Monday, May 26, 2014

DIY - 1, 2, 3...

We've all done it, bought that do-it-yourself piece of furniture that only takes 3 steps.  Step 1: Open box and take parts out. Step 2: Assemble. And of course, Step 3: Enjoy.

Oh, if only it was that easy.  Let's face it, more times than not, Step 2 is the most aggravating, time-consuming and life-threatening aspect of the DIY project.

In today's society, everything has become over-simplified.  Meals?  Open a box, add water, zap in microwave for 5 minutes. Voila!  A meal.  Sometimes you don't even need to add the water!  For the artist in you, there are paint-by-number kits which can offer a very nice finished product if you have any talent and can blend the lines just a little.  Even vacuuming has become simplified - just let a little robot play pong in your house as it bounces off the walls and redirects itself on a new path.

Think back - your grandmother would go out and buy a fresh piece of meat from the market, bring it home, beat it, trim it, marinate and whatnot then stick it in a pot to cook for the next 3 to 4 hours with some cut up onions, a couple of carrots and maybe some garlic and bay leaves.  In that free time while the meat was cooking, grandma would peel the potatoes, cube them and place them on the stove to cook with a little salted water.  Next she would go through the green beans she'd harvested earlier in the morning making sure to remove the bad ones, trimming the ends and possibly snapping them into smaller pieces. More water in a pot with the beans and on the stove to cook.  I guess at this time I should mention that she probably has to stoke the stove and get more firewood to keep the oven warm with the meat and the burners hot to boil the potatoes and beans.  With a little luck, by the time everyone got into the house, grandma had supper ready with piping hot biscuits and had finished frosting the cake she'd made from scratch for dessert.

Today it seems everything has been simplified, streamlined and assembly-line rigged to make life easier for everyone.  Cars no longer need to be cranked or shifted using a clutch.  Radios offer more than 2 or 3 AM stations.  TVs are color and huge screens, not small little 9 inch rounded squares of black and white snow-laden visions.  One now zaps popcorn rather than taking the time to heat it in a popper or pot.

Everything is...

Wait!  Not everything has been simplified to a simple 1-2-3 step process.  Writing is still the long, tedious process of putting words together to tell a tale of interest.

Yes, we have word processors and spell checkers and more tools to make the experience easier BUT there is absolutely NO way to simplify the process of creating a story and making it a seller.

Yes, we have all this new social media to help us get the word out about our latest, finished product.  Again, it only tells that it is available.  We are forced into believing that if one has 40K followers on Facebook, another 100K followers on Twitter, at least 400 connections or more in LinkedIn, etc etc for other social media options, that it will help us sell books.

Time to step back and take a real smell of the roses and not the fertilizer.
  1. You have to create a great story, not a good story.
  2. You have to create notice about the story
  3. You have to find readers -- not followers.
Did you notice step 3?  You only sell books to readers - not followers.  I would rather have 5k readers following me on Twitter than 500k generic followers who don't enjoy reading.  The same holds true for Facebook.  I don't need 60 likes at Amazon.  I don't need 35 5-star reviews that say absolutely nothing but some generic fluff like 'This is the best book I've read.' which is useless.  Give me a 5 3 or 4-star review that explains why the book was so great for the reader and why others should read it.  That is the subtle difference between those reviews.  <snide on> Oh look! This review as 127 likes! <snide off>  Exactly what does that mean?  127 like the review. Hmm? Maybe the person adding the review is just a great writer and the people reading the review like his/her writing better than the book? Exactly WHAT does a "like" do for you, the author of the book?  Nobody said they like the book, they like the review! How odd.

We're being told that social media is the new DIY-1-2-3 for authors and all (okay, several) of the writers are flocking to this in a mania hoping tobe the next big book seller.  Twitter and Facebook are not going to get you there even if you have 500k followers on each.  You need readers!  Not followers!

There is no DIY for writing.  There is no 1-2-3 steps to success for writers.  A neighbor of mine paid $50 for a book on how to make over $100,000 in a year.  This was back in the 1980s and it said it was as easy as 1-2-3. The secret was truly revealing.  Write a book that tells the reader to write a book like the one in hand to make money.  Hmm?  If 2,000+ people sent this guy $50 in one year - he made over $100,000.  

One can read all the books they want and watch every TV show about being a doctor but until the day you actually work on a real body, you have no idea what it is about.  The same holds true for writing.  Read all those books but not one of them is going to give you the basic instructions to become a writer, a published author.

In other words, there is no 1-2-3 in writing.  An author must take the time to create an idea and compose a great story to tell it.  Then the author needs to sell it to readers, not followers.  It ain't paint-by-numbers or a zap in the microwave. This process takes thought, time and perseverance.

Until next I ramble on...


  1. All good points. I will address the review likes. I think the point of review likes is to push a great review into the "most helpful" column, making it the one you want readers to see first. Having other people "like up" every review on a book doesn't make sense to me.

  2. I love this post Bob. So powerful, a really good reminder for me and for all of us. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  3. I understand what you're saying but like a King novel. It has over 400 reviews. Are you going to read each one to see if you want to buy the book? If the cover, blurb and partial read doesn't catch your attention, do you really feel that a review by a total stranger is going to tip the scale in favor of a sale? To me, all a review does is tells me that somebody else enjoyed the tale UNLESS they specify why the book was so good. Words like "intriguing tale" or "suspenseful plot" really don't convey anything. Sometimes a bad review of 3 or fewer stars is more informative as to whether or not I might enjoy the book.

  4. Likes on a review move that review to the top on Amazon. All of it is important. Just important not to obsess about one thing or another. It all works, and it's all a process.

  5. Ugh, it's like you wrote this TO ME... did you? LOL - I swear this is all true... I do all of this, but is it selling books? Not yet... Need to really evaluate #3.