Blue Sky Writing

Blue Sky With Hawk and Clouds

I’m going to start this post by saying that I know I’m wrong, and by thanking James, Emily, and Paola for making statements that converged in this Wandering.

Not long ago, I saw a series of posts where an author was providing step-by-step instructions to his readership how to buy his forthcoming release so as to put it on the bestseller lists.  Something in me cringed.  Not because he was wrong, but because I have a lot of trouble doing that sort of thing.

Last weekend, I had an e-mail from a very nice reader asking me why she couldn’t pre-order Wolf’s Search.  I explained that I was still in the last stages of polishing, so it wasn’t up for pre-order.  When it was done, I’d simply post it for sale.   The fan was very nice about that.

However, a lot of current publishing lore, both traditional and independent, would tell me that I am wrong.  My job is not to write the best book I can and then get it to my readers pretty much as soon as it’s ready.  My job is to hold onto the manuscript, build up “buzz,” then release the manuscript at the optimal time to maximize initial sales.

In case you hadn’t heard, initial sales—or in some cases orders or pre-orders—are what “bestseller” lists measure.  Most bestseller lists don’t measure actual sales.  Most don’t measure reader excitement.  Most don’t measure reviews.  What they measure is hype.

Once upon a time, for the majority of books and authors, this was not the case.  Books did not need to hit the bestseller list to be considered worth reading or successful.  Yes.  There were exceptions.  Ever wait to buy the hardcover of your favorite Big Name until it was deep-discounted at the local Big Box Book Store?  Those books were part of making that book a bestseller—books that were pre-ordered but never bought.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been told I’m wrong and old-fashioned in my approach to publishing.  I was late getting into social media because I’m basically shy.  I’m not comfortable itemizing every minute of my life.  I’d feel funny posting eight or ten pictures a day of my cats or the birds in the yard or the toad that was heading off to bed this morning as I got up.

This isn’t to say those people are wrong or crass or anything.  I actually enjoy some of those sort of posts, even if I can’t post that way myself. Time I spend thinking about shouting out or worrying about the latest marketing trend is not only time I don’t spend writing, it’s also time I spend being anxious, upset, and afraid. And when I feel that way, I don’t write.

I found this definition of blue sky thinking on-line: “Blue sky thinking sessions are open to all creative ideas regardless of practical constraints.”  I guess that makes me a blue sky writer.  I look to the mountains east of Albuquerque (the Sandias) and end up putting dragons there.  This makes for an interesting life.  Perhaps more important to you, it makes for the stories you read.  (The dragon in the Sandias was featured in my short story “Spellsword” in the anthology Spell Fantastic.)

Once upon a time, a writer’s job was to create; now many view writing as just one part of the job.  I know I’m wrong.  I get that the world has changed.  But writing is what I do. Am I wrong not to cultivate the lists, to try to be a bestseller, to build my fan base through something other than writing the best stories I can?  Maybe.  But if I want to write, for me, I’m right.


16 Responses to “Blue Sky Writing”

  1. Alan Robson Says:

    “However, a lot of current publishing lore, both traditional and independent, would tell me that I am wrong. My job is not to write the best book I can and then get it to my readers pretty much as soon as it’s ready. My job is to hold onto the manuscript, build up “buzz,” then release the manuscript at the optimal time to maximize initial sales.”

    Rubbish, you are not wrong. Your job is to write your books. No more, no less. When the books are ready you give them to the world, and not before. That’s how it has always worked. If you build it, they will come (so to speak).

    Blue skies are good. Enjoy them.


  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    I am of the opinion that a good book doesn’t need bells and whistles hype. All of your books that I’ve read have been thoroughly enjoyed, re-read several times and passed around or recommended to friends. A good book stands on its own. You write good books.
    I’m very much looking forward to reading more of Firekeeper and Blind Seer’s adventures, but not until you’re happy with them.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Wolf’s Search is nearly done. We’re fine-tuning the cover and text…

      Word of mouth is supposed to be the best publicity, so thanks for making the effort for my works!

  3. Beverly Martin Says:

    I totally agree with Alan and King Ben’s Grandma! I love your books and they are on my “best” list! And, I appreciate your sharing in the Wednesday Wanderings and Friday Fragments.

  4. simonepdx Says:

    What a lovely post.

    I feel nothing is wrong if you are writing books you feel good about sharing, and you are reaching the audience you wish to reach, at a level of remuneration that makes it comfortable for you to support doing what you love! If you do decide you want to reach a new audience or find more readers, there are folks who will help do the kind of work you don’t feel comfortable doing, the kind that is a drain on your creative energy. The division of labor–and expertise–is a glorious thing 🙂

    I know if I ever go the independent publishing route or sell a book where the publisher puts a lot of sales support expectations on me, I will have to engage someone to help. I know that sales and timing manipulations and all that are not my forte, but I do want my stories to get into readers’ hands.

  5. Debbie daughetee Says:

    I’m with you, Jane. I finally hired a publicist to do press releases and social media for chimera press. I just can’t handle it myself. But you do you do you want thing that they recommend… And that’s have a blog. So congratulations.

  6. Dan Kalin Says:

    I agree with your approach, Jane. I’m in the minority often on this subject too and I guess it all comes down to why you’re writing in the first place. If money is the primary object, then currently it is a less effective approach.

    However, as a writer, you are a finite resource. If authors spend their precious time marketing, touring, tweeting, work-shopping, etc. there will be much less time available for the actual writing (and thinking about the actual writing). And chances are, the author isn’t necessarily good or world class at those marketing-related tasks to begin with. (One of the legitimate contributions of traditional publishers, even if they did, and do, overcharge for the service)

    The upside, an author who concentrates on their writing will generate much more content over the course of a lifetime. I would argue that is more valuable in the long run, especially if they still have things to say.

  7. John C Says:

    I’m glad for your approach, as it makes for better stories and a better way of living.

    “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin

    Thank you for resisting.

  8. Harried Harry Says:

    If you want a “hypster”, hire one, but don’t expect the “hypster ” to be able to write your prose. You should do what you feel comfortable doing or else you will be so much like too many so-called authors who have only written one good story which was published and a lot of junk which was published and nobody reads again.

    My spell check is having fun with the way I spell. It insists on changing the new word “hypster” to hipster. Just like many people think they are can write but they don’t understand grammar.

    Do what makes you feel best. Your stories have always been well developed with good characters who each has a good part to play. I have always enjoyed rereading the stories because they make sense. Makes me think of a story writer who has written some decent stories. All of them are similar but they all have some very glaring “jumps in logic”. I read the series the second time recently but I doubt I read any more of his books. Like a B movie, good one time, but no more.

    Enjoy your July!

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