Episode 41 – Trolls, Crowdfunding and Churning Out Books

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Jim and Bryan went philosophical this week, touching on everything from Internet trolls and crowdfunding to Minimum Viable Products and writing quality books quickly. After Bryan announced his new podcast, The Split: A YA Book Review Podcast for Readers and Writers, and Jim discussed Author Marketing Live, they took on tips related to writing louder books, increasing the KDP preview selection, and Miranda July’s collectable fiction idea. The news included stories on Nora Roberts vs. Internet trolls, Suw Charman-Anderson’s Minimum Viable Product concept, Dear Author’s opinion on Kickstarter, Nook’s holiday drop, and thoughts on writing at a breakneck pace. Our Question of the Week: If you knew someone who wrote a book in a minimal amount of time, would it affect your purchasing decision? Why or why not?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • How Bryan is handling 9 shows a week
  • What you can do to spice up quiet fiction
  • How to increase your 10 percent Amazon Look Inside selection
  • What Miranda July is doing to promote your book and brand
  • When you can ask BookBub your personal questions
  • Why Jim thinks Nora Roberts’ response to trolls shouldn’t be copied
  • What makes a Minimum Viable Product for indie authors
  • Some of the drawbacks of crowdfunding
  • What Jim thinks Nook’s successor should do
  • Why speed has little to do with book quality
Links: 
Question of the Week: If you knew someone who wrote a book in a minimal amount of time, would it affect your purchasing decision? Why or why not?

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  • For a full-length novel, honestly, I’d be way less likely to buy it if I knew it only took them a few days or weeks to write, *unless* I knew they went through several levels of editing, beta readers, polishing, etc. before publishing. I wrote the first draft of my novel in 2 days and then spent a year fixing it.

    I believe in making my books as indistinguishable as possible, quality-wise, from trad pubbed books, which means a developmental editor, a copyeditor, beta readers and a proofreader. This limits my output because of the time necessary to schedule those people, their time with the book, and then my review. For me, this is the “minimally viable product” I’m willing to put into the world with my name on it. I get extremely annoyed when I pay for work and find the author hasn’t taken the same level of care to put forth a high-quality product.

    • Bryan

      I agree with your “indistinguishable” goal! Good work :).

    • Hey Leslye – I have pro covers, pro editing (and apparently pro writing). It doesn’t take time to achieve these things (experience, practice maybe). And I despair over the quality of some trad published books.

      Having said that – yes I agree about quality in self-published however a book I just finished the author says took him six years to write. Well, the concept is brilliant but the writing is juvenile, full of mistakes, bad writing choices, and continuity errors. If he hired an editor he should get his money back.

      Point is: Time is not the factor. It’s professional attitude that counts.

      • You’re absolutely right, Steve. There are plenty of trad pubbed books that should have gone back to the workshop.

        Most of the editors or cover designers I was interested in were booked 1-4 months in advance, so that’s where my timing comments come from…

  • Kacy Kazmierczak

    I agree with Jim that the psychological hurdle of paying for something that was quickly produced is hard to overcome. We’ve become conditioned to associate time-consuming production with high levels of careful craft and quality. But, that is why the previews on the selling platforms are so important for books. I can tell by reading one page if the author took the NECESSARY amount of time to turn out a product that I will value at the asking price.

    • Bryan

      Agreed, Kacy. Thanks!

  • This year I’m scheduled to write eight novellas and four novels (and a comic book and edit an anthology). I write very good first drafts but of course I use editors and beta-readers. One of my editors described the latest novel as making her feel “exquisite pain” 🙂 so I think my quality is up there.

    Of course, I did spend twenty years as a magazine editor and journalist.

    (Oh and I have a full-time job as well.)

    • Bryan

      Very nice, Steve. I’m definitely finding that I’m producing cleaner first draft content as I continue to write. Just six to seven years of freelancing under my belt (and a year of novel writing), but I already feel like it’s getting better. This helps me go faster as well :).

  • John L. Monk

    Ten years ago, I think I’d have passed up a book written by someone who wrote more than three a year or something. These days, I know what some writers are capable of. Now, I’d give the speedy writer the same chance as the slower writers. With any book, I’d read the sample, the reviews., and decide that way.

    • Bryan

      Good stuff, John. I totally agree.

  • As someone who has participated in the 3-Day Novel Contest and, thus, written a novel (okay, novella – it was about 30,000 words) in only 3 days, I don’t think the time spent writing a book is the deciding factor for me. Anyone can write a rough draft from start to finish in a short period of time if they want to (and I’ve written a book about that, too). Does that mean the book is now ready to pop on Amazon for sale? HELL NO. That’s when you need to start editing, which could take months or years depending on how well you wrote the first draft. And that’s just the self-editing stage, so when you finally bring on board your pro editor(s), you might be at it another few months — or years, depending on whether or not the editor really mucks things up.

    In short, I’ve never understood why it was considered bad for writers to try to produce work faster, although I think that the book-buying public assumes you jump right from writing to publishing, which is where that psychological disconnect Jim was talking about comes into play. I definitely agree that touting your book as having been *written and published* in just a few days is going to negatively impact sales, but as far as writing your book quickly — especially the longer you’ve been at the book writing game — it’s a great skill to have.

    As far as the Nora Roberts situation goes, although I jokingly refer to her as “my nemesis” (people frequently mishear “Laura Roberts” as “Nora Roberts,” especially since she’s much more well-known than I am… for now!), I liked what she had to say about kicking out the trolls. My take on it was that she wasn’t trying to kick out the people who are genuine customers, and who want to comment on her books, but she was saying that her Facebook page is not a place for hate, and anybody who is causing trouble (whether that’s by picking fights with her, or with her true fans) is going to get kicked out. And rightly so. Many of my friends have a “would you say that to me in my own living room?” approach to social media, and if they feel the other person is just baiting them, they will block them. Chuck Wendig has a similar approach to comments moderation on his blog; haters aren’t allowed to just troll and rant, they are removed behind the scenes. That’s not to say that he won’t let people post their dissenting opinions, but you need to be able to express yourself without calling people names and picking fights. I don’t think you have to simply put up with “the bad with the good,” as you guys suggested; you always have the option to delete people’s comments if they are unnecessarily cruel, off-topic, etc. It’s my opinion that comment curation helps demonstrate how you would like to be treated in your social media sphere, and removing comments that treat you poorly prevents the trolls from taking over.

    • I still disagree with Nora. If you’re going to have an open forum; you take the good and the bad. But it is her space technically and she can do whatever she wants.

      • Jacob Williams

        I disagree with Nora too. Trolls provide excellent opportunities for witty comebacks that will make your followers like you more. It’s also awesome when trolls and fans start debating. (A page view is a page view. Trolls bring people back to your page.)

        Now, thick skin and wit are a skill like any other. To get you started Nora, when trolls and fans start fighting you reply with this: http://reactiongifs.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/popcorn_stephen_colbert.gif

        • Bryan

          Yes!

    • Bryan

      Your nemesis! Good points, Laura.

  • Even though I produce a decent amount of work each year (published 3 novels, 2 novellas, and a couple of short stories in 2014), I’m definitely guilty of letting knowledge of how long it took an author to write something affect how I view a book–if only because I HAVE read some books where the work seemed rushed, unedited, etc. That said, I have several authors I love who produce work very quickly–and I trust that their stuff is of a certain quality no matter how much or how little time they spent on it. I think that’s what it comes down to: trust. In this day and age, when *anyone* can publish a book of *any* quality, there are a lot of psychological hurdles for readers to overcome. But when authors create quality projects, over time those barriers slowly fall away–which is why (thankfully) “self published” doesn’t automatically mean “poor quality” in many readers’ minds these days, as it did even a handful of years ago. The key is to build (and then keep) the readers’ trust, and hopefully the stigma associated with “writing fast” will fall away eventually too.

    • Bryan

      And that opinion of self-pubbed = bad will continue to fade away… as consumers forget about the stigma ;). Thanks, Ember!

  • I have to agree that was one of your best podcasts. I write my stories quickly, but thats from good planning and writing everyday. I pay for an editor / proof reader / formatter / cover design – which allows me to spend more time writing. I launched my 1st book end of Aug and my 6th book will be launch March 14th. My books range from 59,000 words to 30,000. Im a Flash fiction writer (title stolen from Jim)

    I had never though publishing a book too quickly was a bad thing, it was interesting to listern to the show today. People haven’t comment on my publishing speed, my advance readers love it.

    On a side note, I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for my frist book, I raised $3000, to pay for editor/proof reader/ copies/ etc. It was very stress, but very rewarding – in a way it was like going to your own funeral and seeing who showed up, in a weird way. I was blown away by the support.

    • Send all commission checks for ideas “stolen” from me right away. 🙂

  • Jacob Williams

    I rewrote a “Cyanide and Happiness” comic to answer this question. It’s attached.
    ps. I casted Jim “No Bullshit” Kukral. The part was made for him. 😀

    • Bryan

      Awesome :).

  • A. Rodgers

    It wouldn’t impact me; I assume that “minimal amount of time” is time at the keyboard. I do a lot of writing in my head that can’t be quantified in terms of hours. So, just because some other writer sat at their keyboard for 20 hours to my 20 minutes doesn’t indicate they produced more, or better, work.

    • Bryan

      Truth, A!

  • Jacob Williams

    I rewrote a “Cyanide and Happiness” comic to answer this question.
    ps. I casted Jim “No Bullshit” Kukral. The part was made for him. 😀
    pss. I think I broke Disqus. :

  • Jacob Williams

    I just learned something new about deleting comments.

    From Disqus Support:

    “”When a user deletes a comment they have made, that comment is anonymized.
    This means that the content of the comment will still appear, but identifying information such as the Username, Avatar, and email address are removed, which is why the comment then appears as having been posted by a “Guest”.

    If personal or undesirable information has been posted in a comment and you feel that it should be removed from the site entirely, try contacting the Moderator at the site the comment is hosted on.””

    This means a lot of Guest comments we read are probably not Guests. Rather, people that changed their minds. Which means: It’s better to first edit a comment and delete the text within it. Then delete the post.

  • Perry Constantine

    Another great show. I thought Jim’s “rant” was not a rant at all, but perfectly logical and absolutely spot-on. I really hope other platforms rise to the occasion and give Amazon more of a challenge. More competition just makes things better for authors and readers.

    Onto the question. If I knew an author wrote a book in a short amount of time, it would not affect my purchase decision one way or the other. I think Dean Wesley Smith talked about this in his Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series, but the idea that short work = low quality is total fiction because different writers work at different speeds and have different processes. If you have two writers who wrote a book of the same length and in the same genre and one writer took two weeks to write it while the other took six months, all you really know about that is when they started writing and when they finished. Maybe the fast writer wrote for ten hours a day while the slow one only wrote one hour a day or only wrote 3-5 days a week. Maybe the fast writer outlined every aspect of the book before they started writing whereas the slow writer waited for inspiration to strike. Maybe the fast writer doesn’t do any editing until the manuscript is finished (what Chuck Wendig calls the vomit draft), whereas the slow writer edits as they write. Maybe the slow writer spent three of those six months struggling with writer’s block.

    There are so many variables that go into how long it takes a person to write a book. Even the same writer may be able to write one book in a month and then the second book in the same series will take three months. Much like last week’s question addressing the (mistaken) belief that there’s a glut of books, the people who spout these myths assume it’s one-size-fits-all. I would really like to ask those people who think a book should take six months to write how many days per week that is and how many hours per day, what sort of prep has to be done for those books, etc. I imagine their answer would involve a lot of stammering.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Perry. Yeah, the key point here is that different writers write at different speeds (and for different lengths of time). The publishing industry used to discriminate against the fast ones. But, those folks no longer have to worry about that ;).

  • Pete Bauer

    Price and reviews, especially word of mouth, factor more into it for me than the amount of time it took to write. If I found out Suzanne Collins wrote Hunger Games in three days, it would be even more impressive considering how much I enjoyed it. Plus, consumers are far more forgiving in their entertainment consumption than most creators. Fancy cologne commercials work as well as loud and tacky car commercials. Art house movies and popcorn movies make both of their audiences happy. People consume high quality television series as well as youtube series. The magic formula is about making product available to the demographic that wants it, not how long it took to create it.

    • Bryan

      Good points, Pete.

  • E. Jacobs

    If I knew that there was a book that only took ten days to write I would probably be one of the first to buy it. I have always been of the believe that ideas are freshest when they are new. Once I have an idea I need to write it down as fast as I can so that it doesn’t fade. This the one thing that turned me on to beating out stories like the SPP guys do. Journalists are typically banging out book-loads of material every day, but this argument never comes up with them.

    • Bryan

      Very nice, E. I like that you’ve taken the contrarian point here :).

  • I read PNR romance novels. Many of the big name authors there (Nalini
    Singh, JR Ward) only write one book per year within their series. For
    the longest time I wished they wrote faster because I hate waiting 365
    days for the next installment of the story. Now I’m reading indie PNR
    because they put out 2-3 or more in their series which satisfies my
    appetite. This year I found myself forgetting to pick up the new Singh
    and Ward books because I had so many indies to choose from.

    • Bryan

      Very cool, Ines! Thanks for sharing :).

  • Honoree Corder

    Didn’t Stephen King pop out a book in a weekend? Everyone thought that was SO cool. People are discovering their inner Stephen King’s and I think that’s great — mostly because I read fast and want to get my hands on the next book by that author the minute I finish. 🙂 Thanks guys!

    • Bryan

      Well, when King does it, of course everyone’s going to love it :). Thanks!

      • Honoree Corder

        Greetings!

        I am in receipt of your email (thank you!), and it has been forwarded to my new email address: Honoree@HonoreeCorder.com. Kindly update your records, as this email will stop working very soon. To your success! Honorée Corder
        Best-Selling Author * CEO,  Honorée Enterprises & Honorée Enterprises Publishing :: This email is off the record {blogs and tweets too} unless we agree otherwise. ::

      • Honoree Corder

        Greetings!

        I am in receipt of your email, and will respond within 48 hours.
        To your success!Honorée Corder
        Best-Selling Author * CEO,  Honorée Enterprises & Honorée Enterprises Publishing

  • I’ll read something that was written in a short amount of time. After initial research and outline, I generally do first draft of a 100,000 novel in 22 days. That’s somewhere over 120 hours. But that is first draft only, not final product. Of course that still needs editing, formatting, cover, etc. The final product still takes several months after that to get to publication.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, PD! Wow, 100k in 22 days. Very impressive.