The changing world of publishing


There was a time when self-published books made readers lips curl with derision. Not any more.

Self publishing has earned its right to be taken seriously simply by the sheer volumes making their way onto ebook readers.

Raymond Stone, a writer who has used The Story Mint to develop his writing skills, has just produced his novel, Isia’s Secret His novel underwent several drafts and has been closely copy edited. This process is essential if self published authors want to be taken seriously.

Publishing has changed enormously in the two years since I started putting together the plan for The Story Mint. First of all, the numbers are mind-boggling. In 2007, roughly 75,000 books were published. Five years later that figure grew to 400,000. The volumes are astonishing.

So how does an author make any kind of dent in the writing world when there is so much being produced?

The definition of a best seller has also been redefined by E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.

Regardless of what we think of Fifty Shades of Grey, there is no escaping its popularity. Who is reading it? Women. This is a serious clue for those wanting to produce for the mass market. Copycat versions abound, but women are interested in topics other than the central theme of Fifty Shades of Grey. The interesting thing about Fifty Shades of Grey is the way it circumvented the traditional publishing model by coming via the fan fiction route, gathering an enormous number of readers on its way . . . the way a snowball grows as it rolls along a field of snow.

It was also a self-published novel before it made the big time. The other point to remember when thinking about Fifty Shades of Grey is that it is like winning the lottery. No one could have predicted it would take off the way it did.

So I wonder where this leaves authors who want to break into the market.

Here is what I think:

They become someone else and writing becomes an add-on activity. I am an entrepreneur who happens to have written a novel or two. In other words, my identity is not tied to being an author but rather to an activity which will make money. So although I am a writer, I am the founder of a company that helps other writers become better communicators using the written word. It is a related activity and, by focusing on that endeavour, I am gaining new experiences which will give me material for other novels and also make me a better novelist. It also stops me fretting about why my book is not magically floating to the top of the sales table and becoming a best seller.

The reality is that when we bring it out, it will be competing with 400,000 new titles. So I am expecting a lot if I think mine will float to the top and gain someone’s attention. However, as I engage in my related activity, there is a good chance my novel will also be noticed.

Subsidiary marketing is what I would call it.

I have learned that when we pursue something with excessive enthusiasm we scare the pursued away. I am sure the pursued senses desperation which is a huge turn off.

It is truly sobering to know that every title The Story Mint produces or promotes competes with around 400,000 others.

In order to achieve any kind of cut through, we have to walk a tightrope between being over-zealous and being so quiet no one notices us.

What adds to the conundrum is that the price of ebooks has dropped to less than the price of a can of baked beans. However, this is inevitable when there are so many coming onto the market. Commodity prices drop in times of plenty. Add that to the bad press self-published ebooks get and writers face some fairly large hurdles when trying to get their work to market.

David Carney, C/Net (June 2012) says, ‘Again, because the barrier to entry is so low, the majority of self-published books are pretty bad. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say less than 5 percent are decent and less than 1 percent are really good.

‘Traditional publishers aim to publish hundreds of thousands of copies of a few books, self-publishing companies make money by publishing 100 copies of hundreds of thousands of books.’

The writer is caught in a Catch-22 situation. A writer needs to invest in his or her product in order to avoid sabotaging its success by producing a shoddy product. Editing, cover design and layout all add up and usually a writer can expect to spend from $2,500 to $5,000 to get his or her book to market. That’s a lot of cans of beans.

And that’s the reason our focus is on helping writers from early stage to mature to improve their skills with publishing as a side line. Only the best will make it through; the rest will need more editing, redrafting or reworking.