Editors are being made redundant. Wholesale. There’s never been a time when it’s harder to get some of our big publishers to take on new authors. Big bookshops are closing down, and so are small ones. Many publishers are waiting for the next JK Rowling to come along, but I suspect ‘Harry Potter’ is ‘a once in a lifetime’ affair. The biggest selling book today is ‘fem porn’, and it’s not high literature. The major advantage, as I see it, is that it is easily read on tablets and iPhones. I enjoy picturing po-faced commuters reading hi jinks porn as they head to their dreary jobs in banks and IT companies. What this says about our taste in literature, I shudder to think. When I was a kid we read comics. Is this the present day equivalent for adults? However, it is salutory to remember that ‘Various Shades of Grey’ was self published as an ebook before it took off to sell millions both here and in the States and clone two more of its kind.
So what about the writer who is as yet unknown and wants to publish a book? The answer seems to be ebooks. But unless this is under the auspices of a big company, it has the unfortunate flavour of being ‘vanity published.’ Vanity publishing has a bad name because sometimes money has been saved on editing and an interesting cover. It is assumed that if a book hasn’t been picked up by a well known publisher that it can’t be any good. Rest assured that publishers don’t always know what they are doing. One reader for a distinguished firm once told me that she had never ever recommended anything in case she made a mistake.
eBooks are terrific. After my recent accident I think I would have gone insane except for my kindle. I downloaded wonderful, and some not so wonderful fiction, at a third of the price I would have paid for hard covers. Considering that I read at least two hundred samples and at least half of these as whole books while stuck in hospital and rehab, how else could I have managed to tackle a whole library? I could never have afforded it. Nor would anyone have been prepared to bring me that many books.
The problem for new and not so well know writers seems to be ‘If you bring up any selection of books on Kindle, eg science, children’s, fantasy, thrillers or even prize winning literary fiction, Kindle only recommends about 20 or so of the above. Maybe less. However, if a particular book or author is typed in – and you have to know who you are looking for – that book or author’s name will come up, even if all the books that isn’t a complete list. I have a number of books on Kindle, but it certainly isn’t everything I have written.
As I see it, the problem is this: unless this author/book is recommended on Kindle’s 1st 20 list, no one will ever know anything about it. I thought it was popularity, but this isn’t always the case.Rather, it seems to be all abut how many people have downloaded a copy. But as far as I can see, this list is random. I think the crux of ebook publishing is: How does we get a book onto that ‘A list’?
I have just been reading John Locke. This US author has succeeded in selling millions of his books on Kindle. His stories are competent without any pretensions at great literature. They’re entertaining. I know this because I pick them up on my Kindle. He talks about using blog and twitter to get his work out there. Also, to use ULR’s at the start and at the end. Oh, and knowing your target audience. When I wrote my ‘Grevillea Murder Mystery Trilogy’ I had an audience in mind… middle aged women who were sick of ‘blood and guts’ and wanted gentle ‘Agatha Christie’ style mysteries. This trilogy was never intended to be ‘great literature’, only to demonstrate what can happen when folk leave the city to start a new life in a coastal village. Sea Change in fact. Underlying these stories is the serious theme of ‘over development of the local environment’.
Not that any big company was interested. The general response was that blood and guts was what people wanted. When I produced an Asian man as my ‘love interest’, I was pooh poohed. All very well for editors living in cosmopolitan Carlton and Brunswick, but I knew that the Mornington Peninsula I was writing about was still very much ‘white man country.’
As I wrote the trilogy, my characters became more and more alive, particularly my sad detective who had to cope with a marriage break-up and all the ramifications therein. It would be lovely to get some response from anyone who has bothered to read them.
I always wonder, who reads my blogs? And if I am trying to find a new audience, how can I blog those bits that will make them curious enough to bring up my books? I’d love to get some responses.
By the way, this is how my Trilogy can be picked up on a Kindle.