Thursday, October 12, 2017

5 Shocking Things I Learned at This Conference

Zestful Blog Post #233

If you’re a faithful reader, you know me, and you already get that this title is to prove a point. But I will share information I found interesting. Shocking? Maybe.

So OK, I’m a member of an organization called Novelists Inc., which is predominantly made up of independently published authors. The annual conference was last weekend in St. Pete Beach, Florida. I saved money by commuting in every day, but it would have been fun to hang out in the bars with presenters and other writers every night. I attended a bunch of sessions and met up with some serious authors, as well as big shots in the publishing business, notably executives from Amazon and other high-profile companies.

Here are five highlights:
1)     Annual book sales are second only to television—which I guess means subscription television—and higher than games, music, and movies put together. I regret not having copied down the actual figures, but I was too busy absorbing the impact, being legitimately and seriously shocked by how much money there is in book sales, especially as compared with other media.
2)     Marketing isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. Well, that’s the impression I got from some of the sessions, but the message really is that authors must do marketing and promo, no matter who they are, or risk oblivion. If your marketing initiatives fail, it’s because your product blows. So learn to write well before learning to market well.
3)     Almost no one these days understands geometry. I run into this all the time, especially with writers, who brag about being mathematically illiterate. In God’s name, it’s not that hard. More than one presenter kept talking about one-dimensional characters or one-dimensional this or that. Does no one remember Descartes? Does no one cherish his memory? He gifted us with the concept of dimensionality. A point in space has zero dimension, a line has one dimension, a plane has two dimensions, and a solid has three dimensions. A solid moving through space represents what we sometimes call the fourth dimension, or time. To call a character, for instance, one-dimensional is to call it linear. This is not what you mean. You are trying to say the character is flat. A flat character is a two-dimensional character. A picture is two-dimensional; it is flat. Something three-dimensional would leap off the page, wouldn’t it? When we wish to say a character or scene or anything else is dull or flat or undeveloped, let us please say it is two-dimensional. Thank you very much for sticking with me through this pet peeve.


[This commanding swan was once a gray, uncoordinated cygnet. But it was always a swan. See #6.]
  
4)     Romance, chick lit, and traditional mystery writers do well keeping profanity and explicit sex out of their material. One of them said she hears from moms who tell her, “I don’t have to turn off the audio of your book in the car when I pick up the kids.” Meanwhile, I was surprised to hear a couple of authors of young adult material tell me they put in plenty of profanity and vulgarisms, and even (well protected) sex, and of course the kids love this. It’s just their parents and teachers who sometimes have a problem with it. Yet the kids are the final audience, and they’re supported by adults who perceive the value of good writing, and writing that speaks to young people with good messages.
5)     Top-earning professional writers get that way by being efficient, tracking their time, meeting deadlines, and spending money when appropriate—that is, gathering collaborators such as cover artists, editors, and publicists, and buying advertising and spending money on promotion while keeping a close eye on return on investment.
6)     Oh, and one last thing. So OK, that’s 6 things; sue me. A catchy blog post title can earn you a click, but if you don’t deliver what the clicker expects, you might be sorry. Bottom line, you have to be yourself, not a cheap huckster. Is this obvious? Of course, but there are so many voices out there yelling “Look at me, look at me, look at me!” that sometimes a quiet, sincere person begins to doubt themselves. Don’t doubt yourself. You have friends right here.

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18 comments:

  1. Now that was all fascinating. Plus, you managed to boil a conference down to six take-aways. Nice! I was rather surprised about books outselling so many other things. I guess Amazon would know.
    As usual, you tell a great story, even as a blog. Thanks!

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    1. You're welks, BJ. Glad you liked the post! Actually, it was a guy from a creative studio who mentioned the books vs. the world stat, if I remember right...

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  2. There's so much negativity about people not reading books any more, it's great to hear how well the market is doing!

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  3. Intriguing... and I do remember Descartes. He said, "Common sense is the most widely shared commodity in the world, for every man is convinced that he is well supplied with it." Enjoyed your 3-dimensional writing!

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    1. You got me with a full LOL, Pam. Thank you!

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  4. Awesome as usual! I'm happy to hear that books remain as popular as I think they should be. Fascinating to hear bits of what goes on at conferences--thanks for the peek inside! (Argh--that reminds me of a pet peeve of mine: when people misspell peek, as in "sneak peak." It grates me.) Thanks!

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    1. Oh gosh, yes. I have a photo of an author's powerpoint slide from that same conference that has 'sneak peak' in it.

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  5. Did "Amazon" comment on the annual roundups of top indie earnings trends, or discuss trends in trad vs indie? (#5)

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    1. Not that I heard, but I didn't attend every session they were at. I certainly did hear formerly trad-pubbed authors discussing their journey into indie pub, and how happy they were about it. (Mostly cuz $.)

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  6. Great blog, thanks. I always enjoy your pet peeves since they often mirror my own.

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  7. Thanks for going to the conference and reporting that books are still popular and money-making. I was shocked. Otherwise, your pet peeves make me laugh. Thanks for that!

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    1. You're welcome, Patricia, & thanks for stopping by!

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  8. What about the characters in the novel Flatland?

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    1. Brilliant observation, Big Stan. I love that book! (Edwin A. Abbott) I wonder if it's the only novel that unfolds entirely in the realm of geometry...

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