Academy for Wayward Authors: Harnessing Emergent Properties to Build Cumulative Advantage

Emergent properties in the publishing industry

The publishing market is composed of billions of financial transactions that rely on the reader-writer relationship. While we can break the market down into these transactions, it is far more than just a list of those transactions. It is a complex self-organizing system and, therefore, has emergent properties.

It may make sense to go watch this video before reading on.

When you look at the market with a holistic, synergistic view, you begin to see how there are more parts to the ecosystem. The market is more than just selling books or readers buying books. We want a system where selling books is just a symptom.

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How can you build a system with emergent properties aligned with cumulative advantage? A system that…

  • Works with the macro forces of the market and influences the market organizing principles to reward you through positive feedback loops (PFL), reinforcing further influence in future rounds to sustain growth and longevity.
  • Accepts that the market is unpredictable in outcome and focuses on risk reduction and probability improvement.
  • Concentrates positive results.
  • Retains and nurtures readers.
  • Creates connectedness and dependence with your audience on the brand.

Each part of your business must be focused on creating emergent properties to deliver them.

As the single biggest contributor to the performance of your business, do you believe in these ideas?

Do you live and breathe the idea of the reader-writer relationship?

Have you read my post on this topic? I wrote it in 2018, and it is even more important today with the advent of AI.

If you have determined the experience you wish to deliver, then you can reverse engineer what the parts need to do.

Think about a ride at Disney World.

There is an experience they want to deliver. The Imagineers start there and think through what that experience would be like without constraints. Then, they figure out all the parts—the lighting, mechanics, artistic needs, safety, etc.—and assemble all the pieces to support the experience.

My take is the emergent properties we seek are funds and fans. Everything needs to support the concentration of these two elements.

As you worked on your one-page business plan, was there a focus on creating those emergent properties? Review to see if it is aligned with how the market works and the customer experience you want to deliver. If it isn’t aligned, revise it.

A few thoughts on AI in the publishing market…

I want to share a little on the topic of AI. It will help dispel fear and get you thinking about the bigger system.

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Most of the posts I read and conversations I hear about AI are focused on the production aspect. The premise is that AI will allow people to flood the market with books. Everyone is wringing their hands over how AI will make it hard for new authors to be found.

It will not be any harder than it is now. Thousands of books are launched every day, most of which are poorly written and poorly launched. The market deals with them efficiently by sending them into obscurity within forty-five days.

Furthermore, the market’s emergent properties of being a winner-takes-all market won’t be affected. There will be more losing titles and more profits for a few favored authors. That has nothing to do with AI; those are the emergent properties of a popularity market.

What I’m focused on, and what I suggest you seek, is how AI will be used to sort, select, and suggest to an audience what to read next.

The very act of more choice will spark innovation in helping readers deal with the natural limits of what we have to keep track of and sort through products and avoid regret when making a product choice.

While today you may be spending money to learn how to be the preferred choice for a particular keyword, in the future, people will be far more influenced by what AI curates for them when they ask the question, “What should I read next?”

Understanding how to be the chosen answer to that question is what I’m figuring out because AI will be the driver of curation in many stores and search engines.

Read: Reckoning With the Linear Fallacy and Embracing the Circular Reality of Publishing