It’s A Strange Time To Be An Author
When Joanne emailed me and asked if I’d like to do a guest post, I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d write about. The second book in my Valerie Stevens series, FUNERAL PALLOR, hits bookstores in the UK and Europe on Canada Day, and I’m currently working on revisions for a young adult urban fantasy for an agent. I’m also writing a spin-off novel from FUNERAL PALLOR, entitled TIM REAPER. Between writing, blogging, tweeting my butt off on Twitter and planning a cool giveaway for July 1st, it’s a wonder I have time to think about the big picture – the publishing industry in general.
It’s a strange time to be an author. 2010 saw the release of the iPad, a price war erupt over the retail price of eBook readers, a self-published novel on Amazon hit the big time and a BIG way, there’s still no consensus on a universal format for eBooks let alone a standard pricing formula, electronic versions of books are being pirated on a number of sites and there’s even talk of agents charging fees to authors because the agenting biz ain’t exactly as profitable as it used to be.
The global recession threw the publishing industry into something resembling chaos and the unpredictable nature of how new technologies and the Internet will impact books and bookselling has a lot of publishers and agents holding off on signing new authors because nobody has a crystal ball and everyone wants a guarantee of a sure thing. As an author, I’m more than a bit worried about what the future holds and while I have two books out with an award winning independent publisher and I’m grateful for that, I have my own aspirations and dreams when it comes to doing this whole authoring thing full time.
I’m still without a literary agent, although I think I’ll be signing with one if my third round of revisions are agreeable, and my books aren’t on bookshelves in North America (other than McNally Robinson and that’s because I’m supplying them with copies). I’m still learning as I go and I still deal with a considerable amount of personal angst as to whether or not I’m ever going to make it as an author. So all this begs the question: what’s an author to do given the hurdles we all face toward publication?
My advice (take it with a grain of salt because I’m still learning the ropes) for authors of genre fiction is this: forget about getting published in Canada because the Canadian publishing scene is the near exclusive domain for literary fiction. (Personally, I think Canadian publishers should get their heads out of their butts and start publishing stuff that actually sells more than a thousand copies, namely romance, sci-fi, fantasy, steam punk, horror, thrillers, etc, but that’s a blog posting for another day.)
Sean’s Advice – For What It’s Worth:
1) I think you should probably hold off on going the self-publishing route if your goal is to land an agent and have your book in bookstores all over North America because most self-published stuff is utter crap and the crap that’s out there has pretty much stigmatized the few good self-published books in existence. It’s a numbers game, too. If you self-publish, you’re going to have to shell out some big bucks to get product placement on Amazon, for example, and you still have to deal with marketing, giveaways, trying to build your brand, the list goes on.
2) E-Books are one place to look – particularly if you write erotic romance and there are a handful of good eBook publishers (Samhain, LooseID, Ravenous Romance, Carina Press, etc) out there where you can actually make some decent money. Bear in mind, though: eBooks still make up about five percent of the total market in North America, and most people still don’t own eBook readers.
3) Your best bet is to do as I’m doing: hone your craft, write a killer book, write a mind-blowingly awesome query letter and find an agent. The agent I’m doing revisions with on my young adult urban fantasy has really opened my eyes as to how I can strengthen the quality of my writing and also, how I can make my book more saleable. Her revision notes consistently remind me about who will be reading my book and why I need to tap into qualities that a reader can relate to.
4) Get your butt on Twitter and network network network! I’ve been on Twitter for a year now and through the people I’m following, I’ve been kept up to date on publishing trends. I learn about new agents who are looking for clients. I’ve formed relationships with bestselling authors who’ve referred me to their agents. I’ve found a top selling author who read my first novel SHADE FRIGHT and provided a lovely endorsement which graces the front cover. It is an amazing resource and I highly recommend it.
5) Make friends with book bloggers because they have the social networks you need to tap into if you want to sell your book. They do reviews, host giveaways, and more importantly, they’re your market. They act as a remarkable barometer as to whether your book might actually sell.
So, there you have it – my observations good and bad. I’m forty-two; it took me twenty years to get published. There is no fast track to publishing success, but if you stick to it, hone your craft and for heaven’s sake – keep an eye on the trends in the publishing industry, you might find yourself signing a contract and collaborating with an editor one day.
I wish I could offer more advice, but I’m not an expert and even the real experts have no idea how new technologies are going to impact the industry. Who knows if eBooks will take off? Will the existing money-losing model of book distribution be replaced with Print on Demand machines at your local book store? I really haven’t a clue so all I can say is just keep writing, keep your chin up and keep dreaming. Cast a wide net, get your book out to as many agents as possible and don’t be afraid to throw yourself out to the universe because the universe is a pretty big place and someone out there is bound to like a book you’ve written.
Sean is a comic book geek of the highest order, and self-described nerd. He is the author of the urban fantasy book, Shade Fright; and his newest novel, Funeral Pallor, was released on July 1st. His interests include speculative and science fiction, the borg, cats with extra toes, east Indian cuisine, and quality sci-fi movies and television. He lives in Saskatoon, Canada.
Enter to win your own copy of Shade Fright and Funeral Pallor! Points will be awarded for: commenting (1), tweeting (1), blogging (1), and facebooking (1) about this contest! Winners will be selected using Randomizer - so be sure to leave your email address in your comment! Good luck!