Sunday, 24 October 2021

I wrote a book. So what?

I had never thought of writing. In 2010, I tried blogging, my soapbox for propounding my view of the world. But was there more?

In 2011, I participated In NaNoWriMo. I wrote my fifty thousand words in eighteen days. In 2012, I worked through November in twenty-six days. Finally, in 2013, with a spark of inspiration, I rattled off my fifty in just eleven days. For some reason, this third effort felt as more of a complete effort, a jewel in the rough, but something worth developing. Fifty days shy of three years (2.9 years), I clicked on the Publish button on September 22, 2016.

"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup."

I'm sitting here, five years later, realising, "So, what?"

Despite my marketing efforts, people still have no idea who I am. I've hardly sold anything. I've tweeted, posted on Facebook, done book tours, arranged ARC reviews, given away free copies, done just about everything short of standing on my head. How does anyone stand out in a crowd? I've come to realise, it's quite a crowd, and while marketing is important, luck is the big factor in success.

Being an indie author is an uphill struggle.

According to Wikipedia, there are 2.2 million new books published each year, 300,000 in the U.S., 150,000 in the United Kingdom, 20,000 in Canada. The book review section of The Washington Post states they get 150 new titles each day. Each day! What are the chances of anyone getting noticed? Even if somebody has written the next classic, there’s the harsh reality of statistics. Having the public choose any particular book out of the annual American field of 300,000 strikes me as being the equivalent of winning the literary lottery. Congratulations, E. L. James: over 70 million copies of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy sold!

By the way, the above is about new books published each year. According to Google, there are over 150 million books in existence! Literary lottery, indeed!

There's a lot of junk out there, which means the public is leery of investing their time in anything unknown. Who wants the literary equivalent of bad movie? "I want two hours of my life back." Cheers to the risk-takers who brought E. L. James to the forefront.

The Guardian – May 24/2012
Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500 by Alison Flood
Despite the splash caused by self-publishing superstars such as Amanda Hocking and EL James, the average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000 (£6,375) – and half made less than $500.

Considering all the above, writing is not an undertaking which is statistically successful. Why in Heaven's name would anybody in their right mind take on such a task? I guess the key word here is "right mind".

"Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well." -Stephen King, On Writing (my book Review, Dec 27, 2010)

I will interpret that as meaning one does it for the love of it. I can certainly say that I'm not doing it for the money! Ha!

Self-publishing: I'm doomed!
Ron Charles of The Washington Post clearly states his position, No, I don’t want to read your self-published book. Kathy English of The Toronto Star says that the Star does not review books by self-published authors. And why do these people take such a stance? Roger Sutton of The Horn Book lays it out succinctly, The real problem is that most self-published books... are pretty terrible.

But now, I'm going to say something which is probably a little strange. Maybe very strange.

I wouldn't read my own book.

That, for me, was quite the revelation. First of all, I don't often read just any book I find. I don't have all that much free time so it's not like I'm in need of something to wallow away the hours. Maybe if I had a four-hour trip ahead of me, maybe if I was stuck in a cottage on a rainy day, I might randomly pick something off the shelf but for the most part, I pick things I know, authors I'm familiar with, themes I can count on to amuse me. I wouldn't read my own book.

I realise I'm not helping my cause, but I'm actually not surprised that nobody reads my book. Well, almost nobody. Time is precious and who wants to run the risk? This is where I can joke about dead authors becoming popular so maybe I could help my sales if I committed suicide. Or this is where I can joke about going on to the next project and let the rest of the world to catch up to me. Somewhere, I saw a professional author suggest that marketing will eventually take care of itself, and the best thing an author can do is write the next book. Writing [is about] enriching your own life.

Doing Something Different
I would be lying if I didn't admit to having moments of fantasy, my name in lights, fame, fortune, admiring fans. But the realistic side of me reined in that craziness to carefully examine the practical side of writing. First off was to admit right up front that I had no idea of what I was doing. In the acknowledgements of my first novel, in thanking those who provided me with editorial assistance, I wrote:

What did I know about writing? The first time somebody told me I had a dangling participle, I checked to see if my fly was open.

I swallowed my pride, and I asked for help. I knew so little about the subject matter, I didn't understand that I didn't understand. That old saying is oh, so true: "The more I know, the less I know." I was very much displaying the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

I resolved to keep at it, to work with more than one person, and strive to get a favourable consensus of opinion. This is where I joke about Mom liked my book.

I make great use of beta readers, using the service Fiverr to find them. Like everything, some are good, and some are bad but the important thing for me is to have another set of eyes look at my work. Once again, referring to the acknowledgements of my first novel:

Beta readers: they are too numerous to mention, but I sincerely thank each and every one of them. They pointed out things I didn’t see or couldn’t see. I wear glasses, however it turns out I’m myopic literally and literarily.

Final Word
I'm writing this on October 24, 2021. I've published two novels and five small collections of short stories, and I've sold merely hundreds of books. I remain unknown and don't see that changing anytime soon. What to do? I'm editing novel number three, going through a series of beta reads to fine tune my work. Once I'm satisfied, I will hire professionals to copy edit and proofread my work before clicking on the publish button, probably in the spring of 2022. Will I sell a million copies? I wish! But I will have a personal sense of satisfaction of having accomplished something. I will have enriched my life.


References

Shameless plug: my books on Amazon

IDG – Apr 10/2010: Google: 129 Million Different Books Have Been Published
For those who have ever wondered how many different books are out there in the world, Google has an answer for you: 129,864,880, according to Leonid Taycher, a Google software engineer who works on the Google Books project.

Note: Wikipedia states 2.2. million new books are published each year. The above article was published in 2010 so if I take 130 million plus 2.2. times 10, I arrive at about 150 million in 2020.

Wikipedia: Books published per country per year
TOTAL: approximately 2,210,000

The Horn Book - Sep 30/2014
An open letter to the self-published author feeling dissed.by Roger Sutton
I can imagine how frustrating it is to have your book refused possible review coverage by the Horn Book simply because it is self-published. But here is why that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon... The real problem is that most self-published books... are pretty terrible.

The Washington Post - Oct 1/2014
No, I don’t want to read your self-published book by Ron Charles
At The Post, we’re getting about 150 books a day. A day. And these are books that had to find an agent. And then a publisher. And then were professionally edited. And now are being professionally marketed by people with money on the line. Many of these books, of course, are bad, but many — far more than we can review — are interesting, engaging, informative, moving, timely and/or newsworthy for various reasons.

The Toronto Star - Jun 19/2015
So many new books, too little time and space: Public Editor by Kathy English
Deborah Dundas, who has been Books editor for almost a year now and has been reviewing books here since 1999, told me the Star is inundated with “hundreds” of books every week from publishers throughout North America and beyond. As well, although the Star does not review books by self-published authors, she nevertheless receives “endless” email pitches from those who self-publish.

my blog: Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King - Dec 27, 2010
Who on this planet doesn't know the name Stephen King? Born in 1947, this American author has written and published 49 novels including 5 nonfiction which have sold over 350 million copies. Of course, his fame has spread even further as a number of these books have been turned into successful films: Carrie, The Shining, It and Misery to name but a few.

my blog: Writing: Amanda Hocking: indie author goes viral - Mar 2, 2011
Amanda was born in 1984, just your normal girl from Austin, Minnesota. However, over the years, she has apparently written over a dozen novels, all unpublished. She got the idea of self-publishing her work and started in April 2010. Huffington quotes Amanda as saying, "As of Tuesday, January 04, 2011 at 9 PM, I've sold over 185,000 books since April 15, 2010." She states that she started with Kindle in April 2010 and has not sold less than 1,000 copies per month since May 2010. The newspaper USA Today, Feb 9/2011, states that in January 2011 alone, Amanda's 9 published titles sold 450,000 copies, 99% of which were eBooks.

2021-10-24

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