Tuesday, 24 December 2013

It's a hard knock writing life

2013 has been a weird writing year for me. My first book in a series of revenge novellas I've dubbed Die Hard for Girls because a kick ass woman takes centre stage, was published and I finished writing the second. And How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks finally found a new home after two years in the wilderness despite having a book contract.

Two other novels are also on the shortlist of potential books for another publisher.

But there have been lows too. I've had one book, a book I devoted the best part of a year to researching, writing and blogging like mad about, remaindered because my publisher frittered away cash on marketing gurus instead of selling books. All of this publisher's other books were also remaindered. Despite me compiling an in depth list of online stores with thousands of potential customers who would buy my book, the publisher didn't bother to contact any of them.

Here's what else I've learnt in 2013...

The "publishing" industry is full of parasites who pose as publishers but in reality they are nothing more than money grabbing leaches feeding on the hopes and dreams of writers. 
They sell services like editing, marketing and book illustration and talk like they are doing you a favour. They might even look like genuine publishers, publishing some books without payment.

A book they wanted me to pay £500 to be published.

Real life example - One publisher (Endeavour Press - and I have the emails to prove it) turned How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks down in a form email after asking me to send in the ms, but helpfully suggested someone "we often use to produce and promote our list" who'd format my book as an ebook and "provide you with marketing/publicity plan and arrange for book to be sent out to readers to generate a couple of positive reviews."

The person named was the same person I'd submitted my first inquiry to asking if they'd consider How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks. To me, that's unethical, not to mention predatory. 

The cost was  £500.

I said "no thank you" when what I really wanted to say something mean, especially when they made it sound like making money from books was easy. 

They even had the audacity to say that they could promise the money would be recovered by sales. NO publisher can promise that.

This was a book I'd had a publishing contract for and got a contract for two months later, so I knew it was good.

Unless you're a big name publisher, most publishers do little to promote your books and often they don't capitalise on any publicity you generate.
Case in point, my book was featured in a publication with sales of 250,000 copies. I notified the publisher of this expecting one of their publicists to try and use that as a platform to sell more books by contacting Scottish bookstores (my book's a Scottish crime thriller). They didn't bother, making me wonder why I bothered.

Publishers can take years to make decisions then change their minds, again.

One minute, they love your work. They think it's great and want to publish, the next they're not too keen, then they're back to liking it again and maybe wanting to publish.

Then they change their minds again.

Yep, I learnt this in 2013 and 2012 and 2011...

Most traditional publishers set prices too high costing authors sales.
Far too high, which is fine if its authors who are already successful, but not too good if you're trying to establish yourself.

Self-published authors have one major advantage over traditionally published authors, they get to set the price and when that price applies, particularly the eBook price the format in which most self-published books are sold.

I'm strongly considering self-publishing for that reason.

Keep writing. Work on different projects. You should always have a variety of projects on the go.

If you don't, when an opportunity presents itself you won't be able to capitalise on it. For example, some publishers who are usually closed to all but agented submissions may have submissions windows that can be as short as a month, day or even a week. Be ready to take advantage.

Unless you get hundreds of reviews they don't help to sell books.

Seriously. This has surprised me. Maybe the scandal of authors paying for good reviews or getting people to pour scorn over rival authors' books has led to readers not trusting reviews. Whatever the reason, in my experience reviews don't sell books. I've heard other people say the same thing.

Most top authors only endorse books by their own publishers.

They're too busy to do that to endorse anybody else's unless it's a friend's book.

Publishing is fast becoming a rich person's game.

Agents and publishers have programmes/courses that cost a small fortune to go on that boost your chance of getting published. These courses are out with the reach of most writers, many of whom don't have a barrister wife\husband or rich parents to pay their way.

Take the Faber Academy. They do courses like this one that cost £4,000. And, this online one that costs £2800.

No I'm not endorsing them, I just want to prove a point.

That's why if you don't have the benefit of coming from a well off background - think that covers most of us - you need to make sure your writing is sharper, more energised and entertaining than those who have the benefit of completing these courses and making contacts the rest of us can only dream of.

At the end of the day, readers want good books. They don't care who writes them. The next bestseller could be written by you.


  1. I self-publish for one basic reason: if I'm not convinced something is worth my time to edit, publish, and promote then why would I think anyone else would do that for me...

    2013 was an exciting year for self-publishers. Having a mix of contract and self publishing projects going on seems to be the new norm for a lot of authors, and it's definitely a good platform for a lot of creativity to be expressed.

    Best wishes in 2014!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Max.
    Hope you have a fantastic writing year in 2014:)


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