How to get ahead…in publishing

By Joe Mellor, In house Reporter 

The London Economic

The emergence of self-publishing has introduced a new breed of writers to the paying public by circumventing the traditional publishing industry.

The notoriously competitive world of authors is now opening up to a new generation of writers who can publish their stories online without a book deal, whisper it quietly and make a living.

Being turned down for a book deal will put you in the same illustrious league as JK Rowling, Stephen King, George Orwell and a host of other household names whose efforts were turned down by publishers, but it needn’t be this way

No longer are writers penned in to the arduous – and more often than not fruitless -avenues of literary agents and non-committal publishers. They have the freedom to do it themselves.

One such writer who skipped that whole frustrating process is J.F. Penn, 38, author of five thrillers and two self-help books for aspiring writers.

She spent 13 years as an IT business consultant working across the globe before becoming a fulltime author-entrepreneur in September 2011.

She says:

“It was really hard work, but I managed to write books and build up a fan base, while working in my job. When I thought I had enough exposure I decided to write full-time. It was a leap of faith but it paid off.”

But it isn’t all about writing the perfect book, online you have to sell yourself in an ever growing marketplace.

She says:

“I self-published my first book in 2008 and made a lot of mistakes along the way. I also didn’t sell any books because no one knew who I was. That experience made me determined to learn about marketing, as well as how to become a better writer.”

“Without a traditional publishing deal you need to market yourself. It’s a long process, which doesn’t take money but takes time. You need to build up a Twitter following, a Linked-In following, join online groups and communicate with authors working within your genre.”

It can also be financially beneficial to self-publish rather than chasing the illusive book deal, as the share of the profits is greatly increased.

She says:

“If you managed to secure a book deal, you will only receive between 7-15 per cent in royalties. Through online bookstores like Amazon, you keep around 70 per cent. It’s an enormous difference.”

“Hopefully, when your book does become successful online, publishers will see a popular author and might snap you up. It’s strange, but literary agents could end up chasing you. Self-publishing has turned the industry on its head.”

“A lot of authors who have been picked up this way arrange a “hybrid” deal, in which self-publishers keep on-line rights while the publisher makes it available in book shops.”

Quality control is another major issue. Ben Galley, 25, is another successful self-publisher, who knows the importance of ensuring the book is professional.

He says:

“My concept for self-publishing is to be as professional as possible but to keep costs low, to maximise return. A great book cover is essential, as is good editing. You will need to spend money on these – I would say between £500 and £1,000. If you want to cut costs, you could try beta reading, or crowd-editing. This means finding a group of fellow writers and academics that will read through your book, making suggestions and polishing it up.”

Ben’s trilogy of epic fantasy novels have now seen over 50,000 sales and downloads worldwide, with a large following stateside.

According to Amazon, after introducing the Kindle, customers are now buying more ebooks than all hardcovers and paperbacks combined. Since the start of 2012, for every 100 hardback and paperback book sold on its site, customers downloaded 114 ebooks.

He says:

“If your books are priced reasonably, have a strong story, are of a professional standard, and are well marketed, you easily can create a niche for yourself.”

“I recently gave away my first book for free, which boosted my readership and hopefully reached out to a new fan base, who might go on to buy my other books.”

Ben has recently opened his own e-book store called Libiro. It will stock a wide range of indie books from self-publishers hoping their story could be the next bestseller.

He says:

“We all want to be successful in our own right, but I feel in the self-publishing community there is a lot of co-operation. Perhaps as we are turning our back on traditional publishing there is a sense of freedom and togetherness.”

“I want to help other fledgling authors to become a success. I’ve got to the stage where I have done a UK book tour, planning one for the states and made enough money to pursue my dream job full time. There are few, if any, reasons why anyone at home can’t replicate my career path.”

It appears that if you have the inclination to write a book there is an active support network, free advice and marketing tools at your disposal.

As the American novelist Toni Morrison said “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

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