Every eBook publisher and author wants to build a following, gain readers who will talk about their books, leave reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords or any other online ebook store. Everyone wants to find this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so when the newly published realise that books don’t sell automatically, they enter the world of marketing and promotion and try to work out what successful authors are doing that is bringing them such enviable success.
Very close to the top of the list will be pricing. A new author quickly learns that although a bestselling author might be able to charge $4.99 for a book, their sights should be set much lower. They quickly learn that many authors make make their mark with books priced at 99 cents, or even free.
As no doubt is the case for any other author aspiring to be a published novelist, when I had in front of me my first completed manuscript I wanted to find a major publisher and enter the prestigious ranks of novelists who have a overcome all barriers and finally stepped on the road to fame and fortune. A few years later the reality of closed doors and unanswered query letters brought home a different kind of truth, one that made it clear that getting published was far harder than writing a novel.
Writers, though, are infused with an iron will and endless hope and optimism. How else could anyone spend one year to many years labouring at a task that might never lead to anything but the personal satisfaction that you were, after all, capable of writing a story over 70,000 words? So, as many before me have, I went in search of an agent. Alas, that too turned out to be a forlorn journey. As with the few remaining publishers who actually allow strangers to write to them, agents have a ready quip for anyone darkening their peaceful tryst with familiar voices. Those with the temerity to approach them will soon learn about lists that are full, and things unread that, they will briskly tell you, aren’t being looked for in the foreseeable future.
Many of us want to do things we’ve never done before. For some this is to sail a boat around the world, for others it’s something like climbing Mt. Everest, learning to fly or walking to the North Pole, but for an unknown number it’s about becoming a novelist. All of these of one thing in common, they are ambitions born from self-belief and a desire to achieve something beyond the norm, to make a mark in the world or simply to fulfil a life-long dream.
At the beginning of these journeys confidence and ambition can outstrip ability. A lot of us have been there, say, watching the Olympics, an around the world yacht race, listening to a well known author discuss the book we read last week that had just won a major award, and in each case imagining that if we tried we could do that too.
Sadly, the ease with which we unconsciously imagine these things can be achieved is illusionary. We only need to go so far as reading an autobiography of someone we admire to discover just how difficult it is to succeed in this competitive world where talent is way more common than recognition. There are a lot of people trying and only a few places on the podium.
When writers think about the book they’ve just finished their mind at some very early point turns in the direction of publishing, after all, writers are storytellers and a story needs an audience. Most new writers, however, do not have a clue how to go about getting published so they ask friends, email famous writers, Google or do some other kind of research, and soon discover that mythical creatures known as editors are gate-keepers of the printing press and that the most influential nestle inside large corporations with baffling arcane submission procedures that boil down to excluding anyone who has not already been published successfully, or doesn’t have an agent they have already worked with, or met at school, university or their children’s play group. Following this news, there begins a drive for “representation” that, for example, puts reproductive urges so far in the shade it’s surprising that unpublished authors ever get around to procreating.