Driven mostly by convenience, wider choices and lower prices, more and more of us are now abandoning the high street in favour of the Internet. And where once we might have relied on the polished patter of a retail salesperson, we now have, via on-line reviews, access to the collective voices of hundreds of fellow consumers from around the world.
Today on Facebook, an old school friend shared the above video, in which the late British philosopher, Alan Watts, in a gentle, fatherly and wonderfully mellifluous tone, makes a strong case for pursuing whatever activity we would desire if money was no object. This beguiling thought inevitably got me thinking about the dilemma faced by most first-time or would-be authors.
Most people I know seem to have, at one time or another, thought of writing a book. And while the flood of self-published e-books appearing on Amazon might suggest that an increasing number are now moving beyond the “thinking” stage, I wonder if we’re just seeing more of the iceberg that was always there, and that Amazon has merely raised the specific gravity of the sea in which that iceberg floats.
Like many début authors, I didn’t really think too hard about the genre of my first book until I’d finished writing it. And looking back, with large parts of the story seemingly writing themselves, I’m not sure I could have moulded it to fit a predefined literary pigeon-hole even if I’d wanted to.
So it was only when I started the laborious and disheartening process of seeking representation that I began to realise the importance, at least to the traditional publishing world, of fitting neatly within a recognised genre. Of course, you only need to consider browsing the aisles of a traditional bricks-and-mortar book store to understand why this is – they need to know in which aisle and on which shelf to put your book.
Publishing genre fiction also removes some of the risk since publishers already understand how the overall market is subdivided into groups loyal to each of the categories such as crime, murder-mystery, science-fiction, fantasy etc. and roughly how many they can sell into each. Consequently, agents and publishers tend to shy away from novels which fall between genres. Of course, there are the so-called cross-over novels, but the very small number of these which actually get published rarely come from new authors.
In the first part of this article, I shared a little of my own limited experience in the world of Indie-publishing and explained how, no matter how good your book may be, like any product, its success (unless you are exceptionally lucky) will depend on how effectively you market and promote it.
With this in mind, two weeks ago I published via twitter, Facebook and a few other on-line forums, the link to a quick anonymous Author Survey. Since then, I have had responses from 33 authors, 26 of whom are self-published.
12 of the 33 respondents have sold over 5000 books, 5 have sold over 10,000, 2 over 50,000 and just 1 over 100,000.