Micromastery - learn small, learn fast and find the hidden path to happiness will be published by Penguin books (UK) in May 2017. It will be published in China, Taiwan, USA, Germany and South Korea in the months after that.
You know those people when you ask them for a recommendation they kind of um and ah and don't really say much- neither one way or the other? You ask for a good restaurant and they say they know an OK one. You ask for a decent plumber and they say this guy was OKish. In a sense they are protecting themselves against being blamed if something goes wrong; but they are also not optimising. If you have only OK restaurants to go to you're not looking hard enough, you're not optimising your life. Which also means you are less use to other people. If you can't recommend things then you are giving up something you don't need to give up.
Stieg Larsson worked for twenty years for the Swedish press agency TT. But he never worked on the regular desks, rather he had to make do with being a back room boy in the small features and illustrations department. The reason for not letting him transfer was officially and repeatedly given: "Stieg Larsson cannot write!" Hmm.
A book is one of the few objects that is both itself and its own advertising. A rack of books in a bookshop becomes a billboard for that book. It's as if the book is a pixel in a great poster advertising itself. Music is different. The radio works as publicity there. Big publishers like to sledge a load of books in and it works. The book unit cost for a paperback may be less than a pound sterling and they can easily be trashed after they have served to promote the book ie. returned to the publisher.
This model however doesn't really work with the small publisher. A few books sideways on in a lot of stores advertises nothing. To achieve an advertising function the books must be in a different place- maybe on the till of a health food store if that is appropriate. I think it helps to think of physically selling books -what about getting milkmen to sell books?
The final thought is about vertical integration. In non fiction its easy to ally writing with the subject- offering talks, expertise, tours etc. With fiction it is harder - but there is always a way.
With the rise of kindle there is a corresponding rise in the book as art object. The first 350 copies of any hardback should be lovlingly signed and sold at a premium. All subsequent signed books must be less lavish and clearly differentiated from this collectors model.
If, in the dead of night you find yourself panicking about this and that the fastest way to stop it is to hold your breath.Yep. Play that old game of seeing how long you can hold it for- a minute? Maybe more. It serves to focus your mind on breathing and it puts things in perspective. After all, the quintessential panic situation is not being able to breathe. After a few attempts at emulating a free diver start observing your breathing again as you calmly inhale and exhale and, pretty soon, drop off to sleep.
When you next find yourself eagerly setting off down some mental byway or back alley you have no wish to visit or re-visit, in other words when you find your brain using you rather than the other way around; simply shout NEXT and mentally push the 'next' button. Over time you will develop the ability to think about what you want to think about; and not what your brain, at a loose end, wants to ruminate endlessly upon.