Sunday, September 15, 2013

Guest Post by David Haywood Young

Hi everybody!

I say that sometimes on my blog, too, and it's a sort of private-to-me joke. Very nearly an entirely private joke: I don't have a lot of readers. Compared to some people.

But when I started I had none. Even my wife and my mom needed constant prodding! (In fact they still would, but I gave up on 'em...the traitors.)

These days, a couple of hundred people read each of my posts, and...well, I obviously ain't no Joe Konrath but I find that both flattering and humbling. As it says on my homepage, I'm not sure I even want to be the sort of wildly popular writer who can't respond to his readers. I love the interaction.

Okay, enough about me. (I would've also described myself as a Konrath groupie, but then I'd have had to tell you he doesn't know me from a hole in the ground, and then somebody would raise the obvious question...frankly I neither know nor care what he does with them, and neither should you. Best to let it lie, don't you think?)

Let me tell you what's different about this guest post: I'm not talking about any of my books. I'm not even linking to them. I'm confident enough in my plan for the next year that I can say this: frankly I don't think I need to plug anything here. Also, I don't think it would benefit me much in the long term even if I did.

(I don't think there's anything wrong with self-promotion, by the way. I'm just trying to make a point about an alternative approach to the problem.)

Bear in mind:

1)      Reviewers of my books (on Amazon) have generally been quite kind,
2)      My first novel sold fairly well for the first couple of months, but
3)      Current sales can't even climb out of reach the toilet, and
4)      My second novel never really sold at all even though I do get nice comments from its few readers (a self-inflicted wound, I think: my sense of humor won't let me change the title, and its cover sucked), but
5)      I'm nevertheless pleased as all hell with my writing career just now.

I'm here for the long haul. I need to generate material for various retailers' virtual shelves. I also need to connect with readers. Thing is? I can. It'll just take some work. So, for the near future, I'm going to use that shelf space a little differently than most. Than any, as far as I know, unless you folks want to come along with me. Which you're welcome to do.

All right. I'm coming at this whole writerly ambition thing from a software/entrepreneur background. I've posted about that before, and you can find that stuff if you want to. What gripes me most about the current indie publishing world? Customer lock-in at Amazon. The customers under discussion? We're them. As a business guy I have to say this: it sucks the bottom line.

I mean, let's face it. They've got us. We do our damnedest to send people over there to buy books. And why not? It works. They know who our actual repeat customers are. And they know better than to tell us. Since they also have a huge pool of potential first-time buyers handy, we're convinced we can't afford to take our toys and go home. We play in their sandbox, or—essentially—not at all.

Seriously? Doesn't that bug you? We advertise for them? I grok the necessity, but it's damn well backwards if we want to grow a long-term self-sustaining business for ourselves. Here's the neat part: I think we can improve the situation. I don't even think it'll be all that hard, as long as we're willing to work at it. And no, I'm not just talking about email lists...though I do think they're essential.

Right now I should tell you all about my new guaranteed way to do business without Amazon. That'd be cool. But I'm not going to tell you about a foolproof get-rich-quick scheme for indie writers (though of course I do have one). Nor am I going to tell you about the bright future indies have in traditional bookstores (though I'm wildly optimistic on that score too).

Incidentally, did you follow those links to my site? Sucker! Fun, though, I hope.

Seriously though: it's the counter-intuitive but dead-simple ideas that work. I did a goofy giveaway on my blog a little while back, in which instead of posting download links I personally emailed free e-copies of any book anybody asked me for, one to a customer (obviously on the honor system there), in any format they liked...for 30 days. I put a lot of work into the post explaining it all, trying to make the offer sound enticing. And a ton of work into getting all the books sent within 24 hours of the requests, with personal comments included if the requester had a blog or something. My wife was...supportive and pleased and exasperated as hell by the end of it. Maybe I'll wait till next year to do it again! {8'>

But every single one of the recipients has my personal email address and knows I'll talk to them. I got a few reviews and a few new beta readers out of the deal (and it was fairly recent, so there may well be more coming), but the main thing? Though the overall volume was a small fraction of what I could've done with a KDP giveaway, it was a hell of a lot more fun for all of us. And I think a bunch of these new people will stick with me. If I can continue to earn their attention. My opinion? Joe Konrath can't afford to do this sort of thing. But I can. So, as long as I'm willing to put the work in and I don't let it stop me from writing new stuff, I have a competitive edge. If so, I should use it, huh? My readership, though puny, can grow a lot (in a percentagewise sort of way) from a few efforts like this.

I'm doing another goofy thing in which I'll be writing a story about a character who likes a particular computer game. Oddness ensues. The character is a bit player from my first novel, so there's some potential to help re-goose that one (also the sequel I'm writing ought to help, and so will the first novel's eventual perma-free status).

Thing is, I'm doing this story in semi-collaboration with the game designers. We're going to try some cross-pollination between our audiences. And why not? It should be fun for everybody involved.

But here's my main topic for today: I'm doing something deceptively straightforward, both at Amazon and emphatically not.

1)      I'm posting a new free story on my blog every Wednesday. For a year.
2)      Each following week I'm publishing them via Smashwords (as freebies) and Amazon (as...well...$.99 specials, pending the elusive price-match).
3)      I provide links to retailers on my site so folks who feel the urge will have a handy way to go post a review if they like, or recommend the story to others...or whatever they choose to do.
4)      The biggest bit, simple as it is: each and every one of these stories, when posted at Amazon and elsewhere, will include language right on the “book description” page (and in a “Thanks for Reading!” section at the end of the ebook) telling folks about the weekly freebies on my blog. People will see that whether they buy the story or not.
5)      Yes, I'm continuing to write novels. Though, yes, at a slower pace.

Essentially? I'm trying to turn the tables on Amazon (to some extent) by using them to place a highly-targeted ad for my blog. Let their recommendation engines roar! Hell, I don't even have to make a sale for this to work. Anybody who finds any of my “Weekly Challenge” stories can: (1) go away, (2) buy the story, (3) at some point buy a story collection including the story they've found, or (4) come play with me at my place today. Or some combination of the above.

Let me ask you...which is of greater value? A $.99 sale, of which I get to keep $.35? Or bringing a reader to my blog, where if all goes well he/she will get in the habit of reading my fiction every week? Possibly even signing up to one of my mailing lists?

Kind of a no-brainer, isn't it? And here's a funny thing—my blog subscription email list, which I put off even creating for a long time, is growing more than three times as fast as my RSS subscriber pool (assuming Feedburner is roughly accurate on the RSS side of things). I had no idea how many people I was essentially turning away until I tried it. Which makes me feel kind of stupid, because I knew exactly how much my email list was worth when I ran an internet startup: essentially it was the only asset I owned that mattered. The same applied when I was doing freelance work, though in that case phone numbers mattered too. I did have a new-release-only list going already, but I was still kinda dumb.

I originally intended to put the stories into KDP Select, and in fact I did that with the first one. But I got pushback via blog comments, Twitter, and email. I can't say how much of that was genuine interest versus frustrated entitlement, but people flat didn't like it when I shut them out via Amazon-exclusive content. So I learned something there too.

Speaking of obvious stuff I missed going into this? Until recently I failed to grasp something so important it's kind of funny. It's out there for all to see, but I think nearly everybody is missing it. Let's recap: Amazon is giving less of a boost to indies (especially via KDP Select) than they used to. Thus, it's hard to sell much of anything unless you have a following or pay for an ad, and you kind of need a following to get enough reviews to place an effective ad. So...what's that mean? Should we panic? No, we should direct our efforts elsewhere. Because Amazon has made themselves much less important to indie writers than they used to be. I'm waiting for other people to notice this and come up with new strategies accordingly.

In fact...if we need to go find readers ourselves in order to get a sales “bump” to kick off Amazon's algorithms, why do we even need Amazon? Not that I'll go out of my way to stay away from their sites, but true fans we find for ourselves are probably at least somewhat portable. Seriously, just today a reader saw a post about some trouble I'd had with Amazon and asked me via email where I'd prefer she get my stuff in the future.

Feel free to discount all of the above. This isn't a success story. It's not a testimonial. I'm just telling you what I'm up to, because I think it will work. Possibly very well indeed. But if it doesn't? It doesn't really matter. I'll just try the next thing.

And thanks, Joe. You helped inspire me to go back to writing fiction. I'll make it work one way or another—this is, or will be, my third career (after professional poker and software development). Neither of the other two was easy to break into. I don't at all mind that I'll need to earn any success I attain in this new area over time. Sounds like a blast actually!

Oh, and if any of you guys are in the place where I used to be? Where you get a lot of value out of Joe's blog but haven't read his fiction? Well, if that's your spot, change it. I've now read most of his fiction. It's also a blast. Those books, I'll plug anywhere.

Did I mention I believe success will come from hard work and a bit of creativity? 'Cause I do. And nobody seems to be stopping me from finally doing what I've always wanted....

Joe: I applaud David for thinking outside the box, but will offer some unsolicited advice: Novels sell much better than short stories. At some point, while releasing a story once a week, consider releasing a segment of a serial novel, so at the end of the year you have a longer work or two. Those can then be put together and sell for $3.99, and you'll make more money in the long run. 

Also, I'm a good reminder that blog traffic isn't directly comparable to ebook sales. The first part of the zombie novel GRANDMA? that I'm writing with my son has sold 100 copies since we released it last week.

I'm a name brand with a popular blog and lots of bestselling titles, and that ebook--my latest--is selling lukewarmly. I expect it to pick-up as we add more installments, but so far I'm underwhelmed.

No one knows what sells, or why. Having a well-known name, lots of publicity, a brand, a blog, 10,000 Twitter friends--none of that makes people buy books. All of my experience points to the majority of my books sales due to Amazon's algorithms and website structure (reviews, bestseller lists, also bought, search engines.) Who I am outside of doesn't seem to matter much. 

So go for it, David, but keep your expectations modest, and remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It's smart to increase your virtual shelf space with a lot of content (provided it is good content) and if you can wrangle a novel or two out of your experiment, all the better.


Alistair McIntyre said...

Me and my crew have been punting around ideas to push (or change) the boundaries that most new indies accept as immovable constraints, so I'm glad to see you thinking outside the box. As you say, the boosts from current Amazon features are dwindling, so the next round of spoils will go to those who invent/discover the next big promo mechanic.

As Joe implied, it might not work, but you won't know until you try. Better to fail and learn than to repeat the same old mistakes that everyone else commits daily.

David Haywood Young said...


My thinking exactly. Thanks!


The blog feeds the mailing list. And I'm planning a new novel every couple of months but want to get ahead by one before I announce it on the blog. And a couple of my stories thus far are likely to become part of an episodic novel later on.

The whole thing looks just like a software company to me. I have some more stuff to try as I go along. We'll see how it goes.

Shaun Worr said...

@joe: GRANDMA? Part 1 link should be

Looks like you pasted the text of the guest blog as the link

Hollis Shiloh said...

I applaud your trying new things and hope it works well for you!

I just wanted to share my experience. I started self-publishing in my genre this year, 2013. I've also had something professionally published and more things coming, this year and next year.

But I'm currently only self-publishing through Amazon. For promotion, pretty much my only thing is setting free days through KDP.

For the title I wrote for Joe's 8 hour challenge, [] I ended up giving away close to 800 copies, I believe. Three people left reviews. That title is currently selling a couple of copies a day. And so is another book I set free for a few days. And so on. I have 17 titles out now, and they seem to trade off which ones do well. But overall, stories are selling each day, and when I do giveaways, I don't have to spend time on it. Amazon handles it, finding my readers and new ones who will be willing to give my things a try since they're free.

I'm not saying it's foolproof. But it's working right now. I have a much bigger "market share" with my self-publishing through Amazon than I would by only going through publishers, and I'm having fun. I keep putting some titles out on my own and trying to sell others through publishers,'s great. I love Amazon, what can I say?

Sorry for rambling on. And I do hope your strategy works well for you!

Walter Knight said...

Thinking outside the box is the key, but Amazon still leads in innovative thinking.

Just today I viewed my books on Kindle Japan and China. Don't know what I was reading, but it was a kick.

Rachel said...

I agree with Joe about releasing a series of short stories that are tied into each other, rather than entirely separate. After all, that's how the whole Wool Omnibus Series got started.

I would also recommend doing the first one of the series for free, since a lot of readers (myself included) are heavily interested in free e-books.

If you add your short story to sites that offer free e-books, and put a link to your book in your free story, that will also get you traffic.

And not to be too self-promoting, but I just wrote a guest post on how to help build your author platform (which is code for selling more books of course :))

I'll add one thing about Amazon, and that is that most authors don't realize that as popular as it is, you still need to drive traffic to it. Since I'm in the IM space to some extent, I see all the various gambits and tricks that marketers are trying to use to get stuff seen.

As far as your trailer: I like how persistent you were in figuring out a low cost solution to get your trailer done. Nothing like being money-challenged to stir creativity!

I like the style of it, and you have a great voice too. I would change your trailer, however, so that it gives me your book's premise.

I love all things medical, and am one of those people who reads weird medical texts for no reason. But even I couldn't really tell what your book was about, and if I'd encountered your book anywhere else other than this blog, I might have missed out on a great read....

Scott Marmorstein said...

Doesn't it seem like, if we took all our creative energy and really put it into writing novels, and then selling them somewhere, that we will be the most effective long term? I'm not against writing short stories or whatever. I'm also realistic about the fact that we can only write so much in a day before our fingers feel like they're gonna fall off our hands, but yeah...more novels, more borrowing of characters from one story and cameo-ing them into another seems like an excellent strategy. Stephen King has done it. All he's written (for the most part) are long, really damn long, novels. And it's worked. Because he took all that strong creative energy and mostly put it into novels. I'm not comparing any of us to him. I'm saying that the ideas we have and the impulses we have may be best served in placing it in a well crafted, fun to read, novel.

David Haywood Young said...


I've tried KDP, but I got all sorts of pushback from readers. My very favorite example was a reader who'd downloaded a sample of one of my novels, then found I'd pulled it from B&N to put it in KDP for 90 days, and tracked me down to my website. I sent her a free EPUB. But the exclusivity just really irritated people--funny what you find when you start grabbing readers from outside the Amazon hothouse (most people find me via Twitter, about which I could irritate lots of people with a different blog post entirely).


Frankly I don't know what that means, or how to apply it. {8'>


As I told Joe, some of my stories are already linked. I didn't post this because I was unaware of what other people were doing...more that I'm doing something a bit different and wanted to share the notion. I agree that traffic has to be driven to "Amazon"--but that could be B&N/Kobo/iBooks/Smashwords or our own sites just as easily. A mailing list is probably our second-most valuable asset (after copyrights). This is well-known in nearly every other type of internet business.


...Maybe? I'm writing novels too. I can get the stories out much faster. {8'>

I can't do a novel-per-week thing. This is my attempt to try out a bunch of interlocking theories. The "write and wait to get lucky" strategy, though it demonstrably works sometimes, is thoroughly discredited in the software world, where the cool kids are using stuff in the "Lean Startup" space these days. It's a methodology that works very well for bootstrapped (as opposed to "funded by VC money") startups. I see lots of parallels between a software startup and a newbie writer of fiction--possibly because I've done the startup thing for decades now.

Another of my notions (not mentioned in the post above) is that I strongly suspect going off to write a novel, then putting it out to see what happens, then writing another, is...well, a terrible idea from a strictly business perspective. It works fine if you know what your customers want, and also who your customers are, and they'll stick with you between releases. Or if you just get and stay lucky. OTOH a core of engaged readers will enable much shorter feedback loops. If you see writing as a noble solitary art form, none of that matters. If you want to learn as quickly as you can what the readers actually like about your stuff, and to test new ways to incorporate (or play with) those features...short feedback loops are essential.

I'm trying to make as few assumptions as I can, and go with the following questions:

1) What if "promotion" isn't as important as providing easily-demonstrated ongoing value to actual customers/readers?

2) What if focusing on Amazon (or any retailer) instead of readers is precisely equivalent to what we criticize traditional publishers for (meaning their focus on distributors rather than readers)?

3) What if tying ourselves to a single retailer is like writing software that relies on Microsoft Office and could be made obsolete by the platform owner at any time, and can only be justified by a high probability of significant short-term cash?

4) What if I don't know what all that means, but am willing to do what it takes to find out?

More coming from me, though probably not on Joe's blog. This is already kinda "out there" for most writers, I think. If I start getting decent results I'll speak up more. I'll also do more.

Alan Spade said...

David, I'm grateful for this post by an author who think outside the box.

One thing I have to say about Amazon, is that they are reassuring to customers, because they are seen as "legitimate". I try to make readers buy on my website, but I'm no programer, and it's very difficult.

However, I believe what you do, David, is not only useful as an example for authors, but also for the Amazon ebook's team, who can learn and try to improve.

Here are some of the things I've done in order to gain more publishing freedom and independance :

- Published the three ebooks of my Ardalia trilogy on Amazon, but the trilogy as one ebook (price : €12.49) only on Apple, Kobo/Fnac and my website because of Amazon €9.99 limit for the 70% royalty. I have sold some on Kobo/Fnac, and it's nice making 70% of a €12.99 ebook.

- I just released a short story at €0.49 on Apple and my website, but sold it at €0.99 on Amazon and Kobo/Fnac because it's not possible to sell it for a lower price there. Hoping Amazon will price-match.

- I also sell paper books on my website with LSI (and Createspace on Amazon). In my ebooks, I have an ad at the end about my special offer, for two books bought, the third offered + the ebooks free and the delivery free. (To be honest, no success, there.)

- I matched the Kindle MatchBook on my blog : not only I have decided to make my Amazon's ebooks free if my readers have the paper books (it begins in october), but if my readers send me a picture of them with my book, I send them the ebook at the format of their choice. It's important because since 2010 I've hand-sold more than 2000 paper books.

- I do perma-free ebooks, which is a strategy opposed to Amazon's punctual promo with KDP Select. I'm not a big fish for sure, but I have an ebook (short story) who was downloaded 15k times on Apple store only, and it's nice. It does not bring me many sales, though.

Merrill Heath said...

David, you make some interesting points and I like your entrepreneurial spirit. Here are my responses to the questions you posed earlier.

1) What if "promotion" isn't as important as providing easily-demonstrated ongoing value to actual customers/readers?

I don't think it is. The best promotion is a great story or novel. Word of mouth is still what sells. If you sell a lot of ebooks, most of those will be to people who don't know you, are not your friends on fb or followers on Twitter, and are buying your book because someone told them they should check it out. And, of course, the more stories you have for sale, the more sales you'll make. Some people who are having a lot of success selling ebooks say don't even worry with promotion until you have 4-5 books available.

2) What if focusing on Amazon (or any retailer) instead of readers is precisely equivalent to what we criticize traditional publishers for (meaning their focus on distributors rather than readers)?

I'm not sure what you mean by "focusing on Amazon." As an author/self-publisher you aren't focusing on Amazon. Amazon is simply the delivery mechanism. How do you focus on Amazon?

3) What if tying ourselves to a single retailer is like writing software that relies on Microsoft Office and could be made obsolete by the platform owner at any time, and can only be justified by a high probability of significant short-term cash?

One good thing about ebooks is that they can easily be sold through numerous retailers. If you put everything up on KDP Select and you later become disappointed with the sales, with their policies, or even if they suddenly became obsolete (which won't happen), you still have a product you can easily make available through other retailers. With ebooks (today) you own the content, not the retailer.

But Amazon is the 500 lb gorilla right now. Nobody sells ebooks better than Amazon. They have the best marketing, the best cross-promotion, and the best delivery system. Their books can be read on virtually all devices through their kindle apps. Some of my books are available on all the major players and some are only on Amazon. But 99% of my sales come through Amazon, even for those books that are available elsewhere.

4) What if I don't know what all that means, but am willing to do what it takes to find out?

I think it's prudent to experiment. Try writing in different genres, different lengths, different perspectives, different pricing, etc. I equate it with fishing for bream. You work your way along the bank, trying different spots and different bait, until you find what works. Then you get a lot of lines in the water as quickly as possible.

But regardless of what you write or how you market it, the key is to keep adding new work to your portfolio. You have to feed the beast. When I discover a new (to me) author, I tend to buy several books. If I like those I'll keep buying and reading until I've completed his/her body of work. If that's only 2 novels, then the author only made 2 sales. OTOH, if the author has 10 or 15 or 20 novels available, he/she has the opportunity to make 10 or 20 sales - not counting the other people who buy his/her books based on my recommendation.

Not everything works for everyone. If it did it would be easy and we'd all have best sellers.

David Haywood Young said...


It's a tough business for sure. I think the weekly stories have started to make people feel they can count on my. I've been asked several times if I intend to sell directly from my site--and the answer is yes, but not right away. It's not hard to set up (I did it once via a free WordPress plugin), but I have very specific requirements and may end up doing something a little weird. :-)


Thanks for reading and commenting! I have more stuff to say now. {8'>

1) I sort of agree. However, the only way I know to sell a lot of ebooks is to jump-start the process. It's unlikely to happen unless an "outside" factor inspires sales at a given retailer. Which is why BookBub works for some people, and why KDP Select used to be nice, and why it's great to be well-known and have a fanbase. What I'm doing is building that fanbase. It's working...and it's why a mailing list is important. I goosed sales a little while ago with an email--nothing spectacular, but it was nice to see it work in practice. As I get more subscribers it'll work better.

2) Lots of writers put all their effort into trying to make Amazon work for them, instead of reaching out directly to readers. I don't really care about Amazon per se...every ebook of mine invites people to my blog. I do other stuff to lure people to my blog, including this post. It's a matter of where I spend my time/effort, and why.

3) For my second novel sales were poor all around (for lots of reasons, I think, many of them good)...but sales were significantly better on both B&N and Google Play than on Amazon. Then I pulled it elsewhere to try KDP Select, which was totally unhelpful. If you focus on Amazon, you'll probably sell better there than elsewhere. The people I'm finding through other means are not always Amazon customers. Also, I'm concerned about reliance on any single retailer--if all my readers use them, it's not so simple to find new ones elsewhere. Especially if I haven't tried to pull them to my blog and mailing lists as I've gone along.

4) I like the fishing analogy! But I think there's more scope for experimentation than just writing different sorts of stuff, publishing it, and watching to see what happens. The whole indie publishing world looks a lot like the software biz did twenty years ago. If you get me going I'll talk about the structure of the internet and the value of matching your business's structure to its distributed architecture, and why ebook content-hosting will fail as a business model but content-indexing will always have value, and then I'll get weird on you. There is a LOT more to think about here than most writers are willing to acknowledge. Still, I completely agree that continually adding new content is necessary. Except for the lucky people anyway. :-)

McVickers said...

Please don't take this the wrong way but perhaps you could try using more professional looking covers for your books? Those, uh, look very amateurish. Then again, I'm just not a big fan of using real photos on covers. Sometimes I think people just spend too much time trying to "game" the system instead of concentrating on what really matters -- like writing.

wordwan said...

David ... Nice blog post. I can always count on you to think and speak clearly. Too bad some people don't get this.

But then, they'll just lose out. *grin* Oh well. *grin*

I like this:

"It works fine if you know what your customers want, and also who your customers are, and they'll stick with you between releases"

Amazon is not a church. But we believe in it as such. And when someone COMES for you and requires you to write, "I will not tell lies" with a black quill pen, I guess you'll put up with it.

*knowing smile*

Anything for a sale, huh? Including the blood that nourishes you. And others.


I'm done.

Thanks, David.


David Haywood Young said...


Opinions do vary on covers. Thanks for your well-meant and helpful comments.

Also, perhaps you're right and my creating a story every week, plus novels every few months, doesn't count as real writing activity. I guess you spotted that it's just a form of gaming the system. And my notion of coming up with a strategy for the publication of the resulting fiction is clearly impure. Too bad for me then. I suppose I'll get my just desserts eventually. I hope you'll enjoy your more appropriate forms of writing and strategizing.

If you don't like what I wrote, please do feel free to respond to any of my actual points. Or not. Whichever.


Thanks :-)

I knew going in that this wasn't going to be a slam dunk. It's funny, 'cause from my POV I'm not the one who seems to be thinking outside the box--I've seen/experienced the eventual result of platform dependence many times. What used to work rarely still does, and those who profited from a strategy that was once effective are not necessarily best qualified to judge new ideas. It's just how the game works. And I can't promise anything anyway--I'm just here to share a few ideas, and ideally to make a connection or two, and to get interesting feedback. Oh, and to promote my blog to those who find this stuff interesting. {8'>

Alistair McIntyre said...

David, I shot you an email through your site. Just letting you know.

Scott Marmorstein said...

I'm a little confused, I guess. When did writing have anything to do with the software movement? I realize there's a business in writing. But the business (as far as I'm concerned) ought to be about the writing. It seems like we learn as we grow in our effort to put thought to page.

I think Joe Konrath already pointed out that a person's 4 first novels are gonna suck. I'm getting 3 of those out of the way with my first trilogy. That being said, my writing is getting exponentially better with each sitting and writing. I'm 33 and have been writing since I was 15. Every single day. Without fail. By now I feel I have more than put in my 10k hours.

I just don't see the feedback loops for shorter works thing. Again, I'm not saying don't write a fine short story every week. But it seems to me that the pace of it will water down the real juicy magic you can invest into one piece that takes 2 weeks. A small piece.

Look, I don't have any answers. I don't think I know better. It just seems like this approach is a little...too oriented towards the bottom line of money grabbing. I'm sure you write because you love it. Love it. Anyway, what do I know?

David Haywood Young said...


I got the email, but my reply bounced...did you mistype your email address?


Writing fiction has an awful lot in common with writing code, especially for small startup companies--even more so for one-person companies, about which there's quite a lot of info online (you can look up "Micro-ISV" to get an idea of what I'm talking about). I've done both. On a day-to-day basis I don't see much difference.

Either way you're building stuff, and both can be (but aren't necessarily) creative endeavors. From a business perspective...they're very nearly identical. But the software world is quite a bit more sophisticated in how products are developed and sold. If you're truly interested I suggest reading about "Lean Startup" and "Customer Development" strategies, and maybe a bit about successful product launches. I see no obvious reason to expect that there's nothing to learn from it.

But hey, I don't know anything either about what will actually work today for new indies. I just see that what used to work for indies no longer does, and there are lots of parallels between indie publishing and other stuff I used to do, and I have ideas about how to take advantage of them. So I'm starting to try a few of 'em out.

David Haywood Young said...


Originally I was just going to ignore the rest of what you said, 'cause it strikes me as off topic. But I think you mean what you say, and I'm glad you're doing your thing. Plus you seem to be a decent guy in general.

I guess I'd suggest checking out Dean Wesley Smith's series of posts on "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing"...regardless of whether you agree with him, it'll give you an idea of where I'm coming from. 'Cause he's inspired me quite a bit.

Yes, I love writing. Yes, I'd like to make a living at it (though truthfully at this point in my life I don't have to). If that seems wrong to you...well, okay. I thought it was the main thrust of this blog, though: "Is it possible to make a living as a genre fiction writer? Yes it is."

None of which means I'm right about anything. Just...shouldn't it be okay to share thoughts like this? If I were posting on the craft of writing, the content would be different. But I wasn't. Should that be interpreted to mean that I couldn't do so, or that I don't care about any other topics I didn't cover? Some seem to think so. Nothing I can do about that.

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Scott Marmorstein said...


I guess I'm just a little old fashioned. I don't get the connection between coding and writing. Like I said, don't have any answers and I can't purport to know more about writing than anyone else here, least of all you. What I like about your post and in your responses here is your confidence and your zeal for shaking things up. Thanks for taking time to respond to me. I sincerely hope your endeavors do a lot for your career and for others.

Steven M. Moore said...

Hi David,
I tried most of your techniques and am still in author limbo after 12 (soon to be 14) books. I've bundled short stories that are free on my website twice to make anthologies (the latest due out real soon now), and serialized one novella (it will be in the new anthology) and one novel (in the "Clones and Mutants Series," soon to be a trilogy). I've given books away to public libraries and via KDP Select when I saw those numbers going down (probably many of the freebies were snatched up by blog readers). It's a tough business, even if you're more interested in entertaining readers than making money.
Joe is right, methinks, in saying that the best tactic is to write the next book. Otherwise, sit back and have fun, knowing that some lucky few win the lottery.

Amanda said...

Great post and wonderful ideas! I've been thinking up "goofy" ideas too, this blog has only created more ideas and incentive to stop sitting on them! I love the humor you write with while getting your serious points across so much that I checked out your site. Good luck with everything, the world needs more people thinking outside the box! (can't wait for my ereader to get fixed so I can check out your books that you did not self-promote on this blog!) :)

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