The Mollison Method

Dorrinal interviewed the Mark Kern on yesterday’s edition of Game Night, part of the Geek Gab Multimedia Entertainment Conglomerate.  The chat for all of their shows is worth the price of admission alone; the regular crew features faces familiar to those of you following the PulpRev social media circles, and in addition to the running commentary, you can always find fascinating side conversations.  BAR-1 Studios surprised me when he mentioned that he had recently had discussions with others about “The Mollison Method”.

Apparently, you could hear the needle scratch in my brain from Daddy Warpig’s house.  BAR-1 explained what he meant, and in retrospect it makes sense.  It’s how I kicked off my writing, and how I recommend any budding writer get over their cold feet and uncertainty about the process.  Writing a 1,000 page mega-novel featuring multiple view-point characters can be daunting, and many writers crash and burn before completing even the writing process.  Or they complete the first draft and then suffer jitters over things like formatting the document, finding beta-readers or proofers, producing a cover, uploading to Amazon, and you’re talking about one tall mountain to climb.

The Mollison Method dispenses with all of that and provides a relatively easy way to “fail faster”.  In mindset terms, this is the slogan for the process by which one embraces the early parts of a learning a new skill and puts their head down to grind straight ahead through the process.  Know and accept that your early steps are going to be rough so that you can put them in the rear view mirror and get to the smooth stretches of the road faster.

Here is the process in a nutshell:

  1. Don’t write a thousand page novel.  Just set yourself the goal of writing a 10,000 word novelette.  That’s longer than a short story, and enough to justify a Kindle purchase.   This may seem short, but see Step 3, below.
  2. Look at the first few pages of any book on your shelf – not the narrative, the book itself.  These pages have copyright and credits.  Copy those into your story.  Poke around and get your document formatted for whatever online sales outfit you want to work with.  (I recommend Amazon, but others have had success with Lulu.com.)
  3. Upload that first story and charge a dollar for it.  It may seem cheap, but if you are just starting out, cheap is good.  You just want to get that first sale, and a price point cheaper than a candy bar makes it easy for readers to hit that  big, yellow “Buy With 1-Click” button.
  4. Once you see people are willing to give you money for your words, you’ll be motivated to write a second story, this time maybe a 20,000 word novella.  You already have the template.  You’ve already figured out the uploading process.  You already have a few people that have demonstrated a willingness to give you money for entertainment, and they’ll probably do it again.
  5. Repeat steps 1. through 4. until you have 80,000 – 100,000 words available.  Stuff all of those stories into a Word file and upload that to Amazon.com with a new cover.  Charge a couple of dollars less for the collection than you did for the rest of your works, total.  This way, new fans can choose between betting just a dollar on your brilliance or go for the big bulk discount. 
  6. As an added bonus, you now have enough pages to justify selling a hard copy of your book.  I recommend writing another 10,000 word novelette exclusive to your collection, for those fans you have that are completists, too.  It’s a nice little incentive for your fans to pay you twice for the same work.

Consider a theme to your first book, too.  At a minimum, you should probably stick to one genre.  That will help guarantee future sales to previous buyers, and it will keep you motivated.

As proof of concept, I offer my first book, series of short stories featuring a modern day action hero, Karl Barber.  Each of the short stories was available individually, so I added a fourth tale about the titular street fight as an incentive to buy the more expensive book over the three shorts.  In this case, you could buy each of the three shorts for a dollar, or buy all three and get the bonus for three bucks.

Click to see the proof.

My second collection consisted of four novellas, each featuring a different dragon slaying hero.  I added a story from the dragon’s perspective to round out the collection.  In this case, I’ve removed all but one of the novellas down from my author page.  Too many titles makes it hard for readers to figure out which one to buy, and we want to make it as easy for them as possible.  So I have one cheap intro, and then a more expensive collection of all five stories.

Using this process, I was able to get two books onto Amazon in about six months.  After that, sitting down to write a 50,000 to 60,000 word novel doesn’t seem so bad.  You’re already standing on the top of one hill, and while the next one is taller, you already know you can climb it.

About Jon Mollison

Jon Mollison was weaned at the literary knee of Tolkein, Howard, Moore, and Burroughs. He spent decades wandering in the wilderness of modern genre fiction, wondering when the magic and wonder went out of the world of dragons and space ships. In his darkest hour, he encountered a wise man who handed him the open secrets to crafting works that emulate the stories of the great authors who built the genre. They are easily summarized in but two words: Regress Harder. Now one of the twelve champions of the Pulp Revolution, his self-published works represent a more direct lineage to the tales of action, mystery, romance, virtue, and pure unalloyed adventure than the bland imitations churned out by New York City publishing houses in recent decades.
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2 Responses to The Mollison Method

  1. Jon Mollison says:

    My understanding is that the 10K – 20K range is a novelette, but there's no Weights and Measures Office for this stuff, so if you clock in at 19K and call it a Novella, that's just Marketing.

  2. Great article! Thanks for articulating specifically what I was gesturing towards vaguely.
    I didn't realize 10,000 words was the bottom limit for a novella- here I was thinking it was 20k. Which surprises me then, as my 21rst Century Thrilling Adventures submission before editing hit nearly 8k.

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