Save Me From Myself

First off, an excellent (IMO) post by KKR to share: Business Musings: Outrage Fatigue which kind of dovetails with where I am mentally this morning.

I just walked away from writing a response to someone who had posted on a writers’ forum and is clearly not all there. (Anytime someone posts incredibly long posts with lots of CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation points and rants about how the world or someone else doesn’t get them, walk away. That is not a discussion to have because that person is not operating in the world you are.)

This person had made a throw away comment about not being able to check out their competitors’ books without buying an ereader and (heaven forbid) paying for the books. I was going to point out that, at least with my books, they should be available through the library. (Sometimes you have to request it with the library but the option is there to do so, both in ebook and print. I’ve had libraries in New Zealand pick up my fiction, for example.)

But then I realized that the ten minutes I was taking trying to frame my answer to this person in a way that wouldn’t trigger another long inane screed was time I was wasting and could be spending elsewhere, like on writing the next book. So I walked away.

This is a frequent occurrence for me. I see a conversation I could be a part of and even sometimes write a response and then…I realize that’s just a waste of my mental energy and my time to engage. I’m sure there are people who think they’ve “won” that argument because I didn’t respond. Not with me. I just figured life is too frickin’ short to have that argument with that person.

Almost every day I ask myself why I bother even going on writing forums. I’ve been at this long enough I’m kind of set in the way I’m going to do it even if it’s not the optimal choice. Since I’m no longer in that mode where I need all the information to figure out how it all works, the forums have a lot less value for me.

And yet I still at least lurk and often get tempted to post.

Why? Why?

(Probably because when you’re only conversations on a given day are with your dog and your not-exactly-positive mother, you need some sort of social outlet. But, seriously. Writers forums are not the way to do it.)

(Of course, neither were skydiving forums. I suspect any online forums are about 90% annoyance 10% “I’m glad I read that”, at least as far as I’m concerned.)

But it’s like a drug addiction. Easy to say you should quit, but really hard to do so.

 

Survivorship Bias Can Be Interesting

I just finished reading Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s an interesting book to read although it took me an incredibly long time to circle back to it and finish it. But I did and I’m glad I did so.

One of the concepts he discusses towards the end of the book is the concept of survivorship bias. Here’s a link to a very long article about it which describes survivorship bias as “your tendency to focus on survivors instead of whatever you would call a non-survivor depending on the situation. Sometimes that means you tend to focus on the living instead of the dead, or on winners instead of losers, or on successes instead of failures.”

It’s a pernicious problem in self-publishing. Because most of the people giving advice now are the ones who “survived” to give that advice. And most of those people assume that what they did is why they survived.

But that’s not necessarily true.

Let me give an unrelated example. I watch the Price is Right almost every day while I’m eating lunch. And the way that people bid on that show is sometimes outrageously painful. I blogged about this on my old blog here. But basically what happens is that sometimes the person who wins the bidding round does so by sheer unadulterated luck.

This is the person who bids $1250 when the other three bids were $750, $1000, and $1500. They win because the price of the item was $1300 but it wasn’t a smart bid given the other three bids that had already been made. That bid shows no understanding whatsoever of how to maximize the odds of winning. Because by bidding $1250 that person gave away the chance to win if the item was actually priced from $1001 to $1249. And they have no idea that’s what they did. They don’t even see it. All they see is that they won, so they think they did it right. They don’t see how close they came to losing.

This happens with self-publishing, too. Someone will say, “I made half a million dollars self-publishing by doing x, so everyone should do it my way.” And at first blush that seems like someone worth listening to, right? They made half a million dollars. They must know how to do this.

But maybe they’re just the one survivor out of a hundred people who followed the same ill-advised strategy and they just happen to have succeeded where all others who followed the same path failed.  The 99 people who failed aren’t there to give their stories of failure. All we have is the one story of success.

That’s survivorship bias at work.

So if someone says something that doesn’t sit right with you, question it. Not with them, because they’ll get all snarky about their success and how you’re clearly an ill-informed fool to doubt them (ask me how I know). But look around. Try to disprove their advice. Find counter-examples. Look for the shattered failures to get the full picture. Remember that you’re talking to a survivor, you’re not looking at an unbiased sample.

An Unforeseen Challenge

I’m working on my third cozy at the moment, but earlier this week I found myself stuck and unable or unwilling to move forward with it. The reason behind that is what I find the most interesting…

The cozies are pure self-indulgence where the main character and her dog are very much like me and my dog if we were to live in the Colorado mountains and trip over dead bodies every time we turned around.

And it occurred to me as I was writing this most recent one that I was giving the dog in the books a better life than I was giving my own dog. The dog in the books has friends to play with and a stream to wallow in and gets far more attention from people than my poor dog who is always sleeping away in the hall while I write.

It stopped me cold. Because I was like, “Why am I giving this fictitious dog a better life than I’m giving my own dog?” So I spent a lot of the next couple of days hanging out outside with my pup and reading while she watched the world go by rather than locking myself away in my office and writing.

I can’t do that all the time, of course, or else the bills won’t get paid, but I figured sometimes you have to step back from the fake reality you’re creating and pay attention to the real world around you and the actual people (and dogs) that you love.

Advanced Strengths for Writers Class

I think I’ve mentioned on here a few times that I took a great class on CliftonStrengths for writers that really helped put my professional experiences into perspective for me in general and also helped me narrow down what type of writer I am and how to best be that type of writer.

I liked learning about Strengths so much that last year I became a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach myself and have been working with authors as well as professionals and a sports team to help them apply their Strengths results to their professional challenges. (I’ve blogged about that a bit here.)

Well, now I’m excited to announce that next month I will be helping Becca Syme coach the Advanced Strengths for Writers class. The class comes with three one-on-one coaching sessions. This time around writers will get one session with Becca, one with me, and then a third session with either Becca or myself.

The great thing about having two coaches to work with is that Becca and I have different Strengths we pull on so we see author challenges and opportunities from different angles. We also have different coaching styles. (I am, not surprisingly, a little more blunt at times because of my Command and lack of Woo…) So it’s kind of a little extra bonus perspective for this cohort. (I will say I am also extra fierce in the “own who you are” department so for those with say, Significance, who’ve been taught to doubt themselves, I’ll set you straight.)

The class starts on April 17th and is $399. (You can do that in payments as little as $50 a month if you want.) So if you’ve been hearing about Becca’s classes and Strengths and want to take a deeper dive, now is the time to do so.

Also, I don’t think I’d mentioned it here (I did on my personal Facebook), but Becca published a great book introducing people to the concepts in her classes earlier this year. Check it out if you haven’t already: Dear Writer, You Need to Quit.

Fantasy StoryBundle

All Covers Large.jpg

This blog is mostly about non-fiction, either the Excel guides I publish or writing in general, but I do in fact write fiction and the next few weeks one of my books will be part of a fantasy bundle so I wanted to mention it for any fantasy authors or readers out there who might want to check it out.

My title, Rider’s Revenge by Alessandra Clarke, is about a fierce young woman whose lack of understanding of the world gets her into big, big trouble she barely manages to survive. There’s magic and Gods who meddle in people’s lives and a few surprises I can’t tell you about.

Here’s a review from the SPFBO: ““Rider’s Revenge is a fast-moving epic, featuring a heroine that’s bravely thrown herself into unimaginable peril…for fans of Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy, Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series, Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina.” – Pornokitsch.com

But that’s just one of the fifteen books in this bundle. Look at the list of participating authors and you’ll see quite a few familiar names there, including Kristine Kathryn Rusch, James A. Owen, and Alan Dean Foster, just to name a few. You can get all fifteen books for just $15 and give money to charity, too.

Or you can get Rider’s Revenge and four other books in the bundle for just $5. (But, really, when the selection is that good, why stop with just five books…)

It’s available now through April 11th, so be sure to check it out before it’s gone: https://storybundle.com/fantasy

Also, if you’re willing, I’d really appreciate any signal boost you can give to get word out about the bundle. They’re good books, I promise.

Book Rec for Self-Publishers

I decided not to take my computer on my trip last week which gave me plenty of time on the way there and back to do some catch-up reading. (I tend to still read physical books more than ebooks so all the ebooks I end up acquiring here or there just sit on my ereader unread for ages.)

One that I think I received free via Wharton was called The Shopping Revolution by Barbara E. Kahn. (That’s an affiliate link, FYI, but you can just search for it as well.)

As someone who uses Amazon to sell my products it was a really interesting read. There’s a lot of discussion in indie world about how Amazon should police its store for copyright violations or people who trade and republish the same material, etc. etc. but what this book makes clear is that Amazon doesn’t give a flying you-know-what about any of that.

Turns out they have a stated approach of not taking any responsibility for knock-off products being sold on their site. (Yet another reason for me as a consumer to not shop there anymore, after having bought brand-name products that didn’t seem to be the same as the ones I had bought in physical stores. Now I know why.)

It also makes it very clear that Amazon believes in differentiating itself on low pricing. So for all us who bemoan Amazon’s many ways of controlling pricing, that’s a deliberate strategy on their part. The fact that they skew payouts to drive ebook prices below $10 for self-publishing is not going to change anytime soon. (Which sucks, quite frankly, and is why I chose not to list the ebook version of Excel Essentials for sale on Amazon.)

Anyway. About a third of the book is devoted to an in depth discussion and analysis of Amazon and I think it’s well worth reading if you’re going to do business with Amazon, which, as a self-publisher, is pretty much impossible to avoid.

Life Changes on a Dime

I’m sitting here watching the “blizzard” outside my window. Welcome to March in Colorado. I suspect I’ll lose at least one tree limb before this all out but I’m not willing to venture out into that mess to knock the snow off the trees just now.

Five days ago I was in New Zealand. It was seventy degrees (Fahrenheit), I was sitting next to a lake eating yummy fish and chips, and recharging after far too long of going going going non-stop.

Quite the contrast.

That difference–and the fact that I was in NZ to visit a very close friend who is two years into dealing with a cancer diagnosis–has me all philosophical today.

In my friend’s case they were dragging for a while before the diagnosis, but there was one day when it all flipped for them. When that “gosh I’m tired” feeling turned into “there is something really serious wrong with me and I need to stop right now and find out exactly what it is.” (Brain tumors will do that to you, you know?)

Just like that they found themselves living an entirely new life.

Of course, illness is a weird thing. Two years ago my friend didn’t think they’d make it six months. And I went to visit now because my friend is probably about to start round three of treatments. I could no longer be sure they’d be here next year when I was planning to go to NZ for Worldcon. So I went now.

And I went expecting, I don’t know, someone who was struggling? Someone who was scared? Someone who was demonstrably ill? (I know this person better than that, but it’s easy to project your own feelings onto someone else’s experience.)

I found someone who was definitely changed from who they’d been seven years ago when I saw them last–they can’t take part of your cerebellum and not have some impact–but I didn’t find someone who you’d think was dying.

I was only there 29 hours (crazy, I know), but I’m glad I went. It was perfect timing in so many ways.

My friend has a new scan on Monday. It may mean new drugs and new treatments. A month from now they may be that struggling and scared person I thought I’d find.

Or not. Life’s funny that way. Maybe I’ll get to visit again next July.

That’s the thing about life. You really, truly don’t know what tomorrow will bring. You can guess, and you’ll probably be right a lot of the time, but one moment can change it all.

One flip of that coin and tomorrow can be better (or worse) (or both at the same time) by magnitudes. That’s what keeps it interesting, right? Always something new around the bend.