Fixing what’s not working on novel


Over at C h a z z W r i t e s, Chazz asks: Are you ready to fix what’s not working?

He kindly provided a long list of questions, and after I got started, I realized I should post this here, and just leave the first two answers as a teaser on his blog, which you should visit and follow.

He starts his post with:

Publishing gurus are full of ideas for you. To optimize your sales, they might suggest new covers. They will tell you that your only barrier to startling success is a simple (yet costly) tweak to your book description.

ChazzWrites – 19 March 2022

He asks you:

How do we adapt? Consider these questions:

Here is my list of answers – a good set to answer for yourself in writing. I’ve edited or changed his questions a bit in places to suit me better – you should read his.

What is success to me?

People reading and reviewing my mainstream trilogy – I am pretty sure it will take off in a big way some day, and these people keep me writing.

What works for you?

Doing it exactly my way, designed for a damaged brain and no energy – because it works.

What doesn’t?

Everyone else’s suggestions – I can’t follow them, and when I make the big effort, they don’t work for me.

Have you tested other options?

Yes, though not extensively – I’m VERY slow, and this takes time away from writing.

Have you played with the variables?

Not a lot – by definition, half of A/B testing is going to be wrong!

Would you drop what isn’t working?

In principle, yes – but I have to somehow decide people who don’t know me and my work know what they’re talking about. So far, not convinced.

Are you doing more of what works for you?

I am – and I do as soon as I identify something that works, I do more of it. When I have time and energy, the kicker.

What haven’t you succeeded at trying that might work?

Going viral (not something you can just ‘try.’) Getting on Oprah or equivalent. Practically, attracting a BIG influencer who goes to bat for me.

Have you tried that?

Have asked maybe ten – they all have shied away or answered in generalities or haven’t answered at all. Doing things their way works for them; altering, looking at the outliers, not so much.

Before changing, have you completed other projects?

Yes. I can only work on one thing at a times – very little ability to do elsewise.

Have you analyzed pros and cons of a strategy such as changing genres?

Not until I finish the mainstream trilogy (but I managed to tuck some historical fiction AND some science fiction into it).

What would your costs be?

Funny: They go from me, my time, and my energy, immediately to a very expensive version of let other people do it. I could probably afford it, if I were convinced it would make a permanent difference – but I don’t believe that, because the limitation is still me.

What would the cost/benefit of getting paid helpers be?

I would have to sell a LOT more books to make them pay for themselves, and, since I will never be able to create much of a backlist, there won’t be much help from other work, so it would depend on a single huge campaign for the trilogy.

How much money do you need to live?

Fortunately, I’m retired, settled into a retirement community, and okay.

How much MORE do you need for WANTS?

Lucky that way – none.

Do you have the helpers to effect this change?

Not yet, though I’ve approached several possibilities, and listened carefully to their answers.

Would this be an investment, or money down the drain?

It’s my life, and my only chance of a legacy, since I became chronically ill.

Is a helper worth the time or mental toll it will require?

Haven’t found one yet that is.

What’s keeping you from trying?

Lack of energy.

What’s the worst that could happen?

No increased sales, and the loss of a lot of money which should have gone to charities and the kids.

What’s the best that could happen?

Breakout – and a fame which wouldn’t make much difference to a very isolated disabled life, but would be fun (instead of always being odd woman out).

Is the new way of working a passion, an excuse, or an escape?

Passion, of course. Nothing else is worth the kind of effort necessary.

What makes your new approach significantly different from old projects that failed?

I’m doing it myself; the failed one approached traditional publishing and didn’t get a brass ring.

Are you happy or excited to make this new commitment?

Haven’t had a credible proposition yet; there’s one possibility in the works – a PR company. I’m waiting to hear, because they will have to do all the changing – I don’t have the capacity to.


And there you have my answers.

Thanks to Chazz!

Go visit, read his actual questions, answer them for yourself.


15 thoughts on “Fixing what’s not working on novel

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I’m not a knitter, so this is what I have.

      Seriously, the knitting can wait. I need to make an impact somewhere, and this is my somewhere and my what and my how.

      If I make it, great. If not – hope it wasn’t something I didn’t do for lack of energy, but them’s the breaks.

      I’m trying Booksprout for reviews this year – no takers yet. We’ll see if it gets better when Netherworld is ready.

      I thought the award might do something, but not so far. I’ve pushed it where possible – maybe mainstream readers are (should be ) leery of awards.

      I’ll happily live by the words of my best reviews – those are my people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. acflory

        I wish more people would read my books, but I’ve slowly come to realise that what /I/ love is not necessarily what most other people love. Given that I’ve always been a square peg, that insight shouldn’t have come as such a surprise but…it did. So I plod along, trying not to hope for too much. -shrug-
        And yes, the people who do leave reviews are ‘my people’ too. 🙂


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          You have chosen to write some very different and fascinating SF. SF fans are a small but heavily-involved group; I hope they discover what you have to offer. I never asked if you tried the ‘regular’ channels such as Tor. Did you? You have some impressive fans.

          I’m writing what is essentially a mainstream love story – outside the normal traditional-publisher-vetted channels. I think those channels discourage the kind of fiction I want to write – and they wouldn’t let me in because I challenge some of their assumptions about what sells. I need a big club if I want their attention (I don’t think it would help, and the contracts and royalties are a joke), or a big club to get the public’s attention – the omnivorous reading public who thinks indies stink so they won’t even TRY it. And being slow – which is also my source of credibility – doesn’t help ME in the dog-eat-dog marketplace, which I supposed from the start.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. acflory

          I did lurk around TOR for a while, back when I first started. Can’t remember why I stopped. lol Maybe because I’m not particularly social?

          Did you by any chance read Rusch’s last couple of blog posts about Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter?

          Clearly you need to have a huge following for something like that to happen, but his success is also in stark contrast to what he might expect to get from traditional publishing.
          Honestly? I believe we are both miles better off as Indies. As unknowns, we’d be expected to do our own marketing anyway so why would we give away our copyright for life+ in exchange for a bit of editing and maybe a few thousand as an ‘advance’?


        3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          It USED to be they delivered bookstores and readers and marketing and editing and an advance; apparently that’s no longer true.

          They still have an aura of something – which is why I want to do a big book breakout as an indie, partly, so people question their stranglehold on mainstream and literary fiction.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. acflory

          Yeah, I think we all remember when publishing was a labour of love. Now it’s just a relatively small business in a huge multinational conglomerate that doesn’t give a shyte about books. They’re just products. And not very profitable products at that. But the glamour still lingers. :/


        5. acflory

          I think it’s the prestige value that keeps them going, at least for now. If the mess we’re in keep deepening though…yeah. Unsustainable.


        6. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Unless they can continue to cut their suppliers’ take – advances are a vanishing species, but no big publisher has moved to Cleveland. There is a huge disparity in salaries – executives vs. workers, and big authors vs. everyone else. Kris Rusch like to watch it implode; I just picked the wrong genre to write in, their last hurrah.

          Liked by 1 person

        7. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Sanderson is a good businessperson – and a lot of that money will go to getting that top swank to his fans. More power to him.

          He delivers.

          Yes, I read Rusch every week, and though a lot of what she says applies to writers with a serious backlist, she’s clearly got it going.

          I was disappointed in her book on writing with a disability – she RUNS. But that’s just sour grapes a bit. Glad for her – she works her tail off.

          Liked by 1 person

        8. acflory

          I think I’ve read one of his books and didn’t like it, but that’s probably just me. And you’re right, he is a good businessperson. I hope his kickstarter really does hammer the last nail in the coffin of trad. pub.

          lol – I haven’t read that book but I have read quite a lot of her scifi and a bit of her fantasy. Love the scifi, not so enthralled with the fantasy but again, that’s me.

          I’ve come to the conclusion that we can only do what we /can/ do. I stick to my blog because I love my extended family of writers and readers and artists, not because it gets me anywhere in terms of marketing. If I did only for the marketing, I’d have given it up years ago. -shrug- If you don’t have your heart in it, how do you force yourself to do something year after year?


        9. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          You can’t force yourself – except for an occasional obligation you have chosen to accept, such as checking in on an old family friend.

          Life is too short, and I have too little of it left, and mine takes a lot to manage every day.

          Liked by 1 person

        10. acflory

          Same. I’ve had a brush with cancer so I know each day is precious. My writing is my legacy, my ‘Foo waz ‘ere’. I hope to live to my 90’s but I’m not going to waste any of that time doing things that go ‘against the grain’. Life really is too short. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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