Earlier this week I did something which a few months ago I wouldn’t have believed I’d ever do.
I recommended to an aspiring author that self-publishing was a sensible option for his book.
Anyone who has followed my posts since they began five years ago (yeah, yeah, I can’t think who that person could be either) can’t help being aware of how I feel about self-publishing. I’ve heard it described as the last resort of the desperately deluded, and while I wouldn’t go quite that far, I wouldn’t stop so very short.
So what could I have been thinking of?
OK. Let’s look at a few facts. Amazon Kindle. Leaving aside the Amanda Hockings and E L Jameses, who are still the exception rather than the rule:
A couple of years ago I worked on a finance industry thriller with a client who left my tender nurturing after the second rewrite and self-published the book on Amazon Kindle. He didn’t go down the Facebook/Twitter promotion route; he just e-mailed everyone he knew to let them know it was there. Last I heard he’d sold 20,000 downloads. In my plainly misguided opinion, the book needed another rewrite. Or two. But come on, guys, those numbers speak for themselves.
A couple of weeks ago I met a woman whose first novel is also on Amazon for Kindle, courtesy of a tiny publisher who specializes in getting new authors into print – well, not exactly print – and takes a minimal cut through a very unorthodox contract. After a month of free downloads which netted a total of 15,000, she’s now selling upwards of 2000 a month. And she doesn’t even own a mobile phone, much less a Facebook or Twitter account.
I honestly don’t think either of these novels would have made it in the mainstream. The first, ahem, needed work; the second was a damn good book, but the author is so inexperienced and out of the loop that she didn’t have a clue how to get started and probably wouldn’t have without her unorthodox publisher.
Then again, what do I know? I’m the woman who would have rejected The Da Vinci Code after failing to get past the first page. People really shouldn’t seek out my opinion, much less place a value on it.
So, back to the client I’ve recently pointed Kindle-wards. (I still don’t quite believe this. I don’t even approve of Amazon, for goodness sake.) His novel is action-packed, fast-paced adventure; he writes a good car chase. It’s also crossover YA/adult. It’s not badly written, but sometimes he tries too hard to be ‘writerly’, and doesn’t quite get it when I suggest he tries to keep it simple. The biggest problem is that it’s the first of a series, probably a trilogy, and everything he’s told me suggests that this is the only way it’s truly going to make sense.
And I have a niggling feeling that it isn’t quite different enough, engaging enough, arresting enough to cut it in the big bad world of mainstream publishing.
If it was dreadful, I’d have to find a diplomatic way to tell him so. It’s not. It’s not bad. It’s just not blow-me-away good. But he’s in love with it. It’s been part of his life for five years to my certain knowledge, and quite probably longer. If it keeps boomeranging back for another five, it will break his heart.
And self-publishing on Kindle seems to work. The sales figures are to die for; even at 99 cents or 79 pence, there’s money to be made, and more important to most debut authors, lots of people like the look of it.
What I don’t know, of course, is how many books just sit there on Amazon’s Kindle page without accumulating any downloads at all. But on the evidence I have, that’s worth the risk.
I may live to regret this. But perhaps lifetime habits were made to be broken. I’ll keep you posted.