Different Versions Of Your Book – A Riposte

Fay Weldon recently asserted that a writer should produce two versions of their book. One for those capable of concentrating enough to understand a literary paper book,and another lightweight Kindle text to entertain those with limited attention spans.

Although she was being provocative,garnering press attention in the process,she has raised some thought-provoking issues. There’s been research that shows how those who use e-reading devices are less able to recall details about what they’ve read,compared to those who have just taken in the same story on a hard copy.

Author D.J. Taylor launched a riposte in today’s Independent newspaper.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/ebook-apartheid-fay-weldon-calls-on-writers-to-adapt-their-style-for-technology-10093420.html

He makes some valid points,but has chosen to ignore the one saving grace about the whole situation – people are reading. As a wise aphorism goes ‘ A non reader holds no advantage over someone who cannot read at all.’

When I worked as a librarian,I sometimes wondered at the choices that people made when borrowing books – but at least they were reading. If they started with something that wasn’t very challenging,then they might move onto a novel that made them think.

Mind you,some readers take their devotion to an author to extremes. I once knew a man who only read Stephen King stories,and he collected them in all of their different editions,books covers and foreign language versions. He had a room devoted to them,with thousands of books lining the walls. It was like being in a sinister temple.

It reminded me of a joke : A man goes into a pub,and orders a stiff drink from the barman. He looks depressed,so the barman asks him what the problem is. The man replies : ” My wife left me,and all because I like cheese sandwiches. ” The barman is puzzled,replying ” But there’s nothing wrong with cheese sandwiches. I quite like them myself – cheese and onion,cheese and tomato,cheese and pickle – lovely.” The drinker’s face lights up : ” Wonderful – you understand – would you like to come back to my place,and see my collection ? I’ve got hundreds ! “

Advertisements

Different versions of your book – racy and literary.

After contemplating becoming a transvestite in another posting today ‘Self-Publishing And The Sexes’,I’m also pondering the advice given by Fay Weldon.

Fay Weldon

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/fay-weldon-interview-abandon-your-dignity-and-write-a-racy-pageturner-10086140.html

She reckons that we should write two different versions of our book – one for traditional publishing,which is literary in tone,and another dumbed-down racy version for readers who use Kindles and other e-reading devices. This means ” abandoning one’s dignity.”

After eighteen months of trying to sell my books,I’m not sure that I’ve got any dignity left – and if I have,it’s probably slipped down the back of the sofa and is beyond retrieval. Fay Weldon has a history of making tongue-in-cheek provocative statements,but I think that she may have a point.

I’ve mentioned in other blog postings that I’ve been giving my ebooks on Smashwords away for free. I started this three months ago,as a promotional tactic to help launch my novel. It’s also a basic form of market research,to see what draws readers. I’ve tried changing tags and book covers,to see if this increased the downloads of a title that was being ignored.

The only conclusions that I’ve made,is that people like sad titles,rather than happy ( who’d have guessed that ? ),as well as titles with a name in or that’s in the form of a question. Unsurprisingly,any mention of sex or erotica helps to shift copies – so bear that in mind when choosing your descriptive tags and book title.

This is proved by the success of my first volume of erotic verse,which is called ‘What Do You Like ?’,with the subtitle ‘9 Erotic Poems’. This has been downloaded 500 times,as of today,which makes it the most popular of my forty-four free titles.

Fay Weldon’s advice may impel me towards a career writing torrid romances featuring villainous lovers with smouldering eyes,heroines with heaving bosoms + of course,the obligatory randy vampire and horny werewolf !

Self-Publishing And The Sexes

A report in today’s Guardian newspaper makes some interesting claims about self-published books.

In particular,I was struck by the figure that 67% of books on the top ebook publishing platforms are written by women. This percentage comes from an organisation that’s new to me,called Ficshelf.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/06/self-publishing-lets-women-break-book-industrys-glass-ceiling-survey-finds

They claim that 61 of the top 100 traditionally published books on Amazon are written by men. This is seen as further proof that men rule the long-established world of book publishing. Male writers dominate in lists compiled by newspapers for best novels.

Somehow,none of this surprises me,for I’ve always believed that more women regularly read books than men,and there’s a tiresome old boy network among book firms. It’s unusual to find a literary agency or publisher that has a woman as CEO.

It’s food for thought. Perhaps I should become Pauline Whybrow to publish my ebooks that have a romantic and spiritual theme,to encourage more female readers …

It might confuse the taxman,which would help.

The Writer & Erotica

I was clearing my Hotmail Inbox this morning,and came across a bulletin from the site ‘The Art Of Manliness’.

I’ve subscribed to their postings for several years. The site tackles some interesting subjects,giving useful advice – though it’s unintentionally humorous at times. The old advertising photos that it uses to illustrate articles,have a certain whimsy. It’s free to sign-up to – see the subscription box at the side of their page.

The bulletin that caught my eye was by author Marcus Brotherton,and is titled The 5 Insanely Difficult Steps to Writing a Commercially-Published Novel’

After writing a novel in 2014,I particularly agreed with what he has to say about how hard it is to get your work known :

But I’d also say to be prepared for a heavy dose of reality. Commercial publishing is a mercenary business, and works of fiction are harder to get published than non-fiction books. Publishing fiction is a longshot at best, and there are no fail-safe solutions anyone can prescribe to guarantee you success.

So, I offer a paradoxical sort of encouragement. For anyone contemplating writing a novel, I’d give two messages: both “you can do it” and “beware,” at the same time. The caution means that almost anyone can write and publish a novel, true, but there’s a high price to pay to do it, for which you need to be prepared. I’d be doing you a disservice if I told you otherwise.

One of the main problems is that people tend to think that the actual writing of the book is the only battle they will face in the process. But the writing is only about a quarter of what’s needed. The second quarter is the fight to get your manuscript published. The next quarter is relentlessly marketing your book once it comes out, which publishers expect you to do these days.

Then the final quarter is going to primal scream therapy after your book sales fail miserably, because by then you’re depressed and broke and visionless, and insanely jealous of John Grisham, James Patterson, Ken Follett, and Lee Child—pretty much the only four male scribblers who actually make money at this game.

People who haven’t done it,think that the actual writing of a story is the difficult part,but it’s all of the business side of it that takes time,effort and patience.

I’ve been self-publishing online for about eighteen months,initially on Smashwords,then on Amazon. I write novels,short stories,novellas,poetry and song lyrics. Although I’m confident in the worth of my writing,the actual marketing of it has been both intriguing and frustrating.

Sales have been poor,so as a ploy to raise my profile I decided to give all of my books away for free two months ago. I hoped that this might help to launch my novel ‘The Perfect Murderer’,that I laboured so hard at in 2014. Downloads of my books picked up and were encouraging,for after all the price was right.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Paul+Whybrow

Help yourself,while they’re still free – you might need to turn off Smashword’s Adult Filter to see them all.

I decided to compile a couple more collections of my poetry,including some erotic verse. I published ‘What Do You Like ?’ on Smashwords ten days ago,and to my astonishment it’s been downloaded 361 times ! Had I been charging my usual $2.99 for poetry,and if they’d been prepared to pay,I’d have earned $1,079 or about £708.

I’m beginning to understand why there are so many stories about sex on Smashwords. I’ve been looking down my nose at them all a bit,thinking they were just jumping on the 50 Shades band-waggon. But if it’s sex that sells,then that’s what writers will write. I expect that many of them are like me,who were exasperated at their best literary efforts being ignored,so wrote something naughtier and were amazed at the results.

The next time that you see someone using a Kindle in public,to read a book,I bet that they’ll be secretly getting turned-on by something erotic ! The very anonymity of these e-reading devices has led to a boom in erotic writing.

I’m a long way from being a prude,but some of the titles that I see published appear to cross over the fine boundary between erotica and pornography. As the old adage goes – ‘ Being erotic is when you make love to someone using a feather. Pornographic is when you use the whole chicken !’

Writing fiction,one has to get into the mind-set of whoever you’re describing. This can have quite an effect,as I found when researching ‘The Perfect Murderer’ where I had violent nightmares about shady figures stalking me. I can’t say that writing erotica was particularly arousing though,but I’ve got enough happy memories to draw upon to make it sound realistic.

I’m really not sure what to tackle next,and whether I should ditch any literary aspirations at all,but write in a shallow,steamy and titillating way,promoting by book with sexual tags – erotic,sex scenes,kinky,insatiable etc,etc.

To add to my confusion,I put together a second collection of erotic verse,which I published at the weekend. I already had five poems about sex that were unpublished,so wrote four more. These were more overtly sexual than the others,to make the collection steamier. The irony is,that I felt about as erotic as a cold used tea-bag,as I sat here in 50 degrees wearing fifteen garments,including woolly gloves,and with my feet resting on a hot-water bottle.

I expected the new book ‘Chasing Big ‘O’ ‘ to be noticed and downloaded lots,for after all I’d used the alluring tags of ‘erotica’,’sex’ and ‘orgasm’ to describe it. To my surprise,only twenty people have downloaded it so far – I guessed that at least 100 would do so over the weekend. The reason that they haven’t may simply be down to the new book not having naked flesh on the cover. Instead it shows a fragmenting female statue. This means that readers aren’t even bothering to use the tags to search – simply looking for something that might be rude.

This amateur market research has only produced one firm conclusion – readers like erotic verse and stories.

I’m not the first writer to be confronted with this trap. One of my favourite crime authors is Lawrence Block,whose recovering alcoholic detective hero was partly instrumental in helping me to quit booze nineteen years ago. Like the famed writer Donald Westlake,Block started off his career writing porn paperbacks under a series of pen-names. Those were the days when such a trade was seen as shameful,rather than a reason for instant celebrity and admiration.

Onwards,and who knows where ? 


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.

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.