Last week I wrote about the never ending search that many authors face to attract an agent. Ideally, the author attracts an agent as a result of their scintillating writing, and the agent then miraculously opens the doors to the major publishing houses and all of a sudden there’s an amazing contract on the author’s doorstep and then thousands of people read the published result.
The reality is somewhat different for the majority of us. All writers are committed to their art. All of us believe we have something worth saying, and many of us believe that what we write might resonate with someone else. Once we reach that stage, we look for a way of becoming a published author.
I was wondering today what the average author earnings were in Australia, so, as per my normal habit, I went wandering around the internet. I found this on the Booktopia blog, and was slightly disconcerted to discover that although Matthew Reilly earns rather well at 2.5 million in 2010, the other writers featured on the top 50 entertainers list weren’t authors. Let me explain by quoting directly from the article. “Well, Matthew Reilly is famous because of his writing – thus, he’s an author. The other success stories on the rich list have been allowed to write because they are good at something else.” They were sportspeople, actors, singers and models.
Last year, my own publisher, Hague Publishing wrote an interesting piece entitled “Did the average eBook author really earn just $297 in 2012?”
Many authors go into the world of publishing with an expectation that when you’re published, the hard work is done, and you just sit back and wait for the royalties to roll in. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the major publishers have tightened their purse strings, and for an unknown author, the chances of bucket loads of money being spent on their shiny new novel is quite unlikely. When I’d first finished my manuscript for Frontier Incursion, I was yet again wandering around the internet wondering what to do next. I looked at information on the Australian Society of Authors website and the NSW Writers Centre, and then I decided to look at a few of my favourite Australian Authors’ sites. (Because obviously they’d done it rather well, and were selling thousands of books!)
The most useful information I found was on Ian Irvine’s website, under “But I thought you were going to promote my book.” There was a whole list of reasons why it’s really hard for ANY publisher to make a huge song and dance about an unknown author. The whole page is excellent, but that particular section was probably the best advice I’d read anywhere on the internet. It told me that I needed to work to market my book, but also that I needed to do it well.
Last week one of the readers of this blog asked a question about marketing. “Interesting post but I have to ask if anyone has any marketing advice to pass on?” This is the most frequently asked question I see in the internet forums that I participate in. I’ll quote directly from Ian Irvine’s website – it’s answer number eight to the “But I thought you were going to promote my book section.” What Ian Irvine says is: “To become a successful author, you have to establish your name as a brand that the reading public can trust. If they spend twenty bucks on your book, they expect to get their money’s worth of entertainment. If they don’t, your readers will feel ripped off and tell their friends what a rotten book it was.”
It’s a powerful comment. It’s a very true piece of advice. As an author, you’re only as good as your last piece of writing. It should make us all want to strive to improve, to write with skill and vigour, and to make our characters and our stories leap off the page and into our readers’ hearts. It should inspire us to inspect our story lines for gaping plot holes and be willing to examine our writing bugbears – one of mine is clunky dialogue and another the excessive use of adjectives.
Another thing I’ve learnt about is having an online presence. I have an author Facebook page, this blog, and a twitter account, and I enjoy Goodreads. I confess that I first learnt about Goodreads when I was part way through the publishing phase of Frontier Incursion. I very quickly decided that I should establish a presence there in order to assist in the marketing of my brand new book.
Once there, I discovered that there’s nothing more irritating than an author who spends all of their time on Goodreads yelling “READ MY BOOK!” Fortunately, I found several groups that were welcoming and friendly, and I discovered the real joy of Goodreads – talking about books with other like minded people, and discovering new authors. I pop in to Goodreads nearly every day, keeping up with the fascinating discussions and simply chatting about and reviewing books I’ve read. I’m currently participating in two Australian Author challenges. Last year I discovered a couple of new favourite authors as a result.
You can also say the same about Twitter – I’ve been followed by and have followed a number of authors. Some scream ceaselessly about their books. In my opinion, Twitter’s about being there, commenting on all kinds of things and sharing stuff, and occasionally, saying “It would be lovely if you considered reading my book, and here’s a link if you’d like to have a look.”
Having said all of that, I’m no marketing guru, just someone who’s had one book published. There’s another on the way, and then I’ll be another step towards “establishing my brand name.” But in reality, I just hope that the story I’ve written provides the reader with a fabulous experience, touches their heart, and leaves them breathless and panting at the end.