Monday, January 28, 2013

Quitting YouTube

I finally got around to removing all my videos from YouTube. (Well, technically, all but one.) And it feels great.

I opened up a YouTube account over 7 years ago to do vlogs, book reviews, and talk about writing topics. Well, just like this blog, I had no focus (or publication credits!) when I started, and I did numerous re-launches of my page. Eventually doing videos just seemed like a drag. It wasn’t fun or productive anymore and I finally had to say, enough is enough. I’m starting over.

Looking over why YouTube didn’t work for me, I came up with 5 main reasons. I think YouTube can work in favor for authors to promote work or get book reviews out in a different medium than written word. Perhaps some insight can be gleaned from the problems I encountered. Here’s my list.

1. My videos were too long.

I tried to cut down my videos, but even short reviews ended up being at least 6 minutes long. I usually hit 7-9 minutes, which is way too long in my opinion. Often I would ramble in the video for 20 minutes before editing and it was taking too much time. For me it's easier to edit a written book review, to get everything I want to say in without rambling. I just never got the hang of it on video. And since I never got it with book reviews I didn’t even attempt to do writing advice videos.

2. Haters gonna hate.

I'm not saying I quit because of the haters. Quite honestly I need all the rehearsal I can get with them as I am a self-published author putting my work out there to be judged. But YouTube is not a site specifically for books, writing, and reviews. I got a lot of senseless traffic on my videos, not even commenting on what I had to say about a book or concept. I had to delete random derogatory terms (I find it amazing how many users get a kick out of leaving one worded comments like "slut" or "bitch" for no reason.) or random comments like "You said you stole this book off your husband's shelf, I can't believe he even did you let along married you." or the ever direct "You're ugly." The best one I ever got was "I don't want to have sex with you.”

(Side rant: I noticed nearly all these random comments had to do with telling me I was unattractive/not sex-worthy. I hate to say that in 2013 that something as stupid as YouTube comments are contributing to a society that is anti-woman. But seriously, putting women down for voicing their opinion by going after their looks has been around since the Victorian era, get a new gimmick. Rant over.)

I can completely understand getting heated over your favorite books. But all the other stuff that had nothing to do with anything was really getting old. I love goodreads because at least the drama that breaks out there is about the topic at hand and not anonymous trolls lurking around with nothing productive to say.

3. I thought about getting more views instead of bettering my content.

I reviewed books that I thought would get views, not necessarily books I liked or wanted to talk about after I read them. Since my heart wasn't in it, making the reviews was no fun and after awhile I just kept putting it off. When I did do videos, the content wasn't as good because it seemed like a chore to get views rather than something I was doing to spread news about good books.

4. I have nothing new to say about popular fiction.

It's great that I decided to discuss Chopin's “The Awakening,” but really, I have nothing new to say about the classics. My interest in discussing fiction rests in contemporary fiction and young adult fiction that features disabled characters. Other than that, I would most likely discuss non-fiction. I think I was trying to emulate other book reviewers instead of being true to myself. Which goes along with #3… if you’re heart is not into it, you’re going to fail.

5. Writing reviews is sometimes better than recording them.

I fell behind in my book reviews on YouTube because most of the time I just wanted to write the reviews. I think some reviews are better typed while others would be fine on video. Same with discussing writing topics. Instead of doing both I held myself to the video format and ended up neglecting many reviews that I should have written instead. If you start making videos, understand that not every review/topic will make a good video. Don’t overlook other mediums just because you make videos.

So, there it is. Am I done making videos? Nope, not at all. I can post videos directly to my blogs and I am interested in looking into the goodreads video posting feature. I have many new ideas and now that I'm being true to what I want to discuss the videos will help instead of hinder my online presence and the way I interact with others online and via social media.

I suppose quitting YouTube was a lot like my decision to Self-Publish. The platform YouTube offers is vast, but I was swept away in everything that went with it. By focusing my goals and intentions I can get my content out there to those I mean to get it to. Though the audience is potentially smaller, it is more effective for what I am working at accomplishing.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Some things about marketing

I'll miss my regular Sunday post, so I'm posting early!

For my general studies I took a marketing elective and this is all I remember. At least I can apply it to writing!

When thinking about your product, there are specific categories that relate your product to others on the market. Here is a brief overview and how I relate them to books.

Brand competitors  
My text book defined brand competitors as different diet sodas. Coke vs. Pepsi. You know.

 In book terms, I think of this as the genre. Someone who wants Supernatural Fiction will choose between the zombies, vampires, or some other form of chanted immortals. They probably won’t reach for a Crime Thriller, just like a Coke drinker will be stoned to death before settling for Pepsi and vice versa. These tastes are fairly decided and in the given market a consumer is consistently brand loyal.

Product competitors
Product competitors offer the same idea in different products, like diet teas vs. diet sodas.

These are your other authors writing in your genre. Here your consumer is looking for an idea, as above, Supernatural Fiction. But their taste will vary between zombies and vampires. If you’re in the zombie camp, you may persuade those from the vampire camp to your ways, but know that they have different tastes.

Generic competitor
The dieter above chooses water instead of a beverage. So no matter how you package your diet drink, the generic choice is cheaper and not really in the same realm as what you are selling.

I’m not sure if there’s a generic version of a zombie book. So in this I’ll use the free kindle edition of A Christmas Carol I downloaded instead of buying the book. I needed to save money and still read the Dickens. With many ebook authors offering free or .99 downloads, there are going to be many consumers shopping only in this price range.

Total budget competitor
Diet soda, bananas, newspaper or a pack of gum are all in competition for the consumer’s budget.  

All books can be included in this, and not just as in Memoir vs. Supernatural Fiction. When I ask someone to buy a book or download a e-copy, I’m competing with the hot pockets they buy at lunch, movie tickets, and supplies for their latest hobby, not just other books.

Putting my book into these categories gives me a more focused perspective when thinking about how I will publish my next book. To compete in the generic range should I offer a book for free? If I’m tackling the diehard Zombie Brand consumers, what do the other books offer that they want and how can I offer them more? Are there a lot of product competitors in my genre? These questions will all have different answers depending on which book I’m working on. Weigh the logistics of where your consumers are more focused and keep in mind that you are competing in the consumer’s total budget. Happy marketing!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Good enough" is not good enough. Balancing technique, marketing, and my worst critic.

I let my husband read chapter one of The Corridor, the book I am currently editing the proof of and hope to have out by the end of March. Not to say this isn't the first time he read chapter one. He read chapter one a year ago. Since he likes math and has no desire to be a writer, I put in a lot of his suggestions where he thought I was getting a little too "irrational." I enjoy having him as a super cerebral, logical beta reader. On some things he's way off and my socioanalytical-emotional side balances his scientific-mathematical side. But more often than not he has a strange 6th sense that exorcizes even the best concealed B.S. And for some reason I thought he wouldn't find any in my proof. The dialogue was as follows, starting with him:

"It's not good enough."

"Why, give me examples."

"You don't mention this, this, and this."

"But I mention this, this and this here."

"It's too late, you already made me put the book down."

"But my writer's workshop loved this."

"Well, that's fine, but you can do better."

"This is the proof, I've edited this already!"

"Edit it again."


"It's not good enough."

"Is the whole thing trash?"

"No, you do some things very well, but not well enough. Good enough is not good enough."

First I was in denial. Ok. Whatever. So says the math genius who sees the world in 1's and 0's.

He kept on me so I tried being combative to which he told me I would get nowhere if I couldn't take criticism, especially from him.

I attempted playing to his rational side. This is genre. To succeed in the commodity market I have to pump out a book every six months. Maybe this is great for that pace. He told me that attitude would only get me mediocrity and he would not tolerate mediocrity.

So I tried victimization. I'm so tired, I'm in pain, I work too much for too little and it keeps me from writing, I've edited this so much, not everything can be perfect. Well, the math genius doesn't understand this language, it's not in 1's and 0's.

Then I got indignant. I've been writing and studying this business and craft for ten years, I'm just getting to a point where I think I'm doing decent work, maybe I should have some faith in my own knowledge, skills and intuition and know I'm in control. Exactly, he said, and that means knowing chapter one needs work.

I want to say that next I did NOT throw the book across the room and start crying. But. Well.

Nervous breakdown aside, I'm reworking chapter one. And editing the rest of the book. Again.

"You know you don't have to listen to me," he said when I recovered my sanity. "I'm just trying to help."

But the truth is, I know he is right. I was aiming for good enough. I achieved good enough. It's not good enough.

It's hard to keep sight of personal goals amid daunting news about shifting publishing formats, flooding of the market, a dwindling importance on reading, an acutely concentrated consumer base, and how to adequately flaw your characters and balance your plot.

There are a few things I believe. I believe you must publish at least a book a year, if not more, to build your brand and start selling. I believe genre will make more readers happy and build a more loyal readership for the author. I believe you will fail if you write to appease your audience rather than work on projects that really mean something to you. I believe there are no rules, and all my statements are wrong.
What I do have to work with are my goals. My first and foremost is to publish a book every six months. I think this goal is not only achievable, but achievable beyond "good enough."

In many ways, aiming for good enough got me to this point. I didn't agonize over super small things. I powered through. But now I need to dig deep and make it better. Take the advice I've been given. Keep going, because the journey is not over. But eventually there will come a point when I will say, stop. Close the book. It is finished. That is where I will rely on my intuition, knowledge and skills.

I would not have recommended such a swift publishing pace to myself a year ago. And if I find it doesn't work out, I will rearrange my goals. Maybe I'll need 8 months. Maybe I can overlap projects. But more than that, I need to stay focused and work harder. So simple, but not the most easy answer to hear.

I noticed a trend in many hobbies/professions/random things people do. A skill set is like a ladder. When you start learning about, say, writing, you begin to climb the ladder. After awhile you'll find you're climbing higher than some of the people around you. Then higher than most people around you. It is at this point you think, "Groovy. I'm so far up here and so many are below me." We stop climbing. We are good enough.

Now don't take that as an egotistical statement that I'm so high on the writing ladder. I am still staring up at the heels of many, many others. But I have made great strides in the quality of my own work. I was very happy with how The Corridor came out in the first proof. But ultimately, I know there are a few more rungs to be had. As an author, I know what good enough looks like.

And yes. I have health issues, I work crazy shifting hours, I feel that I am forcing time to write instead of making time. But that's what writing is. If you want to be good, you have to answer to yourself. If you want to be good, you have to make yourself stronger. And that means you push harder when the weight doesn't seem as heavy.

Like I said, I made it to good enough. Equating good enough to bad is unfair. I have the foundation. What I am going to build on that will only make it better. I got the hard part out of the way. I have a book. A complete book. But there are some places that need fixed. It's not the end of the world.
(Not to mention, I've been over some of this before with a different first proof.)

In many ways, good enough means you've gotten better. Maybe there were things you settled for in the past. Don't do it again. Make it better. Move forward. Know you can have marketing goals and retain the integrity of your writing, your process and your technique. Keeping the balance is a challenge, but one that needs to be met for any improvement to occur.

Usually I don't like posts like these, that claim there's a right way for doing things and any form of "settling" means it's not good enough. I feel terribly inept some days, crafting covers out of toothpicks and bubblegum, or writing on a scrap piece of paper on an hour drive home from a wedding reception with my cell phone light because it's the only way I'll make word count. Good enough is personal and unique to each author. But you know when you've found it.

So when you do, do something about it. Good enough doesn't have to be bad. Being stuck with it is.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Better than you

I like to read blog posts about the philosophy of writing, why we're all so crazy to be doing what we're doing. I glean a lot of insight from traditionally published, independent, and self-published authors. I usually find the blog posts themselves don't particularly fire me up, even when I disagree with them. The comment wars that tend to rage beneath the posts, however, sometimes do. Mainly because it boils down to two camps throwing serif-ed insults at each other: Traditional publishing is stupid! Self-Publishing is stupider!
After awhile I feel like I'm beginning to see the Matrix. We're all really super human gravity defying martial artists, the mediums we practice are fake and pliable. It's the other people swearing other ways work is what's keeping us from success, keeping the Matrix in place.
Or let me put it this way: We're all full of crap.
Because, whatever we do, it has to be because it's better than how someone else does it. And knowing we're doing it the right way isn't enough.
If someone posts something about how it worked for them differently, it MUST be because they never gave your way enough of a chance. They don't believe.
I'm not a Christian. I'm a Buddhist. I've thought about this before. But plenty of people see me as a wannabe hipster with weird hats and even though my religion is based in compassion and Karma, I'm still probably mean to the cashiers at McDonalds. Because all hipster Buddhists with beret hats that you've seen at McDonalds are. So what if I read over a thousand pages of Pali Canon translation. That Mala bracelet isn't a cross, I'm obviously wrong. And of course I've seen plenty of "free thinkers" that turn into a sputtering pile of defensive self-righteousness at the mention of Jesus. We've all seen this.
Sadly, the more I read author blogs, the same principle is surfacing again and again. Writers that read a perfectly well thought out and informative blog post, but find SOMETHING in it they disagree with and go nuts in the comments.
Now, I supposed I understand if someone is completely and unfairly bashing the way you do things, you would probably feel upset. But even when an author puts a disclaimer at the beginning of the post saying "this is the way it works for me and I'm sharing, you do not have to do this" comments still get crazy. It makes me wonder if writers are reading these blogs to gain insight, or just looking for affirmation that their way is right and to argue when someone does something different. I still have faith that there are plenty of writers learning from these blog posts, but they just keep quiet and don't try to skewer other authors on literary sticks when they disagree.
When I first started writing, there was still a stigma attached to self-publishing, and ereaders had not taken off yet, so I was very much swayed toward traditional and print publishing. But I changed my mind and found independent publishing worked very well for me. Unfortunately, I'm seeing a lot of Self-Pubbers trying to trash the traditional route, trying to attach a stigma to authors that are having a good go at traditional publishing. Trying to steal the elitism from "an editor approved my work and I was paid an advance, I'm better than you," to "I had to direct the formatting and cover design and plan all my own marketing, I do way more than just write, I'm better than you."
Well, if that makes you feel better about yourself, go for it. But why tell either a self-published or traditionally published author, who is happy, successful according to their definition, and has a readership, that they are wrong and stupid? I certainly can't imagine walking up to a successful traditionally published author and saying, "Hello, have you heard of Smashwords? Allow me to enlighten you."
I obviously live in the Matrix, since I have a writing blog and opinions on such things are keeping me from jumping up and flying around like superman delivering my bestsellers to the puny drones below. If only everyone listened to me and shaped the writing game to my standards, but noooo we all have to do things differently than me to keep the Matrix in place, to keep everyone asleep, and make stupid authors more successful than me.
Here's the deal, or at least, my opinion: There's no formula for success. Success is defined by the author and each book, author, target audience tastes, and means of transmission are going to have so many factors, there will never be a perfect way to publish a book. There's no perfect combination for a great cover, no super-elite tips or tricks for a synopsis that will get everyone to read the book. There's no scale to rate perfectly-flawed characters. There's no way to determine exactly how abstract or how relatable a plot should be. So don't argue like there is.
There are good ideas out there. I have gotten excellent marketing tips from traditionally published authors. I've found wonderful ideas that work in crafting my non-fiction books from fantasy e-book authors. I've looked at hundreds of covers and observed things I liked and things I didn't like and applied it to what I was doing. There are great ideas out there.
The only way you can learn and advance is to look at how others have done things, put things together, arrived at their conclusions, then arrive at your own.