Le Sigh

Yesterday, I blogged about writers and editors behaving badly in social media. No, I’m not talking about those writers who go after reviewers. I’m sure none of us will ever forget NB and his responses to anyone who might have ever posted a negative review to his masterpiece — and I use that therm loosely. This time it was a series of posts by different authors and editors complaining about how the authors who hired them to do work didn’t tip them after paying the agreed upon fee. Oh, that wasn’t the only complaint. There were cries of “foul!” when they weren’t greeted with profuse thanks for their work instead of question or — gasp — complaints. All that resulted in a blog about how you need to remember not to air your dirty laundry on social media because it will be seen by more folks than you think and it can — and probably will — run off business. The point of the post was that if you contract for editing or art or anything else, you need to price your services at a level where you don’t have to rely upon “tips”.

I’d expected that to be the end of the “but it’s a business, damn it!” reaction I’d had to the different Twitter and Facebook posts. Then I turned on the laptop this morning and checked the usual social media sites and, well, realized it wasn’t over. So repeat after me, “Writing is a business and needs to be treated as such.” Repeat it again and then, if it helps, print it out and put it on your desk somewhere.

Today’s post comes after seeing several folks take to social media asking how to sell more books. Usually, such a question wouldn’t bother me. After all, it’s a question we all ask ourselves on an almost daily — if not hourly — basis. Most of those asking were looking for honest answers and advice.Β And, again, it all comes down to treating the writing as a business. You have to know your market. You have to actually write. And you have to be able to make the hard decisions some times.

One of those decisions is when to end a series. It doesn’t matter how much you, as the author, love the series or the characters. It doesn’t even matter if the series hasn’t run the full story arc you have in mind. Sometimes, you have to step back and look at your sales numbers impartially and make the hard call to stop writing that series and move on to something else.

But, before you do that, you need to have something else already going. Again, you don’t stop making widgets without having the machinery up and running to replace them with cogs or whatchamacallits.

I’ve made the decision to end a series before I initially planned to. I liked the characters but I had to take a hard look at what was going on with sales. Oh, each new release made money, but not as much as my other books. Worse, sales did not continue. There would be an uptick after a new book was released but then sales would fall off. Sure, I got reads on KU but not enough to spend time writing more of the series. So, I back burner-ed it. One day, I may return to to it. But, for now, much as I like the series, it has taken a backseat to other books and series.

I even know what at least part of the problem with the series happens to be. It’s multi-fold and the problems are ones I see other authors having as well. The first is covers. The covers on this particular set of books don’t match the genre, especially now. The second are the tag words. These books came out before Amazon gave us the handy dandy list of words to use. I need to go back and redo those meta tags. The descriptions need work as well. Finally, the books are really a different sub-genre now than they were when they were written. That makes a lot of difference. Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t completely write that series off after all. Maybe I should put the time into updating the info and seeing what happens.

Now, before I put that particular series on the back burner, I made sure I had something else to take its place. Fortunately, I rolled the dice right and that series has far outsold the one it replaced. And no, I’m not going to tell you what series and you won’t find it because — bwahahahaha — it is under a closed pen name.Not even my fellow bloggers here know that name.

But back to the issue. If you are writing a series and it isn’t making the money you think it should and you have done every reasonable — and even some unreasonable — marketing ploy, then you have to ask yourself if it isn’t time to move on. To help make that decision, you need to look at your sales numbers, going all the way back to the beginning of the series. Look for trends. Do you get an uptick in sales when you release a new book and what is the drop off after the first few weeks and months? Is that drop off the same from book to book or does it lessen with each additional book you publish?

There are other things to look at as well, especially when it comes to what you are doing to market your work. Do you have active links in the back of your book, complete with descriptions, of your other titles? How about links to titles of books by other authors that you like and think your readers will as well? Are you blogging about your work and your writing process? Do you post on FB and other sites when you have a new book coming out?

Conversely, if you do utilize social media platforms, are you pissing folks off by spamming your notices everywhere, including on other authors’ pages? If you have an email list, do you only send out to those who asked to be included or have you captured email addresses for other people and send to them? If the latter, DON’T! That is another way to make people want to NOT buy your work.

You also need to remember that readers and fans will have a perception of you based upon your social media posts. This is why so many publishers for so long told their authors to be apolitical or, more recently, have required them to be anything but conservative in their posts. These publishers and editors thought readers wanted their authors to be liberal on all things. What they didn’t get is that, by doing so, they alienated even more readers than they were gaining — at least in a number of cases.

So, if you are busy posting on FB and elsewhere whines about how badly your sales are going, you have just shot yourself in the foot. How? By telling potential readers who might see the post that your book isn’t worth buying. Remember, it is all about perception and appearance.

But that’s not to say you can’t ask questions about how to increase sales or how to best market your book. Far from it. But what I’m suggesting is you consider who might see your post. There are any number of author-centric groups and pages on FB where you can ask such questions and get responses from people who have been there and done that. You can ask your crit group or find a mentor — waves as Sarah and Dave — all of whom can make suggestions.

Sometimes, however, you just have to admit that the series that is near and dear to your heart isn’t as special to the reading public. So, pull up your pants, tell your characters you love them but it is time you give some love to some others characters and plots and move on. You can always go back — in months, not days or weeks — and look at that series with a fresh and critical eye. Sometimes, stepping away gives you the space you need to breathe new life into it. But, if you don’t step away, you don’t give yourself that chance.

It all boils down to this: if you aren’t selling what you think you should, why? Have you looked at your work with a critical eye, compared it to the books in your genre or sub-genre to see what those other authors are doing that you aren’t? Have you looked at your social media presence with that same critical eye to see what sort of appearance you are presenting to the reading public? Remember, as a publicity tool, social media isn’t there for only your established fans but to help you read new ones as well. So what sort of impression are you giving them?

46 thoughts on “Le Sigh

  1. “So what sort of impression are you giving them?”

    I’m going to have to lie, pretty much. My blog goes back to 2002, I’m sure in that length of time I’ve said stuff that will outrage anybody.

    Therefore, as the books come out there will have to be Facebook, Twitter and blog posts by Mr. Nom DePlume, Esq. teasing the book, and staying strictly out of the pissing contests all over the web these days.

    I’ve heard it noised about that author pen names are chosen based on search results and shelf position. Maybe I’ll try to get next to Correia. That’d be cool. Or Hoyt. >:)

    1. First off, most readers aren’t going to go back for years to read your posts. Second, you can have your posts and yes you can upset someone every once in a while. But my recommendation is not to whine. That’s what the authors that set off yesterday’s and today’s blog posts are noted for. Whining. Things don’t go like they want — whine. People don’t appreciate them enough — whine. And they do it in public. Not a way to conduct business.

      1. I agree whole heartedly.

        One of the main reasons I blog and comment as The Phantom is so I don’t get mau-maued by people in Real Life. There’s a lot of that going around, and I don’t react well in Meatspace. Sweating, growling, gnashing teeth, massive hair growth on the arms and hands kind of thing. The Phantom solves that problem. But, he’s a bit of a jerk sometimes, and never professional.

        Therefore, for a businesslike presentation The Phantom is getting stuffed in a closet and Super Pen Name Guy will talk about books, not politics. Zero whining, all the time.

        I think your advise is excellent, there being two authors, Mr. *tross and Mr. *calzi, whose works I will no longer buy. Due entirely to their on-line behavior. I’m hard on the letter “S” I suppose.

        The Phantom can whine. That’s what he’s for. Super Pen Name Guy will be very cool. πŸ™‚

        1. Agreed. As a reader, I have no problem with people using one account for “business” and a second for “personal”. In fact, if someone goes to the trouble of dividing things like that, then I do expect the “business” account to business-like (not boring, but more proper).

          Remember the TORling who ranted about readers on an official TOR twitter account (and then couldn’t understand why people thought that was an official TOR position)?

    2. When I find out about Jimmy Obscure who maybe writes stuff that I would like, I don’t automatically vet his complete backlog of social media and blogging to be sure he doesn’t disagree with me on any point. (My internal conflicts mean that everyone necessarily disagrees with me.)

      If I’m taking the time to dig into someone’s archives, I enjoy their content enough that I’m willing to make allowances.

      The question for new readers is how much of your current content is very offensive to many, and how deep are you into big controversies right now. That said, barring something like ‘everyone who voted for $opposing_candidate did so because they are a Nazi seeking to bring about internal mass murder’, bland and dull is going to hurt you more most of the time.

      1. Since the Sad Puppies blew up big, I’ve actively avoided reading most author’s blogs. After being pretty much force-fed the opinions of the Two ‘S’ guys at various outlets, other authors… I didn’t want to know. Chances were good I wouldn’t like what I found, so I chose to find nothing.

        Butcher’s blog, from what I’ve heard, is a good example of a guy staying out of everything. He talks about his and other people’s books, and that’s about it.

  2. I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve quit buying/reading various authors because of their blog rantings.

    Yes, they have rights to their opinions. No, I don’t have to give them my money to support those opinions. There’s not exactly a shortage of material in my preferred genre any more; I can strike off an author and move on.

    Blogging or “social media” are a minefield of fail. Yes, you can get the *support* of like-minded individuals… but that doesn’t always translate into those individuals giving you money.

    1. Yep. But, when I think back about those I no longer follow or whose work I no longer buy, it hasn’t been because they believe differently from me. It’s been because they made the differences personal. Instead of trying to persuade me about why their position is the correct one, they do personal attacks on others who don’t believe as they do. I have no problems with a good debate. Character assassination on the other hand. . . that bothers me.

      1. At least one author, whose work I enjoyed enough to seek out, had a post on his blog telling me that he pretty much didn’t want my money because of my politics.

        I’ve obliged him ever since.

          1. Yep. I want everyone with money as fans.

            And even broke MoFo’s can still tell people they like my stuff, so I’ll take them too.

            1. You’re never going to be allowed to hang with the Right People until you can signal better than that!

            2. My first book review was from a broke MoFo. Once I finally get my author copies*, she’s getting a real physical copy.

              *Publication date January 2017. At this point, it’s almost worth not prodding any more to see how long it takes them to notice that they’re still sitting around. πŸ˜€

        1. Same. A long time acquaintance whose work I really like said online she didn’t want people who voted the way I did reading her books. Okaayyy, I’ll miss ths world and characters you’ve created, but if that’s the way you really want it…

          1. On the flip side, it means more time for authors who don’t actively despise you because of some political bias. πŸ˜€

    2. Yes, they have rights to their opinions. No, I don’t have to give them my money to support those opinions.

      Bought only one PearlJam album because they had content that I found offensive in the liner notes of that album.

  3. And no, I’m not going to tell you what series

    Now That’s Mean! πŸ˜‰

  4. Most writers know the phrase, “Kill your darlings.”

    That also applies to a series if necessary.

    I’m potentially faced with having to do just that myself, and it sucks, but so what? If that one series is the sum total of your ideas, then you need to branch out a bit.

    1. Very true. If the goal is just write as a hobby that brings in coffee and donuts money, then sure, it doesn’t matter. But for those of us trying to generate an income, we have to listen to both our muse and our inner accountant (I picture mine as a demonic Larry Correia, wielding a sack of gold in one hand and a tetsubo in the other).

      I had a lot of fun writing Lovecraftian horror-action adventure blends, but those books told one tenth as well as my superhero-alternate history series and something like 1/50th as well as my mil-sf. Had to put it in the back burner until I figured out what I need to do to market it (maybe try new covers).

      1. I had a webcomic back in the days before anyone (aside from Sluggy Freelance) had made money from them. There came a point when I realized it was a bunch of work for almost no reward (and the “reward” was “my mom regularly tells me she likes it.”) I had a little minor fame, about a thousand regular readers, and maybe a couple of comments a month to me. I needed to go do something that actually brought me money or plaudits.

        I liked the characters, and the story was fun, but it’s a big energy expenditure.

        1. After you mentioned your comic in an earlier comment (sometime a month or two back) and linked to it, I followed the link and realized that you’re the woman who wrote Dex Lives!. It was on my daily webcomic reading list back in the day, and I was sorry to see it go. (I wanted to find out if Dex and Phil would ever realize their mutual attraction and get together. In retrospect, now that I’ve had a bit more exposure to romance tropes, I realize the operative question was not “will they?” but “HOW will they?”. Which I’m still curious about, BTW.)

          But you do have to prioritize. I’m facing that same problem — what do I spend my time and energy on — with regard to my own work. (Computer programming isn’t quite the same as creative writing, but there are a surprising number of things in common.) Do I tackle project A, which currently would benefit precisely *two* users that I know about, but might have the potential to help more people in the future? Or do I continue on project B which I started last year, and is almost finished, and would potentially help a LOT more people? Thing is, the two users that project A would help are good friends of mine and I feel bad putting their request on the back burner…

          Ah well. If only there was infinite time and energy, we could do all of it. As that’s not a situation we’ll encounter in this life*, we have to pick and choose.

          * Since I’m a Christian, I do believe that the next life will be eternal and we will have time to accomplish all our projects — but that doesn’t really change the fact that I have to make decisions about what to prioritize NOW, in this life.

          1. Thank you so much! I still have the vague future storyline planned out, including the complete destruction of the house by the time they leave Spokane (the original still stands, alas), but that’s the part I hadn’t quite planned.

            Right now, I have to plan a birthday party (which requires getting the backyard in shape, oh dear) and repair/upgrade some costumes for a field trip. And a First Communion, and isn’t it nice that Grandma is taking the bigger kids away for the better part of a month so I can get some stuff DONE this summer? Just have to get there…

  5. Thanks for the tips. I’m at that stage where I’m having trouble moving forward. I’ve made a couple of SS published, one short story and a novelette. I’ll have a novella coming out in a month or so.

    I sold these three one after another. Since then, zip. I hope I’ll find how to overcome that situation here. It’ll take me awhile to read your posts. 😦

  6. Hmmm. I agree – mostly.

    You can also do this too much, IMHO. For instance, I am very wary of any new John Ringo that isn’t either a) a stand-alone piece (like The Last Centurion), or where I have reliably heard that the series is actually wrapped up (I only bought all of the Black Tide Rising books when I saw Strands of Sorrow on the Baen publication list).

    I have two main series in development (possibly too much for a noob, but caffeine can’t supply all of the adrenaline…). The “mega” series, though, is actually split up into five sub-series; I can “kill” the whole thing after five books and not leave the reader who did like them unsatisfied (at least about the ending). The other one, yes, it’s the same world, the development from each novel to the next is there – but each time one is published, it can be the last one – the story line is wrapped up, everybody has backed away from that cliff (or been pushed off and gone splat, as The Muse indicates when I get there).

    Best, of course, is something like MHI. A reader can pick up a book in the middle (I did), and be completely satisfied by that one book. But motivated now to get all of the previous books, and the following ones – and plan to buy the unpublished ones just as long as the author decides to push them out.

    Now, trad-pub was/is different. There, it can be the publisher pulling the plug, even with half a dozen or more things unresolved in any way. The reason that, if I ever sign a series contract, it will have a rock-solid clause that if they flat refuse to publish more in the series, and in a reasonable time frame – the world belongs to me, not them. I might find myself compressing things if they happen to be right – this stuff just doesn’t sell – but at least I won’t strand a reader (deliberately, there are Acts of God still…)

  7. “The lowing, lumbering masses simply do not recognize the brilliance of my work!”

    There. That oughta persuade the bastards.

    1. True. Insulting people is the best way to get them to recognize how brilliant you are by comparison. (nods sagely)

  8. Thanks, Amanda. This solidified something I’ve been thinking for a while about a series. I have one that has three books to go, already written, and it will finish. Another, I decided today, has a total of four more books in it (maybe three) to bring the story to a satisfying close, and it will end with all lose ends wrapped up and a happier-than-the-characters-anticipated ever after. I’ll have wrapped up the Powers sub-series as well, and the RajWorld books and whatever else bubbles up will be on the market.

  9. Addicted to your own series is an unfortunate state to be in. (Glances at mirror) And hard to get your mind out of it. I’ve got five stand-alones strewn about, from sketchy idea through completed rough draft. I need to get them done and out and see what sort of reception they get.

    It’s for my own good, right? (Don’t whine!) It’ll be fun!

    1. Ah, yes, the series where people simply won’t shut up and you have to give them new things to do. I have a passing familiarity.

      Today’s problem: If you are sitting in the courtyard of the sorcerer’s f-in’ yuge castle, and pointing at a mile long and very reflective space ship in geosynchronous orbit roughly over Africa, what constellation is it in?

      Also, if a bunch of other spacecraft in lower orbits happened to all fire their (ridiculously powerful) fusion drives up toward large evil space-squids and other drippy horrors approaching the ship at geosynchronous, would our spectators be able to see the sparkling detonations? Or would they need a telescope? Realistically I’m thinking telescope, but maybe if it was a really -big- expanding cloud of radioactive glowing atoms…

      The big one is going to fire her drive too, obviously, at the largest, drippiest squid of all. Yes, it is a she. Yes, she looks damn good in a grass skirt. That one the spectators are going to see, physics be damned. Close graze ionizing the atmosphere, disrupting the photons of the Handwavium Layer, I believe. Over-penetration, you know. Check your backstop before firing 900 meter wide plasma drive at gigantic evil squid.

      1. Let’s see. First off, when you say geosynchronous, are you orbiting equatorial (Africa, could be) or not? If they are north/south, the orbit will wobble — maintaining the same 24 hour orbit, staying at the same longitude, but changing latitudes (that’s what nerds do, you know, they change latitudes!). And, since the constellations are relatively fixed while the earth does its dance, you’ll need to figure in time — when during the day, when overall. That’s what horoscopes are for, after all, is figuring out where the darned fixed stars were on some date/time/location. So… might try something like http://www.astroviewer.com/index.php which supposedly will give you a view of the night sky for a location/time?

        Thanks! I must have enjoyed lunch, while I was figuring this out. Anyway, it’s gone, and I should probably send this off.

        1. A very nice site you linked to, Mike. Appreciate it.

          Lucky for me its a parallel universe, so I can safely make stuff up. After you mentioned astrology, I realized how much work it is to figure this out.

        1. I stole the constelation of the Drunken Rat. Magically acute eyesight lets them see.

    2. I don’t know how well it’s doing financially, but I’m still enjoying the Wine of the Gods series, but it could be argued that most of the books in the Empire are a different series.

      Loved the ending of First Posting. I should say that in a review, shouldn’t I? Off to Amazon.

      BTW: Is Christopher Nuttall a regular here? I’ve filed his stuff in my Mad Genius folder (almost to 150 books), but I’m not sure that’s right.

      1. Chris has commented here but I don’t think he’s not one of the “Official Mad Genius”.

        He comments most often on his Chrishanger Blog.

      2. The Wine of the Gods has an enthusiastic fan base of a couple hundred readers . . . I need a couple thousand to call it viable. The enthusiasm leads me to blame the low sales on my poor marketing. Branching out into Space Opera and Urban Fantasy might widen my name recognition. Only one way to find out.

        Then I need to get back into Cons (OMG! Speak in public!!!!), get a table and hand sell. Probably ought to get back onto the Bar . . .

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