Is Complexity Bias Stopping You From Publishing (More)?

Is Complexity Bias Stopping You From Publishing (More)?

I get a lot of emails, and I see a lot of posts on author groups from new indie authors, or authors going indie for the first time, or authors who are going wide for the first time, implying or flat-out stating that indie publishing is incredibly complex and overwhelming.  Where do they start?

Ditto, I see authors asking on groups all the time:  “Which choice should I make from the dozens of choices I have for marketing and advertising?”

The human brain leans toward the more complex option and automatically discounts the simple alternatives .

Farnam Street said about this bias:

Complexity bias is a logical fallacy that leads us to give undue credence to complex concepts.

Faced with two competing hypotheses, we are likely to choose the most complex one. That’s usually the option with the most assumptions and regressions. As a result, when we need to solve a problem, we may ignore simple solutions — thinking “that will never work” — and instead favor complex ones.

Have you ever said of the simple alternative, “that can’t be right…it looks too easy”?

Next time you find yourself saying or thinking it, maybe stop and ask yourself if you’re tripping over Complexity Bias — leaning toward the alternative(s) that look more complex and therefore, you reason, should be more effective.

Doist said:

It’s why we debate the science of intermittent fasting and ketogenic diets instead of following Michael Pollan’s advice to “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”  It’s why we pay financial planners to tell us how to save for retirement instead of taking 15 minutes to open a Vanguard account, select an index fund and set up an automatic monthly deposit.  And it’s why we’re drawn to the finicky intricacies of productivity systems like Getting Things Done©, instead of simply working on our most important tasks first.

This is the reason why new(er) indie authors quail when they’re facing the process of publishing their first books.  It’s why many indie authors hate marketing and promotion. 

Because it has to be hard and complex, right?   Because just opening a KDP author account and uploading a book…it can’t be that simple, can it?  Surely it wouldn’t work if you just upload a book?

But actually, it is just that simple.

Open a KDP account, click on the link to upload a new book and follow the instructions, until your book is published.  Note what works and what you did wrong, and next time you put up a book, don’t do the things you got wrong last time.

When you’re ready, publish the book on another retail store, or aggregation service.  Do the same thing there.

Marketing is simply letting readers know about your books.  Figure out a way to do that, try it, and see if it works.  If it does work, do more of it, until it doesn’t work as well as it used to.  If it doesn’t work, try something else.

Indie publishing isn’t complex, not at the core.  But indie authors like to make it complex with the myriad subtleties and choices that an author can make.

Note:  We don’t have to make a lot of choices we wring our hands over.  Rapid release strategies.  Content editing, developmental editing, line editing, copy-proofing. Virtual assistants or DIY. Wide or KU?  

I’ve seen authors worry themselves into a standstill over such matters, afraid of publishing before making all the “right” choices. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  Pick one and try it.  If it doesn’t work, pick something else.  You’ll soon figure out what works for you.

Don’t let the details mow you down.

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2 thoughts on “Is Complexity Bias Stopping You From Publishing (More)?”

  1. I love this article and the science behind it! Back when I started writing, there weren’t the classes there are now. I learned by doing, by submitting and listening to the feedback, by reading and emulating what I loved reading. It’s that easy. And, all of the rules? I’m always fascinated by the breakout book or movie that broke all of the rules. Great blog, Tracy! And, yup, I’m more prolific now than ever before.

    1. Thanks, Diana!

      Yes, it’s true, there are dozens and dozens of highly reputable courses to help indie authors get into the business, and probably hundreds of other courses that aren’t so reputable. But all of them tend to terrify the new writer simply because they present every single option available and impress upon the author-to-be what the consequences are for each choice they make.

      I was in the same boat as you when I first started. I learned how to do it by doing it. By keeping checklists so the next time I did it, I wasn’t quite so unprepared.

      But indie publishing is still that simple, at its heart. Write a book, clean it up, get a cover, upload it. Tell everyone you’ve published it. Rinse and repeat.

      It’s just the millions of variations on the process that can make you dizzy.


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