More From Johnny B. Truant & Sean Platt
If you haven’t read the first part of the interview, you should definitely check it out! I broke the interview into two parts for a couple of reasons: 30 minutes of talking translates into lots of pages of text, and because I wanted to emphasize the part posted today.
It’s not hard to find blogs, articles, and discussions about the changes that ebooks are causing to the world of reading and writing. Independent writers are disrupting an entire industry. As a reader, one of the most amazing changes to me is the way that readers and writers are getting closer together.
Did any of your elementary school teachers make you write and mail a letter to an author? One of mine did. The author never replied. Today, authors regularly do chats via sites like Skype with classes. Ten, or even five, years ago, I had never communicated with the writers of any of the books I read. Now, every time I write a review on GoodReads, I wonder if the author will contact me. So far four or five have.
In this portion of the interview, Johnny and Sean talk about the reader/writer connection, and the immediacy of ebooks, from the writer’s perspective.
We were discussing how much both Sean and Johnny are doing, and how, if you are doing work you love, it’s not too hard to get a ton done each day, and Sean talked about what “down time” is for him.
Then Johnny said:
“One of the things we’ve heard a lot that’s positive about our podcast, as opposed to the frequent negative things, is that people enjoy watching us experiment in real time. I think that’s true of just about anybody who tries this self publishing thing. You can get an idea
from hanging out with other writers, or reading stuff online, or listening to podcasts, or you just get the idea…and then BOOM! You can just go do it right then and right there and that didn’t used to be the case. That’s what’s just so awesome about the whole epublishing thing.
“I mean, you can even change what’s out there now. I just changed the call to action on some stuff I have out there. I changed the call to action at the end of some old blog posts and now they are a lead gen thing, and you couldn’t do that when you had a print run.”
And you can literally do that in 24 hours. You can say, “OK, I want to change the call to action on every one of the things on this list,” and 24 hours later, it’s all changed. That’s incredible!
Sean and Dave fixed a major problem with one of their fiction projects in a weekend.
Yeah, that’s one of my favorite self publishing stories, actually.
You fixed something that was wrong with the plot or with a book or what?
No, we changed season three for Yesterday’s Gone. It’s really awesome. What I love about Yesterday’s Gone is that it was our first. but it was also our most experimental because, you know, it was our first.
When we finished the third season, it ran long. It was about 4000 words longer than our normal episodes and it felt really long. Remember in Return of the King how there are, like, 84 fake endings? And the movie just keeps ending. Well, the third season was the midway point, and we needed to give closure to a lot of the characters but we didn’t want to be like Return of the King and have all these epilogues. Plus, it was already over-budget on word count and we didn’t want it to just go on and on and ramble. So we cut it.
But, our readers felt really cheated, and they were pissed. We were used to getting four and five star reviews, and we were pretty bummed when we started getting one and two star reviews. We were like, “Oh, this is terrible! What’s going on?” And so, we asked some of our readers.
This is why I love this story. It’s not just about Amazon, it’s about the immediacy of all of it, and the fact that authors can have this really close relationship with their readership now.
We went straight to Facebook and said, “Hey, if you’ve read the ending private message us.” And we had conversations. It turned out that by not putting the epilogues in, we actually told a different story and we didn’t give people the closure they needed and so we added another 3000 word epilogue and put it up over the weekend.
Now the average rating is something like 4.8 stars on the same episode that was two stars when it was first released. We were able to just change the ending and send it out. And because of KDP Select, and this is also awesome, we were able to replace it and put it out for free. So everyone could get it for free and not be pissed that we were making them buy an extra addition or whatever. It was free and it was a really good thing because we ended up closer to our readers than we were before we made the mistake. Self publishing made that possible.
I wonder if George R.R. Martin wished he could have done something like that when volume four of Game of Thrones came out…
But, I don’t know. For us it wasn’t that the readers were really shaping what we were doing, they just let us know that pulling the epilogue we’d planned was a mistake. That’s a careful thing because you don’t want to cater too much to reviews. I mean, you want to listen to them for sure, but you don’t want them to write your stories for you. And I think there’s a danger there because writers want to be liked and we want to sell product. But some of the things that make people love us to begin with are not necessarily the things that…I don’t know. It’s a very, very difficult line to walk. For sure. You know commercial directors face this every time they make a movie, except their stakes are so much higher than ours are, which is another reason I love our medium.
Huh. No stakes!
I love film. I absolutely love it. I love film more than I love books, actually, but the difference is with books: Johnny, you got Fat Vampire out in a month! It went from idea to book in one month. If you put a movie out in a month, it’d probably be shit. There’s not a lot of margin there. Dave and I could sit and write a book right now, and have it out in a month and have it really tank, and it’s okay. We’ll get something out the next month. We’ll learn from our mistake. Or, the opposite can happen, we can come out with a fireball idea, get it out in a month and it could be a total hit.
Another thing Hugh said in his interview that I really like was that WOOL was his big pay off but it was the one book he didn’t promote at all. He had no faith in it. He didn’t even think it would do anything or go anywhere and it was the one that just blew up for him. And the only thing that makes that possible is that content creation is so speedy that you can afford to risk and gamble and play, a LOT.
It is a time to experiment. That’s one of the reasons I like writing with so many other authors is that it really does give mea chance to play with different voice and things like that. Dave really likes to write dark fiction, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. That doesn’t mean there can’t be sic-fi elements or something like that, but I’m different. I want to write sic-fi books, I want to write children’s books, I want to write a western someday, I just want to write and I want to experiment and play, so I like writing with other writers because it gives me a bigger playground.
Is there anything specific you’d like readers of my blog to look at? It’s been a lot of fun talking with you guys, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time.
We never get tired of talking about this stuff, Sean and I.
Yeah, you don’t have to drag it out of us at all.