Just one in ten authors can earn full-time living from writing, report finds

This article was in the Daily Telegraph today :


That only one in ten authors earn a full-time living from writing doesn’t surprise me. I have forty four titles online at Smashwords and Amazon,and I’m as poor as a church mouse. The report pertains to British authors,but I somehow doubt that the figures quoted would be a lot different for American writers.

I found its references to self-publishing a little confusing,as it looks like they’re not referring to ebooks at all,but rather what was once known as vanity publishing,where writers pay for hard copies of their books to be printed. Clicking on the blue highlighted The Business of Being an Author link in the article will give you a PDF copy of the report.

The statistic that 42.3% of earnings are accrued by just 5% of authors is shocking. That there’s such an imbalance in how readers choose what to read proves people buy what they know,and what everyone else is talking about. The book needn’t have any literary worth,with the Fifty Shades series being so poorly written that they’re pathetically trite.

JK Rowling has better technique,but was allowed to run roughshod over any editing considerations on the back of her financial success,making the later books in her Harry Potter series bloated. There’s such a thing as being too successful,for she’s gone from being an impoverished mother living on state benefits,to having a net worth of one billion dollars. This means that she needs to employ a team of ten bodyguards,to prevent kidnapping attempts and terrorist attacks.

Why would want that situation ? I’d be happy to just earn a decent living. After writing a 160,000 word psychological thriller in 2014,I’ve spent the last six months researching ways of promoting myself and my books,making social media postings and chasing literary agents and publishers who accept direct submissions. This feels like mixing wallpaper paste each and every day,compared to the joy that I got from creative writing.

I will endeavour to persevere though,for I know that it’s all a case of getting the ball rolling. After all,JK Rowling could still be living on benefits,had the eight year old daughter of a senior publishing executive not said that she liked the first Harry Potter story – causing him to give it another look. Twelve other publishers had already rejected it.


Cover Design Tricks

There was a story in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday,showing that it’s still possible to make great sales from ebooks. I’d love to know how the successful author Sheila Rodgers tackled the problem of getting her first novel known online. This is called ‘the process of discovery’,and basically means that if people don’t know about your book,they won’t be buying it.

Most people think that if you write a decent story it will sell,simply because it is good. But it’s not that easy,as I’ve been finding for the last 18 months. There’s 342,000 titles on Smashwords alone,and they distribute these to a dozen other vendors of ebooks,including Apple. Amazon stock millions of ebooks,including well-known classics. This article makes it sound like she wrote it for fun,couldn’t be bothered with approaching traditional agents,so stuck it on Amazon and she was instantly successful – just like that ! 

Hope and Cynicism walk hand in hand,when you’re a self-published writer.

One of the huge drawbacks with e-publishing is that because no physical object exists,be it a CD,film or book,buyers expect the digital version to be much cheaper. In other words,instant devaluation – and in more ways than just monetary. It leads to a certain stigma,with e-publishing seen as just playing at it,or vanity publishing – with paper books being the real thing.

I did a search for how bestselling author of ebooks Sheila Rodgers / Rachel Abbott marketed herself to success. In an interview she talks about coming up with a marketing strategy,without revealing what that was. She also signed to a literary agent,though quite how isn’t said as the agency is one of the snootiest around. David Higham Associates are one of those who are still stuck in the nineteenth century and don’t accept submissions by email,so I didn’t approach them. The thought occurred to me that it’s possible to buy an agent’s services,(of course it is),and that this writer bought herself some influence. I’m anticipating that she invested money in expensive advertising – there aren’t many paupers on Alderney,where she lives.

This isn’t sour grapes,as I know that speculating in promotional expenses can accumulate earnings. One thing that I took from the interview with her was the design of her book covers. It’s a necessary evil that the look of ebook covers is deliberately heavy-handed and obvious,as they’re shrunk down to tile size on Kindles etc. 

Cover of Only The Innocent by Rachel Abbott

Hers use CAPITAL LETTERS,as well as a teaser subtitle. I’ve been meaning to add such a phrase to my covers,so did so at the weekend and will upload the new versions soon – lord knows what difference it will make. See the current and updated covers of a novella called ‘Burpwallow Holler’. I think that the copied layout looks better.

The old version looks more artistic,and might work well on a book in a shop,but the new cover with upper case lettering grabs the eye more when shrunk down to the size that Kindles display.

I’m fortunate to be quite creative artistically,so have tackled all of the book cover design myself. I use the free IrfanView photo editing software. This does all that I need,and is quick and intuitive to use.