Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 17 March 2012

Be prepared – Be optimistic

Only a week to go, then the clocks change and spirits will lift. Actually, it's been a funny year so far – no winter to speak of (I've only scraped frost off the car once – compared with the last two winters, this is positively tropical!), and a three-week spell in the States where we managed to find some real sunshine.

So I've no excuse at all for feeling down – and compared with a number of friends who are going through family traumas, business downturns and health problems, I really do have no excuse for feeling low. If only I hadn't chosen writing as a post-retirement career! Hitting the right place in a falling market is a real challenge. We're all being told, time and again, that book sales are dramatically down, and it does seem that publishers are fighting shy of taking on new names. However, I've got a number of friends who have been picked up recently (including our very own Linda Mitchelmore – hooray!) and I have a feeling the picture is not as clear as it might seem.

The hidden data centres round sales of e-books and the secrecy with which Amazon in particular seems to cloak sales figures. 'E-books are skewing the book ratings,' writes Jojo Moyes in The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/9138908/How-e-books-made-reading-sexy-again.html. The problem is that while hardback and paperback sales figures are collated and charted, only the author and publisher know the number of sales of e-books. Amazon now releases a chart of top sellers – but not numbers. For writers of 'women's fiction' in particular, this poses a problem. Many writers are reporting excellent e-book sales, but they are not necessarily being reflected in the bookstores.

Last year, sales of e-books apparently rose by 500 per cent, and are expected to increase by a similar amount this year, with digital sales expected to overtake print for the first time in the UK. We really are in the middle of a revolution.

I don't believe that people are reading less than they used to. In fact, I think the opposite may be true. And there's a terrific article on the Bookseller blog about the role of authors (a forgotten breed of professionals) – see http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/agents-manifesto.html

So for all my friends who are still trying to break in to the market, I would say: Keep writing. Be Prepared. Be in the right place when the revolution settles.

And be happy – Spring is here and the long days are coming!

18 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I don't think people are reading less, either, just differently, and I think publishers etc are struggling to cope with all the rapid changes. Actually, I think writers are struggling too, but are maybe not quite so far behind the curve!

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    1. And I wonder whether it will keep changing? I use my Kindle, but it's not the same as reading a book. Everything kind of flattens out...

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  2. It is discouraging when you have done your best, Jenny, and the publishers don't seize your work. I think there is a lot of luck involved - falling onto the desk of the right person at the right time. As you say the most important thing is to be happy, especially during retirement. Make the most of it but don't give up writing. Forget about publishersd and agents and write from the heart what you most enjoy and most want to write. If you get published that will be a bonus.
    I have just come in from gardening and I like the spring background.

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    1. I'm enjoying finding my true voice, Gwen!

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  3. Jenny, it's an interesting subject you are tackling this week. Having been previously published (by a small and now defunct traditional publisher) next month I'm celebrating one year as an 'indie' (self-pubbed) author. I know it's not for everyone, but over the past year I have embraced the 'niche' market of ebooks and have had two novels in the Amazon Kindle bestsellers lists.

    The Number One upside of being indie is that you have total control over every aspect of the publishing process - meaning that you get to employ your own editor and cover designer!

    The downside is that unless you have a wholesale distributor on your side, you are not likely to see any significant sales of paperbacks and you are essentially missing out on reaching potential readers - those who do not yet have e-readers.

    Either way, traditional or indie, ebook or paperback, you are still going have to put the same amount of effort into marketing and promotion.

    The biggest difference? Well, I'm seeing a month on month doubling of Amazon Kindle ebook sales as the ebook market expands. I currently sell just as many books in the US as I do in The UK. Royalty cheques arrive monthly. So, with all that in mind, I'd have to be offered a pretty attractive package to even warrant considering a traditional publishing deal right now. This is something that amazes me every day. Something for you to consider, perhaps?

    I agree with Gwen. There is a lot of luck involved in being on the right editor's desk on the right day - and I'm not for a minute saying that it's not possible to get a mainstream traditional publishing contract today - all I'm saying is that it's also possible to make your own luck.

    Janice xx

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    1. But then, Janice, you are a star...

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  4. Interesting post, Jenny. I think ebooks are encouraging more readers and if you're like Janice, you can achieve good sales. But I do agree it's difficult to reach the book stores. I love my kindle for bedtime but I still read a print book downstairs! It's an exciting time for writers in lots of ways.

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    1. I love my Kindle too - it's so easy to browse and buy. But there's nothing like a book...

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  5. A ray of common sense on a difficult subject!

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  6. It's an interesting time for writers, Jenny. To catch your mood of optimism, perhaps we should look on it as a period of opportunities for all - those who are picked up by a traditional publisher, those who self-publish and those who have the choice. Some writers (not many, I agree) prefer to self-publish even after being offered a traditional publishing deal. People are still reading - so writers should still write.

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  7. You're quite right Joan. The Bookseller interview puts authors back where they should be, centre stage. Now, where did I put my pen?

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  8. Thanks for my mention, Jennie.....and I'm beginning to realise just how lucky I am right now, and how privileged to be with Choc-Lit.....may some of that luck come your way, too....:)

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  9. Sorry, Jenny......got the wrong ending to your name.....forgive?

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    1. It's a hard road, Joan. But I think all routes are hard these days!

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    2. Oops - how did that slip to here? Linda, you are forgiven.

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  10. Interesting post, Jenny, and I enjoyed the Bookseller blog with its emphasis on respecting the author. I'm not sure if Jojo Moyes is entirely correct about no one knowing the numbers of sales apart from Amazon and the author. Writer Lexi Revellian blogged recently about the Amazon list of authors who have sold over 50,000 copies - she is one of them, and has achieved her success in about a year.
    Also, the fact that sales of print books are recorded has done no favours to authors who don't make it onto the best selling charts. It used to be if they sold a respectable number of copies of their first book the publisher would take the next book and hope to build up sales but now they seem to want a quicker profit on the initial investment. I think it is not surprising so many good writers are turning to self publishing for e-readers like Kindle.
    Lots of changes ahead in the publishing world - but perhaps there always has been. And can anyone remember a time when we were not being told publishing is going through a difficult time?
    We just have to keep plugging away - writing the books we want to write and hoping to find an audience with whom to share them.
    I really like the green spring background - makes me want a creme de menthe.

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  11. Hmm, creme de menthe... But no, a tub of Haagen Dasz would slip down better right now!

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