Sunday, 20 March 2011

Publishing Today - Writers' Extra Duties

The climate of publishing has changed dramatically in the last few years. Regular readers of my blog will recall me remarking on this before. I have a problem with the whole loss of the 'Net Book Agreement' - which was the start of the problems and has had a huge impact on the income of writers, making it incredibly difficult these days to actually make a living from writing. I have an even bigger problem with how few large publishing houses are giving new writers a chance becuase they constantly use the same ones over and over, and not because they are the best, merely because, in most cases, they are convenient.

J.K. Rowling didn't make it over night, I believe she was rejected by some 50 agents before it fell on the right person's desk. After that a whole lot of luck came into play.

I'm constantly being asked about publishing by aspiring writers.The truth is there is no one answer. If you are serious you sit down and write a book and then wonder how you're going to get it published. Not ask the question BEFORE you've ever written anything. 

Writing a book doesn't guarantee you overnight success, and certainly not fame and fortune. Even if you're lucky enough to get an agent or publisher, (although having an agent isn't a necessity anymore) there's no guarantee anyone will want to buy it. That's why I feel that you have a duty to your words once there are in print.

I know a few other writers who object to the idea of self-promotion, and that's fine if they think they don't need to. Personally I don't see any harm in reminding people that this is what you do and this is what you are about. (I will stress here that you should NEVER post a link to your event/book on someone else's page - frankly it's rude and you're likely to just get yourself deleted). However if you care about your writing, believe in your words and you want to share them, then by all means do so in the least offensive way that you can. It's your duty to yourself, your publisher and your book to let people know about it. Otherwise who is going to care if you don't?

There's a lot of pressure on writers now to achieve more and more. I know writers who can only make a living because they write 4-5 books a year. They don't have time in between to stop and think, nor to give any thought to promoting the new books, which I think might ultimately be the problem. Obviously your publisher should be supporting you as much as their budget allows. This will vary depending on the publishers. Major houses will have a specific budget to pour into the promotion of  books. The amount will vary depending on your level. Independent presses don't have much money so they won't necessarily have a promotional budget, but should still support the promotion where they can. For example by ensuring review copies are sent out where necessary, entries into competitions, online promotion such as posting up reviews on the publishers website, letting the readers know where you'll be appearing etc.But whatever the budget it's up to you to raise extra awareness and how you do that is up to you.

What you shouldn't do sit back and expect complete strangers to believe in you if you aren't prepared to put yourself behind your works or actually go out and meet the public because you think you should remain in an ivory tower and be illusive.

When you've got JK's millions you can be 'private' all you want, but these days you're never going to achieve that so you have to be prepared to work for it.


Raven Dane said...

Sam, these are wise words indeed.
Unless an author is with a big publishing house with a megabuck budget, today we have to work hard at promoting our work. Very hard. In a crowded market, especially since the explosion of self published work, how else can potential readers know your book exists?
The trick is how to self promote without the counter productive effect of being a pain in the neck!
The author must guage their target readership and court them with style, grace and respect.
Something you are a genius at achieving, Sam.

Sam Stone said...

Thank you Raven and absolutely! It's the only way forward for anyome who wants real success these days.