Challenge,  Misc

Questions or Topics?

A Lazy Saturday Night…

Since I did not feel up to writing another chapter in the branding book as I had planned to do tonight, I thought I would open this up on this weekend night to questions you would like to have me answer or topics you would like to have me discuss or write a blog about.

Email me or put them here as comments. If nothing because this is the time of great forgetting, I will just keep on entertaining myself with things that interest me in some fashion or another.

Note: For anyone who missed getting a class or workshop they wanted, the code for the last 50% off sale is still active.

Hope you are all having a good weekend. And if you had a great mother, celebrate that. You are lucky, be grateful. (Mine was an abusive, hateful person who was not worth celebrating.)


  • Vincent Zandri

    Hi Dean,
    How about an update on Writing as an Investment in 2024. Something I’ve been very interested in recently since going indie. I can bet others are interested too.
    Thanks man,

    • dwsmith

      Vincent, great idea. Thanks. But for writers to even understand the concept of writing as investment, they must have a decent grasp of copyright and trademark. But I will do that discussion just for me and the few of us who will really understand it. Super, that will be fun.

  • LM

    topics I’d love to see coming from you:

    subscription services like patreon, substack, etc. – when to use them vs. alternate distribution, etc.
    hardcovers – picking special edition printer for kickstarter, having a regular hardcover edition for online retailers
    special editions overall

    While poking kickstarter on the daily gives me lots of ideas, sometimes I feel my google fu turning up useful info on the practicals is a little weak.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, LM… I know a lot about special editions, not so much about patreon and substack. But great topics, thanks.

  • Kristi N.

    Thanks for this opportunity, Dean! Something that has puzzled me for quite a few months: I took part in a group promotion, primarily out of curiosity and to learn about how the market forces work in that dynamic. I didn’t expect to gain much, other than information, but was grateful to be found by a few new fans.

    My question is in regards to other people who were slammed with critical reviews in regards to their craft (as in, Did Not Finish and here is a long laundry list of reasons why). If a writer has been promoting their one book and spending the money to draw readers in, but then has a severely negative experience with a promotion like that, what should they do? Kill off the pen name and go back to the drawing board, sadder but wiser? Stop promoting, keep the pen name, and write more books to push that bad one off the first page?

    And as a side note, what have you seen in your experience that the most likely response of a writer to that kind of promotion result would be, and how often is that an indicator of longevity?

    • dwsmith

      Kristi, well you walked into the middle of the big ugly in indie publishing.

      First off, never go down that road for any reason and only having one book and promoting that is just flat stupid. Too far down that road and honestly the writer is finished. There is no path of return, not because of sales or anything like that, but because they just can’t recover inside their own heads.

      They made one book “important” and spent all their time on it. They will never be able to finish another one, let alone take the time and energy to learn how to be a better storyteller and write 15-30 more novels as they learn. The canyon between falling in the promote the first book trap and writing 20 books for enjoyment is just too far across.

      How to try to carve out that path? Well, if the writer wants to really be a writer, not some promoter, then the writer would need to stop at once looking at sales figures. Set a time about two years out to look and hold to that. (Impossible for writers who have gone down that road, but you asked.)

      Second, never write to market. Write novels only for themselves and no matter how painful or bad the book may seem, finish it and put it up and write the next book. (Again impossible for a writer focused on thinking their book must be perfect.)

      Do this for three or four years and they may have recovered. (Again, impossible because that kind of writer is in a hurry.)

      In other words, there is no path to recovery and being a long-term writer for writers who got lost in that kind of mess. And to answer your question, I have seen no writer survive that for more than a few years. I hope there are exceptions, but over the last decade or so since this stupidity started, I have seen none. Sadly.

      • Kristi N.

        Thanks, Dean. My heart hurt for one of the writers who was honestly bewildered about the scathing criticism. She had written something she was proud of, and to have that kind of response was obviously not something she was prepared for. (Another reason not to read reviews.)

  • Emilia

    Having a good weekend with family.

    A topic I’m curious about is opening a story with a vague setting.

    I started reading Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts. The setting in the opening is light, I think there’s white beach, moon and the characters. It’s a mythic place beyond our time and feels like it.
    There’s just enough setting for me to imagine the scene, but not so much that I feel jerked around when the main story begins in our normal world.

    I’ve read other books with a light setting that still pulled me into the story. I think quick pacing is one technique, but I’m curious what other techniques could be used to keep a reader in depth with a vague and light setting?

    I think should redo the advanced depth workshop to see if I could find answers there as well.

    • dwsmith

      Emilia, thanks. A little of it, depending how it is done, is touched upon in the Advanced Depth, but to what Nora was doing there is really advanced stage four writing. She knew exactly how a reader would feel and stayed in that feeling. That sort of skill just takes years of writing and continued learning to get to. Years.

      • Emilia

        Thank you. I feel like I should be intimidated, but instead I feel excited to catch a glimpse of the road years and years ahead.

    • dwsmith

      Michael, no because they are worthless and a waste of time and money. A ton of ways to promote your own stuff that costs nothing and makes you money.

  • topaz

    Hi Dean,

    I like to read new posts in you current blog series.

    Aside from that, I always love your math posts. Maybe there’s one you haven’t brought back in a while?
    Maybe there’s some new math you’d like to talk about, and smash some myths with that math?

  • Richard Clement

    Hey Dean,
    Since you and Kris always have a lot of projects going, I’m wondering if you could tell us a little about how you prioritize, schedule, and balance everything with your writing. This is an area that keeps getting away from me.
    Thanks and best wishes,

    • dwsmith

      Richard, yeah, us too at times… I will do that. Stay tuned. Right now it is something I need to do for myself as well.


  • Bill M.

    Hey, Dean. Longtime fan.

    Lately you’ve been talking more about needing to make sure books have satisfying endings and gripping openings- I totally agree, but I’m wondering how you balance that with not writing out of your critical voice and writing into the dark.

    Do you just study when you’re not writing and then trust your creative voice to come up with good endings and openings? If you know you’ve written a weak opening, should you rewrite it?

    • dwsmith

      Never rewrite, Bill. And besides, how would you know it was a weak opening?? Writers are the worst judges of our own work. What you think is weak might be the best opening for the story.

      As for how, yes, you study depth for openings and all the aspects of that, and then study endings, including typing in other writer’s endings that really worked for you. Then just put all that front brain stuff away and give your creative voice permission to pay attention and use it when the time is right.

      Then repeat the process. Your creative voice already knows how to do all this stuff. By studying you are giving it permission to use it.

  • Kate Pavelle

    Hi Dean, I would be interested in some solid guidance on time management. Few blogs back, you presented us with a solid to-do list. Then with its converse “what you might be doing wrong” list.
    Extremely useful, thank you.
    Since I tend to overthink while fighting a perfectionist streak (one that can stop me in my tracks if I’m not careful,) I would like to see ballpark time estimates for how many hours these non-writing tasks should take up. I am talking an average, good quailty publication, not a special edition with bells and whistles. I will double the time estimates for myself to account for snags and for learning new things and then I will track how long I actually take for further planning purposes. If I know how much a tadk should take, production-wise, I will be less likely getting stuck in my quest for perfection. And since with new tasks I have no idea what “good enough” feels like on my end, it would save me a lot time pointlessly wasted.
    Also, having a “good enough” performance goal and time estimate would lower my activation energy.

    I have done all the things on the list, but not at the same time and not consistently. Therein lies the rub.

    Thank you for a very good branding series. This is all related.

    • dwsmith

      Kate, thanks. Let me think about how to approach that topic since none of us are the same. But good idea that might help, so let me think about it. Thanks!!

  • Ryan

    Hi Dean,

    I was wondering if you’ve intentionally experimented with different writing inputs (typewriter/laptop/handwriting, etc), and if so, if you’ve noticed differences in your writing style/voice?

    In my own writing, I’ve noticed that with handwriting, my sentences are a bit longer and more descriptive, while at the keyboard sentences tend to be a bit leaner.

    • dwsmith

      Nope, I am a Mac and Word writer. I used to write on a typewriter before computers. No clue why anyone would stay that way and handwriting means you have to go through it again and that is a huge waste of time. Once and done.

  • Ken Talley

    Hi Dean,

    I’d be interested in you talking at length about how stand alone short stories don’t work for discoverability. You made this statement the other day (May 10) and it sort of threw me since you’ve been quite vocal in the past about the benefit to discoverability of those stories. Could you talk about what has changed and perhaps what we should do with our stand alones besides submitting them to traditional markets and/or publishing them in collections.

    Ken Talley

    • dwsmith

      Sure, I could do that, but always publish the short stories stand-alone for $1.99 or $2.99.

      And I sure don’t understand why you put down submitting to traditional markets. If you write sf and sell a story to Asimov’s, you hit almost a hundred thousand sf readers with a sample of your work AND GET PAID TO DO THAT.

      So, thanks, I will talk about this coming up.

  • Balázs

    Hi Dean,
    I would be interested in a topic about learning or studying other’s works. For example, how to learn copyright? How to study novels and short stories? And the market? Maybe these are silly questions, but do you have hints how to start?

    • dwsmith

      Copyright? Best way we have come up with to teach that is called Bite-Sized Copyright and it had four posts every Monday morning on copyright for a year. It is still available and I would suggest that. Painless way to learn copyright worldwide.

      Why study the market?? Write what you love and put it out. Never write to market.

      How to study other writer’s works is a good topic. I might do. Stay tuned. Thanks!

  • Scott W

    Dean, I’m curious about POD merch.

    You’ve said several times that Shopify is the best choice for an online author store. But I’m wondering which of the merchandise places you chose to create the items that are sold in that store. There are a TON of them, many offering the same products (as in, literally the identical items).



    • dwsmith

      Printify and Printful both connect seamlessly with Shopify and have more than enough product to get anyone started.

    • Alexandria Blaelock

      Printify and Printful are good for US distribution, but if you’re not based in the US, or are looking to sell wider than the US, check where the manufacturing plants are located.
      * Are they manufacturing the kind of goods you want and can sell.
      * How long does manufacturing take?
      * How long for shipping?

      Gelato is good for the rest of the world where we’re not used to next day delivery, but the production options are limited. There are also other EU based manufacturers/distributors that do better out of the US context.

  • Jim Lawson

    Hi Dean,

    On the subject of studying other people’s works, I vaguely remember a post you did a long time ago where you recommended taking a story or book you really liked, then retyping portions of it and analyzing exactly what attracted you to the writing. I think you said most people wouldn’t do it because it was too much work, but that it would be a good way to figure out why the book held your interest. Am I remembering any of this correctly? If so, I’d love for you to talk about it again. Thanks.

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