I need to redo covers and post more work. I’m also burned out and stressed to a fare you well, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better. Nothing serious, more on the nature of pecked to death by ducks.

        It still isn’t getting it done. I have only one work that sells somewhat – that’s a fact, not a whine – and new covers might salvage the singles a little. Probably not, unless I write enough for an anthology. But writing and promo isn’t going to happen unless I do it.

        One reason I haven’t posted in my own place is when I post elsewhere I tend to respect that I’m a guest, and when I’m in my own digs there’s an urge to be a bit more outspoken. This hits squarely with the topic of professionalism. There’s a difference between not shying from your beliefs and opinions and quite another to go out of your way to tick off potential customers.

        1. I feel it, Kevin. Even just the blog I’m not getting done as I planned. (Partly because so far they have been rather long and technical – I keep hoping that once I struggle through the Learning Curve pieces on covers, I’ll speed up some.)

          The social media I think is the easiest part to start neglecting. It’s not something that you put up and start seeing some kind of income from, like a book. I really don’t know how much the various “tip jars” actually bring in – I don’t have one, and probably won’t for quite a while; it seems like more bookkeeping for very little return right now, with such a low view count on my blog (okay, it’s barely a month old, so what do I expect). Oh, “one simple little trick” for bumping your view count – put up a recipe that involves booze – the vodka cookies tripled my previous record. (Grin.)

          Please send me an email with links to your books, though, and I’ll see where I can fit them into my weekly review schedule to provide at least some help there. writingobserver at cox dot net. (It’ll be a while at least; right now I have Amanda, Cedar, some one of the Hoyts, and Misha in the plans for the rest of August.)

          1. I’d be a fool to pass this up, but that said, you don’t have to. For one, they’re not freebees, and for another, they may make that story they read at cons look good. I still appreciate the offer, and will do as you ask. And if you don’t get around to it, or more likely, can’t find anything good in them, that’s fine, too.

  4. Somehow under tradpub folks got the idea that one book a year was the norm. In truth, that was the publisher’s cycle. Hard back, followed a year later with paperback, which helped generate buzz for the next book. Back when advances were in the solid five figures and books stayed in the stores long enough to earn out that made many a midlister a decent living. These days, in this economy, and with current publishing practices, don’t give up your day job.
    Or you fire your publisher and hire the fine old firm of Me, Myself, and I to do everything it takes to offer your hard won product for sale to the buying public. Until recently almost impossible. Now, with the relatively new popularity of e-books and free access to a reliable distribution system (thank you Amazon) it’s no longer impossible, just damnably difficult. The mechanism is there, but it still takes a salable product and exposure to sufficient potential buyers to generate enough sales to earn a living wage.

    1. And the situation has gone worse with just in time inventories. Stores don’t have the physical space to keep books on the shelves for very long. So on the one hand many publishers won’t allow you to release more than one or at most two books a year, while on the other most mid-list books will only be in bookstores for a couple months before disappearing from sight.
      Going indie is no picnic, either, but at least thanks to Amazon and online retailers, the book is always “there.” The tough part is letting the potential audience know it’s there (and, as you say, the book has to be attractive enough for a reader to click on that buy/borrow button).

      1. > Stores don’t have the physical space to
        > keep books on the shelves for very long.

        …except for entire dedicated display racks of $DESIGNATED_NEXT_BEST_SELLER… and another rack of $AUTHOR’s earlier books.

  5. For social media, I saw some advice that I will paraphrase thusly: “Post as though it will be read by your mother, your boss, and your worst enemy.” Mind you, there are times when you’ll want to bend that rule, but it’s good for the double-check.

  6. This feels like good advice but I have to admit that I’m a little cynical about it these days. Be professional, yes, but I have seen people who are manifestly not professional get pushed and promoted partly because of that lack of professionalism.

    Drama sells, being a twit on twitter gains you attention and followers, that attention and those followers imply to publishers that you have a big social media footprint and thus will be good at promotion. Would anyone, ever, have heard of Requires Hate if not for the way she whipped up mobs? Was her notoriety a help in getting her published? As in she would be just another adequate writer in a sea of adequate writers if not for the way she used social media? Brian Niemeier was just shadowbanned from twitter for not being left leaning (as far as I’ve been able to tell) and has managed to pick up followers and sell books based on the backlash. The more Larry Correia is attacked, the more books he sells.

    That all said, I can’t do that, not because of professionalism but because I don’t have the patience to argue online. Seeing people twist my words in the worst way possible when I have spent so many years trying to learn how to communicate ideas clearly and effectively irritates me too much. They know what I am actually saying, whether they agree with it or not, but deliberately misinterpret for ammunition to attack me.

    Last year I had an argument in real life with someone who has a large social media following and she did not come off looking good. She decided to try to bait me into an online argument and I refused to engage. I knew she would twist my words, present those twisted words to her followers, encourage her followers to ”educate” me, get the giggles as I tried in vain to repudiate the twist in the words, accuse me of mansplaining if ever I gain ground, use me as an example of whatever the heck she was accusing me of, and soon I’d be the butt of in jokes from her followers.

    Being unstupid (not smart exactly but not stupid either) I recognized a losing game when I was invited to participate in it. As the balls. Sorry, ball.

    However, it would absolutely have bolstered her online credibility, given her followers an outrage to be outraged about, and sold some books. So for her, it would have been a good strategy.

    And she would have gotten the personal satisfaction of avenging the wrong of losing an argument to a blue collar dude (I’ve noticed that many people who go to college say they don’t look down on the blue collar people they know, but boy do they ever get shocked when a blue collar guy can more than hold his own when in a debate with them).

  7. “Nope, this reader is not going to pay that much for a book, no matter how much I like the author. The only exception might be for research books but not for fiction. Not now and probably not ever. That is especially true when I can and have found indie authors and small press authors who sell their books at half that price or less.”

    True enough; but I am still puzzled why Amazon-Createspace insists on setting such forbidding Dollar prices for full-colour books. As a rule they place the minimum limit about twice as high as the converted value of the same book in Pounds or Euros. Why the heck?!? I have actually advised a prospective US reader to ask a friend in the UK to order and send her that thing. IMO Amazon is irrationally harming itself and its authors this way.

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