You too can be a penniless author

I was at the London Book Fair back in 2016. There was very little in the way of traditional publishing to be found. There were a lot of self-publishing concerns. When I first wrote to agents and publishers back in the 90’s all my submissions were by paper in the post. You usually got a reply by post. Now mostly it’s email, and you don’t get a reply. Good old slush piles.

My chance was in the 90’s as I had interested agents in my work and now that boat has floated. The traditional approach is nearly dead in the water. Now it’s mostly self-publishing, even if this is guided – paid for by the author, which I always thought was vanity publishing; or the dreaded Amazon, Lulu or Smashwords. Quite often those vanity publishers are simply going to do what the author can do, pushing the novel on social media, if they do anything at all.

When I stopped having life traumas again, I was able to address a novel again. Then I did what I did before, sending to publishers and agents. Nothing. I now had a 100.000 word novel on my laptop going nowhere, this was 2014. I realised the market had changed beyond belief. Therefore I did what most people now do, I added my novel to the online slush pile of Amazon.

Many will not know that the music industry is dead. I have been a musician but I gave up a few years ago. What killed the music industry? The internet and pirate downloads, or cheap downloads. The music industry has gone first down the pan. I see the writing on the wall for publishing. You only have to look at the quantity of eBooks, so many authors are spending a fortune on professional covers, editors and advertising. They are not making their money back.

My first self-published novel (actually novel number 6 of my written work) is on Amazon for £5.20. How much royalty do I get for selling a novel then? £5.00? £4.00? No, nothing. That’s a big fat zero. The cost of printing the 100.000 word novel is £5.20. I made the cover myself, but I used to work in publishing and printing, so I can use Photoshop. However I did pay for the cover to be done once but I hated what the graphic designer did. So I’m £200 down on the novel. I edited the novel myself (I’m a poor editor).

Many said to me, “Oh, get another novel done and then the sales really kick off.” It’s not true. You just have to keep spamming social media to make sales. I have a sequel to the novel on Amazon and it had sold: no copies. I made it smaller so the cost is £4.00 but that does not make sales. You need to put it at £7.00 or so, as people think it’s not worth anything if it’s 99p.

Personally I think self-publishing is going to do to authors what the internet did to music. It will completely de-value the market. Only the big authors sell, the top 1% best selling authors. That is how it is with music. The little people sell nothing and make nothing, the big names are the only ones who sell anything. The biggest winner in all this? Top authors? No. With a rake off of £5.20 for a £5.20 novel? The answer is: Amazon.


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