Fiction Writing MMG

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AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

That's a good point on the risk of getting discouraged if book #1 isn't as successful as you want. The more I practice writing and read published author's accounts, the more I realize you need to be in this for the long haul. Better to work sustainably on the psychological front.

frihet
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by frihet »

I have been enjoying John Michael Greer’s blog posts about becoming successful as a writer.

Hopefully it is of interest to the aspiring writers in this thread too. Four parts so far.

One of his strongest tips is to start with non-fiction actually and there is a very good mathematical reason for that. 80% of what people want to publish is fiction but 80% of what gets published is nonfiction.

https://www.ecosophia.net/writing-as-mi ... nd-perish/

https://www.ecosophia.net/writing-as-mi ... the-world/

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

Thanks for the posts, @frihet. That is interesting stuff. Looking into writing non-fiction may be really useful if one is looking to break in.

I've been watching Sanderson's lectures on how to break in. He has one here about traditional publishing and another here about indie publishing. Here are my main takeaways from it.

1. Traditional publishing pretty much only gets you the publisher's brand and distribution chain for physical books. You still need to do 95% of the marketing for your own book, and your royalties are less.
2. Because of how the ebook market has undercut the middle market, traditional publishers now are only really look for "the next biggest hit" with wide appeal. If you are a midlister or have a niche market, indie/self-publishing may be a better fit.
3. Amazon controls 80% of the ebook market, so if you go indie, you are going to have to deal with the Amazon ecosystem, which is borderline predatory sometimes. You'll get about 70% royalties but it's neigh impossible to break in without paying major ad money on Amazon because of how they changed their recommendation system.
4. You used to break into the indie scene by having a large platform somewhere else (social media, blog, etc) and using that to drive attention to your books, but this has (perhaps mercifully) changed in recent years. Now you break in by having 12 or so novels pre-written then releasing one a month for a year. Your next book is the best advertising.
5. Ebook market favors shorter books that are page turners/thrillers with a clear niche, traditional is for longer, more complex, more general books.
6. 20 To 50k is a good group to go to for more information with how to break into indie. The premise behind the group is that writing 20 books will net you 50k/year in royalties.
7. Output and consistency are key. The idea that you are going to write one single, amazingly great novel to break in is not a very reliable method. Expect that this may take awhile, you will have to chase trends, and genre/pulp fiction is going to sell better than a philosophical postmodern deconstructionist epic on the nature of the human condition.
8. Having a website and a mailing list are your two best marketing tools. Blogs are hit or miss these days because people increasingly do not read them. Social media can be hit or miss too, but Facebook and Instagram appear to be the best platforms.
9. Going to conventions to meet agents and publishers is very important. Follow what's popular, read the acknowledgements to find who that author had as an agent or publisher, track these people down at conventions and try to give them your manuscript.
10. Brandon says he would try to break in with a hybrid approach if he was trying in the current climate. That is, write some stuff that might be a good fit for traditional and some that's a good fit for indie.

So, this being said, I am changing my strategy as follows:

1. I think I'm going to try to target the indie market first because it seems like a better fit for the stuff I write, which is more niche.
2. I need to be way more genre aware than I am. I am considering hunting down a kindle somehow and starting to read the top sellers in various ebook categories because the library does not really have indie ebooks.
3. My main project has shifted to a cold war spy thriller. I feel like it's not fitting the genre that well because it's half spy thriller, half coming of age story. I might try to plot this into a trilogy and write the trilogy before I worry about anything else.
4. I don't have to be a content creator on YouTube to sell books (thank god). But I will eventually need a website and mailing list, so I am going to ponder how to best make that happen.
5. I will (reluctantly) make a Facebook account again to join the 20to50k group on Facebook because that seems like the best resource for indie.

icefish
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by icefish »

Oh, I self-publish commercial fiction on Amazon as my main income stream. If anyone has any questions about it, I'd be happy to help.
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Tue Jan 03, 2023 12:34 pm
3. Amazon controls 80% of the ebook market, so if you go indie, you are going to have to deal with the Amazon ecosystem, which is borderline predatory sometimes. You'll get about 70% royalties but it's neigh impossible to break in without paying major ad money on Amazon because of how they changed their recommendation system.
You hear this a lot... from people who sell classes on how to run ads. ;) But you can absolutely sell without ads. I do quite well without them. You just need to make sure that you're hitting the mark with your cover, your blurb, and your market's tropes.
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Tue Jan 03, 2023 12:34 pm
4. You used to break into the indie scene by having a large platform somewhere else (social media, blog, etc) and using that to drive attention to your books, but this has (perhaps mercifully) changed in recent years. Now you break in by having 12 or so novels pre-written then releasing one a month for a year. Your next book is the best advertising.
Please don't feel like you need to do this! Having twelve books stockpiled up before you start selling them is a waste of your time. It's true that regular releases are good, but having fully-completed books just sitting there will do you no favours. You just have to put one out, and start on the next. Make your books earn their keep ASAP.

People love to hype the one-a-month rapid-release strategy, and it certainly does look flashy and impressive, but it's the "get a six-pack in a month!" or "start a million-dollar online business!" of the publishing world. You just hear about it a lot because big unachievable goals are what sells courses-- not as many people will pay to get hot tips on how to do things steadily and sustainably. :) The vast majority of authors don't release that frequently. Many commercial authors will do just fine with one book every three months (or, if you know what you're doing, even fewer).
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Tue Jan 03, 2023 12:34 pm
4. I don't have to be a content creator on YouTube to sell books (thank god). But I will eventually need a website and mailing list, so I am going to ponder how to best make that happen.
There are a lot of website options, but if you know your way around HTML and don't mind an old-school approach, Neocities is a free host that I quite like. For mailing lists, I use MailChimp, but a lot of people I know also swear by MailerLite.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by AxelHeyst »

Oh hi there icefish. I have questions. :D

How'd you learn to write well enough to make commercial fiction your main income stream?

Did you decide "I'm going to make commercial writing my main income stream" and then begin, or did you start writing, enjoy it, put stuff out there, and at some point have a "oh this could be my thing" inflection point?

Relatedly, how long did it take you to build up to a sustainable income stream?

Did you spin this up while working FTE?

I don't know how to ask this politely, but I'm curious the approximate magnitude of your income stream. How many JAFI's we talking here, ballpark?

How many hours a day/week do you spend writing?

How much of your income flow is backlist vs. latest titles? Put another way: if you stopped publishing now, what's your best guess at what your income stream over, say, 5 to 10 years would look like? Steady decrease or rapid cutoff?

What do you dislike the most about it?

Do you worry about Amazon 'changing the algorithm' or some other outside-your-control event disrupting your income stream, aka disrupting your access to your readers?

I'm curious how you do manage your marketing/relationship with old readers and finding new readers. You have a website and a mailing list. How do people get on your mailing list? Are you also on the major social media platforms?

I know that's a blast of questions. Any you care to answer would be awesome.

icefish
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by icefish »

No worries! Let's see...

How'd you learn to write well enough to make commercial fiction your main income stream?
I'm a nerd. :) I've just always written for fun; my highschool notebooks were full of daring jungle adventures and fantasy swordfights. I never even considered trying to go pro, because, pshaw, of course I wasn't a real author. But then a friend of mine started self-publishing romance novels, and I saw that it was more craft-like than high literature, and went, "oh, well, I could probably manage that".

Did you decide "I'm going to make commercial writing my main income stream" and then begin, or did you start writing, enjoy it, put stuff out there, and at some point have a "oh this could be my thing" inflection point?
Definitely the latter. I hoped to earn a little here and there just to add to my savings, but accidentally fell into a whole new industry!

Relatedly, how long did it take you to build up to a sustainable income stream? Did you spin this up while working FTE?
I started putting out short novellas while working full-time, and it took about three months before I was getting more from my silly kissing books than from my job. I quit at six months. I live somewhere with universal health care, though, so health insurance wasn't an issue for me; I understand that American authors can't take that plunge quite as easily.

I don't know how to ask this politely, but I'm curious the approximate magnitude of your income stream. How many JAFI's we talking here, ballpark?
I don't mind talking money here, this seems to be a sensible place. :) It changes depending on how long ago my last release was, but it's usually around AUD$3,000-6,000 a month. Higher if I have a big release or could sell audiobook rights, lower if I've been lazy. I think I'm about middle of the pack in my genre.

How many hours a day/week do you spend writing?
I'm a lazy sod! I sit down at my desk six days a week, but usually only get 2-4 hours of actual writing/editing done. Other tasks include market research, replying to emails, arranging promo, doing covers, plotting, reading certain forums instead of doing any of those things...

How much of your income flow is backlist vs. latest titles? Put another way: if you stopped publishing now, what's your best guess at what your income stream over, say, 5 to 10 years would look like? Steady decrease or rapid cutoff?
IME, a book will keep earning for about three months, then it dwindles to a low but steady trickle. Last year I actually only had one release on my main penname due to personal reasons eating up my time. After ten months without a new book, that pen was down to around $1,000 a month.

Actually, I just got curious about this and went to look at the records for a pen I haven't touched once since 2015. It has about a hundred books on it, and it's earned $300 this month.

What do you dislike the most about it?
Embarrassingly enough, the answer is seeing bad reviews. :( That sounds so pathetic, but they do sting the ego.

Do you worry about Amazon 'changing the algorithm' or some other outside-your-control event disrupting your income stream, aka disrupting your access to your readers?
Oh, for sure. I'm prepared for it, but I don't actively worry about it. It's best to have some "smash glass in case of Amazon emergency" strategies worked out in advance, though I hope I don't have to use them any time soon.

The old penname that I mentioned above? I used to publish erotica. Then Amazon changed how their payments worked, and short stories went from earning $2 a sale to about $0.20. This was not a fun time for authors, to say the least. So, yeah, it definitely happens. Amazon is no-one's friend.

I'm curious how you do manage your marketing/relationship with old readers and finding new readers. You have a website and a mailing list. How do people get on your mailing list? Are you also on the major social media platforms?
I send newsletters through my mailing list, letting my readers know about new books and sales. I get new readers on to it by linking it in all my books, with the offer of free bonus books if they sign up (how exclusive! what a treat! definitely not just a hook to get their email addresses!). I also arrange promos with other authors in the same genre, where we promote each others' books to our audiences.

For social media: I'm a cold INTJ bastard, and I don't want to talk to random people, so I don't do any. :D I am leaving money on the table by doing this, but it would disproportionately irritate me, so I'm happy with that deal.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by AxelHeyst »

Thank you for the responses! Great stuff. Stick around please. I want to mooch--er, I mean, symbiotically benefit from your experience in a zero-waste reciprocal homeotelic web of transcontinental goals.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

@icefish - Thanks a bunch for sharing all of that! That was very helpful. I have some follow up questions.

1. Have you considered traditional publishing at all or do you intend to stick with indie? Why or why not?

2. Is there room for stuff in the indie market that straddles the line between literature and pure craft? I'm wanting to write some stories with some deeper themes but will still read well as genre fiction.

3. Do you know anything about genres other than romance? I'm writing historical thrillers and I don't know if the market on that is as big as romance.

4. Do you have a list of beta readers to help review your work? If so, where did you find them?

5. Do you hire an editor or edit your work yourself?

icefish
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by icefish »

AxelHeyst wrote:
Fri Jan 27, 2023 11:51 am
Thank you for the responses! Great stuff. Stick around please. I want to mooch--er, I mean, symbiotically benefit from your experience in a zero-waste reciprocal homeotelic web of transcontinental goals.
I bet you say that to all the girls. :)
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Fri Jan 27, 2023 12:49 pm
@icefish - Thanks a bunch for sharing all of that! That was very helpful. I have some follow up questions.

1. Have you considered traditional publishing at all or do you intend to stick with indie? Why or why not?
No way. Apart from the small percentage of really big hitters, people who go through traditional publishers have less control over their work, are unable to publish quickly, and are paid less. A friend of a friend is a well-known tradpub author. Her books won several big industry awards, and were stocked in every bookstore in the English-speaking market... and she still has to have a 9-to-5 to pay her bills. By publishing myself, I have complete control over my books, and if I want to bump my income, I can just hustle a little and whip another book out fast.
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Fri Jan 27, 2023 12:49 pm
2. Is there room for stuff in the indie market that straddles the line between literature and pure craft? I'm wanting to write some stories with some deeper themes but will still read well as genre fiction.
I think there's certainly readers out there who appreciate it! You just do have to make sure that you're still writing a book that meets the general expectations of the genre as well. A really big trap for authors starting out is... how to phrase this... they want to write a book that they want to write, instead of writing a book that readers are already out there wanting to read. If you can give people the things that they already want, you can absolutely go past simple craft and be rewarded for it, but if you don't give them what they want, then they won't care about any higher themes-- they won't even read your book to see them in action, because they'll already be clicking through to something else that looks like it will give them what they're looking for.

I haven't read them myself, but I know from his books on writing that Steven Pressfield spent a lot of time crafting his books about the Spartans, layering them with things like Stoicism and eastern philosophies. They seem to have made an impact with an appreciative crowd; wiki says they're now taught at the marine corps? (And then he went on to write about golf... you gotta love it.)
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Fri Jan 27, 2023 12:49 pm
3. Do you know anything about genres other than romance? I'm writing historical thrillers and I don't know if the market on that is as big as romance.
I don't know much about historical thrillers, sadly! But let's have a look.

The big upside of Amazon being the main publishing market is that all the market information is visible to anyone who wants to research. The only two things you can't see on a book's page are its keywords (not critical to know) and anything about ads. The rest is all there for an aspiring author to analyse.

So, let's see... on the current top 100, I can see that the top book in the genre is sitting at rank #596 (that is, it's currently the 596th best selling book in the whole entire store, including the extensive backlists of Kings and Rowlings and Koontzes etc etc), and even the fiftieth is still sitting at up around #19,000. That's a pretty good sign of life! It means there's plenty of readers, but also plenty of competition. If a genre's top ranks looked more like, say... the top 50 for polar travelogues, starting at #25,785 and falling to #680,529, then you know that not a lot of people are out there desperately searching for hot new polar travel books, so even if you happen to write the number one best selling book for penguin botherers, it's not going to earn you much.

It's impossible to get a concrete estimate for how much a book earns at a specific rank because of how Amazon pays for page reads, but generally, a book sitting at a rank of low five to four digits is selling multiple copies a day, and something at three digits or less is on fire. Pulling up the records for one of my books, it made AUD$3,800 for a month where it was holding steady at a rank of around #1300.

So once you know that a genre has enough readers, then it's a matter of looking through to see if anything that's already selling well matches the type of book you want to write. Just flicking through, it looks like there's a lot of different settings and tones: WWII, the crusades, 1800s France, Tudors, some set in the modern day but they're on the hunt for ancient artifacts... daring adventures, feminist retellings, thoroughly-researched historical novels...

I'd have a look and see if you can find authors who are currently writing the sort of books that you want to write, and seeing how they stack up. How long are those books? What do their blurbs promise? How often does the author bring out a new release? According to the reviews, what do readers really like about them? That kind of data can help build a roadmap. Whatever works for them can work for you, too.
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Fri Jan 27, 2023 12:49 pm
4. Do you have a list of beta readers to help review your work? If so, where did you find them?
I have some advance readers, and they get a free copy ahead of publication in exchange for advance reviews. I collected them by asking my mailing list if anyone was interested. At the start, though, I used BookSprout-- you can upload an advance copy on there, and people will sign up to review it. Random readers can be a little less glowing than readers who already love you, though. :)
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Fri Jan 27, 2023 12:49 pm
5. Do you hire an editor or edit your work yourself?
I do it myself. A few typos do get through, admittedly, but a certain kind of reader loooves to report them, so I just have to go fix them a little after launch. No real biggie-- even if they do make me go, "how the hell did I miss THAT?!"

AnalyticalEngine
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Joined: Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:57 am

Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

Thanks @icefish, that's all super helpful. It seems like the right strategy here is to cultivate a business mindset when looking to publish your work. Obviously you don't want to lose your creative vision in the business side, but at the same time, that business mindset is critically important to getting people to look at your work.

OutOfTheBlue
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by OutOfTheBlue »

frihet wrote:
Wed Dec 28, 2022 2:54 pm
I have been enjoying John Michael Greer’s blog posts about becoming successful as a writer.

Hopefully it is of interest to the aspiring writers in this thread too. Four parts so far.

One of his strongest tips is to start with non-fiction actually and there is a very good mathematical reason for that. 80% of what people want to publish is fiction but 80% of what gets published is nonfiction.

https://www.ecosophia.net/writing-as-mi ... nd-perish/

https://www.ecosophia.net/writing-as-mi ... the-world/
Thank you for the recommendation, these blog posts and advice were great and I look forward to reading more from John Michael Greer.

The first steps are great I think:

- Read like a writer
- Write daily
- Completely separate writing from editing

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

Posting here again to let everyone know this group is still going on. We've mostly been using it to talk about personal writing projects and as an accountability group. If anyone else would like to join, there is space and the group is open.

black_son_of_gray
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by black_son_of_gray »

I would like to join.

scottindenver
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by scottindenver »

Hi, I would like to join as well if possible. I am mostly writing childrens stories but interested in other writing as well.

Biscuits and Gravy
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by Biscuits and Gravy »

I’m interested, too.

scottindenver
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by scottindenver »

Just posting couple resources in case this help anyone.

Bec and Chris are writing coaches that have some good content on writing and different methods/techniques.

https://www.youtube.com/@beprolifiko

They also wrote a book called Written and its short and has some good stuff in it. You might find it at a local library or I just got it on Kindle.

If you don't have time to read it or you just want summary their main point is that you have to figure out what habits/routines/writing-space works for you and your brain. Writing advice is all over the map and what worked for someone else may not work for you. Basically experiment and find what works to get some words on the screen or paper. If there are periods where writing is just not working don't feel guilty. Writing is actually one of the most difficult of mental activities and writing well requires an enormous processing load on your brain. So cut yourself some slack and just see what works to help you get in flow. Going for lots of walks also helps and is good for you even if you aren't a writer.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

This group is still open and looking for new members, so if anyone else is interested, send me a DM!

We've started doing bimonthly writing prompts, personal weekly updates, as well as general discussion of the craft.

Salathor
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Re: Fiction Writing MMG

Post by Salathor »

icefish wrote:
Thu Jan 26, 2023 7:18 pm
All the info you put in this thread is super interesting and informative. Thank you for all of it!

If you haven't mentioned already (I didn't see it): how long are your better-selling books? I suspect that romance runs shorter than other genre fiction, but any advice you have would be appreciated.

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