Do authors dream of electric books? Yes, they most certainly do. At least in this day and age, where the e-book has the potential to revolutionise the literary industry. For me the e-book signifies power to the people. A small-timer like me can write their e-book and make it available for all the world to download – either by using a publisher or by doing it themselves.
The problem then becomes, not how do I get an agent or publisher, but how do I attract readers? How do I compete with the other five million books on Amazon and Kobo? I don’t claim to have the answer to this question. Social media can help with promotion. Online reviews as well as reviews in traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television all contribute as do word of mouth and literary prizes.
When I view the statistics for my website, I see that the vast majority of the people who have come to the site have found me via Facebook. I’m not into Twitter and I don’t use Facebook to convey details of my every action, as glamorous and exciting as that would be (Woke up, ate breakfast, sat at laptop. Walked to beach. Walked home from beach. Ate lunch. Sat at laptop. Ate dinner. Slept. Repeat ad infinitum.) I do, however, use Facebook to create online book launches, complete with virtual canapés and champers. For me, Facebook and e-books are a way to cut through some of the snobbery that has traditionally been prevalent in the industry. It also speeds things up a lot. No longer do I have to submit a manuscript and wait and wait and wait for an acceptance. Via Facebook I have managed to befriend over two thousand people, most of them writers. Chances are there’s an inverse relationship between Facebook friends and real ones. But, even better, at least four of those writers have been invaluably helpful to me, and I, in turn, have tried to be helpful to them. Ola Rhodes and I swap stories via Facebook and provide comments and advice on each other’s work. Murray Alfredson, in Australia, is currently reading my novel, An Imitation of Life, about an insect-eating giantess and providing valuable editorial tips in time for the release of the second edition. Jan Needle, in the UK, has a new imprint Skinback Books, to which I intend to submit a novella I am currently working on. These new relationships would never have occurred if it were not for the advent of Facebook. And, via good old Facebook, I have re-met Catherine Chidgey, whom I originally met at a writer’s conference in 1998 and she has agreed to work with me on the second edition of my novel, Hilary and David. Some authors love the limelight, but for a Janet Frame-style troglodyte like me who loathes being lured out of her bat-cave, the e-book/Facebook combo suits me down to the ground.
It’s shark on shark action as writers compete for readers. I’m not sure what the success of Fifty Shades of Grey tells us about today’s society. That there are a lot of sexually unsatisfied women who are turning to Mummy porn to fulfill their needs? Maybe today’s women are so busy juggling career, family and all the other demands made of them that all they want at the end of a hard day is to come home from work, sink into a hot lavender-scented bath and lose themselves in a good porno. Maybe it’s women’s revenge. Porn has traditionally been made for and consumed by men. Maybe the tide, the tables, are turning. Women, too, are claiming their right to be titillated.
Myself, I would squirm if I had to write soft porn. I’m a nice middle-class girl, with two and a half degrees who writes what I suppose you would call ‘literary fiction’, although I am against such classifications myself. For me the rise of the e-book is extremely liberating. If I fall out with a publisher, it’s not so disastrous. I can always upload the book to Amazon and Kobo myself, or partner with somebody running an e-book imprint. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t make any money doing all of this. My last royalties cheque came in at the grand sum of twenty quid. I put it towards my new Ferrari. The one I’ll buy when my next royalties cheque (for forty quid) comes through the post. So, why do I continue? I don’t have the answer to that question either. I’ve been writing fiction since my teens. Like most writers, I’ve also worked either full or part-time for a lot of my life to support myself. I’m so full of ideas, you could wire me up like one of P.K.Dick’s precogs and make movies out of my thought-dreams. In fact, I’m sure somebody would have done so by now, if they thought they could make money out of it. And if they thought they could get away with it, without having Amnesty International beating down the door. In fact, I make so little money, that I might as well give the damned books away for free.
Then we have the rise of the blog. I myself am the December guest blogger, so I will try and impart some useful advice to all you wanna-be writers out there. Don’t bother. Do you really want to be a thirty-eight year old loser like me, stuck at home all day, churning out crap that nobody wants to read, let alone pay for? Exactly. Enjoy your life, keep your day job, find a girl (or boy), settle down, have kids, raise a family, mow the lawn, go see a film, go jogging, do anything except write fiction. Because it seems to me that in this day and age, unless you can break into the Mummy porn market, you’re doomed.