I’ve realised over the years that publishable quality does not equal commercial viability. In other words, it doesn’t matter how well you can write or how good your story is, unless a publisher can directly equate your potential book to sales – lots of sales – then a debut author doesn’t stand a chance in the 21st century. It’s a hard lesson to learn when you’ve written for pleasure since primary school and when all you’ve ever wanted to be is a “published” writer.
But what if the story you have to tell doesn’t fit the industry definition of commercial viability? There is the small-press – independents have flourished in the era of print-on-demand, since short print runs can be affordable and even profitable with low overheads. There’s also the DIY approach – if you have the money and simply want a real book in your hands that you can give to family and friends, then as long as you go in with your eyes open, I don’t see any harm. And now there is e-publishing.
My dad bought me a kindle a couple of weeks ago. My husband and teenage daughter are really rather unimpressed. “Does it play games?” No. “Can you get on facebook?” No. “Is it colour?” No. And off they go to get out the Wii. But for me, it means I have access to lots of books I’d never really considered reading before. For the first time, I can read what I choose, rather than what a publishing industry gatekeeper has chosen for me. Of course, there may be – and very often is – a lack of quality. Many of these books haven’t been edited and it’s true that anybody can upload pretty much anything. But I can read a free sample first and a lot of kindle books are less than a pound to buy, so what have I really lost if I come across a bad apple? I’ve paid £6.99 for paperbacks before now and not been able to finish them. And some of my friends who are writers and have never managed to secure that elusive contract are right up there near the top of the kindle best-sellers lists.
Then last week, I had an epiphany of sorts. What was to stop me from following this route? After many years of being told I can write but I’m not commercial or marketable, why couldn’t I produce an e-book? No cost outlay, no overheads – nothing to lose. I could either leave my story languishing on the hard disk of my computer or I could e-publish. Put-up or shut-up as the saying goes. So I did. Amazon’s kindle format seems to be the market leader at the moment so I decided to go that route – I may try other formats at some point. I have no interest as yet in self-publishing in hardcopy – hey, I’m still the eternal optimist that somebody may want to buy those rights! But I asked an incredibly talented friend to design me a cover, threw it all together in a word document, agonised over styles, bookmarks and hyperlinks, set up an account with Amazon and finally pushed the button.
I don’t write chick-lit or other fluffy stuff. I do write fantasy (a different story for other websites), but this book is crime. Not whodunit police-procedural, but more will-they-survive psychological thriller. It’s not nice and it’s not pretty. Very few of my work colleagues know I have a secret life as a writer and even my parents have no idea what I write about. They will now. And now it’s up to the readers – they will decide if they want to pay for my books. If they like them then hopefully they’ll leave some good reviews and tell their friends. If they don’t, well I’m no worse off than I was before, am I?
Let’s see what happens.