Now I Understand...
I was recently invited to a regional writers’ festival up here in Cairns, Queensland. A nice lady rang up and asked me to join a romance writing panel. She had stumbled across my website and been impressed with the number of books (and their pretty covers).
I accepted, of course. My ego would not let me do anything else. I drove the 330 km south to do my bit. In fact, interacting with so many readers was fun. They tended to be ladies of a certain age and looked very serious about their reading.
That was fun, and I would do it again. But what interested me most was the chance to talk to the other authors. Two were respectable contributors to well-known romance mills and the other was more like me – a bit of a bottom feeder in the book world. I made friends with Helene Young, ex-airline pilot, and yachtie, who should be in Cooktown any day now. She has had some books taken by (I think) Avon and explained to me how things go.
Firstly, any books need to conform to house rules, and these are very restrictive. Once you have got a book past that hurdle and it has been accepted, you are slotted into a production schedule. The book is professionally edited and the cover taken care of – in fact, you don’t have to worry about anything.
The fun starts when the book comes out. She says she has 3 months of official promotion and sales from the publisher, and that is it. End of story. The book now belongs in the archives. Unsold copies are remaindered and pulped, never to be seen again. If any of the romance fans remember her name amongst the thousands of similar authors, they can presumably find her books online, but there are no more hard copy sales. Her only hope of continuing to be an author is to write another book.
Thinking about it, this is completely logical from a publisher’s point of view. They find a novel, publish it and take the first flush of sales. Space on the bookshop shelves or the supermarket racks is limited and has to be paid for, so the publisher constantly needs new titles to fill them up. Old titles can’t pay their way and are dropped down a hole.
I can’t believe I have been scratching around for years and had not really taken on board that publishers work to a project based business plan. They consume books (and their authors), and then dump them. That’s business.
Not good for me and my writer friends. We write books we want to live for more than 3 months, although we have no idea how to keep them alive. I know my list includes good titles that hardly ever move. How can I sell them?
At present I live in a world where I sell perhaps one book a day – as an ebook or more profitable hard copy. Think about it; a dollar or two per day. That won’t keep me in beer, although it might just cover a coffee.
So – how do we go forward? First of all – dump the publishers, although I suppose most of us have done that already. Secondly… I don’t know. I have a website that is so little known it may as well be a CIA secret. Come to think about it, if it was a CIA secret perhaps that nice Mr. Snowden could give it more publicity than I can manage.
I really, really need a proper marketer to take hold of my website and turn it viral. Can you think of anyone? I’d happily hand over 50% of the profits…
Jacqueline lives in Far North Queensland, on the shore of the Coral Sea. She keeps herself busy with her cats and garden, and by writing books - some of which are far too naughty for her own good. You can find out more about Jacqueline and her books at www.jacquelinegeorgewriter.com