A manifesto for authors' marketplace success

A manifesto for authors' marketplace success

"The gold rush is over," writes Auckland-based author Gary McLaren, seeing it as a natural market phenomenon that, "the supply of new books was eventually going to exceed demand" in digital publishing. As if in echo of the forthright debate about self-publishers' balance-sheet woes that London author Roz Morris opened (see the "provocation" on it at Writer Unboxed)—and naming an issue we'll be taking up on 30th November at The FutureBook's Author Day—McLaren is ready to talk of a glutted marketplace, of lower unit sales, dwindling revenue...and yet of an optimism not always encountered in this discussion: "Hard work will be rewarded."—Porter Anderson

'Reports of authors becoming disillusioned'

In this new era of publishing, a writer, arguably, has more chance of becoming a successful author than at any other time in the last fifty years. That is why, in early 2015, it was disappointing to hear reports of authors becoming disillusioned and turning their backs on their writing careers.

From 2010 to 2013, independent authors enjoyed a boom time as millions of readers migrated to ebooks, driving unprecedented growth in digital publishing. Many people have referred to this period as a gold rush.

Then came 2014.

  • Selling ebooks became tougher.
  • High ranks were harder to achieve.
  • Many authors struggled.
  • Some quit.

This correction in the market should not have been a surprise. The supply of new books was eventually going to exceed demand. The glut of poorly-written books flooding ebook stores only added to the problem.

The gold rush is over

Authors who take their craft seriously should not worry that it is over. The rush was good for those who acquired a stake early and found  “easy pickings”.

Frequently, quality was sacrificed for speed, and volume prioritized over value and price. “Free” and “99 cents” became mantras.

Thank goodness that’s over. Now, let’s get on with what we do: writing and publishing.

Writing is the key

As authors, we must get back to basics, writing good stories that our readers love. It is too easy to be distracted from writing, but if you want to be a successful author, then you have to write. There is no short cut so write, write, write.

In many cases, the authors who struck gold during the rush were prolific writers. They either had a long backlist ready to promote or they produced new books at a rapid pace.

Quality is paramount

Constantly try to improve your craft. Make certain that your books are skillfully written, professionally edited, and delivered in acceptable formats with attractive covers. Hire professionals where necessary. Whether your book is traditionally or independently published, there is no excuse for skimping on quality.

Baskets break

Stop thinking that everything revolves around ebooks or the Kindle Store. It is foolish to put all of your eggs in one basket. Offer your books in the main formats preferred by your readers. Sell print books. Sell ebooks, in several formats. Consider adding audiobooks. Keep a watch for the next trend that comes along.

Build your platform

Don’t wait until after you have written or published your book to grow your audience. You need to be working on your author platform now.

Teamwork is for authors, too

Writers are accustomed to working alone, but in our digital age it is well worth the effort to team up with other authors. Aside from critiquing each other’s writing, you can share information on what is working in the industry and even cross-promote each other's books. Some authors even collaborate on writing a book.

Hard work will be rewarded

The publishing industry has changed. Authors who work hard in this business can succeed.

The gold is not all gone.

Our readers are still out there, searching for talented authors and well-crafted books.

This is another entry in our series of "Five-Minute Manifestos" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones revisited his call for the FutureBook community to reflect on five years of the digital dynamic, "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response has been robust, and we thank all our manifesto writers. See their articles here.

  • Please plan to join us on 4th December at The Mermaid in London for the fifth-anniversary FutureBook Conference
  • And bookings now are open for our inaugural Author Day (#AuthorDay) in central London, 30th November, the kick-off to a week of #FutureBook15 events.

As we add more in this series, our most recently published #FutureBook15 manifestos are:

Main image - iStockphoto: Jason Randolph