Do you know how easy it is to become a published author nowadays?
If you already have an Amazon account, you can upload a Word Document without hassle, and publish an e-book onto Kindle. I’ve been fiddling around with the process to publish a book for the company I’m working for, and if you’re ready for it, the whole process takes less time than cooking an instant meal.
Does anyone else think that’s insane?
Just so this is clear, I’ll give you the comparison. Publishing the traditional way is a bit of a nightmare if you are not some kind of time-bending superwizard or already a published author (or both). If you don’t have an agent, you have to find one of the few publishers left that accept unsolicited manuscripts, and those are getting smaller day-by-day.
Then you have to write a fancy synopsis, a cover letter gushing about how awesome your very existence is and why you are a total superwizard, and send it off with your hopes and dreams. It will then fly through the window of the publishers and settle atop hundreds, if not thousands of others. I doubt there is any time at all to read all of these properly, so it comes down to a mixture of hard work to present your piece as favourably and eye-catchingly as possible, and of course, it comes down to dumb luck.
The classic story of how much of a struggle traditional publishing is comes from the case of one J. K. Rowling, who you might have heard of. The Harry Potter creator was rejected multiple times because her book was deemed far too long and complicated for children.
What did it? When interviewed in the Independent, the head of Bloomsbury explained that he handed the manuscript off to his 8 year old to read, who said it was crazy-cool and nagged him to make more.
On second thoughts, that’s probably the best way to find a successful children’s book, ever.
It is an achievement well worth the struggle to head for traditional published work, but it would be silly to deny that there aren’t some archaic and annoying blockades to vault on the way that would even irritate the people who work in Health and Safety.
So surely it’s a miracle to be able to power through all of those obstacles in one quick clickfest? Ah, but I’m afraid I’m pulling so much wool over your eyes that you’re seeing sheep butts. Y’see, thanks to the internet, the publishing floodgates are open.
With the internet has come the great ability to share your creative spark with the world and every day someone is making it easier for you to do so. But with that comes a whole tidal wave of seething, writhing, steamy garbage and cat pictures. Take YouTube for example, which has made huge celebrities out of a few genuinely talented individuals and provided day-jobs for a lot of musicians and filmmakers… but probably made most people famous through memes, brain-achingly dumb stunts and, yes, cats.
It’s actually just as hard to be successful through self-publishing. The only difference is where the challenge is.
Instead it becomes all about marketing. Yes, your book is finished and printed or Kindle-ised and you can flick through the pages and eee look at your name on the front omg u guuuuuuys n_____n but if you actually want your book to sell, you’re going to have to do the legwork yourself. No pre-arranged book signings. No deals with big-brand book shops. No publisher getting your book out there. It’s just you and the vast world of social media. Success only comes after the achingly slow process of making friends and spreading the word, just like with regular old self-publishing before Kindle.
What does this come down to then? At the end of the day, Rowling got an agent because he read the book and loved it. The 8 year old kid loved it. After trying hard enough, she found the right people and more importantly, the book was damn good. After trying hard enough and being good enough, she got to the top.
And you know what? That is 100% still true, even with this mass self-publishing wave. Because a lot of that wave is going to be just bad, like, fanfiction.net bad or YouTube comments bad. And yes, writing a diamond should be hard enough (I don’t consider anything I’ve written yet to be of a standard that could get such attention, and I’ve had 13 years practise) but then it’s about not giving up on shoving that diamond into as many faces as possible, until someone goes ‘hot damn, that’s a diamond! And it’s shiny and will sell! I was too busy worrying if the sparkle was going to blind a child and was going to reject it out of hand and blow raspberries at your dreams‘.
Work hard, polish the diamond, and don’t stop shopping it around. Yes it takes some luck to find the ‘right person’, but it takes more endurance and skill, even if you can be published overnight.
Next Time, on this Blog…
I’ll just wrap this up by talking about one of the most fascinating success stories of this self-publishing style which belongs to Machine of Death, the brilliant anthology I wrote a submission for a couple of years ago.
The three blokes who put their weight behind the book all already had a dedicated support base through webcomics, or writing, or just very good socialising with other creative types. Not to mention that the book had generated a lot of interest because it was asking for open submissions, so people were talking about it. Plus it just had a really kick-ass idea that people love to talk about.
But the real success came with the clever way they used these things. Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo and David Malki all hit on a genius idea: they posted their book on Amazon on October 20th, 2010, and then sat on it. They insisted to all their fans that they should wait for 6 days.
Then, on that day, they launched the book officially and everyone bought it all at once. And Amazon flipped out. Because of the way Amazon’s Top Books section works, it rocketed to the #1 spot. And suddenly all of these people browsing Amazon who had never read about the book, never submitted a story for it, and never even heard of Dinosaur Comics saw this book at #1 with a kick-ass idea and they bought it too.
It even beat out Keith Richards’ biography, which was released on the same day. Take that, Keith Richards!
So why am I telling you this? Because it’s a great build-up to something I’m going to talk about in a later blog, which is the power of Personality on the internet, and yes, that’s with a capital P. That P should be towering above this whole blog. I shall just have a P site.
And nobody will laugh at P sounding like pee, nobody.
Until next time, toodle-pip!