Tuesday, September 23, 2014
In the old days - by which I mean ten or fifteen years ago, before the ebook explosion - getting published was tough. The number of slots available for new authors was limited by the costs of producing print books, as well as the cost of buying them (for readers). A typical reader chose carefully when a novel cost between ten and thirty dollars. Publishers were reluctant to gamble on books that weren't an obvious sure thing. They didn't want to lay out the cash for editing, proofreading, cover art, catalogs, promotion, sales teams, book fairs and of course, the printing of the book itself, unless they were pretty confident that they'd at least break even.
Slush piles were enormous. Author success stories were few and far between.
Ebooks and the Internet profoundly changed the economics of publishing. Most of the expenses listed above shrank dramatically or vanished all together, aside from editing and proofing (and, alas, some e-publishers don't seem to spend anything for those, either). The Internet made it cheap to advertise books, and its ubiquity justified pushing the marketing burden onto individual authors. Covers could be assembled from a $5 stock image with a couple hours of Photoshopping. Meanwhile, the price of ebooks dropped to a low enough level that readers could be comfortable impulse buying.
Book sales surged. Publishers needed to satisfy the reading public's seemingly insatiable appetite for fiction. As a result, getting published became much easier. Anyone with a halfway sensible story could find someone who'd publish it. Poor grammar, lexical confusions, spelling errors, were no longer a barrier to being an author. Many more individuals were able to fulfill that dream.
Then self-publishing arrived, and even the most minimal barriers to publication disappeared.
Now it's easy getting published. What's difficult is getting noticed.
You may have written a fantastic book, one you know could be really popular, but how do you let people know? How can you make your book stand out from the literally thousands of books that get published every day?
It seems like an impossible task. Indeed, it's terribly discouraging. I blog like crazy. I participate in email lists. I run contests. I guest at other people's blogs. And almost every time I get some comment like "This is a new author for me..."
I'm doing everything I can, given my other real world responsibilities. But it's not enough.
I'm pretty close to giving up. Not giving up on writing - that's too much a part of me to let go - but on pushing to market my work. I have a few fans whom I know will buy my books. Maybe I should simply be satisfied with that, along with the knowledge that what I write is better, at least from a craft perspective, than a large percentage of the books flooding the world.
The other alternative is to figure out some wild stunt, something totally off the wall that will get me some publicity. Since I'm a very private person - hey, I'm not even on Facebook - this is an unlikely path.
Of course, if I could get each of my regular readers to tell just one friend about my books, that would multiply my fan base by two. And then if those people would just tell their friends...
Maybe that's a ridiculous dream. Still, if you're reading this post, and you have a minute - why not send a link to my book list or free reading page off to one of your friends?