I had a sobering thought this morning. I was on Facebook and read a post from someone detailing all the free books she had downloaded from the Kindle store.
I had a little moment of sadness. As a consumer Amazon is great, everything is cheap, there’s bargains to be had everywhere. And as a reader, the promise of downloading more Ebooks for free than I could possibly ever read in my lifetime is a treat indeed.
Then I thought; what will happen when authors realise that there’s just no point in writing. It’s not a sustainable career option, one cannot make a decent living from writing novels anymore.
I thought, what will readers do then? When no new novels are being written? I had a ridiculous, almost satisfied feeling, rather like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Yes, while readers delight in getting free books now, not caring at all that this free books model is hugely undervaluing the time and effort that authors have taken in writing their novel, what will they do when this model collapses and there are no new novels?
But then I realised: with so many free books available, even if no one ever writes another novel again there’s still more than enough books to last several lifetimes.
The average employee works 1440 hours a year and earns £26500.
I spent 500 hours writing Inspired by Night and earned a sales royalty of £14.90. No advance, no other income associated with the novel. I’ve spent at least 10 times that amount on marketing.
I work full time (earning massively below the average wage), and my spare time is spent on the, apparently thankless, task of novel writing.
918 people downloaded my novel, when it first came out, but only 38 of those people paid – the frankly bargain price of £1.83 – the other 880 got it free and will probably never read it.
Still. We write because we love it, right??
The Amazon way has created a monster. Traditionally published authors are competing with a seemingly unlimited number of self published authors. Some who take it seriously and some that don’t even seem to bother with proofreading. Inbetween that is the rise of independent publishers that basically use the self publishing tools to publish other writers. They own the novels but the author is still the one doing all the publicity, with no budget and no control over running sales or special offers.
Getting a publishing deal now is probably easier than it’s ever been. Which massively undervalues the time and effort that has gone into writing.
I realise that I’m published by one of these independent publishers. I’ve benefitted from the current model. I’ll never know whether my novel was good enough to attract an agent and get it in front of a major publisher, because I didn’t have the self confidence to believe it was good enough. But on the other hand, this show of faith by Xcite has given me the self belief that I can write novels worthy of publication, which has made me spend another few hundred hours hunched over the keyboard writing another novel.
If I’d written Inspired, published it myself and sold ten copies, I’d have left it at that. I wouldn’t claim to be an author. I’d have got the writing bug out of my system.
But this way has lead me to think I’m good enough to be published, I’m thinking about getting an agent – as if that’s as easy as saying ‘hey, you can be my agent’ – I’m dreaming about traditional publishers, being interviewed on This Morning and touring branches of Waterstones doing book readings to my legion of fans.
And maybe that’s still possible. Or maybe the current print on demand and ebook model means independent publishers are just less fussy about what they put their name to and in real life I’d be buried under a sea of rejection letters from agents.
I would love to be a full time author but sadly, while the market is saturated and the public demand more for less, it’s likely that, despite being a published author, it will never be my full time career.
Free ebooks and the changing face of publishing