For the next two weeks – The Great Urban Ark and Shadows are both available to download, absolutely free. No strings, no hidden costs. You don’t have to review them or promote them. I do, however, hop you enjoy them ….
Shadows - a collection of four short stories
The Great Urban Ark Vol 1 - a year in the life of The Great Urban Ark. Sadly we no longer live at The Ark, and this book will no longer be available after March 31.
to speak of many things…blah, blah, blah. Lewis Carroll can afford to wax lyrical – he was successful in his own time. That however is not what I am here to discuss this blustery morning. The many things of which it is time to speak, revolve mainly around the world of publishing.
As a writer, obviously my goal in life is to be published. Secondary to that would be to be successful. I say secondary because if my work is not published, in some fashion, the subject of success becomes somewhat moot (can you have a moot subject? Or only a moot point? Hmmmm – it’s a good question but I’m going to assume you know what I mean.)
The challenge for a writer is of course getting a publisher to read your manuscript. Actually getting that baby on the right desk in front of the right eyes is hurdle number one. Hurdle because there are a gazillion other writers out there all trying to do the same thing. And because there are a gazillion other writers, you need to be Very Careful. Capitalisation there is deliberate by the way. If you make the slightest goof up – put your name on the wrong place on the page, have your spacing or your margins incorrectly set, or, heaven forbid, the reader doesn’t share your enthusiasm for orpahned wizards, sexually frustrated and eternally teenage vampires, or heck, even flamingo weilding little girls in dare I say it, Alice bands, your work is going to be tossed on the ever dreaded slush pile. Forget scoring a D – you are scoring an R – for REJECTED.
I would like to say here, that rejection can be a good thing. It is certainly something writers need to accept and learn from. There are many good reasons to be rejected – and twice as many good things to learn from it. The most important of all being you should be learning more about your craft each time – each rejection should in fact help you improve your craft. In some fashion. But I digress.
Over the past few days I have been researching and reading about independent publishing – for now let’s define that as self publishing and print on demand – and in particular epublishing. There is a fantastic article circulating about 26 year old Amanda Hocking and her million dollar success with ebooks. Writer Jon F Merz has also had success with ebooks and while it is not on Hocking’s level, yet, it is still worth taking note of.
Two things leapt out at me from the success of these two writers. The first was they had sidestepped the square dance a writer usually has to go through with a publisher. JK Rowling was famously rejected 20 times before Harry Potter was picked up (and don’t you feel just a bit sorry for those publishers who said ‘no’ and have been kicking themselves ever since?). Stephen King evidently was so broke when he received The Call about his breakthrough novel, Carrie, he slid down the wall in shock while listening to his agent.
Whether you are writing books, essays, songs, movies, the publisher (insert music, film, TV company if you like) holds the cards. And mostly because they hold the purse strings. Writer’s need them don’t you know? Publishers do the hard, expensive stuff: the printing, the marketing, the holding of stock, and finally the mailing out of royalty cheques. If you are a Rowling or a King you might get 25% of the cover price. If you’re a newbie, chances are that is much lower. So if you are a real newbie and you get $1/book from sales and you sell 5,000 copies – that’s $5,000. Before tax. If it took you three months of 40 hour weeks to write the book, that’s around $10/hour. And please stick with me here before you tell me off for wanting King’s paycheck – we’ll get to that in a minute.
Before I get the lecture on not doing it for the money – give me a break. Writers write because they love to write – and yes the story is more important than the dollar. But if you are writing full time and you are not worried about the money, you are either already on the best seller list or you don’t have a mortgage. Writing is my JOB – it is supposed to bring me an income. I’m too old to do the starving artist thing – I have a mortgage, three kids, two Labradors and a chocolate habit to support. Luckily I am making a living from writing for other people – so at this stage making income from book sales is not imperative – but I hope to be among those lucky enough to say they are concerned with their sales.
Ebooks – and print on demand – make sense to me. They cost next to nothing to produce, there’s no typesetting, no printing, no inventory, minimal marketing. It takes around half an hour to convert your manuscript and have it online for sale – I know, I’ve done it. And if Hocking and Merz are anything to go by, readers are buying.
This is usually where someone jumps in and says “but it’s not the same reading an e-reader.” Well I beg to differ. I love to read – and I read A LOT – and I see no difference between my Kobo and a book. Actually that’s a lie. My Kobo is lighter, easier to carry around, and I can carry 1,000 books in my handbag without requiring physical therapy . However, I also love books – actual physical books – so I have overflowing book cases still. Of the books I especially love. Of the books I like to read in the tub while I sip cold bubbly and nibble truffles ( a passtime I don’t get to indulge in nearly enough I might add). Of books I simply admire visually.
My children on the other hand only enjoy reading. They could not care less about books. All of the lovely books I bought them as children are stacked under the stairs – they prefer to read online, on e-readers, on iPods/iPads. I don’t care how they read, I care that they read – and reading they are.
Still not convinced people read ebooks? During a March 3 press event held to unveil the second generation iPad, Apple announced that its e-book store had served 100 million e-books to readers during the first 11 months of opening.
This is where it gets interesting too.
Hocking makes a really good point on her blog about that fact that just because you are self publishing, that does not mean you are going to sell a million copies. Your writing still comes under the same spotlight as if you were publishing in the traditional manner. Because it doesn’t matter if your work is being sold through a major publishing house or through a print on demand indie company or even just off your blog site – you work will only sell if readers think you are worth their time and money. And surprise, surprise if you are a newbie and you want a reader to take a gamble on your work – they are more inclined to do that if it is not going to cost them too much. Amanda Hocking sells her ebooks for around three dollars (on average) and she keeps 70% of that. People like what she writes so they rate her work, they talk about it, they share it around – and all of a sudden Amanda’s job is paying her a decent income. Merz made more in one month from e-books than he had in a year.
Any sensible publishing company is going to be watching these two writers closely. Merz already has a traditional publishing contract and I’m willing to bet they are watching what’s happening with a lot of interest to see how they can leverage this new success – and so they should. This isn’t about making publishers the bad guys – it’s about creating the opportunity to open doors for everyone.
Which brings us back to the question of money and whether or not I think I should get King’s pay cheque. Or, since I don’t write horror, Candace Bushnell’s pay cheque. Well if she’d like to donate it to the Angelique Jurd Fund for Struggling Writers, I won’t say no but no I don’t expect to make what they’re making. At this stage – I want to see if anyone is even interested in buying my work. Because if they are, that has the potential to become a card in my favour when talking with publishers.
When I put The Great Urban Ark up on Lulu.com it was interesting to look at the breakdown. The paperback is on for US$14.75 – 0f which $1 comes to me. The e-book is on for $3.99 of which $2.20 comes to me. You do the math. I don’t expect The Great Urban Ark to sell – but I do have other projects in mind that I will be approaching with the very firm intent of selling.
Of course all writers want to see their books on shelves and I am no different. I have simply come to the conclusion that seeing a physical book with a little waterproof bird from the South Pole on the spine isn’t my ultimate goal. Selling my work to people who enjoy reading it is my goal.
So what do I care how and where they read it?