Getting published is not so easy, but I love writing. It’s fun, easy and pure escapism. You can create an imaginary or past world, and people it with a cast of characters, real or imagined. Most of my crazy characters hearing there’s a book happening, invite themselves in and set up their sub plots. They come into my mind, or through dreams, or are recreations of people I know. A book can be all done and dusted in five months, my average. It is my late-in-life hobby after a scientific career. Quite strange and unexpected, really. I am an accidental author.
Not Quite the Fun I Expected
Yes, I now love to write, but I hate the long wait to release the book into the world. I hate the publishing process and especially hate the marketing process, even worse. Being an author is sure not the fun I thought it would be. There are no lunches with the editor like in the movies. Additionally, releasing books during COVID meant no book signings, no talks at libraries, not even a book launch. And I’m not alone in this disappointment, I know.
Other souls on Facebook bemoan this fact and that their books don’t quite sell as expected. One disillusioned woman was brave enough to confess that after two years on Amazon, she had sold not a single book. I feel for her shattered dream. Publishers should be honest with writers, but they want the money, they need to survive like everyone else and new writers are fresh meat.
Just start googling about publishing and see how quickly the vultures descend. Amazon publishing is free but to get your book up there many writers pay for publishing services such as editing and formatting. And of course, you need a cover that fits the page number and content of your book. A few millimeters out and it won’t fit. Not everyone can do this themselves.
All About Getting Published and Noticed in a Super-saturated Market
I now note with a knowing smile, a new author’s excitement at being an Amazon author, and a published author, but I stay silent. Their bubble will burst soon. Let them enjoy the thrill while it lasts. I am an optimist and try to apply this to the book market. After all, their books may make it big time. Some books do.
If you write for the mainstream, write crime, erotic romance or self-help, or have the right contacts, you can do very well it seems. It certainly helps if you are famous, a celebrity of some sort, or have contact on a high-profile television programme, or are already in the publishing business.
In this the most competitive market in the world, it’s all about getting noticed. Being already somewhere in the public eye gives you a definite advantage. But if you are a nobody and write what you personally like, it is much harder to get noticed.
There are just so many books in the world, because now anyone with an inkling, not just ink, can get published and be up there on Amazon with trillions of others. Libraries are online, bookstores and book clubs are online. So, you have to also be online on social media, where the readers are, to crack it to the top ratings.
They Did it the Hard Way
In the old days before this horrible online world took over our lives, the only way to write a book was by painstaking quill and ink by candlelight. Imagine crossing out and starting again with blobs of ink and candle wax as your editing companions. Plus, the eye strain. Yet many of the classics were written this way.
Then later, with the advent of electric lighting and keyboards, you could write by typewriter. This was much easier, but still required either Tippex white eraser application, or restart every time you made an error, or changed your mind. It is so easy today with delete, backspace buttons and inbuilt spell and grammar checks. All you need is an idea and off you go.
No Rejections for Getting Published
Getting published before the Internet, meant submitting a paper manuscript by mail. or foot it to a publishing house. Then you waited months, got rejected and repeated the process if you still had any confidence. JK Rowling, Stephen King, even best-selling Agatha Christie had to go through this agonizing, crushing experience. How many great authors missed out under this system? Not everyone can take knockback after knockback.
But now anyone can be an author. No one gets knocked back. Just write and upload. It’s instant, like everything in this world, except sadly, coffee, which has become very complicated and time-consuming if you want to make ‘real coffee’. However, because anyone can be an author, and anyone can publish a book, the world is overflowing with them. Many of them are substandard compared to previous times, because there is no scrutiny by Amazon or self-publishing companies. They just want your money.
Too Many Books
Now a reader can’t see the wood for the trees. They can’t even trust the online reviews, because many are also paid for too. As soon as you pop your book up online, the reviewers swarm in, charging upwards from $20 to write good things about your book that they never read. I tried this trick a few times. It is obvious the person, often in India, has not even purchased the ebook, as the review is just a rehash of the back cover with a few ‘amazing’ adjectives thrown in.
I see plaintive pleas for book recommendations on social media. It is hard to find the books you like, if you don’t read crime, romance, fantasy or horror. By now, I hear the groans of ‘this chic is really old-fashioned and cynical’. Yes, sorry I am when it comes to publishing. I liked the world how it was before it went online.
But I persist, because of my love of writing, my love of escapism from this crazy world we somehow created, when it was fine how it was. I have now tried traditional publishing, hybrid publishing and self-publishing. Now up to my fifth book, I have been on a journey of experimentation. Each type of publishing seems to have its pluses and minuses.
Types of Publishing
Firstly, getting published by a traditional publisher is very affirming, as it would have been years ago. Someone thinks I can write. Wow! They may give you an upfront amount, but then the royalty will be minimal, like 5%. Unless the book performs well in the market you may never make more than coffee money.
I started with this way of getting published with a local trade publisher, who offered nothing but 4% with Australia only rights and six free books. I thought it was my only chance. Pretty good for a math/science teacher who’d accidentally written a novel.
Is it just Vanity?
Then a month later, along came some other offers with higher royalties and international rights. I thought this was better because I knew nothing. Many nasty people online label claim this as vanity publishing, because you pay for parts of the publishing. But I disagree.
Anyone who tries to get published can be said to have vanity. If you had no self-confidence, you would be too timid to try. Is it vain to try, whether you pay for editing or not? When you first enter the minefield of publishing, it is very scary. You doubt your own editing, so you think you need an editor.
Accepted the Hybrid Deal for Getting Published
Anyway, whether I was being vain or not, who cares, I accepted a hybrid deal. Over the long 18 months of publication, I frequently wondered whether the original traditional deal may have fared better. Perhaps, being small, the local publisher would have actually helped market me. Certainly, no other one since, despite their grand promises, has made much effort. It’s sort of goodbye at the terminus station on publication day. Thanks for the ride.
You wait as long as a coffee takes, no, just joking, a little longer, like one to two years. You forfeit the rights to the book. It is no longer your property. Then you get a few books and that’s it. You are on your own, to somehow promote yourself, a forlorn little nobody in the world of online sales in a supersaturated market.
Writing in Lockdown
This first experience did not feel good. I started the sequel, a little wiser but then halfway through, I lost the use of my dominant hand to a rare neurological disease. I gave up writing and hair brushing, cooking and dressing myself for six months, thinking my independent life was all over. But determined to recover, I took a chance on a doctor in Italy who treated me, despite the sudden COVID outbreak, and I had hope again.
But it was March 2020, and a long way from my home in Australia. My husband and I became trapped in lockdowns 1, 2, 3 and 4. Isolated in a hotel room, I began a third book out of boredom by tapping away with my left hand on my old battered Ipad.
We had to keep changing hotels, as they closed on us like a stack of dominoes and along the way, in the now crazy COVID-world of fear, we met amazing people who became my characters. My book took five months to complete, but it desperately needed editing due to my disability. I could not do capitals or quotation marks with only one hand.
Another Publishing Journey
Back home in Australia, I again paid a publisher to create my book. This publisher was much quicker and gave me a fantastic cover in like five minutes, first go. That was good but they were not overly generous with editing, two chances and it was all over, leaving me with a strangely punctuated book that reviewers commented on. I had to create a fuss to get it re-edited for free. It was a new experience pleading as a disabled person.
This experience was slightly better, as I still owned the book. Overall, they were friendly and ultimately understanding of my strange condition. The publisher gave me copies of my own epub, paperback and cover files to use as I please and I also made an audiobook with them. The royalties are generous and ten times that of traditional, especially for the audio book. I made a little money.
Next Publishing Adventure
By November 2020, I could type in a strange tippy-tap way using an ergonomic mouse and keyboard, but my hand was still crooked and painful. I returned to my half-written manuscript of the original Book 2, my sequel. It was historical fiction, set in World War I, and I had been up to writing about the Spanish Flu epidemic. This seemed very weird, seeing we were, exactly a century later, in the grip of COVID. As the other publisher didn’t do sequels (or had enough of me and my right hand), I had to go back to the original publisher of book 1. It has been a long wait, over a year. I’m still waiting for this book’s release.
A Bash at Self-Publishing
Meanwhile, I wrote book 4 and on completion, thought I had learnt enough to try self-publishing. Other authors I met online said it was easy and most of all quick. I wasn’t getting any younger, if I waited for publishers, I could die waiting for my book to come out. I’m sure this has happened to people.
So, book 4 emerged before poor overly delayed book 3, which is still stuck in the slow process of publication, cover rejects and editing. So, for book 5 partly written, I’m doing it myself again like millions of others. Write and upload. I never thought I’d arrive here but it’s cheap, quick and you keep the rights to your work. The Internet has its advantages. It gives everyone a voice.
With Amazon KDP you totally own the files, so can use them to promote by going on Kindle Select, Manybooks.net and Hellobooks.com. I’ve found a great cover designer in Spain, another Internet advantage, and a helpful media person in Sydney.
I am now self-sufficient. I probably will never sell many books but at least I am in control. I can now churn out books as quickly as I can write them, probably one a year. They won’t be sitting for months in a queue, or holding pattern, waiting for attention. They won’t suffer strange, long, drawn-out editing and someone else’s idea of a good cover. Hopefully, too, I will live long enough to see them eventualise.
Marketing, the Hardest Bit
But then there’s the marketing. Groan. I hate this bit. I hate self-promoting. As if anyone is even interested in a photo of my book cover when the Internet is bursting with them. And I can’t do any of those fancy posts, nor am I young and glamorous enough to prance around on Tik Tok. Sigh. All I can do is flash my little book-babies covers a few times a week and hope for the best. Publishing a book gives you a voice, but it is like whispering at a rock concert. Can anyone hear me?
But life is not all about money anyway. It’s the writing I love. That is why in between books, like now, I’m busy blogging about history and famous women with my author friend, Wendy, on our site whisperingencouragement.com. This post on publishing is probably a one-off rant but I hope it helps someone get a reality check on this confusing business. I hope it helps you stay in control of your precious book and your money.
Everyone has a story to tell. Keep writing, keep using your voice but be careful out there. No one cares about your book and its message like you do. Talk to me , I may be able to give you some advice so you don’t have to learn the hard expensive way.
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com. Subscribe, for free, so you can keep up to date with topics that interest you.