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View Full Version : Better to sell work or Build audience?



Jonathan Figaro
06-24-2012, 07:56 PM
The last thread I created was called, "who here writes fiction on there blog." This topic brought up an interesting question by lauralam and
I'd like to share with the Absolute Write Family; Administrator's included ( smiles)

I want to know is it better to create work and sell it to a publisher like most writers try to do? Or build an audience doing guest post so when a writer finishes his or her masterpiece, they can sell it to people immediately?

I ask this because I want to build a massive audience through guest post and what not. Then, after I've reached a certain point, sell it straight to my audience.

Please free to share you opinion. I think this is a concept we all think about as writers who are looking to make history and make a name for ourselves.

I look forwards to your responses!

Sage
06-24-2012, 08:06 PM
Jonathan, I'm moving this one to Roundtable too. These threads are not YA specific, so they do not belong in the YA forum.

I'm not sure what you mean by "guest post", since my understanding of that term doesn't seem to be what you're talking about....

Kerosene
06-24-2012, 08:24 PM
If you're speaking of advertising, I'm not sure what you mean.

If you sell to a "traditional" publisher, they will have you advertise in someway. Website, blog, facebook, forums. Or they might not at all and do it by themselves.

If you're thinking of self-publishing, it's split. Some people say to advertise, and some say not to. There has been studies shown that advertising has not increased readership, but better writing shows for better success.


The audience will come to you because of your writing. Not because of how many people know of you.
The readers will continue to read your stuff, if they enjoy it. They will also spread your work to others, who will then read your writing.

No matter how much you try to "sell" your writing, the grounds stand as: If it's worth reading, people will read it.


In all honesty, I cannot name a author who made their "big" name by posting in a forum/blog/facebook. Yes, you might be able to get a few readers, but for someone to run up to another and say, "You've got to read this book," to another person; would not be reflective of how much you advertise, but how well you write.

lorna_w
06-24-2012, 08:42 PM
I'm not sure who these people are who would have time to read the tens of thousands of writers' blogs and the power to write a six-figure check to a blogger for their new novel. I doubt seriously that editors at the big six spend one second reading unpublished writers' blogs. Though I'm not an editor, and I could be wrong about that...I'm just guessing from having been a professional and having no time at all left to fiddle about on-line with anything but my own email.

Maybe you'd increase sales by 100...? Just a guess. Not something to brag about in a query letter. And probably 20 of those you'd feel so friendly with, you'd be sending them comp copies of a published novel.

Mostly I'd advise, though no one will listen to my advice and that's fine; I'm used to yelling into the surf alone: BIC -- to do the real writing, not the blogging, until you are a published writer. To blog, you not only have to blog but to read others' blogs, comment on them, build a chitchatting community so your blog doesn't look pitifully unread. I'd rather spend time reading great novels, analyzing published works, or reading trade journals. Attending conferences. Having new experiences IRL that can go into future novels. A new writer might better spend his time reading how-to writing books than blogging. All of us need to get our words of fiction in every day. Today I did 2030. Tomorrow I'll try and do the same. And on and on. I'll deal with marketing worries when/if it's time to deal with marketing worries.

missesdash
06-24-2012, 08:57 PM
I'm not sure who these people are who would have time to read the tens of thousands of writers' blogs and the power to write a six-figure check to a blogger for their new novel. I doubt seriously that editors at the big six spend one second reading unpublished writers' blogs. Though I'm not an editor, and I could be wrong about that...I'm just guessing from having been a professional and having no time at all left to fiddle about on-line with anything but my own email.

Maybe you'd increase sales by 100...? Just a guess. Not something to brag about in a query letter. And probably 20 of those you'd feel so friendly with, you'd be sending them comp copies of a published novel.

Mostly I'd advise, though no one will listen to my advice and that's fine; I'm used to yelling into the surf alone: BIC -- to do the real writing, not the blogging, until you are a published writer. To blog, you not only have to blog but to read others' blogs, comment on them, build a chitchatting community so your blog doesn't look pitifully unread. I'd rather spend time reading great novels, analyzing published works, or reading trade journals. Attending conferences. Having new experiences IRL that can go into future novels. A new writer might better spend his time reading how-to writing books than blogging. All of us need to get our words of fiction in every day. Today I did 2030. Tomorrow I'll try and do the same. And on and on. I'll deal with marketing worries when/if it's time to deal with marketing worries.

I agree with that last bit for the most part. I've had my blog since I was 17, so it's not related to promoting anything, although I do have a nice sized fan base. Anyway, when I see aspiring writers rushing to put up blogs and build contacts, I can't help but think: shouldn't you be writing?

I divide all of my activities into two groups: writing and not writing.

Blog series, twitters, reviews and all that jazz are, imo, just more ways that writers procrastinate. Now if you're being paid to blog or making money off of your blog, that's entirely different. Or if you really enjoy it and consider it a hobby, that's also different. But it still shouldn't take up more time than actual writing.

This whole "I've got to have a blog!" thing just results in an online graveyard of tacky blogspots. So I think 80% of your efforts should go towards your craft. The promotional stuff should be an afterthought, especially for an unagented writer who hopes to be traditionally published.

Unless! Unless being well known is your main priority. In which case you might consider scrapping the writer thing and hosting a youtube channel.

Susan Littlefield
06-24-2012, 09:06 PM
I suspect you mean building an audience as a guest at other people's blogs. Bear in mind that many people post as guests at other people's blogs and that you have to say some pretty accurate and prolific stuff to stand out.

It's better to write your story, submit it, and keep submitting it until it is sold.

Brian Rush
06-24-2012, 09:10 PM
Yes, you might be able to get a few readers, but for someone to run up to another and say, "You've got to read this book," to another person; would not be reflective of how much you advertise, but how well you write.

It's actually reflective of both. If your writing, story, etc. isn't good enough to excite that reader, he's not going to run to someone else and plug your book. On the other hand, if he's never heard of your book, he's not going to plug it, either.

If you have to choose between the two, I'd say that writing quality is more important simply because most of the writing out there (especially in self-published work) sucks swampwater and that's the best way to stand out from the crowd. But the fact is you don't have to choose between the two and you should work your ass off doing both.

Bottom line is, publishers wouldn't ask authors to market their books if they didn't think that was useful. Experienced publishers, whatever else one may say about them, do probably know the publishing business. Take it from them.

shadowwalker
06-24-2012, 09:26 PM
I haven't read the other discussion, but my big question would be: Just because they read your blog (or guest blog), why would they buy your book? Are you posting snippets of the book? Are you discussing one particular genre? In other words, what would you be doing on a blog that would make people want to read your fiction?

I've read blogs or interviews by authors I like and quite frankly, sometimes I wish they'd just kept quiet. They're excellent writers of fiction - they're lousy at blogging and/or interviews. I've also read interesting blogs and then samples of these people's stories and felt they should stick to discussing stories instead of writing them. So it's kind of a crapshoot - will you, as a person, 'live up to' your writing - and vice versa? You may end up just shooting yourself in the foot - particularly if this is your first book.

CrastersBabies
06-24-2012, 09:31 PM
Yeah, assume that if you write a 100 guest blogs, that maybe 1 in 20 might buy your book. Heck, 1 in 20 of your friends/family might buy your book. I don't know. I just pulled that number out of my duff. Someone have a better number?

Ses
06-24-2012, 09:31 PM
So this is a similar thread going on at this very moment, and instead of reposting....this is what I posted (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=247961) there.

The info is from a editor and agent panel at the recently held writers @ work conference in alta, utah. Plus, you know, some of my own ideas.

Kerosene
06-24-2012, 09:32 PM
It's actually reflective of both. If your writing, story, etc. isn't good enough to excite that reader, he's not going to run to someone else and plug your book. On the other hand, if he's never heard of your book, he's not going to plug it, either.

If you have to choose between the two, I'd say that writing quality is more important simply because most of the writing out there (especially in self-published work) sucks swampwater and that's the best way to stand out from the crowd. But the fact is you don't have to choose between the two and you should work your ass off doing both.

Bottom line is, publishers wouldn't ask authors to market their books if they didn't think that was useful. Experienced publishers, whatever else one may say about them, do probably know the publishing business. Take it from them.

Some thoughts:

I never saw:

Harry Potter
Da Vinci Code
Twilight
or any other big selling book advertised at all.

I heard, from word, to read them. Because something, how large or small, was good enough to grab the reader's attention; was worth reading for.
Sure, there was later advertising. But at no time was in any less than the Harry Potter stand at the school book sale, or the Da Vinci Code's movie ads, or Twilight's section in Barnes 'N Nobles. That was later, to highlight the book.


For example:

I have had no one come up to me and say: "Have you heard the new Nickleback album?"

No, I've heard: "Have you listened to Alt-J? They just dropped their new album and it's amazing."

I didn't know who Alt-J was (99.99% of you haven't ether). But because the album is good, I'm willing to spread the word. But now you know, from my words. It's good, check them out on Soundcloud.


To me, advertising a book is like saying: This won't sell itself.

It's like the "Miracle potion seller". If you need to broadcast and use effort, the product isn't worthy of my time. If the product was truly good, it would sell itself.


It's all word of mouth. I understand that you need to market it, at least the small amount.
But modern day sellers make it extremely easy.

You go to amazon, set up the profile, post a book, run through the options.
If someone searches "fantasy", they find a book they like. They read it, they review it. Then, amazon recommends them another book (yours).

For both bookshelf and online sellers, they have a "new released" area. Which I like to dwell in every once and a while. This highlights your new book.


There is a need to start up a market. Post within the AW community, get some friends, post up your novel when it's out. A few people with read it, some might spread word of it.

But the writing must be good enough to read.

You don't need to carry 10000 friends on facebook, you don't need a billboard, you don't need to sponser a Nascar team.
You need to write. Period.
If you want to be a writer. If you want to be a good one. Write. No person has made progress by doing something else.

blacbird
06-24-2012, 09:48 PM
The best way to build an audience, by far, is to sell your work and have it wind up on the best-seller tables at bookstores. You can still do all the social media promotion you want.

caw

mccardey
06-24-2012, 09:51 PM
nm

Brian Rush
06-24-2012, 10:01 PM
Some thoughts:

I never saw:

Harry Potter
Da Vinci Code
Twilight
or any other big selling book advertised at all.


Just because you didn't see the advertising doesn't mean it didn't exist. I never knew about Potter or Da Vinci until after those were already best-selling books. (I haven't read Twilight so that's a null question.) That means I never saw the promotional effort for these, either. Somehow or other, though, they had to get a certain number of readers who then sold them word-of-mouth to a certain number of other readers and so on in a snowball effect.

The chance that any one reader will be excited enough to recommend the book to someone else is X%.

The number of other people this reader will recommend the book to is Y, and the chance that any of these people will buy the book is Z%.

Obviously, then, the number of initial readers is a big factor in whether it takes off by word of mouth, and those initial readers have to hear about it, not from other readers ('cause no one's read it yet) but from browsing, either in bookstores or (more commonly these days) on line, and THAT means they need to have some reason to even look at the bloody thing. And that's where your marketing comes in.



I understand that you need to market it, at least the small amount. But modern day sellers make it extremely easy.

You go to amazon, set up the profile, post a book, run through the options.
If someone searches "fantasy", they find a book they like. They read it, they review it. Then, amazon recommends them another book (yours).


Umm -- well, not quite.

If I go to Amazon and -- hell, I'll limit it to the Kindle store 'cause I hardly ever buy print books anymore. Go to the K-store and click the options to just look at fantasy. I find more than 30k titles. You can narrow this down by sub-category, but you're still going to have thousands of titles. Odds are overwhelming that no matter what the search criteria (unless the person is actually looking for you or your book), they're not going to even SEE your book, and if they don't see it they won't buy it no matter how good it is.

If they are looking for you or your book, Amazon's search engine works pretty well, so they'll find it. And that's where word of mouth (eventually) comes in. But just browsing? Forget it. Ain't gonna happen. That worked in bookstores when people still shopped in bookstores. It really doesn't work on line.

So what you do with your networking is, you don't convince people to buy your book, you convince them to look at it. Then the book itself has to convince them to buy it, read it, and tell their friends about it. And that's where you're right. (I'm certainly not saying that good writing isn't important, it's THE MOST important thing. But it's not the ONLY important thing. You're talking here as if marketing doesn't matter, and that's just not so.)

For that, you need to have a link to your book cross people's awareness -- many people's awareness, because this is a numbers game -- and have a good cover image and description so they'll have a reason to think this might be something worth clicking on and checking out. If they don't, they won't buy your book or read it no matter how good it is. (Of course, if it's crappy they won't anyway.)



For both bookshelf and online sellers, they have a "new released" area. Which I like to dwell in every once and a while. This highlights your new book.


Again, try this in reality at Amazon. The first big number of pages are books that say "available for pre-order." You have to scroll through a lot of that before you come upon new releases that actually ARE released.



There is a need to start up a market. Post within the AW community, get some friends, post up your novel when it's out. A few people with read it, some might spread word of it.

But the writing must be good enough to read.

I agree, OF COURSE, with this last sentence. You aren't going to find an audience for a book that isn't good enough. But you have to have that initial number of people who will even check it out. Otherwise, you won't find an audience even if your book IS good enough. I don't think the AW community will suffice by itself, either, although it sure can't hurt (and that's part of marketing, by the way -- here and on other discussion boards related to books).

I'm not presenting myself as an expert on the subject of marketing books by any means; I'm on a learning curve and I know for a fact that a lot of what I did in the past was wrong. But the question of whether you need to promote is super-basic. You do.

Stacia Kane
06-24-2012, 11:11 PM
The last thread I created was called, "who here writes fiction on there blog." This topic brought up an interesting question by lauralam and
I'd like to share with the Absolute Write Family; Administrator's included ( smiles)

I want to know is it better to create work and sell it to a publisher like most writers try to do? Or build an audience doing guest post so when a writer finishes his or her masterpiece, they can sell it to people immediately?

I ask this because I want to build a massive audience through guest post and what not. Then, after I've reached a certain point, sell it straight to my audience.

Please free to share you opinion. I think this is a concept we all think about as writers who are looking to make history and make a name for ourselves.

I look forwards to your responses!


For whose blogs are you writing these guest posts? Do you know a lot of writers with audiences for their blogs, who'd be willing to have you come play in their pool?

I get regular requests from people who want to do guest posts on my blog. I turn them all down. All of them. Because I don't know these people; why should I hand my blog audience, which I've worked hard to build, over to them?

If you're guesting on my blog, it's because I know you and I've invited you to do so. I've done guest posts on other authors' blogs, too; I've known all of them, and they've all invited me. I've never asked.


So if you're thinking this is the way to build yourself an audience (and I don't really agree, and I'm also curious as to what you'll blog about), remember that you also need a network of people willing to host you. Guest spots on blogs don't just fall from the sky.

Miss Plum
06-24-2012, 11:25 PM
(snip)

I ask this because I want to build a massive audience through guest post and what not. Then, after I've reached a certain point, sell it straight to my audience.

(snip)

Jonathan, I think you mean commenting at others' blogs and becoming a Follower? There's a difference between that and actually writing posts as a guest, as Stacia Kane says.

I see what you're getting at: creating an online community of potential readers. But as many here point out, that would be good for very few sales. Readers are the ones who create sales by spreading the word about how great a book is, not authors. So you need to write something so good that people who have never heard of you are shouting from the rooftops, "You've gotta read this book!"

frimble3
06-25-2012, 12:32 AM
Besides, how will either guest-posting or commenting build an audience for your future book, unless you use that space to pimp your book? It's not like a casual mention of 'I'm writing a book' will be enough.
And who's going to let you take up space on their blog solely to push your book? Unless you're already big'n'famous.

Filigree
06-25-2012, 12:41 AM
No, you do not use all your guest blog space to pimp your book. You engage in lively, thoughtful, and useful discussions with people about topics that might or might not be related to your book. Blog posts teach an audience about your voice. A tiny mention in your sig or intro about your book is enough.

frimble3
06-25-2012, 12:54 AM
No, you do not use all your guest blog space to pimp your book. You engage in lively, thoughtful, and useful discussions with people about topics that might or might not be related to your book. Blog posts teach an audience about your voice. A tiny mention in your sig or intro about your book is enough.
Ah! Thank you for the information. I wondered how that worked. (Not a regular blog reader - if someone gives a link to a post as being funny or appalling, I'll read it, but I don't think I've ever gone back or kept up.)

icerose
06-25-2012, 01:39 AM
Write a book that people MUST read because it's so awesome and MUST recommend it to everyone they know and can't stop talking about it because it is so awesome. Then get the book in places where people can and do find it without much effort with a decent price tag.

Then engage in promotional work that will help with the spread of word about your book.

There have been a handful, and I do mean handful out of hundreds of thousands of writers, who have been wildly successful at self publishing. I seriously doubt they built their audience before they even had a product to put out there. Rather they wrote a book that was best seller quality, hence high sales, and then spent the next two or three YEARS of their life pimping it absolutely everywhere, doing promotions, doing give aways and contests, spending big bucks out of their own pockets to get word out. But it came down to the same thing in the end, their book had to be best selling quality before it could become a best seller. None of the above efforts would have made a midlist book a best seller and certainly not an "eh" book best seller either.

The only lower quality books that have a shot at being a best seller is when the author is famous and people are buying it because Joe Famous wrote it.

So, step one. Write an awesome best seller.

Polenth
06-25-2012, 09:52 AM
AW has more authors with books out than authors with very successful blogs. Which should be a warning sign for your plan.

Starting a blog early can have some benefits, like getting into the habit of blogging, building a support network and having fun. What it doesn't do is build a massive following. Not unless you're writing the sort of blog that'll attract in lots of people anyway. Most of us aren't in that category, as we write the sort of blog someone will follow if they like our fiction, rather than blogs that are amazingly awesome in themselves.

Jamesaritchie
06-25-2012, 06:46 PM
Write a novel. Sell that novel to a publisher. If it's any good, it'll build it's own audience through the normal promotion the publisher does routinely.

But be very careful of mistakes such as "who here writes fiction on there blog". Too many such mistakes will many any agent or editor stop reading.

Roger J Carlson
06-25-2012, 06:54 PM
I ask this because I want to build a massive audience through guest post and what not. Then, after I've reached a certain point, sell it straight to my audience. The only way to build a massive audience is to write something that massive numbers of people want to read. The best way to do that is to write A LOT. Most people's first book (with some exceptions, of course) is not best seller material. The more you write, the better your writing is going to get.

So, in my opinion, you'd be better off writing new and better books than spending time blogging. People would rather hear other readers say your book is awesome. What the author thinks of his/her own work is largely ignored.

seun
06-25-2012, 07:07 PM
I've had to unfollow a number of writers on Twitter who do nothing but post about their own book. Yes, we all want to increase our sales and telling people about our books might appear the most obvious way of doing so, but it seems more likely to me that if someone finds your Tweets/blog/facebook posts interesting, they're going to go a step further and check out your book. Hammering them over the head with non-stop self-pimpage and doing bog all else isn't going to win you any fans.

veinglory
06-25-2012, 07:49 PM
What use is an audience if you have nothing to sell them?

Sarashay
06-25-2012, 07:52 PM
I want to know is it better to create work and sell it to a publisher like most writers try to do?

Yes.


Or build an audience doing guest post so when a writer finishes his or her masterpiece, they can sell it to people immediately?

I ask this because I want to build a massive audience through guest post and what not. Then, after I've reached a certain point, sell it straight to my audience.


So, in other words, you want us to reassure you that your brilliant plan will work the way you hope it will.

It won't. If you want to write work that people are willing to pay for, it's really best to hone your chops writing for paying markets than dithering around on blogs hoping that ten thousand loyal fans will magically sprout from the woodwork. Trust me on this one.

veinglory
06-25-2012, 07:54 PM
People buy the books in front of them. Very few will hold an author in mind for months and years, waiting for the product. There are some rare examples from the world of blogs and Podcasts--but I would not count on replicating that effect.

Torgo
06-25-2012, 08:03 PM
I doubt seriously that editors at the big six spend one second reading unpublished writers' blogs.

Yeah; I don't. At least, I don't read blogs that are all about someone's quest to publish their book, etc, etc.

It's very possible that I am reading a fair few blogs by people who may, at some point in the future, say "hey, I've written a book." And because I enjoy their writing, there's a good chance for them to convert me into a paying customer. But the point is: I was showing up to read a blog about science or video games or atheism, not to read unpublished fiction (which I get plenty of in office hours) or hear about the travails of an author (ditto).

So I guess this is a strategy that is going to work (on me) if you are reliably entertaining, so that I pay attention to you on a regular basis, and you don't annoy me by trying to sell me something every five minutes.

Filigree
06-25-2012, 08:20 PM
Veinglory nailed it: "People buy the books in front of them. Very few will hold an author in mind for months and years, waiting for the product."

And even those rare examples get twitted about it regularly. George R. R. Martin is bigger than god to some readers, and Random House will tie itself in knots for him. But even George isn't immune to fans teasing, cajoling, and threatening him to write faster.

Promising careers can be destroyed through lack of work. I know of one fantasy author who, through no fault of his own, may have destroyed his chances of finishing out an amazing series because he can't deliver a new mms.

Blogs are fun and informative, but they are no substitute for books. The very few blogs that have been turned into books showed some marketing potential from the start.