No, that’s not me in the picture. I’ve used it to illustrate the dream that all writers have: The Celebrity Book Signing.
It’s the pinnacle of achievement for a writer. Look how happy everyone is in the picture. Makes your heart dance with joy, doesn’t it?
But there’s a long hard road for a writer to travel before the cafe with the green checked curtains is within reach.
I used to think that writing a novel was the hard part. It takes a lot of energy, true, but it’s something I can do. I can write and I love to write. No, it’s the rest of the process that I find difficult.
Getting published is getting harder and harder. Even if you do win this particular form of lottery it’s no guarantee that you will sell enough books to make a living. It has been estimated that the annual earnings of the average professional writer is less than £11,000 per year. Considering that there are the J K Rowlings and Lee Childs in there, that’s not a whole heap of encouragement for the rest of us.
There’s always self publishing. Anyone can upload a book on to Kindle and hey presto! they’re a published author. But 90% of ebooks sell less than 50 copies, or so I’m informed.
What I’m getting at (slowly) is that creating a novel and selling it involves much more than writing skills. Me, I’m the world’s worst salesman. The idea of taking my books into a branch of Waterstones and asking them to buy some fills me with dread. That’s why I’ve never done it even though I’m told it’s worth a try.
So, what should a poor writer do? Well, this is my take on things at the moment. It’s just my opinion and not something you should take as gospel.
Getting a conventional publishing deal is probably the best route to getting paid for being a writer. Advances aren’t what they used to be (unless you’re Pippa Middleton) as publishers are scared of making losses (like with Pippa Middleton). Also novels are sold rather like seasonal vegetables, if you don’t get success soon after launch your book risks going rotten and so do you.
Let’s face it, the chances of this option being open to you are slim to non-existent. If you want to get your work out there you’ll almost certainly have to self-publish. Then you have to face the problem of discoverablily, or lack thereof. Someone described the e-book market as a shitstorm of mediocrity. I’d go further. I’d say 90% of self published books are unreadable and that’s really useful because you wouldn’t want to read them anyway.
There’s the problem, even if you produce a work of stunning quality, your beautiful flower will be amongst acres of towering nettles. Your tiny matchstick boat will be adrift in a tsunami of filth. Your precious jewel will be buried under a mountain of contaminated soil. Readers will be unable to find your work because of the millions, and I mean many millions, of really terrible examples of unmitigated crap.
The gatekeepers have been removed. There really is a free for all going on out there.
There are things you can do to make you book good enough to sell and visible enough to get to your target audience. But they cost money and there are a lot of people trying to take advantage of writers like us.
Next time, I’ll elaborate. Right now, I need to write a bit more of my new novel.
photo credit: RayMorris1 via photopin cc