Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Results from the Facebook experiment (with poll results)

well...if nothing else, it's possible to host a blog on Facebook. You can definitely post a blog-length post and you definitely reach a different group. That said, I don't know. It felt kind of weird. I put it on my "page" for easy access since it's set to public, but there's no way to link to an individual status (ETA: All thanks to Zoe York, who showed me how to link to an individual status. You just click on the time stamp right under your name and it'll open the status separately and give it a url)

--and looking at the back end of my facebook and blog tells me I get more page views here on my blog. I suspect it's a couple of things. The way facebook weighs posts, if anyone comments, and if no one comments, the time of day (because if you're posting at night and all your friends are on FB during the day your post is liable to get lost, and that's one thing a blog is good at--consistency) and the boost offer.

To me the boost offer (to increase your visibility in your audience's feed streams in exchange for cash. Sort of an evolved FB ad) is the Facebook equivalent of paid product placement, something that happens all the time on retail shelves. A trend I've been watching (and I have this sneaking suspicion I find a lot of random things interesting) is ATM placement inside stores that don't already have a bank in their lobbies.

An ATM is a cash dispensing machine, and over the years as we all move from cash to debit, many of us have stopped carrying cash, or just pick up twenty bucks along with the milk. It's free, and it saves a trip to the bank's ATM. The thing is--indie ATMs (the ones not attached to a bank's wall or drive-thru) charge hefty fees and give a percentage to the host, which means every time you use an ATM at the grocery store, the chain gets a cut. I've already seen the amount you can get out during a transaction go down significantly, and some things you used to be able to get with a debit card now require cash....which you can easily get (for a fee) at the ATM near customer service.

So does this mean Facebook is artificially holding down posts that would normally attract a higher amount of views while at the same time holding out "boost your post to this many people for the bargain price of..."? Of course, paranoid thinking like that results in too much I know that you know that I know and goes nowhere.

So what does that mean for Facebook and blogging? Not much. I know that I can cross post the entire post without linking to my blog, and I might--and then again, I might not. The potential for blog tour applications is definitely there. Especially for the right person.

This is my original post. I've been thinking (very hard) about success and indies and with allowances for a couple of variable, I think the 10k rule is where it's at.

The 10,000 rule: (with revised thoughts at end)

Yesterday, I was over at romance divas, where mima was asking if it was possible to host a blog on Facebook. I’d been thinking about it for a while under the impression that FB posts were limited (how often do you see a blog-length FB status??). It turns out they are “limited” to 63k characters, which is around 15k words. So, in the interests of finding out if a Facebook based blog can work, and if my latest theory is sorta right, tell me if A) you can read this B) help me out with answering a real brief survey ((at the end of the post)‘cause mima isn’t the only person to ask me if it’s possible to blog on FB) and C) tell me (pretty please??) how many hours you’re putting into writing per week (if you’re an indie or thinking of going indie) and if you’re where you want to be or see yourself getting there soon.

Why? Because, I’m a fan of Malcolm Gladwell. I really liked Blink, and I loved the Tipping Point. His TED lecture about spaghetti sauce is probably one of the biggest influences on my non-fiction writing. I recently read Outliers, which is Gladwell’s take on why people are successful. I enjoyed the whole book, particularly the part about socio-economic differences and how they’re trained into children, but I loved the 10,000 hour rule (the idea that you reach mastery of a subject in 10,000 hours)

This is a good visual:

This is a good rebuttal which isn’t really a rebuttal at all, but more like an explanation of how the rule works (you can’t just put in time; you have to be “focused” and do it quickly):

Basically Gladwell says that Bill Gates reached the top of his field by being the right person in the right place at the right time—and putting in the time needed to attain mastery while everyone else was still thinking about getting into computers, unable to get into computers because they didn’t have access or they just weren’t putting in the focused time. The explanation resonated because I’d just listened to the Liliana Hart lecture—driving along, listening and nodding until she started talking about her pet peeve—people who say they don’t have the time.

(I’d just said to myself, “Must be nice, but I just don’t have the time.”) And she says (I’m paraphrasing) “I don’t have time, but I write. I write every day and in the beginning, I wrote every spare minute. Everybody has time.” She is still, to this day, writing every single day.

And I thought about all the bits and pieces I’ve seen over the years—a thread on RD where people were talking about their cash and someone asked, “Is there anyone here who put a lot of work into their writing (and put out a lot of good, well-written work) and didn’t make money?” (no one answered) And the indie catch-phrase, “You have to keep writing and putting things out.”

As things go the self-pub revolution is very recent, and people who were doing it in the beginning (in my opinion) are successful because at the time it exploded into the limelight—they were already cranking out books like there was no tomorrow. They wrote and wrote and wrote. Not one of the indie success stories is a success with a couple of books—they’re a success with lots of books. They have “backlist” and that backlist is a visible representation of the time they’ve put in. It all goes back to writing and putting things out (which is the indie mantra), but it can easily be paraphrased by saying, “If you are writing to sell, and your books sell, you learn what sells. And you write more things that sell, and you get better, which means more people buy your books, you get more money, so you write more (and more) and get better because you’re making more money and all of a sudden you’re caught in really good feedback loop. And the next thing you know you’ve put in 100,000 hours.” It takes time to write.

So…maybe this is actually part 2 of my “what makes an indie writer sell” series? What “will turn” a niche writer with a couple of books into a screaming success?

And for that, I’m going to point to Sherrilyn Kenyon. Talk about niche writers—at the time she put out Fantasy Lover there was no one else like her. She wrote and wrote and wrote back in the days when she had to do it the hard way. She wrote niche for Leisure, and exploded on the scene with the Dark-Hunter series—“after” putting in her 10,000 hours. By the time she hit it big, she had a sizeable backlist. So my advice for niche writers who’d like to expand their readership and don’t want to change what they’re writing?

Keep writing. Keep putting it out there. Put in your 10,000 hours and listen to me: Liliana Hart is right. “Everyone” has the time.

A quick, easy (and very unscientific survey (thank you in advance)

A) Did you have to force yourself to “see more”? If you saw longer posts from others on subjects you were interested in, would you “see more”?

B) If you are an indie, how many hours of writing do you put in a week, and are you where you want to be or will you get there soon? How much of a backlist do you have?


A good thing about knowing the people who commented and PM'd me, is that I have a good sampling. A quick summary of my (unscientific) findings:

The people who I know are working hard and are focused (almost scarily focused) are doing very well, or are on the verge of exploding onto the scene

The people I know who aren't putting in the time aren't doing well (when it comes to their bottom line, although this is a relative thing) and I know how hard it is to find focus when life is happening around you

The people who are putting in serious time and haven't yet connected with their readers so they can't get into the feedback loop are also not doing well. An interesting side note to this is that on looking over catalogs, the same writers have onesies (books that are stand-alones and not connected to each other) and write in widely divergent unconnected categories (an example and not someone's actual work would be sci-fi, sweet contemporaries, literary fiction, erotica and inspirational historicals) what does all that mean?

In my considered opinion? 

The golden key to success as an indie writer (niche or not) is this:

1. Write all the time. Write when you get up, write at lunch, write on the toilet, write after dinner.  Write and put it out there. Handle the little details with the same attention you give to your writing. Formatting, covers, blurbs, social media. Write some more.

2. You probably won't strike it rich immediately, but write some more. Write and write and keep putting it out. You are gaining mastery.

3. Pretend the devil is chasing you. Write hot (not steamy, but like you're working in a crucible, because you are). Most of my workshops are 1 week because that's all I can maintain. I need the pressure to do my best work, and so does a successful indie. If you slack up on the pressure, you won't learn as much--as a workshopper, I can tell you truthfully. People learn more if they learn quicker, because they have focus. They retain longer if they learn slower, but if you can keep up the momentum, why do you need to retain anything? The knowledge, just like the skill--is always there. 

4. Pay attention to your bottom line. If book 1 and 3 sell and book 2 doesn't--write more like 1 and 3, don't just write book 12 because you want to talk about zombie eggplant wasps and cosmic love. You can't get into the feedback loop if you avoid the loop (and don't forget to write!)

5. Once you find the loop, always keep a part of your material in the loop. Writers get big because they write what their audience wants and attract more audience, but if you always wanted to write something random, do it in addition to your main gig, not instead of it.


Edith said...

Target, write, write then write some more, until I've practised for 10,000 hours. I love that concept, it places the ball firmly within my own court. My choice, my decision. I'm targeting and writing. Oh yeah and reading your wonderful blog too! Loved your experiment!

Jodi Henley said...

lol, Edith. :) It does place the ball firmly in your hands, doesn't it? I totally credit it with gluing me to my chair. I did more within the last two days than I've done in weeks! I wish all experiments were so easy. :)