Goodreads Ads Case Study

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#21
I have already written different things for different reasons. Perhaps it is more correct to think of these categories as what drives someone to start writing in the first place, but over time, that drive can change or take on aspects of the other categories - l
I wouldn’t know about authors specifically but the classification @Tanniel wrote fits pretty much within the main intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, which would drive pretty much any professional.
An extremely succinct summary of type of motivation would be:
  • Incentive: Reward. Immediate reinforcement. This would fit Tanniel's first authors category
  • Fear: of consequences and fear of failing.
  • Achievement: the drive for competency, to improve one's skills.
  • Growth: the urge for self-improvement. A yearning desire to change by improving oneself . Tanniel’s third category would fall here
  • Power: the desire for autonomy and/or control of others. Tanniel’s second category
  • Social: the need to belong, to be accepted.
 
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jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#22
Nice post @Elvira (with my other hat I'm a management consultant and nerd...)

I'm planning to do a blog on just writing for joy this week (it will probably be the last I put up before Christmas as the following Friday I'll be starting to get ready to cook for 10...).

A while ago I did this one: http://jozebwrites.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/on-pride.html which went down well, pretty much touching on some of the motivational reasons behind writing.
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#23
I agree with your blog post, @jo zebedee; it's that line of thinking (that sales equals quality) that has made me drop out of that race altogether and make my writing available for free. I am very fond of Orwell, for instance, but the man never sold much in his lifetime. Kafka never even published anything while alive, as I mentioned above. Both of them, I would argue, are among the most influential writers of the 20th century.

It seems to me to be very symptomatic of our society that if we cannot put a price on something, we can't tell its value. Which is especially strange among readers, since who of us ever read a book where, after having finished it, our opinion was influenced by its price or its sales? The thought is ludicrous, yet your blog post mentions an example of just such a thing.
 

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#25
I find this subject fascinating. In your post @jo zebedee and also @Tanniel , I would venture to say you separate clearly the effort you put into your writing (this comes from your personal motivation), the performance (the book resulting) and then the outcome (how popular, sales etc) Not many people do this separation.

We all tend to make choices, which tend to maximize pleasure and minimise the pain. The key point here is for each of us to find out, as you well put it Jo, which door should we attempt to open. Not easy.
This principle is not about the self-interest in rewards, but the link people make towards expected outcomes and how they can contribute towards it.
So, to you, Jo or Tanniel, is not about the sales because this is not valuable to you per se, but about the expectation of writing better books and how to contribute towards it.
I could go on... but I won't!:locktopic:
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#26
I agree with your blog post, @jo zebedee; it's that line of thinking (that sales equals quality) that has made me drop out of that race altogether and make my writing available for free. I am very fond of Orwell, for instance, but the man never sold much in his lifetime. Kafka never even published anything while alive, as I mentioned above. Both of them, I would argue, are among the most influential writers of the 20th century.

It seems to me to be very symptomatic of our society that if we cannot put a price on something, we can't tell its value. Which is especially strange among readers, since who of us ever read a book where, after having finished it, our opinion was influenced by its price or its sales? The thought is ludicrous, yet your blog post mentions an example of just such a thing.
I'm going to completely disagree with you here, @Tanniel, especially your last paragraph. It's my opinion that creative types, be they authors, musicians, painters, etc., be paid for the entertainment they provide their willing audiences. Entertainment, to me, is a good/ service in that the audience gets to escape their everyday lives for a bit and experience something new through it. I believe this because the artist (and I use that term in least pretentious sense possible) is providing something the audience can't/ doesn't do on their own: Creativity. Most individuals can't paint a lovely mural or fashion an intricate fantasy novel (totally random example ;)), so they are indebted to those who do provide it.

I believe audiences shouldn't expect entertainment for free in the same way you shouldn't expect a mechanic to fix your car simply because it's broken down. We pay the mechanic because we don't have the skills to do it ourselves, in the same way audiences can't/ don't entertain themselves without the artist's product/ service.

That said, I should point out the audience should be willing. There's nothing I hate more than a busker insisting his/her music upon me on a street corner and expecting me to pay them for insulting my eardrums.

Although that's my opinion on the matter, I do applaud your decision to make your novel free (and I'm approaching the halfway mark as I type this). This was a conscious choice on your part because you wanted your work seen (I'm assuming; correct me if I'm wrong), because all artists crave audiences. Without an audience, art is just self-expression, and to truly become art (again, in the least pretentious sense possible), it needs to escape self-expression and become full-on-expression by emotionally affecting others; the audience. To abuse a metaphor, art without an audience, ie. self-expression, is a lot like masturbation, while art with an audience is like sex: Done alone, the act is pleasurable for a single individual, but once you start involving others the pleasure expands exponentially.

So, I guess if my analogy holds true, artists are the sex workers of the world as they provide their escapist services to large numbers and expect to be paid for it...
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#27
So, I guess if my analogy holds true, artists are the sex workers of the world as they provide their escapist services to large numbers and expect to be paid for it...
From a GoodReads case study to the conclusion that artists are whores. This is why I love this forum.
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#29
To be clear I'm happy to be a gratification surrogate. I agree with @Matticus Primal. I worked damn hard on those books - I deserve to be paid for them. I rarely give them away - but like being able to do so - and generally, now, maintain what I feel is a fair return for that work. And I've done okay this year (partly due to a grant - but that is part of the writing culture of NI where there is a large imbalance to poets and literary fiction which as @Theophania points out pays poorly) and have brought in an income which equals about a weekly wage once a month :D.

But! For my sanity (and, hey, we're all friends now - I have significant problems with an anxiety disorder) I had to change my value base. If I made making an income the goal that serviced my self actualisation I was placing my motivation and ability to find happiness in myself in the hands of something I have no control over. In changing my goal to being proud of what I wrote my self-actualisaion (and the clue is in the name - the acme of motivation must come from me and me only) was back in my hands and I was freed from the income/sales = personal value hateful equation. :)
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#30
Phew, you go to the cinema for 2 hours and so much to reply to when you get back (Arrival is very interesting if you like language, translation and the like, btw.).

Let me say first that I completely understand wanting to get paid for your efforts. Myself, I have written a musical play with a friend from university (who studied music and did all the composing). He wanted to write one and needed someone to write the libretto, so I obliged. We started 8 years ago and have been to multiple meetings and weeklong workshops at one of the main national theatres here, and it's been a gruelling process. In fact, on Thursday I have yet another meeting to finalise plans for the last workshop, deciding on singers and musicians to hire for the workshop etc, before the play is complete and ready for production. I certainly do want to get paid for that play once it hits the stage, if for no other reason than it will allow me to work much less and write much more in the coming years.

But, as said, I wrote that libretto because a friend asked me to, and it seemed like an interesting challenge. It wasn't something I had been wrestling with in my mind for 10 years (like the case with a certain novel). To me, it was, as you say, @Matticus Primal, entertainment. Written to entertain people in the theatre first and foremost. And I think if entertainment is the goal, then money is certainly part of that process (basically my 2nd category of reasons for writing). But if art is the goal, money so very easily becomes problematic. Choices are made based on what will have the greatest appeal rather than what has artistic merit, and we slide towards the lowest common denominator. I'm not saying this is always the case or that it is inevitable, but I definitely feel it is a danger. The ratio of reality TV compared to well-written, thoughtful TV shows is a good indicator of the power of money and lowest common denominator. You can of course argue that something can work as both entertainment and art, and a lot of things do, but I think at the inception, you can very often tell if something was conceived and created for entertainment or for artistic purposes. One must dominate the other, to reference my favourite theory in criticism, deconstructivism.

Certain artforms like film and TV are in a tough position, because they typically require so much money to create anything. But books, painting, music doesn't. As artists in those artforms, we have an opportunity to work outside this paradigme of putting a price tag on art. Not to mention, as @Theophania's link said, making money off writing hardly seems feasible anyway. I have made some sales of the hardcover version of my book, and given their hefty price that certainly felt good, that someone was willing to pay that much for it, but getting a review like @Elvira's or @Fantam's meant exponentially more. I'd always choose a review like that, achieved by giving away a free ebook, over any money made by selling a hardcover.

I was starting to talk about Orwell again in this paragraph, which is a good sign I'm getting long-winded and a little bit more pretentious than usual, so I back-tracked. You're right, Matt, that for me, making my writing available was a conscious choice to seek an audience first and foremost. That's my strategy, but I freely admit, I have no idea if it's a good one, and my long tirade in this post is not because I claim to know what I am doing. I just find this a very fascinating discussion, all the more because I have clearly thrown my stake into the pot, but I never mean to dictate what other writers should do; I just jump at the opportunity to explain what I am doing.
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#31
Phew, you go to the cinema for 2 hours and so much to reply to when you get back
I sure hope you paid for that trip to the cinema. ;)

That was a joke by the way. I think it's only a tirade if anyone is actually angry, which I very much doubt. I swear, I have never seen a forum where everyone else's feelings are taken into consideration by the members without it being enforced by the mods.

I keep coming back to this diagram here outlining the three types of books literary agents look for: Literary Fiction, Upmarket, and Commercial. Basically, it breaks down to the authors intent: Literary Fiction seeks awards, Upmarket wants to start discussions about universal themes (according to the graph at least), while Commercial (in which all genre fiction like Fantasy falls) intends to entertain/ find a broad audience.

But I find that odd in that Literary isn't seeking money, rather awards (like certain Oscar films - if you ever want to see the script to Arrival, let me know). They're prestige books/ movies that pretty much guarantee a loss for the publisher/ producer. Upmarket supposedly bridges the two extremes of the spectrum, but Commercial, as the name may connote, is in it for the widest audience possible because its aim is to entertain.

I think literature strictly for the sake of entertainment gets a bad rap, as if expecting money from it somehow cheapens it. Yet everyone somehow forgets that Shakespeare wrote to get paid. Yes he added his amazing artistic flair to it, but his goal was always to entertain/ put food on the table. One of my favorite Dostoevsky stories (The Gambler) was written entirely to shore up a debt and keep the rights to his other writings (it's a pretty cool story where he dictated it to a stenographer, whom he ended up marrying later). Yet I don't think the inspiration of it negatively affects its literary worth... not that I'm concerned about literary worth... right?

Sorry, now I've digressed. I wanted to make a point somewhere about entertainment writing being more akin to a craft than art, but lost my train of thought. I blame the workers banging away outside my window.
 

Theophania

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#32
Literary isn't seeking money
Well, my take on that is that literary authors would snap up any money that came their way - just like we all would. However, who do you know who reads sixty literary fiction books in a year? OK, how many people do you know who read sixty genre (commercial) fiction books in a year?

There just aren't enough people who read literary fiction in enough quantities to support more than a few literary fiction authors - and then there's the time factor. I don't know any lit fiction authors, but one hears of them taking years to write a book. Compare that to genre fiction authors who are putting out at least two a year.

So the practical literary fiction author gets a day job and goes after awards, because the chances of them making a living just at writing (unless they are one of the lucky few) tend towards zero.

entertainment writing being more akin to a craft than art
I'd agree with that. The audience expects certain things from their entertainment reading (actual entertainment, for a start) - and putting those factors together is a process of craft. However, entertainment writing can be art too.In that, it's similar to many crafts: a master carpenter may produce a beautiful cabinet that is a work of art in its own right, it still functions as a cabinet.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#33

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#34
However, entertainment writing can be art too.In that, it's similar to many crafts: a master carpenter may produce a beautiful cabinet that is a work of art in its own right, it still functions as a cabinet.
I like your carpentry analogy much better than the one I usually use. I'm a (very) amateur silversmith/ jeweler as one of my hobbies, which is generally considered a craft rather than an art. But I do try to inject some artistry into each piece because that is their point after all: looking nice.

Yet when I went to the jewelry exhibit at the museum last week, I was shocked at how almost none of the pieces behind glass could actually be worn daily. They were beautiful (most at least - one was made entirely out of Legos), but there was very little utility to the designs. They were created to be looked at; not used/ worn.

So yeah, that's the Literary/ Commercial Fiction, art/ craft dichotomy to me in a nutshell. Literary Fiction is meant to be admired at a distance (perhaps behind glass), while Commercial is for your daily, hands-on use.
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#35
Which is especially strange among readers, since who of us ever read a book where, after having finished it, our opinion was influenced by its price or its sales?
Its probably happened to me. I do have some biases related to price and sales*. I know that I do not get the same consistent entertainment when I read a book - how I feel about it depends on my mood. If what's going in my head makes a difference to how I read a book, it seems likely my biases get factored in as well. I try not to do that thing but I'm no superman.

And if I've been reading a book with a few biases active that affect how entertaining I find it, then my final opinion is probably influenced by price and/or sales on occasion.

I doubt I'm that unusual among readers on this score. If anything I think I do a very good job of recognising and managing my biases.

*these include 'if the book's free, it's probably not very good', 'if the book's sold a lot early doors in the career they're probably not as good as everyone thinks', 'if the author's sold a lot of books overall they're probably at least fairly talented' and maybe a few others I haven't recognised. Most of my 'x is probably y' beliefs about books have little to do with price and sales though.
 

Lyric Blade

Philosophizes with Kellhus
#36
I just want to say to all involved, it has been a pleasure reading this fascinating discussion. There are just so many in depth, interesting, amusing and informative posts. Far too many to respond to in just one reply. Clearly, I need to make a better habit of checking these forums daily, which I am not very good at, because I missed the heart of it- as I have in other threads before. Maybe that can be a resolution for the new year! :angelic:

One little side note on the most recent topic of commercial vs. literary fiction, based on the chart Matticus, it ironically looks like commercial fiction is what most closely follows the list of Aristotle's guide to writing compelling stories (tragedies in particular) in his Poetics. :hilarious: So... would the first literary critic of the West in fact have favored genre fiction?

It seems to me like these distinctions have a lot to do with how works are received in addition to how / why they are written. Academics in particular plays a significant role in defining quality literature. :artist::pompus:

I keep using Tolkien as an example, not sure why- ;) but while LOTR is generally classified as fantasy (genre defining perhaps), there is are academic circles who treat his work as any other serious work of literature. Perhaps in time, this will (increasingly) extend to works as rich and poetic as The Earthsea Cycle, and maybe The King Killer Chronicles, and ASOIF. If it hasn't already.

I think one area where the line gets fuzzy is the distinction between Up Sale and Commercial. Some books can spark discussion whether they were intended to do so to or not. While there is surely more formulaic fantasy, it seems like a lot of the best fantasy books listed on this site seem to blur the lines just a little more. Do folks agree?

Anyway, now I'll reply to the kind folks who kindly responded to my earlier post, like, a hundred miles back down the road. :rolleyes: (Eye roll at myself!)

we're a peer review group. It was formed from another forum I'm on and I was invited on with three others. One of the original has now moved on and we have had two new members since then - so now we are five. Of those 5, I'm about to release my 5th book, another is about to be published, one is agented and another has full requests on their manuscript - so I would say we moved from almost entirely amateur to pretty professional.
Very cool – it seems like to would be a good experience to grow with a group like that. It is interesting to me how you found them initially on line. That suggests to me that a place like this is not so bad a place to look. :)

Oh, and congratulations on the near release for your fifth book- wow!

I have a bit of luck in having studied literature at university, meaning I have a large circle of friends who ended up working as publishers/editors or with experience in the field. I simply contacted all of them and asked for their help, sending my book at various stages to them. Some of them I had already made use of when writing short stories as practice and knew what to expect from them in terms of critique. By reviewing the critique I received back, I determined who was most useful as alpha reader, beta reader etc.
That is some good luck! I studied philosophy while in the University- though I did cross paths with many literature folks... perhaps I could renew old contacts.

Anyway, I'll close with a few more practical questions: to all authors- have you bothered registering your work for copy right? Did you do that before sharing your work, or is that not something to really worry about?

Matticus, and all other published or aspiring authors, same question as before! How do you go about vetting your drafts? Reading group, college contacts, etc.?

Thank you to any who read this massive post- and thanks again for all involved for the fascinating discussion!
 
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Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#37
I do often think there's quite a lot of literature which is best described as "Really old genre fiction".

Anyway, I rely on friends who like reading, but am increasingly on the look out for writerly friends to take their place. I've already got people doing small bits, often really helpful bits, for me. Far more constructive. And yes, I am mainly finding the people who do little bits here and there online. There are some really strong, really helpful communities out there.
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#38
it ironically looks like commercial fiction is what most closely follows the list of Aristotle's guide to writing compelling stories (tragedies in particular) in his Poetics. So... would the first literary critic of the West in fact have favored genre fiction?
I was considering today if perhaps the birth of Literary Fiction came with Joyce's incomprehensible Ulysses (which might be ironic if one argued that the mythological Ulysses that inspired him was in fact a genre action adventure story), so I looked it up on the ol' wikipedia. Some of the choice quotes:

"Some have described the difference between [literary and commercial fiction] in terms of analyzing reality (literary) rather than escaping reality (popular)."

And Neal Stephenson suggests "On the one hand literary authors nowadays are frequently supported by patronage, with employment at a university or similar institutions, and with the continuation of such positions determined not by book sales but by critical acclaim by other established literary authors and critics. On the other hand, he suggests, genre fiction writers tend to support themselves by book sales."

LOTR is generally classified as fantasy (genre defining perhaps), there is are academic circles who treat his work as any other serious work of literature.
I do often think there's quite a lot of literature which is best described as "Really old genre fiction".
The professor who taught my class on Milton and sonnets also taught a Janterm (one class only for the month of January) solely on LOTR. I was exceedingly more pretentious back then, but I remember thinking how Milton and Tolkien shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence. But now I find myself wondering if Paradise Lost was not simply an adventure story that was dressed up with some pretty language. Lord knows the reason I enjoyed it was for the more adventurous moments.

I still can't stand reading Tolkien though.

have you bothered registering your work for copy right? Did you do that before sharing your work, or is that not something to really worry about?
I don't personally copyright, but I've only published the one (and I do refuse to send out the MOBI file to reviewers; rather pay to send them a copy for safety). I will say that in screenwriting, one of the first signs of a novice screenwriter is when they put the copyright/ registration number on the cover page. No idea if this sort of tell holds true for novels.

Matticus, and all other published or aspiring authors, same question as before! How do you go about vetting your drafts? Reading group, college contacts, etc.?
In screenwriting I exchange scripts with fellow screenwriters I've known throughout the years for notes. There is some overlap between those folks and the readers of my early draft on my first novel, but only like two. That's because a screenplay is maybe 16k words long, opposed to a novel, which is around 80k+. So there's a lot less time investment to ask of screenwriting chums than with novel folks. So I really only had two readers before I made my final draft on my novel.

I would suggest not following in my footsteps though. Pretty much in anything. That's why I put up these case studies: Because I strongly suspect my purpose on this planet is as an object lesson to others...
 

Lyric Blade

Philosophizes with Kellhus
#39
I was considering today if perhaps the birth of Literary Fiction came with Joyce's incomprehensible Ulysses (which might be ironic if one argued that the mythological Ulysses that inspired him was in fact a genre action adventure story), so I looked it up on the ol' wikipedia.
Very nice reference! Joyce's Ulysses is a prime example of a work that is so difficult to understand, it almost seems it was written for the purpose of keeping English professors employed indefinitely. Your hypothesis thus seems all too plausible.

"Some have described the difference between [literary and commercial fiction] in terms of analyzing reality (literary) rather than escaping reality (popular)."
That distinction has some merit to be sure. There are literary works that primarily seem valuable as mirrors for analysis, and would be difficult to read purely for the sake of escapism. Ulysses seems like it would be a good example of that.

Still, when it comes to genre fiction, it may be intended to entertain, but one could still read genre fiction with a literary approach. If nothing else, what the masses enjoy can say a lot about pop culture, about a culture or even (especially with fantasy) the collective unconscious (in that case, perhaps just the work itself).
(Nod to Tanniel!)

By the same token, there are surely some books on the literary fiction shelf that one could choose to read purely for enjoyment. The reader's intent in picking up a book also affects how a book is experienced, and so whether something is experienced as 'genre' or 'literary' at least in part depends on the reader as much as it does on the author.

The other distinction you mentioned though seems to be a lot more objective. Still, it is contingent on the circle of patrons and academics who support that sort of writing and what they define as being literature. Maybe that was your point? :shy:

There is so much to be said about this topic- but it's getting late for me, so I am going to try and probably fail to avoid another monster post.

Thank you so much for answering my questions Matticus. You too Peat.

Closing thoughts: when it comes to details about copy righting- if it's even something I should worry about at all- I am entirely a novice, so I appreciate pointers like the novice screen writer's tell.

In screenwriting I exchange scripts with fellow screenwriters I've known throughout the years for notes. There is some overlap between those folks and the readers of my early draft on my first novel, but only like two. ...
I would suggest not following in my footsteps though. Pretty much in anything. That's why I put up these case studies: Because I strongly suspect my purpose on this planet is as an object lesson to others...
(Quoted partially for space!)
Did I know you were a screen writer? I don't recall, but that is cool. What have you worked on when it comes to screen plays- and do you find that your two modes of writing feed each other?

As for the last part- don't sell yourself short man. I am a novice as I said, so I am seeking to learn from folks who have been doing this longer than I have. At the same time, I asking people how they go about things because I am genuinely interested in how other writers do things. Who says we can't learn things and have fun while doing it? :)

Ok, long section on closing thoughts. Not sure how my time zone lines up with others, but from where I am on Pacific West Coast, good night to all!