Tuesday, 20 May 2014

What kind of audience do you want?

Richard Lea wrote an article in the Guardian way back in January - and I've just caught up with it! This, for me, is one of the many ways that the internet is Good. Google a topic, and up come many links. How much easier kids must find schoolwork these days! Naturally, I was interested in self-publishing. Books in general, of course, and where  the trends are heading  now. For most of us, the news is not good.

A post or two back I shared a survey that claimed  54% of traditionally-published authors make less than £600 a year. The Society of Authors found in 2000 that 75% of members earned less than £20,000, while in 2007 the Authors' Licence and Collecting Society cited average earnings for UK authors of about £16,000, an average which hides the true picture of a profession which is becoming steadily more unequal. The amount of money earned by the mid-list author dropped from £6,000 in 2000 to just £4,000 in 2004-05.

Self-publishing looked bleaker still, with 80% of the  go-it-alone authors in the recent survey dipping under the £600 mark. But nowadays it is easy to find an audience for your work via electronic means. Write it and put it on your website, or Scribophile, Wattpad or WritersCafe and see what results you get.

Scribophile -  "We're a writing group that works on a karma point system. Members spend karma points to post their writing for feedback from the community. To earn karma points, members submit thoughtful critiques for the work of others. Everyone has to earn karma points before they can post! This system ensures that every work you post gets awesome critiques from other talented writers. Forget about sites that are popularity contests, get spammed with work that sits unviewed, and "reviews" that say nothing but "good job." At our writing group every piece gets the full critiquing attention it deserves. Don't feel like critiquing? That's OK! Hang out in our busy writing forums to chat with other passionate writers, read our writing blog for tips and tricks, and meet and connect with writers from all over the world."

WritersCafe - "WritersCafe.org is an online writing community where writers can post their work, get reviews, befriend other writers, and much more.."

Wattpad - "the world's largest community of readers and writers - 25 million of them."


Dean Crawford said...

The self-publishing figures are often skewed by traditional houses trying to stem the flow of authors going full-time for themselves. Hugh Howey's Author Earnings Report is a much more reliable source.

A traditional mid-list author rarely makes enough of a living from their writing to avoid having a day job. But a self-published author selling at Amazon's minimum price for 70% royalties need only sell 60 or so copies per day to earn £36,000 per year - a handsome "salary".

Everything needs perspective: trad' houses are in decline because they cannot adapt quickly enough to the new e-book phenomenon, while fast-acting authors can adapt within weeks or months of new trends appearing. Authors not willing to embrace the new model are being left behind.

It's true that most authors will never "break through" to mainstream success. The difference now is that there are literally thousands of authors you've never heard of making a great living from their writing who have never been anywhere near a publishing house.

For my part, I'm happily on the fence - part trad' published, part Indie :)

Jen Black said...

I agree, Dean. The present climate is winnowing out a lot of publishers and agents who can't or won't adapt. Some are probably going gently down the slope to retirement and think the present situation will see them out.