I saw a couple of James Bond movies last night. They’re showing classic films at our local theatre. So, I got to see Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on the big screen. It was very cool. So today, in my usual pedantic manner, I Googled and Wikipediaed all things James Bond looking for little known facts about the movies. And, in my research I checked out Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond books. Did you know that he wrote Casino Royale, the first book in the Bond series, in only two months? He even did the art work within that time frame. Keep that in mind as you read this article.
I wrote a blog recently about word count targets. You can find it Here. Some of the authors commenting at the end of the article talked about producing as much as a book a month. It’s being done. I have a friend who publishes a new book every four to six weeks. She’s selling about twenty thousand e-books monthly. It seems like there are a lot of books hitting Amazon’s product pages right now. Authors have found a genre where they excel and they’re writing books in a series and their readers are supporting them. And, when the series is complete they release the books in a box set. The turnaround time between completion and publishing is very fast now that there are no gatekeepers. Nobody is telling us that it can’t be done. The stories go from our minds to our computers, then to our beta-readers and editors, and then directly to our readers. It just seems to me that there are a lot of books being produced really quickly. It makes me a little concerned.
Have you attended a book related event recently? Perhaps a conference or library event where there are both traditionally and self-published authors present? I have. Everybody is always very nice to me – the self-published guy. The more progressive traditionally published authors want to know what we’re up to in Indie-Land. They ask questions and congratulate me on my success. Some of them don’t want to change though. I sat on a panel some time ago and a traditionally published author, answering a question from the audience said “There are no readers for my books; that’s just the way it is.” When the crowd nervously laughed he said, “No really, there aren’t.”
He described his genre and the plot of his most recent book and it sounded really interesting, and I happen to know the man can write. But, he’s not interested in learning about what we’re doing. The whispers you hear from that particular quarter when they talk about self-publishing is that if they give us enough rope we’ll hang ourselves. That’s incredibly short-sighted thinking but the whispers are real. I’ve heard them. Any time there are extreme changes within an accepted practice prejudices are formed and those are based on lack of information and that of course comes from fear. Those who haven’t come over here to see what’s going on probably don’t realize how many books are being sold. If they did they’d be here. I think.
My personal book sales have plateaued. I’m working on book two in one series and book three in a trilogy and hopefully when those are complete I’ll see another surge in sales. So, I plod along and run a promotion here and there and sell my share. There are others who are selling the lights out though, consistently. And, if those whispering trad published authors who aren’t interested in expanding their minds, the same ones who are throwing us all that rope, if they did their due diligence they’d see that there is huge potential for their own books here too.
Have mistakes been made? Yes, they have. We’ve had controversies with paid reviews, piracy, censorship, and many other things. But, as an industry, through our forums and groups we’ve learned from them and tried to professionalize our work. When I teach workshops I stress to authors that it is possible to produce professional product that can stand spine to (virtual) spine with traditionally published work. And, it’s possible to do that in a cost-effective manner too. Compare book covers today to those advertised on Amazon a year or two ago. The difference is startling. We’re getting better at what we do. We’ve raised the bar. Yes, there are still exceptions and always will be. It’s easy to upload a book and again, there are no gatekeepers here. If readers want Bigfoot erotica then they shall have Bigfoot erotica. And, if authors want to produce a book a month then they will produce a book a month. At the sake of sounding like I’m trying to hoist a creaky, old gate back up, I’ll say it – we need to reach and maintain and hopefully exceed a certain standard. We have to make sure that our best words are the final words that are put on the page. In our groups and forums we talk about making sure our books are professionally edited. That’s a necessity. Beta-reading is too. Beta-readers are folks who will test-read your book. For free. Yes, at no charge to you. And, there are lots of them around. Beta-readers, and I mean multiple beta-readers should be utilized for each book we want to release.
I’ll give you an example of how important beta-reading is. Last year I decided to write a romance. Fortunately I have a friend who is a very successful romance writer, so when I completed what I believed to be my final draft she read it and passed it along to her group of twenty beta-readers. These readers read romance novels, traditional romances – the kind with happy endings and fluffy, light plots. So, I was able to receive input from my potential audience before I released my book. Their comments were invaluable. They told me they didn’t like my book and that it wasn’t a romance. They didn’t have an issue with the writing; it just wasn’t what they were looking for, and if I released and promoted it as a romance they felt that I may run into a problem. So, I made major changes to my manuscript.
I learned a couple of valuable lessons from working with those readers. I learned that I can’t write a conventional romance story to save myself and that I should always get as much input as I can. The next three drafts of that novel were read by twelve other beta-readers and fortunately the finished product, Believing Again A Tale Of_Two Christmases has done very well. In fact it’s done so well that due to reader requests I’m currently writing a sequel even though, strictly speaking it’s still not a romance in the traditional sense.
That book went through a process and it’s the same process that I use each time. My name is on the cover and if I’m going to release a book it has to be a finished product. I have a trilogy that is currently missing book three. I worked very hard writing the third book last year but at the end of 2013 I ditched my efforts and started over because I didn’t feel it was up to par. The first book in the trilogy has sold really well. I’m a lucky guy; I receive emails every week from readers asking when book three will be ready, but I won’t release it until it’s done and I wasn’t happy with the manuscript I worked on last year. I won’t upload that book until I know it’s the best work that I can produce.
So, as authors scramble to reach their book a month goal for 2014 I dearly hope that the majority of books hitting those Amazon product pages are the best they can possibly produce. I’m not worried about the whispering fear-mongers talking about giving us enough rope. That just simply won’t happen. We recognize our mistakes and correct them. We adjust the way we run our businesses and produce our product through online discussions and by writing articles like this and having someone tell me they think I’m wrong, or perhaps even telling me they think I’m right. Remember, Ian Fleming was one of the most popular and widely-read authors of the twentieth century, and he wrote Casino Royale in two months. My friend will get seven or eight books produced this year, and sell tens of thousands of them, so I know it’s possible. I just hope the words on the page are the best words we can produce because at the end of the day it’s not the cowering trad published author that I’m concerned about, it’s our reputation, and that is determined by our audience – our readers. That’s who I’m writing for.
Martin Crosbie is a B.R.A.G. Medallion recipient for My Temporary Life and My Name Is Hardly-Book Two of the My Temporary Life Trilogy. He’s also written a book of short stories Lies I Never Told, the bestselling novel Believing Again: A Tale Of Two Christmases, and a bestselling non-fiction book How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle-An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook.