Tag: writing

Kindle just isn’t cool anymore

I have a Kindle, somewhere.

Seriously, I know where my Kindle is. I just haven’t looked at it in a long time and it was brought to my attention today. I pondered why I haven’t read anything on Kindle and realized Kindle isn’t cool anymore.

Time flies, we all know, but the Kindle was invented in 2007. Some of you are probably thinking it wasn’t all that cool back then, but that’s a full decade of new inventions between then and now and there have been some pretty cool inventions.

Would you give a Kindle as a Christmas gift this year? Would you be thrilled if you received one? If the answer to both questions is no, then you have confirmed Kindle ain’t cool, man.

If Kindle ain’t cool, then I suppose that means the old-fashioned book may come back, but would you be thrilled if you received a book for Christmas? I think you see where I’m going with this.

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The super-short e-book failed super fast

I couldn’t even give away a single super-short e-book, which is a failure of sorts, but a useful experiment. It sheds a little light on what a particular audience is thinking, in this case an audience of 100 or so people who don’t already have a book-reading habit.

Combining the latest experiment with some past experiments, I’ve found that the only people who are willing to read something on Kindle or any other reading device, are people who already use a Kindle or reading app. Nobody will download an app on their phone just to read one book, no matter how short. It’s too inconvenient.

It is worth noting that the same people who would not download an eight-page free e-book, have a four-year history of reading posts from my various free blogs. So, these people are an established audience who like to read my writing, but still wouldn’t download a free book to Kindle.

It is also worth noting, I have done previous experiments in which established Kindle readers did download my free e-books, proving that Kindle readers are willing to give my stories a shot, while blog followers are not.

The conclusion seems to be, if you want to publish e-books, you can’t try to reinvent the book-selling formula. If you want to reinvent the way people read, you’ll have to do so outside the realm of books.

 

The super-short e-book

I have a theory that people would read more if books were shorter, say like 10 pages or less. If that sounds ridiculous, wait until you hear me out.

In a year of study, I’ve found people really don’t read books. They hate the idea of reading books for one reason: it takes too long. People will binge watch a TV series for six hours, but will say reading a book takes too long. People will watch movies for two hours, even if they are bad movies. People even seem to take pleasure in watching bad movies and critiquing them afterward with friends. Nobody wants to wade through a bad book, however, and fear of doing so prevents people from even picking one up.

The key to being a modern writer is to come up with a format of reading that would allow people to read bad books and not mind.

To think in purely economic terms, as opposed to artistic, we are talking about consumers and their tendencies for purchasing stories. People need stories of some kind. They literally can’t live without them. By far the most popular way to consume stories is through video. No matter how much you tout a book, most people would rather get the story through their TV.

What if books were super short? Would people want to come home on a Friday night and read a 10-page story? My history of blogging has proved that people do like to read, as long as the reading doesn’t take too long.

I have released a super-short e-book as a test. You can read it for free this Friday through Sunday. It is called The Secret, by JJ Petes. It is available for 99 cents on Kindle or can be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription right now.

I expect nobody to read this super short e-book and I certainly have no intention of making money from it. I only want to test the theory. If even a couple of my small number of followers gives the book a try, maybe I’m on to something. Super short might be the only way to go.

 

 

The art of selling stories

What’s the first question someone invariably asks when you tell them you are reading a great book?

“What’s it about?”

If you say it’s about good vs. evil battling it out in outer space and they aren’t interested in that kind of thing, they will shrug their shoulders and never bother reading. People make up their mind very quickly about whether they are willing to buy a story.

Once I was at work and I told a woman I work with that I had an idea for a story. I said I was writing about a woman who meets her soul mate, but is already married to someone else. Within the next couple of days, different women around the office were asking me about the book and saying they thought it sounded good, yet that one-sentence premise was all they knew about it.

I asked the women what they would do in that situation and each one said she would stay with her husband. I didn’t realize until much later that I was basically planning to write Bridges of Madison County, which makes me think about the difficulty in selling old stories.

Movies like Casablanca or books like the Invisible Man probably aren’t making much money at this moment and it isn’t because they aren’t any good. It’s because they aren’t front and center in our minds.

People don’t read books because they are well written and they don’t watch movies because they are artistically shot. Take the two following cases as proof:

The seven-year old son of a man I know was wearing a Star Wars T-shirt the other day. I asked him if he was a Star Wars fan.

“Not really,” he said. “But I’ll watch it anyway.”

I just finished watching a movie called Passengers, which was made in the past year and frankly wasn’t impressive. I watched it anyway, because the premise intrigued me and I was in a tired mood and needed to relax.

In both cases, the consumer would gladly watch a better movie, but would also be willing to settle for a mediocre one. Now I understand how so many bad books and movies get made. The public doesn’t demand good.

If I told that kid he could watch a great classic movie from 1956 or the latest Marvel superhero movie, he would probably choose the latter. Premise and freshness trumps depth of content when selling a story.

 

 

 

Keep blogging, even though it won’t sell your book

That was the theme of an article I read last week. Blogging will not sell your book at all, wrote a female author, not even if your blog is read by thousands and thousands of people.

This female author had a real, published book for sale and her widely read blog post led to one or two sales of the book and that’s it, she wrote. Yet, she insists that blogging is still a good thing. Blogging gets your writing and your name out into the world and keeps both on your readers’ mind, so when the reader runs across your book someday, they know who you are.

Last year, I read a blurb from a literary agent who said the first thing he does when he gets a submission is Google the prospective author’s name. If they don’t have an online presence in place, he won’t even read the submission.

I guess the lesson to take from both of these tidbits of information is that modern writers better be online in some form.

Do you need an editor?

I completed 23 percent of that book I mentioned the other day and could go no further. I gave it a two-star review on Goodreads and in the process ran across an interesting review from another Goodreads user who also gave two stars.

Her review said the book started strong, but became repetitive and slow moving, which she thought could have been fixed by an editor. I agreed completely with her assessment and it forced the question: do all writers need an editor?

An editor of mine at a newspaper I worked for used to say everyone needs an editor. She didn’t say it to me directly in a scolding sort of way; she just said it out loud when circumstances called for it. While there were rare occasions in which she wouldn’t change a word of my stories for the paper, she more often changed them for the better. A few times, she changed them for the worse, but only a few times. Overall, my work was better for having an editor.

So, if I had to give advice to anyone thinking of publishing a book, I would tell them to get an editor. They don’t help with spelling and grammar as much as they help with analyzing the feel and flow of a work.

From what I understand, self-publishers can hire decent editors. Does anyone out there have a good editor they can recommend?

 

Instant rejection

Yesterday, someone asked me if I had read any good books lately. It may be the first time that’s happened in a decade. The exchange that followed was revealing and educational for anyone thinking of selling a book.

I told her Comanche Moon was pretty good and her response: “That sounds like a western,” meaning she would never bother with a western. She didn’t have to see the cover or read a page or two. She heard the title and rejected the book immediately.

Even though I thought she might enjoy the book despite it being a western, I didn’t press the issue. Instead, I told her she might like Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. This suggestion seemed to satisfy her and she said she would look it up and try an e-book sample.

No word as to whether she started reading Beautiful Ruins, but that’s not important. The lesson here is that a casual reader will reject your book in a heartbeat if there is the slightest chance it doesn’t fit their idea of what they want to read. A title or a cover can turn away a reader before they ever give a chance to the writing or the story. Readers have preconceived notions about what they want to buy and if an author doesn’t deliver the goods from start to finish, there will be no sale.