Times are tough for everyone, but they become even tougher when one needs to haggle and try to justify why something is priced the way it is when trying to sell it. From a personal point of view, I try to sell my books – as does every writer/author- yet I am aware that most people think that I charge way too much for them. The perspective buyer sees the paperback version – and sometimes the ebook online - and they shake their head … 'I’m not paying that much; it’s way too expensive.’ Sadly, what folk tend to forget - or are not aware of - is that most authors sometimes spend years writing a book. That amounts to a lot of headaches, research, rewrites just while at the computer trying to get the words in order, and they don’t get paid for the trauma of it … not for one minute … let alone trying to cope with the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.
When complete, the writer may then spend time chasing after a traditional publisher, with letters, phone calls and entreaties, though, if they choose to self-publish, it is slightly less time-consuming. However, one still has to find a site that suits them.
In between waiting for replies from publishers (anywhere between 3 months and 1 year) or researching publishing sites there is the editing, - a must for any self-respecting writer. This is the most expensive step in the process of getting a book out there. The cost of this can be anywhere from AU$200 to AU$2,000-00, depending on the length/type of book/novel/tome … not an amount easily found with day to day living expenses.
Once edited the book needs to be formatted – this is about getting the pages in order, along with the checking of headers, page numbers, titles and chapter sequences.
Then after a good proof read – or three - you sign off … fingers crossed that everything is as it should be.
A cover is now needed, to keep everything together. The cost of a good cover designer ranges from AU$300-00 upwards - unless you’re in the know – or you’re clever enough to design covers.
After … there is printing. If you still have anything left in your bank account you can approach a local printer, but I have found most charge an arm and a leg, even with files that are ready to go. With that in mind you have two options left (if you have not been picked up by a publishing house) and that is to buy in small amounts from places like Amazon or Lulu (I use these examples as they are what I am familiar with) It costs an arm and a leg, especially with postage and handling added to the final amount. But … if you can mortgage the house or raise a substantial loan you can get mass printing done in China. HINT – don’t forget to ask if the quote includes shipping.
Now the author has books. Depending on the size and type the pricing can range from X to Y. This is calculated by adding the sum of the money spent altogether, along with the P and H costs – please remember here that the writer’s time is not considered in this factor. Divide the cost by the number of books on hand, add a dollar or two and there you have it … price per unit. We’re good to go.
But we’re not finished as now there is the business side of things to get your head around. You need to sell these books. You need to market – or get to market - either with online entities or through marketing businesses … again, more money. But if you’re broke by now then sadly, you’re on your own.
Fingers crossed here, with all your Facebook posts and Tweets on your progress over the years you have people who are still interested enough to part with their cash, because by now you have done your dash with giving away the books as gifts to your family and friends. Mind you, there is a saving grace if you could afford to get ebook formatting as well. You can then widen your platform (author talk for your shop) and get your books into a few other places like apple, iTunes, Scrb, mobi or kobo … but at a profit of AU$ 33c per unit (if you’re lucky) you’ve got to sell a lot of books. At least if you sell face to face at a market, you’ll get the whole profit amount of $1 to $2 to yourself. That’s if punters are not scared away by the fact that you’re sitting all by your lonesome with a pile of books and a money tin … along with a look of sheer desperation on your face.
Last night I decided to get online and see what was new since I had signed off six hours ago. There was nothing much on TV and I didn’t want to read or go to bed. I scrolled as one does, eventually coming across a post from a book group – with 14,000 members - that grabbed my interest. It spoke about the lack of interaction and comments within this particular group. The topic caught my attention as it is something that has been slowly nagging at me and had me wondering why I even bother being a member of book groups online as they are all the same.
My introduction to book groups began when I first became published with my number one novel in my Merlin’s School series – The Ring of Curses. My publisher of the time advised that it was a great way to establish sales. So, I created my first Facebook page and spammed away until I realized it wasn’t doing the job. I then decided to have a giveaway. Sadly, there was not one response … nobody wanted a free book either. It puzzled me until a Facebook friend suggested to join book groups. Being a newbie at all this online stuff it took me a while, but I eventually found and joined several groups and started with my promo posts and giveaways again. But still no go.
Now I was really stumped until I cottoned on that everybody was just posting and running. They didn’t give a toss about your book, my book or anyone else’s book … it was all about them. When did the world become such a selfish place? Or was it about competition?
In the mean time I had chatted with a wonderful online friend and we were both in agreeance that we needed help … not between ourselves as we both supported each other’s work … but within the writing community. A group was then created where we would work with an indie author store on our websites and share, share share, creating a larger marketing platform, and most of all, give each other a helping hand. It seemed like a good idea.
Well, so far, there has been no response to that either, which to me, proves that most authors are paranoid about competition, lazy, complacent or … they are so self-centred that they really just don’t care. I find that sad.
So back to the post I read last night. At the end of it all only two people actually had something to say about the truth of it … that groups have no interaction as intended, no conversation, as intended and no cross-promos as intended. And remember … this is out of 14,000 members.
In conclusion I will ask … where does one go from here? Do we give up trying or do we keep plugging away? There is a third option as well, of giving the people a serving of the truth on an ungilded plate and hope that they wake up to themselves … just like the admin did in the book group. Well done!
Marketing is an indie author's nightmare. While the big houses have people to do this job, sadly the indie author is the be all and end all of their business ... that of trying to write books. And then of course, sell them.
On paper this process doesn't sound too hard ... just make a platform somewhere, create a web site, get out and about, sell to all your family and friends and bingo ... Bob's your uncle. But, in the mean time, who is writing your books. We are not up there with the big authors making millions of sales; we are down there, at the bottom of the pile working bloody hard at our keyboards while trying to make a living, and probably look after a family too. We don't have time to market. And when we do it's a very singular thing.
There are the posts on Facebook, which immediately bring upon themselves a boost suggestion, while being hidden from view. There's the time needed to attend to Twitter and Instagram ... just to name a few. Advertising costs for inclusion on some promotional pages can be above our means, so most of us cannot afford to use them. And brochures, giveaway swags and promo competitions can cost as well.
Where does one go from there?
In the course of a conversation, my friend, Dawn Cements and I pondered on this and we came up with the idea of web marketing ... using a Facebook group to find and organise bookshops for indie authors ... at no cost to anyone, bar that of a little time to keep your web page up to scratch with your new 'books' (via web links) and posting and sharing, sharing sharing so that the one post becomes two, becomes four, becomes 16 ... as the bookshop becomes stocked with indie web links. Now in order for this to work it must be a two way street i.e. - if an author takes you on board their web, then you must reciprocate in kind. It is only fair.
So ... if you think this concept might work for you, click here ... https://www.facebook.com/groups/334033377155536/?ref=bookmarks and take a look. Or email me at email@example.com. If it suits you please ask to join and set up your web page as shown, and you're away. Feel free to share your web site anywhere and everywhere and your platform will grow, and hopefully reach a large audience. I hope you will join Dawn and myself in this venture.
Over the past months, I am seeing more and more discontented social media users. The main complaint being … it’s not very social anymore. And not a truer statement has been said.
So … how do I know this?
I was advised by my first publisher to get myself online and register with Facebook as a means to promote my book/books, so thinking I had a ready market I did so. Now this was my first foray into the net as I had been avoiding it like the plague, fearing that it would put the kybosh on the rest of my live, entrapping me and keeping me away from my writing, my reading time and other more meaningful pursuits.
How right I was, for not only was the whole thing with gathering buyers for my baby a myth but the social part of the experience was not very social. But it was too late to escape … I was caught up.
At first it was all very pleasant, I made a few friends, I spammed the buggery out of my book, not knowing that was a no-no, and read and liked posts like there was no tomorrow. Then, after a while, I started seeing how it was all a waste of time as far as the impact on my book sales, and that most people were caught up in their own lives, dramas and promotions. Which is all well and good and perfectly allowable but things started to change. Verbal punch ups became rife, scams were/and are the norm so no-one knows what to believe any more (but I suppose that is a media thing) and so-called friends were/and are abusing each other, blocking each other, slagging each other and generally being not-very-nice. And I’m not the only one noticing this.
Not so long ago I posted something different … nothing nasty … I just put out a rant. The response was quite incredible as everyone had words of sympathy and general well wishes and a few not-so-gentile suggestions as to how to handle the said – real - issue in question. (I will admit here some suggestions were quite ingenuous and funny)
I then stopped liking or commenting for two weeks. I did this because I was getting little if no response to my posts and I wanted to see what the outcome would be if I responded in kind. It made no difference.
I wanted some reaction so I posted a plea. This was wonderful as it brought many kind comments. In fact, it was probably the most recognised post I’d ever put out on social media.
And all this was placed in between American political posts, hate posts, some rather nasty and cruel animal posts and just general stuff that is not acceptable in my mind.
So, when did we, as a race … the human race … become so hurtful and jaded towards life and others?
And … what about me … someone cried.
Sadly, I cannot make things better for anyone else. But I can say this. Do yourself a favour (said Molly Meldrum) Take back control - even if it is the TV remote. Don’t take life too seriously because at the end of it all we go to the same place, and that’s six feet under. Life is way too short to waste it on plastic screens, media BS, rudeness, control freaks and nastiness in a not-so-real reality. I’m sure everyone wants to look back on their life with a smile instead of a frown. By all means, don’t neglect those wonderful friends you have secured on social media, the ones you joke with, who chat with you in the middle of the night, who repost for you, share and like and general put you in a happy place again. Just ignore all the other crap and hopefully it will go away.
(C) Margaret R Blake 07-02-2017
It seems that George RR Martin is having a hard time of it. As a writer, he has created some masterpieces, one of which is the world-wide phenomena, Game of Thrones, though … he is yet to finish book 6, Winter Is Coming. And I’ve seen that his fans are not happy.
I have read his series so far and, I too, would love to read the last book, but I don’t put much thought into it. Like tomorrow, it will come. In the meantime, I plug away at my own musings. I have a series on the go also, one for middle-graders and upwards, but I don’t have fans bashing on my door wanting to know where book number three is. (This could have something to do with the fact that I don’t have my film contract yet.) However, this is irrelevant.
What is relevant is that writing is a lonely event. It requires hours of dedication, thought, plotting, planning and downright hard work. It’s not just a matter of throwing some words together, everything needs to make sense, the characters must remain true, the story must be engaging/scary/emotional/easy to read and, heaven forbid, you forget where you left one of your people like I did once. It’s hard yakka at times, especially when one needs to read and re-read, change edit, and edit some more. And that is before you are anywhere near the submission stage.
Ask yourself this … how well would you cope with this commitment? It’s a big ask. Especially since GRR Martin is only human. He has a life … another life that is not about writing. It’s about family, friends, other interests and simply wanting to just take a break away from it all. So, I guess, the answer to my original question is … no. (Neil Gaiman said it first, by the way) Those good people who plug away at word processors day after day for your entertainment owe you nothing. Instead of harrassing them, cut them a bit of slack. Go look for something else to fill in the emptiness you’re feeling, because you might actually discover something else just as good. And think on all this next time you become impatient about your favourite book series, TV programs or movie franchises. Life is an adventure, not a habit.
PS – In case anyone’s interested … I have a life too. And it doesn’t involve disturbing the dust bunnies multiplying happily under my bed, or evicting those web-making villains that are planning their next housing project. It involves … Hello … is anybody there? Helloooo …
(C) Margaret R Blake 25-01-2017