Nine and Sixty Ways of Constructing Tribal Lays

“The other day” I was talking to a person, and when they were complaining about End Of The World for ebooks, I said, “Eh, it can’t be that bad, and we’ll survive it fine. Don’t you remember the KDPapocalyse and the huge shakeup from KU1 to KU2, and the Kobo-pornopocalypse? This, too, will pass.”

They made noises of pure confusion, and I realized… Indie is over 10 years old, and Peter and I have been there since pretty much the beginning. (Don’t ask me about working the Christmas rush inside Amazon when the world suddenly decided it wanted kindles, and e-readers went from a weird niche geek beta-test market to The Hot Christmas Gift. Because you are on the other side of a screen, and can’t hand me brandy enough for that story…) The person I was speaking to hadn’t been indie for 3 years, yet. They didn’t know The History Of Our Tribe.

Well, sure, when you’ve got a whole two years under your belt, any change is profound and scary, because you’ve never seen it before. Ask any two year old when their blankie gets taken away to be washed…

And thus, I find the advice given by those who’ve been around for quite a while tends to be very different from the advice from those who haven’t. One is very focused on the now, and one is very focused on the career. Neither are wrong (unless you ask the other!), and both have their strong points and their weaknesses. The present-focused folks, including the write-to-market crowd, are running as fast as they can to maximize current earnings, including running trend analysis on subgenres to distinguish underserved from saturated markets, and figure out how to serve those markets. (some with write to market, some with writing what they want, and then marketing to underserved subgenres.)

Like K-lytics:

If you’re looking at how to make writing a job that you can grind out to keep the bills paid and the kids fed, present-focused will serve you well. And for some folks, especially those with health situations that make holding a regular job impossible, that’s very valuable. But the more able-bodied will find that the job is a grind, and they’re not having fun. They they think, “This sucks. This is stressful. Why am I doing this when I hate it?” And there are two choices: change the job so you don’t hate it, or get a different job. And thus, of the initial wave of success, a lot have turned into “Whatever happened to?”

Some are still writing, but at a vastly reduced rate – they’re doing it as a hobby, while their Day Job pays the bills. Some switch pen names, and are doing Quite Well, as they’ve kept turning out product in other genres / subgenres. Many disappeared – and of their books, some went so far as to unpublish everything, and quit the field entirely, while others have wandered off and left their stories up for sale like championship trophies growing dusty in a high school’s trophy wall, telling the world they had championship track stars in ’77 – while those track stars have long since gone on to unrelated lives. Some, sadly, have died.

On the other hand, if you’re looking at how to still be writing in 20 years, and be doing Fairly Comfortably at managing you IP licensing across many, many properties, best to hear from the people who’ve actually done it.

Like Dean Wesley Smith:

And Kris Rusch:

What’s the best way forward? Both. Neither. Find what works best for you, at this point and what’s down the road… because there are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, and every single one is right.


  1. I find myself in the position of writing what I want. If I make a bazillion bucks, I’ll find some worthy way to spend it. If I never make a single dime,oh well, so be it. Nobody in my house is gonna starve. Y have zero flips to give about about writing to market. I’ve been rich before. I was never unhappier. I forget who first said this, but $$$ is simply how you keep score of the pleasure or service you’ve given to other people. That is its major importance to me – keeping score.

  2. I remember seeing that image before.

    I see truth in it, truth I could stand to work on exploiting better.

    I also recall making or seeing made a comment on the possibility of being profoundly anti-talented with body language.

    1. Yep. Past a certain point of exhaustion, rather than spending plenty of time on royalty-free sites looking for the perfect image, I instead look through our image archives and say “these have already been vetted as okay to use; why not use them again?”

      As I have reached the point of the year in which I am violently allergic to what’s blooming (salt cedar and junipers), I am spending my energy carefully and taking shortcuts where it won’t make much of a difference.

    2. I also recall making or seeing made a comment on the possibility of being profoundly anti-talented with body language.

      People on the autism spectrum often have difficulty with body language, both reading and producing. They miss cues, and fail to send the appropriate signals — and even when formally taught, still come across as “off” because they’re consciously performing instead of responding intuitively. It has to do with the mirror neurons in the brain not developing typically.

      1. Difficult? Yes, more so than average. Impossible? Nope. Met plenty of folks on the spectrum who can read a room and work it just fine, because they worked at it. Especially when in highly formalized settings with roles – like business meetings, being “the consultant”, and briefings. Even at science fiction conventions: they will take a stereotyped role, and then interact with people through “the XYZ fan” or “cosplay character ABC” role.

        As a profoundly high end on the spectrum housemate said, “Autism is not synonymous with asshole!” He was even more irritated with a gentleman of our acquaintance than I was, and I was the one who was being creeped on, with ‘I’m autistic; I don’t understand your body language.’ as the excuse when called on it.
        And, in fact, my housemate (who had some rather profound quirks of his own) made very good money at a job he loved – because he knew how to read other people’s body language through much learning, and knew exactly how to manipulate his own to manipulate them. Also, because he was profoundly good at math, and infrastructure (“They make sense, unlike all you meat-brained monkeys.”)

        And yes, I get irritated at people telling folks “if you’re anywhere on the spectrum you can’t do this. You shouldn’t even try.” Which I’ve seen all too often as a cop-out.

    1. Sometimes it is an accounting thing, or a major family/career change thing. “I’m a different person now than I was then, and I don’t feel comfortable having [those books] out with my name on them.” (The individual I spoke with had been through some huge life changes, and had written the books while in a very bad spiritual place.)

    1. Skill, but not talent. And for those who’ve habitually slouched, even sitting up straight requires attention and practice.

      Heck, I know three different body languages depending on which culture I’m interacting with, and switch between them as needed. Which has kept my butt out of a lot of trouble, too!

      But I picked the image because this post is all about where and how to focus the passion, effort, energy, and work ethic on the work ethic you’re going to be doing – and that’s all skill, not talent. It’s showing up every day, and putting in the time and effort, and working on improving skills, and deciding whether to focus on the next quarter, or the next 20 years, and how you’re going to apply those skills accordingly. Which, is rather that list in the picture, eh?

      1. Thing is, the body language thing sticks out like a sore thumb on that list– the rest are just work. Not talent/skill/ability, just hard work.

        It’s like adding “good looks” rather than “basic grooming.”

        1. Nah, not really. A lot are “just work” once you have the skills to work at them.

          Being on time? That’s a whole skill set employed to a single aim. I’ve watched subordinates struggle to learn how, when coming from manana and ghetto cultures, to be consistently on time. (It’s very hard when you have no role models at home to teach you!) It involves skills like setting up a morning routine, and learning the standard disruptions and how to route around them. It involves the skill of knowing when to be in bed so they can be awake enough in the morning to get everything done.

          It involves learning to plan your laundry so you have clean clothes, practicing getting dressed and cooking breakfast in the allotted time. Which isn’t easy; some of these girls have 1.5 hour “getting showered, dressed, and putting my face on” routines, and they have to learn to simplify and streamline in order to cut that to merely 30 minutes in the morning. Which they’ve never had to do before, in some cases not since they dropped out of school as soon as legally they weren’t forced back.

          It involves learning rush hour traffic patterns in the big city, and learning to check the traffic report, and learning to plan the rest of your morning schedule around anticipated delays – all under the threat of being fired if they’re late too often.

          Heck, being coachable is a learned skill. How many articles have you seen on learning how to take criticism and deal with feedback? Because it’s a set of skills, and it has to be practiced. That is the “just work” part, but the knowing how has to come before the work can be meaningful.

          Seriously, learning how to stand up straight, be alert, greet people (with something other than “Yo, bitch, wassup”), shake hands, pull your pants up and walk in straight, purposeful line instead of a lazy pants-around-knees amble, look people in the eye when talking to them, not snap your fingers in someone’s face for emphasis, not pull out your cell phone and start thumbing at it when someone’s talking to you… body language is a learned set of skills, and what’s perfectly appropriate in a home culture is not always in a work setting. But work setting body language is just another set of skills to be practiced.

          1. But none of what you list as “body language” is body language. It’s just a mechanics set– it’s like learning to follow a chart. It’s not the whole “reading what they’re not saying from how they stand” stuff.

            Argh, language barrier hitting again (how dare English not match what I’m trying to say? Oh, wait, ironic alignment….)

            It’s like manners vs charm.

            Anybody can learn basic manners, at least if they’re of basic intelligence. Literally, a three year old can do it.

            Not everybody can learn how to be charming, how to use the manners– and NOT use them– in a way that makes most other folks go “Oh, yeah, I like you.”

            They might mean “don’t be insulting in your body language and/or behaviors” and that just doesn’t fit in the line like that…..

            1. Everybody can learn basic manners. And advanced manners. And, at it’s most basic, that’s what body language is. It’s manners and mannerisms that are appropriate in certain situations.

              I seriously spent years learning how to function in polite society because it wasn’t something that came naturally to me and my first instinct is still to be awkward and horrible. But I learned how to do it and I know others who have, as well. It comes more naturally to some but it’s a learned skill, not an innate talent. And, honestly, the people who it comes more naturally to are likely to be people who spent time studying it in their youth but didn’t know they were doing so.

              1. Exactly!

                It’s just that “basic manners” isn’t all of body language– even before you get into regional variances– it’s just related.

                I spent the last six months doing a “step back because everybody is too close” thing in part because of body language with regional differences, and I’m still training the kids about the whole “look, you can’t just go through there because there’s a space.”

                But manners has been maimed, badly; that still doesn’t make body-language into manners.

                1. It kind of does, though? Body language is how you convey manners before you speak. In certain societies, you respect people’s personal space. In others, you get close enough to prove you trust them. Learning how to read that and what’s appropriate is a skill.

                2. Manners is how you make other people comfortable in social situations. That’s the basic point of being polite and that takes in more than just saying hello and keeping your phone out of your face long enough for basic introductions.

                    1. *voice drips poison*
                      Well, bless her heart.

                      (yes, that is the easiest example that came to mind, I suck at the “cutting them cold” stuff)

                  1. Which still doesn’t make “body language” the same thing.

                    They really should’ve gone with “basic manners” or something similar, exactly because it recognizes a requirement for a shared culture or framework.

                    One of my husband’s big peace maker things was exactly this– he “translated” between the guys whose manners were that crossing your arms with hands tucked inside was a polite way of going “I am not a threat” to the guys for whom standing there with your arms crossed was a “F off, you SOB” gesture.

                    When it takes a freaking anime geek with a fixation on animation and thus body language to stop a fifteen year log argument between two groups of people who both have good will? It ain’t a basic skill.

                    Now, what they DID display IS a basic skill– they didn’t go to war over it, they were polite, and didn’t tear the parish apart– they just were really not friendly, at all, and it impacted events.

                    They assumed the best of the other, and when stuff got “tense” went into a default polite stance.

                    Manners is how you make people know there is a shared framework for communication; they’re still going to be uncomfortable, most likely, but they don’t have to worry about an attack.

            2. Oh, and charm. Let me tell you about charm. I’ve watched an introverted, awkward, terribly odd teenager become the most charming person you’d ever met because he recognized that this was the time to be “on”. He learned from his great-grandparents how to work a crowd. His great-grandmother actually sat down with him when he was about 7 and broke down what she was doing, how and why. It’s a lesson he’s never forgotten and you honestly wouldn’t recognize the two young men if you didn’t see the one turn into the other.

            3. If English isn’t meaning what you’re trying to say, perhaps you are trying to attach the wrong concepts to something that already has a definition.

              Learning body language and how to use it is a set of skills, not a talent.

              “Manners” is a set of culture-specific social cues to convey respect, tolerance, and “politeness”, and involves body langues, and spoken language, and appropriate use of both toward people perceived as either higher and lower in the social status, in order to present and reinforce one’s own place in the status and reinforce the cultural norms.

              Again, skill, not a talent.

              “Charm” can be learned and applied without much conscious thought beyond I get positive feedback when I do this / negative when I do that, or it can be broken down into a set of skills and applied with conscious thought and learning. Small children will learn that by acting cute after doing omething bad, they can get out of punishment. Watching them pour on the charm when they’re intentionally guilty, and be so confused and angry at the universe when it doesn’t work, is rather amusing. (It’s not nearly as amusing in adults.) Adults, on the other hand, may literally attend a charm school so they can learn what they should be paying attention to, and what is important in the social cues.

              Skill, not a talent.

              Now, rather than get further down this rathole, let me ask you this: What has a bee up your bonnet about body language that you’re determined to skim until offended, move the goalposts, redefine the terms, and ignore any evidence to the contrary?

              And why in the bloody blue blazes did you decide that the freakin’ picture for the post was the hill you had to die on, and nary a single word about the content of the post?

              1. I am an asshole, have difficulties with body language which I have worked on, and need to work on them a lot more. And posture. And manners.

                Really have no interest in developing charm.

                Body language is a huge topic of frustration for me. I didn’t think I would learn anything about or the other items from the comments, and I’ve learned a lot. And some other stuff relevant to my professional interests from your own anecdotes.

                As for the topic of the post, it is something that regular readers here may get to some degree without it being explicitly said. It feels more oriented to new folk. I am also having trouble with some pollen, and my current career interests (as opposed to hobby interests) are not creative writing. I probably should have found the discipline to shut up, since I had nothing to add to the main topic.

              2. Skill, not a talent.
                Now, rather than get further down this rathole, let me ask you this: What has a bee up your bonnet about body language that you’re determined to skim until offended, move the goalposts, redefine the terms, and ignore any evidence to the contrary?

                I did not skim until offended or otherwise, I did not move goal posts, nor did I attempt to redefine terms nor ignore evidence.

                I merely do not agree with your graphic. And I gave reasons why, and tried– in good faith– to convey what the disagreement was, by rephrasing and even examples.

                Since that apparently pisses you off to the point that communication is not going to happen– *shrug*

                  1. ???

                    What list?

                    I was politely disengaging from the conversation, after it became clear that there would be only heat, not light.

                1. I came here today to find myself metaphorically eating the popcorn.

                  I think Foxifier means “tells,” which are body language, but ones that lead to cold reading, a psychological process that can appear almost magical.

                  Funnily this techniques is used by mentalist-magicians for their stage acts. Derren Brown being the go to example.

  3. Ah, I remember the transitions. The end of the world, it was. And, honestly, for some people it was. It went from this is awesome and worth it to meh, a fun hobby. I know a lot of people who paid off mortgages under KU 1.0 who had to get a day job with 2.0 because their model stopped working.

    Personally, I think focusing on the long term is the best plan. It’s not as immediately rewarding but it’s less soul-crushing.

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