Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Nature’s Message to Me

First let me confess that I am multitasking as I write this. I have my feet soaking in soapy water. That qualifies, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I recently participated in a fantastic group freebie promotion, Reads4Free. You might have heard of it (picture a smiley face here because I just can’t bring myself to place one in such a serious blog as this). It was a terrific event and benefited the eight authors who grouped together to do it greatly. But in the midst of planning this thing, in fact about half-way through, I watched a PBS video called Shark Island, and it had an effect on me.

No, it wasn’t the sharks that relayed great insight. It was instead the schools of fish they hunt. I watched a scene, which I’m sure I’ve seen before on other nature videos, of the swirling schools as they undulated underwater in an amazing pattern, closely packed together and somehow signaling to each other which way to turn next. It is a mystery to me how they do it and in fact, I’ve never heard an explanation.

What struck me is how closely they resembled the actions over the past couple of years of the Indie author community. In our case, the leader or first to move a certain direction is known. But the actions of all the rest of us are so similar to those of the fish. We quickly move to follow in his or her exact pattern. 

This behavior works for the fish because they employ it to protect each other and themselves. Because they are so tightly enmeshed with each other it is difficult for a shark to hone in on a single fish. They don’t break ranks.

For writers, this isn’t a good strategy and most of us haven’t figured that out yet. Some bemoan that fact that John Locke and Amanda Hocking were successful with the $.99 strategy and they weren’t. Some are upset that the early success of free promotions on KDP Select is winding down. Some have built up their catalogs in hopes of imitating the success of J.A. Konrath or tried serial books, like Michael R. Hicks.  Some have done it all, and all without hitting the jackpot.

What so few understand is that being the first, or one of the first, to try a new strategy is a big part of winning in any game. Believe me when I say there are other ways to win at this game, we just haven't found them yet, but for most of us following the leader isn’t going to work.

So, I urge you to think differently. Break out from the pack. Be the first to try something. That just may work for you.


  1. The sharks analogy sums up the industry perfectly. Everyone is following a trend that flashes across the sky like a meteor and is quickly gone. Your idea of "breaking out of the pack" is a great one. We all want to break. We are just looking for a direction to go.

  2. I know, Caleb. Discovering and being the next big thing is the tough part.

  3. In true southern tradition, may I just say a rousing: AMEN Sister!

  4. Love this post! Can I rant about all of the giveaways indie authors do? I CANNOT stand all of these giveaways/contests!!!!!!! My goodness, how they inundate my inbox! My problem with them is that they require so many steps: follow their blog by email, like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, etc. It's way too much! I don't enter any of them. Authors need to change up their tactics! Whew, that feels better.