I’m not really an “Agile” freak, but there are certain ideas in it that I’ve found to be quite useful in terms of my bookmaking, especially in the AI Lore books series.
One of those things is the concept of the MVP or minimum viable product:
A minimum viable product, or MVP, is a product with enough features to attract early-adopter customers and validate a product idea early in the product development cycle. In industries such as software, the MVP can help the product team receive user feedback as quickly as possible to iterate and improve the product.
And Wikipedia adds:
A focus on releasing an MVP means that developers potentially avoid lengthy and (possibly) unnecessary work. Instead, they iterate on working versions and respond to feedback, challenging and validating assumptions about a product’s requirements.
This might sound weird to the conventional writer mind, but I don’t view my individual books so much as products. I take actually a lot of care with the contents of the books (especially now that I’ve found a groove I like), but in one sense it almost doesn’t matter what is actually *in* the books. Instead, I view the format, the style, the distribution system, and the file deliverables as the product.
And to a certain degree, that also would include the production process: the entire flow through creation all the way to delivery & reading in someone’s phone or ebook reader.
For all the critiques I saw hurled at me and my work, none of them seemed to notice any of that (or frankly any of the deeper aspects of the work), as they were all too busy getting hung up on much more elementary – and I think, less interesting – stuff.
When I say the actual contents matter less, I don’t mean to say they don’t matter (they do), just that once I’ve got all the workflows, production, and distribution worked out, I can literally put anything into the books. It lets me get all the “hard parts” out of the way, because I’ve worked out the format and the formula that gets me there.
The fact is, I’ve got both a good MVP that I’ve improved and iterated on quite a lot. I’ve gotten tons of feedback, which I’ve combed through and integrated (or jettisoned) for future volumes. And my books are still selling, albeit in small numbers. But it’s consistent, and I’m seeing still consistent user behavior of buyers coming back for more again and again.
I am not precious with any of the books’ contents, mainly because I don’t need to be. It is pulp. To a certain degree, much of it is intended to be consumable and disposable – trashy, in other words. That doesn’t make the contents “bad,” though, becomes sometimes a certain dialed in type of trash is exactly what you want.
There are even moments of deep truth and beauty in the books, albeit scattered among the trash. And I’ll never tell you which is which.
Having this kind of looser approach to the content, while I improve the core product offering (the vessel of the contents), I can also use the market/sales data that I’ve gathered, as well as what has resonated in media coverage, and simply lean into those things that work better in successive iterations.
With a couple noteworthy exceptions for the longer, more hand-written volumes, I consider all these stories to still be “open books,” which could easily be re-worked and expended on at any point in the future. Some of the books are intentionally very “sketchy” for this reason, and at times presented almost more as an outline, heavy on exposition for some future point where myself or some AI comes along and decides to fill in more details.
This kind of looseness I think will also serve in the future as technologies develop, as the demand for massive amounts of immersive content goes up. For some of my world-building, I’ve left detailed landscapes to explore, others only have the merest sign-posts, with much of the detail yet to be written. But I’ve mapped out and covered so much ground now that iterating on it, now or in the future, merely becomes a logical extension, a continuation, a building up from the foundations.