By Janet Lane
I subscribe to Ted Talks and viewed an interesting presentation by Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School and author of The Art of Choosing. Her talk was about choice overload.
Writers can benefit from her insight. She cited an experiment in which grocery store shoppers were given a choice of 6 different kinds of jams. On the same day shoppers were given a choice of 24 different kinds of jam. Their findings: more people stopped at the 24-jam table, but only 1 in 24 actually bought a jar, while at the 6-choice table, 30% bought a jar. Bottom line: people were 6 times more likely to buy if they encountered 6 instead of 24 varieties of jam.
What does jam have to do with you? When faced with a bewildering array of choices, we are more likely to avoid choices, more likely to make a bad decision, and more likely to derive less satisfaction from the choice.
Writers are faced with a massive number of choices that can paralyze us, make us likely to make any decision, in a time when a good decision may help you in our careers. Here are just some of them.
Publishing options. Traditional New York Publishers. Small publishers. Vanity publishers. Kindle Publishing. B&N Nook Publishing. Smashwords Publishing. Innovative on-line publishers.
Author support services. Web site design. Book cover design. Editing services. Advertising opportunities – Google and other pop-up banners.
Buying paid advertising in return for a book review. Bookmarks, pens, calendars, etc. A mind-boggling number of blogs and Yahoo groups that offer help with any aspect of writing you could ever imagine.
Educational services. Dreamy retreats in gorgeous locations, with hands-on instruction on plotting, revising, polishing. A multitude of on-line writer’s courses for craft and marketing. Software instructional tapes so you can create your own website, book covers, etc.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can doIs the right thing.
The worst thing you can do is nothing.” –Theodore Roosevelt
Here are some succinct ways to reduce your choice overload problem.
- Cut. Reduce your options. Why agonize over how to design a book cover if you still haven’t decided you’ll e-pub? Don’t ponder over selecting a $750/book editor if you don’t have the funds for it. Selecting the big choices first will help you eliminate more than half of the choices. Write in your consumer journal: “I need to decide X first. Then Y. The rest can wait for another time. I will focus on this first.”
- Concretization. Make it real. Gather as much information as you can, so you can really “see” what that choice is. Ask the journalistic 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, why. Ask successful authors what worked best for them. Learn the costs, royalties, expenses and demands involved in each option. If you don’t qualify for X and Y, eliminate them as options. Simplify.
- Categorization. If you’re swimming in genres, pick one and focus on that for this time in your life. You can always do a separate study later on something else, but give A, B or C genre your full focus for now, not all three.
- Start easy. Make choices in the areas that have the least number of choices – like Iyengar’s jam tasting table, go to the table with 6 selections first. Find a way to minimize choices, perhaps by ease of entry, affordability, or some factor that will give you more simplicity and ease of choice.
“A real decision is measured by the fact that
you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action,
you haven’t truly decided.” — Tony Robbins
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Wishing you many opportunities … and good choices! –Janet