Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The writing’s on the wall

The point about graffiti is that it's certain of its place until either the wall it’s on is redecorated or demolished. Unlike the humble book author trusting their work to a distribution giant, it's prominence is not dependent upon the vagaries of a computer program designed by management's worst invention of all time, a committee. The other difference is that the graffiti artist almost certainly didn't write their epithet for direct financial gain while the garret-occupying author probably penned their masterpiece with the notion that they would soon be investing some of their future royalties on a removal van.

But why the pun?

Well, think about it. A certain major distribution network openly admitted having 4 million books on its virtual shelves some 18 months ago. They also claim that they're receiving thousands of new submissions daily. By my reckoning, that means they must have at least 6 million books by now (and probably a lot more since writing is seen as today's No1 'get rich quick' scheme). Let's do a bit of quick mental arithmetic on that incredible figure.

I'm going to make 2 basic assumptions (feel free to change them if you disagree):
  1. If you spend the time counting the genres and sub-genres, you'll probably get to over 100. For ease of calculations, let's just round this up a bit and make it 200.
  2. Let’s say that there are twice as many fiction books as there are non-fiction.
Apply these assumptions and you'll end up with an average of 20,000 books per sub-genre. If you, as a reader in search of a gripping new read, want to wade through every title in your chosen category to make sure that you've found 'le libre juste', you'd spend a total of about 5 days (24/7) at the rate of 20 seconds per book (to glance at the cover, title and brief blurb, go 'nah' and then move on to the next). Just think how long that must be for really popular sections like 'historical romances' or 'erotica'.

It's a bit like a supermarket. We prefer them to corner shops because they stock a wider range of goods at lower prices. A hypermarket might well be even better (if we have time) because they carry an even wider range of items at typically lower prices. Now, let's invent a mega-ultra-hypermarket that's absolutely massive (the size of a small town, for example). The prices may be dirt cheap but no-one will go there because it would take a ridiculous amount of time to do the shopping. You'd have to doss down for the night!

This would mean that the mega-ultra-hypermarket manager would ironically have to raise the store’s prices to that of a corner store in order to recover their overheads. They’d fail, of course.

The point is that it's already got to the stage where most books submitted to our giant distributor will never see the light of day. The mathematics scream this to me but you, as a fellow author, must make up your own mind. Do you believe the numbers or do you believe the claims made by some ‘authors’ about how they’ve been so successful that they want to help you? Call me an old cynic if you like (you'd not be the first) but when a complete stranger wants to tell me all their secrets, alarm bells go off in my head and my wallet instantly drops into a place where no sane person would put their hand.

To find your way around, perhaps?
If the ultra-ultra-mega-hypermarket of 6 million books is to continue to be viable, someone soon needs to be brutal about clearing their virtual shelves of products that can't sell. I’m theorizing that the following thinking process will be used to determine who’s hot and who’s not:
  1. No-one from the ‘store’ will be reading all these books (let alone assessing them) so the stratification will have to be done by a computer program which (therefore) means absolute rules like these must be stated.
  2. Everyone knows that the reader reviews have become totally devalued so using them to determine a book’s worth is utterly pointless; besides which, a new book won't have any.
  3. Many books which may well be highly 'sellable' have never really seen the light of day so how can one say?
  4. The selection criteria must be suitably simple (it has to be for a programmer to understand it) and applicable to all books in every genre.
You can probably think of some more rules but that's enough for me to make my conclusions. I think that the only way that a large number of books can be quickly and justifiably dropped is by applying the following rule.

Standards, old chap. One simply
has to have standards.
They need to dump all books with:
  1. Spelling and grammar mistakes.
  2. Formatting errors.
  3. A price in excess of a certain number of cents per page.
I also expect them to drop books which are being sold elsewhere although there will probably be a backlash against that. This furore (of dubious legality) would then serve to smoke-screen the application of the 3 restrictions which I've just listed.

Despite what some would have you believe, there is no easy answer to becoming a successful writer, save to ensure that what you upload is as perfect as you can get it. Get an editor to look over your work, don't use the free services to format your book, don't get your covers done on the cheap and take time and trouble to produce a catchy and memorable blurb. Even then there can be no guarantee but at least you stand a chance of making the cut when it happens.

About the author

Any Subject Books offers the full range of self-publishing services:
  • Advertising
  • Author interviews
  • Autograph photo hosting
  • Banner design
  • Book cover design
  • Book reviews
  • Book tours
  • Book trailers
  • Brainstorming assistance
  • Direct selling
  • Distribution help
  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Ghost-writing
  • ISBN provision
  • Press release writing
  • Self-publishing packages
  • Social Media promotion
See our self-publishing services page for more information.

No comments:

Post a Comment