The writer who made millions by self-publishing online

A couple of years ago, Amanda Hocking needed to raise a few hundred dollars so, in desperation, made her unpublished novel available on the Kindle. She has since sold over 1.5m books and, in the process, changed publishing forever.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/12/amanda-hocking-self-publishing

While I’m pleased for her success,I sometimes wonder at how skewed people’s buying patterns are by what they see as worth reading. J K Rowling could sell millions of copies of a book containing her shopping lists,simply because of her previous success. People buy what they know,especially when money is tight.

I sometimes wonder how many authors a typical reader could name,and also how many of them they regularly read. I’m guessing that it’s not many. I once knew a man who was proud to read books,but the only author that he ever bothered with was Stephen King. That’s all he read,and had hundreds of copies of his titles – some of which were collectible. He wouldn’t even try other horror writers,such was his obsession. He couldn’t be unfaithful to his idol.

Two ex-girlfriends had strange reading tastes. One loved misery memoirs,to the point where I realised she was both a masochist and a ghoul who relished the suffering of others. The other woman forced herself to read all of the short-listed books for the various literary prizes,even if she didn’t enjoy them. This was all part of her desire to improve herself,which was laudable,but didn’t offer a lot of enjoyment. Have you tried reading Keri Hulme’s ‘The Bone People’ ? It won the Booker Prize in 1986,even though it cries out for editing and guidance on some truly awful writing.

We all have different tastes,and people’s likes and dislikes are as diverse as their preference in food,music and the clothing that they wear. I’d never read an Amanda Hocking novel,have only read the first four of the Harry Potter series and a few of Stephen King’s novels – I prefer his straight dramatic stories such as ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Green Mile’ to his horror output. I gave up on ‘The Bone People’. Life is too short to force myself to read work that fails to engage me.

Turning down Amazon

An erotic romance author turned down an Amazon publishing deal. Aubrey Rose, successfully self-published writer, said that the offer from online giant was far less than she could make on her own.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/aug/08/amazon-publishing-deal-turned-down-author

After my limited dealings so far with Amazon,I know what she means. After publishing on Smashwords,which felt like doing business with a friendly neighbourhood corner shop,putting my books onto Amazon had all of the charm of swimming in a pool full of sharks,while covered in bacon !

Corporations don’t become huge by being nice.

Self-Publishing And Literary Awards

Why is self-publishing still scorned by literary awards?

As an increasing number of DIY authors climb the digital bestseller lists, book prizes will have to rethink their entry criteria

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/aug/16/self-publishing-literary-awards

The modern writer has to be a hustler too

This is an honest and rather depressing appraisal of what it means to be a writer these days. Unbelievable how low the income is for a Booker Prize winning author. The title of this piece is what I’m finding to be true – it’s more about marketing and hustling what I’ve written than actually creating the work. 

 

Being A Writer Is Tough

All of the advantages of e-publishing are true,but the promotion of what one has written is a massive stumbling-block. There must be masses of really good books go unnoticed. It’s getting known in the first place that’s the key,as there can be a snowball effect once your name is recognised.

I read a couple of interviews with Richard Flanagan,the Australian winner of the Man-Booker literary prize. He says a lot of common-sense things,which I heartily agree with,and he knows how tough the life of a writer is :

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booker-prize/11163437/Richard-Flanagan-I-nearly-worked-down-mine-after-writing-Man-Booker-Prize-winner.html

Food For The Brain

This test was mentioned in several British newspapers today,and is worth doing. Follow the instructions,and give yourself 15 minutes free time to do it. Don’t panic if you don’t complete a page of the test,as they really are designed to change before you’ve finished – as a rough guide,I got about halfway through before it changed.

 
I’m surprisingly normal ( honest ! ),but need to eat more vitamin B and do more exercise – just as well I’ve just bought a bicycle.

Advertising

I freely admit that I’m intolerant of commercials on television,and I always mute the sound or change channels to avoid them. I’m similarly averse to advertisements in magazines,newspapers and online. My ally in avoiding them on the computer is the free app called AdBlock,which I’ve added to Google Chrome to prevent ads loading – it helps speed up how quickly pages load in this way.

Strange then,that I should rise this morning with the name of Adrian Wapcaplet on my mind. This enterprising ad executive features in The String Sketch by Monty Python,which sums up the madness of the advertising industry for me. Perhaps it’s all of the research that I’ve been doing recently in how to sell my books,by raising my profile as a writer through blogging,Twittering,making Face Book posts and comments on writers’ forums that has made me more aware of the power of advertising.
 
This sketch is brilliant.
 
The String Sketch
( from Monty Python’s Instant Record Collection )
Adrian Wapcaplet: Aah, come in, come in, Mr….Simpson. Aaah, welcome to Mousebat, Follicle, Goosecreature, Ampersand, Spong, Wapcaplet, Looseliver, Vendetta and Prang!
Mr. Simpson: Thank you.
Wapcaplet: Do sit down–my name’s Wapcaplet, Adrian Wapcaplet…
Mr. Simpson: how’d’y’do.
Wapcaplet: Now, Mr. Simpson… Simpson, Simpson… French, is it?
S: No.
W: Aah. Now, I understand you want us to advertise your washing powder.
S: String.
W: String, washing powder, what’s the difference. We can sell anything.
S: Good. Well I have this large quantity of string, a hundred and twenty-two thousand miles of it to be exact, which I inherited, and I thought if I advertised it–
W: Of course! A national campaign. Useful stuff, string, no trouble there.
S: Ah, but there’s a snag, you see. Due to bad planning, the hundred and twenty-two thousand miles is in three inch lengths. So it’s not very useful.
W: Well, that’s our selling point! “SIMPSON’S INDIVIDUAL STRINGETTES!”
S: What?
W: “THE NOW STRING! READY CUT, EASY TO HANDLE, SIMPSON’S INDIVIDUAL EMPEROR STRINGETTES – JUST THE RIGHT LENGTH!”
S: For what?
W: “A MILLION HOUSEHOLD USES!”
S: Such as?
W: Uhmm…Tying up very small parcels, attaching notes to pigeons’ legs, uh, destroying household pests…
S: Destroying household pests?! How? W: Well, if they’re bigger than a mouse, you can strangle them with it, and if they’re smaller than, you flog them to death with it!
S: Well surely !….
W: “DESTROY NINETY-NINE PERCENT OF KNOWN HOUSEHOLD PESTS WITH PRE-SLICED, RUSTPROOF, EASY-TO-HANDLE, LOW CALORIE SIMPSON’S INDIVIDUAL EMPEROR STRINGETTES, FREE FROM ARTIFICIAL COLORING, AS USED IN HOSPITALS!”
S: ‘Ospitals !?!?!?!!?
W: Have you ever in a Hospital where they didn’t have string?
S: No, but it’s only string !
W: ONLY STRING?! It’s everything! It’s…it’s waterproof!
S: No it isn’t!
W: All right, it’s water resistant then!
S: It isn’t!
W: All right, it’s water absorbent! It’s…Super Absorbent String! “ABSORB WATER TODAY WITH SIMPSON’S INDIVIDUAL WATER ABSORB-A-TEX STRINGETTES! AWAY WITH FLOODS!”
S: You just said it was waterproof!
W: “AWAY WITH THE DULL DRUDGERY OF WORKADAY TIDAL WAVES! USE SIMPSON’S INDIVIDUAL FLOOD PREVENTERS!”
S: You’re mad!
W: Shut up, shut up, shut up! Sex, sex sex, must get sex into it. Wait, I see a television commercial- There’s this nude woman in a bath holding a bit of your string. That’s great, great, but we need a doctor, got to have a medical opinion. There’s a nude woman in a bath with a doctor–that’s too sexy. Put an archbishop there watching them, that’ll take the curse off it. Now, we need children and animals. There’s two kids admiring the string, and a dog admiring the archbishop who’s blessing the string. Uhh…international flavor’s missing…make the archbishop Greek Orthodox. Why not Archbishop Makarios? No, no, he’s dead… never mind, we’ll get his brother, it’ll be cheaper… So, there’s this nude woman….

The Theme Songs Of My Life

I was thinking about the theme songs of my life recently – I guess that we all have them. They’re often songs that one hears and they immediately resonate with significance,speaking to who we consider ourselves to be. Sometimes they represent a special moment in our lives,or they express something that we yearn for.
 
Here are five that speak for and to me. Strangely,they’re all by Americans,and all are male. Or perhaps it’s not so strange after all,for all are written and performed by men who have lived lives of great texture – and we’re of an age.
 
Sexy video,expressing a weary macho self-appraisal of the singer’s self-worth – not so much a tough guy,as a worn-out unsophisticated survivor.                                                                                                              .
Bruce Springsteen,’One Step Up’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkFQHScyti0
Just how I feel sometimes,and a great portrayal of a disintegrating relationship.
                                                                                                                                         
Paul Simon,’Still Crazy After All These Years’ –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ksa4VjKE3RY
A long-term partner called me ‘Crazy Man’ for years,and nothing’s changed much.
 
Neil Young,’Fuckin’ Up’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKaDCP-wKr8  
He looks dangerous,prowling the stage – mad at himself or the world ? 
 
Tom Petty,’A Face In The Crowd’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_umeMtV4QU
Sums up the search for love that we all go through.
Tell me your theme songs – I won’t use it against you !

Kindle Sales Have Disappeared

 
This story appeared in the Daily Telegraph recently. The news doesn’t entirely surprise me,and trying to stay optimistic makes it more likely that I’ll secure a literary agent and a traditional publishing deal. I’m not surprised,because I don’t know anyone who owns a Kindle or a similar e-reading device. I haven’t even seen one ! I say this,after writing and publishing ebooks for the last eighteen months.
 
I briefly corresponded with a self-employed owner of a Cornish cosmetics company,who did a lot of international travelling trying to get new markets for her products. She owned a Kindle,and loved it for its ability to store dozens of titles,saving her weight and space in packing her bag.
 
Everyone else I know reads books. The main advantage of downloading an ebook is price. I thought about buying a highly-praised book ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide To Getting Published’,which is written by a helpful chap called Harry Bingham. He set up a useful web site called Writers’ Services,after finally achieving success and getting published. The cheapest I’ve been able to find the book in paperback form is £12.23,but it’s only £9 as a download.
 
But then,one needs an e-reader,the cheapest being about £50 – unless one is prepared to squint at the screen of a tablet or iPhone to read a downloaded book.
 
Traditional books have a lot of advantages. I’m increasingly thinking that people who look for free ebooks expect all artistic content on the Web to be without charge. After all,we can all look at wonderful paintings,photographs,funny videos,music videos etc without any charge beyond what we’re paying to be connected.
 
As a promotional ploy for the launch of my new novel,I decided to make all of my already published books free for a couple of months. I did so after reading of the success of other authors who’d made their books free on Smashwords,which forced Amazon to price-match and also offer them for free. This entices readers to try your work,meaning you enter their chart of popular downloaded authors. From that point of having raised one’s profile as a writer,one can publicise and charge for future books.
2,100 readers have downloaded my books in the last 32 days,since I started giving them away without charge. Of course,I have no way of knowing if they’ve actually read them,and I’m sure that some just grab whatever they see is free at the time,storing them away like a squirrel with nuts. Had they paid for them,at an average price of say £3/$5,then I would be a very happy chappy ! 
 
The problem of how to sell myself,and my work,becomes more complex the more that I learn.