What authors really want – to sell their books and make money from them!

If you’ve devoted your life to writing stories, novels that provide the pure escapism we all need to function in this increasingly chaotic world, then you’re a very, very special person.
    But you’re also a person who’s vulnerable and easy prey; this makes you extra special in so many ways. Your vulnerability allows you to write the stories that need to be told, communicate your vision of the world with readers and share some serious soul healing.
    This gives you an extra layer of ‘special’.
    Now, take this concept one step further, and peel away all the bravado that’s needed for survival on a day-to-day basis and you’ll find another purer story.
    The bravado consists of self-talk that goes something like this;
    “It’s okay, I’ll self-publish my novels, I really, really, really want to do this, I want to design the covers, do the editing, step on the 24/7 marketing merry-go-round and walk tall with the knowledge that I am ‘out there’.
    It doesn’t matter that my self-published novels will rarely (if ever) make it to bookshops, will not be eligible for literary awards, will not be taken seriously, will not be reviewed in the mainstream print or online media, will not be seen or touted by the industry ‘bigwigs’, and will not offer any sort of financial security on any level; that the offering of my closely guarded content for free seems to be the regular way to go; that before anyone will buy my novels I will have to get many, many excellent reviews, and for that, I have to give away my novel for free and wait many, many months; that there are a few authors who sell hundreds and hundreds of thousands of their novels and why can’t I be one of them. I could if I tried hard enough, I have to try hard enough. Yes, that all it takes. More effort, more determination.”
    Now let’s get real and start peeling back the bullshit. Self-publishing is hard graft. Uploading your carefully edited opus to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is touted as easy as sneezing. And it is – all kudos to Amazon and KDP.
    It’s the stuff that comes after that, that is crazy-making. Just like in life, some people have endless time on their hands and a nice lump sum of money to keep themselves in food and rent, and no responsibilities to others, so they can plough themselves in to becoming the robot you need to be to be a self-published author.
    Others think differently (and get abused for it) preferring the traditional publishing route which makes them no more money (often less) but gives other little gifts in return; a bit of time to think and write, a bit of time to be human, the kudos of being with one of the Big 5 publishers and let’s face it, which author wouldn’t want to be published by one of the Big 5.
    It’s our dream, or at least it was, wasn’t it? It doesn’t matter that the media tears down the Big 5 and Amazon Publishing on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter that authors know their royalty rates are total rubbish, and advances are almost a thing of the past, that anecdotes comes in that the Big 5 do zero promotion of novels, that it’s all up to you (us) the authors.
    But still……put one thousand authors in a room and I’d bet 90 per cent of them would want at least one of their novels to be published by one of the Big 5, regardless of any crappy contract or lack of promotion. It gives kudos and reputation and in building a non-monetary career based on giving away free content and being paid a pittance if royalties do come your way, I’d bet that a massive majority would plump for a traditional publishing contract from one of the Big 5. I keep saying the Big 5, because I do not consider Amazon Publishing one of the Big 5. It’s not, and I don’t see it ever becoming one. Amazon is good at many things but…….you see where I’m going with this.
    Self-publishing success stories rant and rave about how the traditional publishing industry is dying, uses authors and spits them out mercilessly. These ‘success stories’ are judging things on their own success (and I suppose that’s natural) but I have to ask: why do these self-published success stories jump on the first traditional publishing deal that is offered to them. It smacks of hypocrisy.
    Here’s the thing: Joe Blogs, who used to run an internet marketing company until recently, decided to become an author last year, and has sold 150,000 copies of his novel ‘Bullshit Bullshit’ and X Publishing Company comes running and offers him a contract. Joe Blogs says in the media splat that he felt honoured to have been approached by X Publishing Company and has signed a contract with them. Why? If he’s that good at self-publishing why go with a mainstream publishing company?
    As always, I smell a rotting rat.
    And as the stench subsides, I get to thinking, who am I? What do I want to be in this publishing game? This existential fog consumes me. The stakes are the same, in my view. It’s all about which one takes up less of my near-no energy.
    The bottom line is our art, our content, our carefully drawn stories that belong to us alone are needed by publishers for their own business survival. No content, no them, but likewise if we’re too exhausted and brain-screwed to write, they’ll be no content for anyone, ever, ever again.
    I’m at a crossroads in my writing life (as you probably guessed). No route to publishing is easy and the liars that say otherwise are just that; liars, but I know one thing: when I started out in this game two decades ago, I had a romantic vision of a traditional publisher wanting my novels, publishing them, organising for them to be stocked in lots of bookshops, entering me into literary awards (which I would win), and the whole process repeats itself until death do us part.
    This dream speaks to the real me, the one that hates bullshit, that hates pretence, the one that knows I am not an expert in every last little thing (only an expert in one or two things), and that’s the way it has to be.
    Am I unlike other writers? I don’t think so. If you ask a novelist what they’d prefer I think most would say they’d prefer to get a traditional publishing deal with one of the Big 5 – for kudos, not for money, but for the reputation it brings. There are so many liars in the fields of indie and traditional Publishing.
    I’m advocating being completely true to your creative self and listening to your own voice every single time.
    Do a bleach zap of all the publishing bullshit and you’ll find your answer. Email me jochumasauthor@gmail.com if you want to set me straight on anything, if you want to chat or tell me your own experiences.
    Much love, Jo xx

 

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A private diary that’s not private

There is so much I want to say about being a writer. The industry – by that I mean the world of publishing, whether that is self or traditional and every last little associated add-on branch of the industry (prizes, competitions, writing retreats, literary agents, the BBC Writers’ Room website, writing opportunities, fellow authors, Mark Dawson’s advice, the Alliance of Independent Authors, Amazon’s algorithms), EVERYTHING causes me deep pain and sorrow.

These bits of the publishing ‘industry’ in the UK and the US are all good but everything feels ‘vulture-like’ and when I think about all these things I get sad.

Today I was looking at entering the Bridport Prize, and realised I would have to pay £20 to enter. A friend recently asked me to enter the Scottish Arts Prize competition, and for that you have to pay to enter. I recently entered two play opportunities and got knocked back.

I recently looked at my book sales and was met with a blistering ‘nothing’ – no sales.  I recently get another rejection from a literary agent in Oxford, not for her, she said. I want to get a foreign language publisher for my novel The Hidden which sold over 30,000 copies digitally. Surely that’s enough to impress an agent – apparently not!

I write because I love it, not for the fun of it. I would never call writing fun, it’s a need, a burning need – to express oneself, to tell a story, to pull the rock off some far-flung subject that’s been hidden for decade and retell the story. It’s about poetic description and soulful development, it’s about soothing a hurt, a deep, deep hurt that I am cloaked in every day.

When I write I step away from my life, myself and tell a story. When I step back into the real world and deal with the millions of emails that come in from every single sub-aspect of the publishing world, I want to slice a razor over my wrists and watch the blood flood the floor. I mean it. All I want to do is write. I don’t want to bother with any of the other stuff.

So does that mean – because I can never be an AUTHORPRENEUR – like Mark Dawson or Rachel Abbott – I can never be anything? That’s what it feels like, that I am nothing, but I know and have heard that my writing, my stories moves people to tears and that they love my work, that people want me to write more stories, but how can I when I am penniless and absolutely nobody cares.

Writing with that feeling of doom leaden in the soul is achingly hard. It feels like lifting a building up over your head.

I am just one writer of millions who feels the same. Why should anyone help me? Help yourself I am told. But I can’t do it, I can’t do anything but write stories. I am not a MumPreneur , and AuthorPreneur, or an Entrepreneur. I am a writer of stories and I write well and make people cry with emotion. That’s about all I can do.