I have had a hard time coming up with topics to write for this blog. Honestly, it has been a thorn in my side. It’s not that I don’t have opinions, because I have plenty.
The thing is, most of my opinions are of a societal, political, cultural nature. They aren’t necessarily writing related. I have some seriously deep insight into the current climate of the USA and why it is ten kinds of fuckerooni. But, those thoughts are best left for my Tumblr blog. Which I have been neglecting for a long while due to time constraints.
So, why don’t I have opinions on writing?
In part, because there are other authors out there that have already expressed their opinions and I don’t think I’d do a better job than them. They talk about gender, about genre, about the grind of the writer’s workday. They talk about marketing this and promoting that. They talk about what you should always do, what you should never do, what others have done, what they have done. They talk about issues this and issue that.
And to be completely frank- I could give a fuck.
I know, I know, this sounds harsh. Some will read this and think I’m callous or just conceited. They’ll read this and think “Who is this guy to act like he’s above it all?” And everyone is entitled to whatever opinion they form or conclusion they draw from this.
But before you draw a conclusion or form an opinion, let me explain a little further.
I don’t give a fuck because I have a job to do. That job is to write novels. That job is to complete manuscripts in a timely fashion so that my publisher sends me some cashola. I have zero time for the noise that is the internet of opinion. I really need to focus on my work, need to focus on the story in my head, need to ignore the blah blah blah of all the opinions, posts, reviews, tweets, forums, etc.
I do not think I am above all of that. I think I am outside of it. Intentionally.
I try to stay outside of it because it is a distraction. While I always need to work on my craft, I do not believe the noise will help me do that. I have a pretty strong style of writing, I have my voice. I know what I want to write and how to do that. I mainly know that I have to sit my ass down in my chair and get that word count out. That is the key: sitting my ass down and getting my daily word count.
The noise keeps me from doing that. And the noise, in the long run, makes absolutely zero difference on my career.
Here’s the thing, folks, no one in the writing/publishing industry knows what sells books. They have ideas based on past performance or personal observation, but none of that past performance or personal observation can be transferred. What works for one author may or may not work for another author even if it is perfectly replicated. That’s just the truth of the business.
So, while I love to have a good dialogue about the business of writing and the craft itself, I just don’t feel it is my place. I have other work to do and doing that work is what has brought me success, not distracting myself by puking out an opinion.
Does this mean Views From The Captain’s Chair will go away? No, of course not. I still sit in the Captain’s Chair everyday; I still have views. It just means I’m no longer buying in to the notion that an author must have a blog to be a success. I’m no longer buying in to the notion that by contributing to the noise I will be a better writer than I already am.
And I certainly don’t buy into the notion that by contributing to the noise my fans and readers will be better served. Writing more books is how I will better serve my fans and readers. Writing more books is how I will attract new readers. Writing more books is how I make my living and how I have achieved the level of success I already have.
But, in order to write more books I have to step outside the noise. I have to be true to myself and follow my instincts. Right now, my instincts are telling me that a weekly blog just isn’t my thing. And the load that just lifted off my shoulders as I typed that sentence only reinforces that decision.
So, keep reading those other blogs out there. There are plenty of good ones. I’ll more than likely be reading them along with you. I just won’t be the one writing any. For now. Maybe once I have more time for the noise. Maybe. We’ll see.
While this post isn’t specifically about writing, it is about storytelling and the tropes that fill those stories.
What’s a trope?
Let’s have Merriam-Webster answer this!
We’re going with “b” on this one.
Why am I talking about tropes?
I had tweeted that I needed suggestions for this week’s post and got a couple responses. One was specifically asking that I talk about tropes I hate and how to make them better if used. I liked this idea at first, and still do, but realized quickly that I am not the guy to write about this.
Because I don’t hate any tropes. It’s that simple. I actually can’t think of a single trope that bugs me. I like werewolves, vampires, zombies (obviously), wizards, Special Forces, ninjas, damsels in distress, dudes in distress, romance, pirates, ninja pirate robots from Mars, you name it and I like it!
Does that mean I like every book, movie, TV show, video game, comic book, etc? No, it does not. Some can really suck. But even ones that suck I may like. Because, for me, it always comes down to my expectations, not the actual quality of the product itself.
Case in point: we are a CW house. I freakin’ love the stuff the CW churns out. Talk about a network filled with tropes! Do I think it is high brow, award worthy fare? Uh, no. No, I do not. But damn if it isn’t fun! It is pure, mindless entertainment for me. And my mind needs that quite often.
Let’s talk about The 100. Schlock central, yo. But I had zero illusions otherwise going in. Is the acting great? Uh, no. Is the writing great? Uh, no. Can the stories be contrived? Uh, yeah. But it’s scifi teens getting all Lord of the Flies and shit in the future on an Earth ravaged by nuclear war! Suh-weet! Plus, it’s brutal and violent as hell. They don’t pull punches on killing off characters or going for the headshots. This isn’t The A-Team, people. When the trigger is pulled, peeps gonna die.
The one thing I do hate about The 100 is how the network, the actors, the writers, all say “The Hundred”. You can’t call a show “The 100″ without pronouncing it as “The One Hundred”. Drives me up a wall. But that’s about it.
I am a huge fan of bad scifi, bad horror, bad westerns, bad everything- as long as it is entertaining. If I find myself getting bored then I put it down, turn it off, walk away.
Another case in point: Z-Nation. Nope. Not a fan. I know some like it, but for me it just didn’t hit that entertainment factor. I get what it is trying to do, but there is so much TV to watch that I had to choose. I’m not saying you shouldn’t like it or watch it, I’m just saying that I gave it a try and it wasn’t worth my time.
And that is what it comes down to for me- is it worth my time?
Time is precious to me. It’s precious to all of us. There are so many great TV shows, books, movies, video games, comic books out there that I will never get to experience all of them before I die. That is a fact. I have done the math. Not going to happen.
So I pick what I like, what entertains me, and I embrace it. What I don’t do is disparage the TV shows, movies, books, video games, comic books, etc that others like. Why would I? I’m not you, I’m not the one watching something in your living room, I’m not the guy with your book in my hand, so why would I disparage what you like? It doesn’t hurt me if you like something that I’m just not into, so why would I talk down on it and hurt you?
Another another case in point: Constantine. I did not like this TV show. There are many reasons I didn’t like it (and I did give it a try), but I’m not going to go into those reasons. Why? Because a lot of people I do like enjoy the show. They state constantly on FB and Twitter how much they like it. Good for them! That is awesome! But it’s just not for me.
I like things for my own reasons, I dislike things for my own reasons, but at no point do I dislike something just for what it is. The trope don’t matter to me, yo! The trope don’t matter!
You like a specific trope? Right on!
You dislike a specific trope? You go, girl!
So, instead of a drabble, I’m going to talk about Indies First Small Business Saturday. I know, I know, it’s not as exciting as ripping someone’s throat out over a 40″ HDTV, but bear with me here.
Indies First is an idea created by author Sherman Alexie as a way for authors to give back to their local, independent bookstores. Basically, all across the country (and world) authors are volunteering their time to help sell some books! I will be a part of this at my local bookstore, Malaprop’s. Come find me from 11-1 on Saturday the 29th. I’ll be available to help you find that perfect gift for the book lover, or book liker, in your family or circle of friends.
Want to know more about the event? Here is a statement put out by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Have a read and I hope you head to your local indie bookstore! Maybe you’ll run into me!
Friday Night Drabble Party is in the house! Or apartment! Or trailer! Or yurt!
Have ya missed it? I know ya have!
Now, I know you don’t want to hear me prattle on, so I’ll just get right into the free micro-fiction.
But…let me ask a favor. If you dig the Party, and you like micro-fiction that is FREE then please share the link to this post. Tweet it, Facebook it, whatever- share it. If I’m going to give these words away for free then I want as many people as possible to share in the madness that is Jake Bible Fiction.
Passing The Time
“Carabiner,” Bolton said. “Carabiner, carabiner, carabiner.”
“What are you doing?” Mintly asked.
“Just saying the word ‘carabiner’ over and over,” Bolton replied.
“I can hear that. Why?”
“Because the word is different.You know how when you say a word over and over it loses its meaning?”
“Carabiner doesn’t. Try it. I can say the word a hundred times and it still makes sense.”
Mintly stared at Bolton for a while then looked down at the massive pool of sharks below their cage.
“I can’t deal with you right now,” Mintly said. “You’re an idiot.”
Bolton shrugged. “Carabiner, carabiner, carabiner…”
Disclaimer: Everything changes, but it always stays the same.
I know, I know, the Views are supposed to be on hiatus, but I just couldn’t let this one go. Read on, fearless warriors!
If you are a writer then you probably heard about Amazon sending out an email over the weekend. Yeah, it was a bit surreal, to say the least. A lot of propaganda and misdirection and all that other giant corporation stuff.
Chuck Wendig and Matt Wallace did a great job dissecting the email in their posts. You should go have a read. It was also covered by Time, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, and fifty trillion other online word pukers. (I include myself in the “word puker” category, so nobody get offended, alright? We’ve all had too much prose and ended up getting sick all over our stack of unread New Yorkers. No shame there.)
There is a lot of back and forth spittle and hissing between the Team Amazon authors and the Team Hachette authors. There is also a lot of stepping in the middle with T hands and a referee’s whistle telling everyone to chill and realize this has nothing to do with authors, but everything to do with mega corporations and profit.
I agree with a little on one side, a little on the other, and a whole lot of the middle.
But there is one thing I have yet to see anyone touch on that is really the absolute crux of this matter: Amazon’s ebook sales data.
Now, before you start pointing at the links to those blogposts, hear me out. I concede that several authors and reporters have mentioned that Amazon can easily be cherry picking their data and only showing what they want us all to see. I agree with that. Example (directly from Amazon’s email):
“Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.“
Good numbers, right? Maybe. Plenty of people have wondered how many ebooks sell at $10.99 or $11.99, but Amazon doesn’t release that info. Authors want the full numbers to analyze and that ain’t happening.
The problem is no one is realizing that the data they want means absolutely zero. You see, folks, the data Amazon releases to the public is rigged from the beginning. They could print their entire database and it makes no difference.
Why? Simple: Amazon controls what sells on Amazon.
Chew on that for a second.
Sure, people have free will and can buy whatever they want, but it has been proven time and time again that when Amazon markets something specifically that something sells like crazy. That means, if Amazon wants $9.99 ebooks to be the bestsellers then they can tweak their marketing, promotions, and search algorithms to make damn sure $9.99 ebooks sell more than other price points.
How about a metaphor/analogy!
A farmer sells apples. He has tons and tons of different apples. The guy grows it all, yo, from Red Delicious to Arkansas Black. This farmer is your go-to apple guy, right? So you head to his farm and he has barrels and barrels of all the different apples for sale out front for $9.99 a pound. Seems a little spendy, but you’re all “Gotta have my apples!” and you buy a couple pounds of this and a couple pounds of that then head on home for the apple enjoyment portion of life.
Now, are you the farmer’s only customer? Heck to the no! Lots of people dig this farmer’s apples so they go to his farm and see the barrels and barrels of $9.99 apples. Some people see that there are other barrels of apples tucked away in the barn behind the farmer, but only a couple of folks go check those out. Why bother hunting for other apples when you can get the yummy ones in front of you for $9.99? So, folks be buying some $9.99 apples and when the local news station comes by to do a happy, feel-good piece, they ask the farmer which apples sell the best.
“Oh, lots sell, but folks like the ones right here for $9.99 the most,” the farmer grins. “Who doesn’t like $9.99 apples?”
See where I’m going with this? There were other apples tucked away for different prices. I’m not saying those apples were better quality or worse quality, or even different apples, but they were shoved out of sight and out of mind by the farmer so all his customers saw were the $9.99 a pound barrels.
That’s what Amazon can do; they can make sure you, and everyone else, buy ebooks at the price point they want. And that is what makes their data worthless when proving anything regarding readers’ buying habits. You want to know what price readers want? Then get sales data from ALL the ebook retailers and compile that. Then you’ll have some true data and something to talk about.
Until then, all anyone is doing is pointing at the news clip of that farmer saying “Folks like the ones right here for $9.99 the most” and calling it cherry picking when the truth is there isn’t even a cherry in the bunch.
I’ll let y’all ponder that for a while. Good luck.
Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.
Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.
Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.
He is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series for Severed Press as well as the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Mega,AntiBio, and the YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, as well as the forthcoming (October) Teen horror novel Intentional Haunting (both by Permuted Press).