My third novel, The Manhattan Puzzle, will be published by Harper Collins October 10, 2013. But this is not a traditional puff piece about the novel. This is about my experiences being published by a major publisher in the second decade of the 21st century.
First, let me say that this article is not a swipe at Harper Collins. They are a fine publishing house riding a wave of change just like the rest of the big five, or is that four already?
My books were taken up by the Avon division of HC, one of the divisions most likely to try out new authors. They have a progressive approach to publishing too. Their aim is to make a profit on as many titles as possible. I haven’t seen anything laid back or complacent about them.
They’ve sold my novels to be translated into ten languages with ebook deals included in each case.
I don’t expect them to publish low selling experimental titles or hard back titles with a limited potential.
Because Avon don’t do hardbacks. And you won’t find many of their titles on the front tables of your local bookstore.
Avon is laser focused on popular paperbacks and ebook hits.
And I have no objection to this. Publishing is a business. And I have no problem with the full-on commercial focus of their editors. They must protect their jobs and their business. There is no room for complacency in the publishing business any more.
Because publishers know that, in most cases, publishing is like slapping a bet down in a casino. No one knows what numbers will come up. They have to do everything they can to take the gamble out of publishing.
Publishing is not a world for the anxious, I’ve discovered. Nerves of teflon are mandatory. Being commercial is just the beginning of making a living as a writer.
And this pressure for hits, for commercial success, will see mid-tier and new authors fall by the wayside, if they don’t help their publisher achieve success. And that’s no fun when you’ve invested years in learning the craft and writing and editing and editing again and again and again, until you have something readable.
Let me make it clear again that I have nothing but respect for my publishers. I am grateful to them for having published me at all. I spent ten years writing and rewriting before I got this chance. And the whole publishing world changed in that time. But I want to find a way to make a difference. I want to find a way to survive as an author.
If you have written something that is likely to be popular, and there are many types of books that become popular, you deserve a chance too.
In the past three years I have built up a website and two blogs. It’s more useful than walking the streets with a sign on your back. And here’s what I’ve learnt:
1. You have to sell the sizzle, not the steak. Old advice, I know, but don’t bother Tweeting or posting that your book is available, tell me what I will get out of it. Show me. Make me want to read it. Entice me.
2. Promote the themes. If your book is about family realities, sell it that way. If your book has a murder that no one can solve, sell it that way. If your hero is just back from a tour of duty, sell that. Make it interesting and I will click through and buy it. [See our stuff on elevator pitches here – ed.]
3. Get active. Visit your local bookstores, get to know local and other journalists. Be nice to them. Get on social media. Give people something valuable on your blog or your site. Make it real and worthwhile and people will appreciate it and buy your books.
4. And keep updating your content. Content is the King and Queen and all the Princes too. The web is a machine that devours content. Learn to write about your research, your journey and your themes. People are reading more than ever. This is a time of opportunity for authors. The internet is our opportunity. Grasp it with content.
5. Experiment. Have you heard of Kindle singles? Have you heard that there is a booming market for short fiction and fan fiction? Do you take pictures of your locations and post them? Are you making the most of Pinterest?
I use my sites to help other authors too. I reTweet links to their content, and put their posts on my sites, and I encourage them to do the same. Visit http://www.lpobryan.com to see what I mean. I also post about special offers on my books. There’s one out now for The Istanbul Puzzle (my first novel): http://viewbook.at/TheIstanbulPuzzle
And I follow new people daily on each account.
I get very few complaints about introducing new authors to my followers. In fact I get people thanking me for introducing me to books they might like. The odd person who objects to seeing posts about new writers I block, because I reckon they won’t ever be the type of follower I want.
Who objects to information about new books anyway? Do you ring up the Times if there are too many book reviews?
My gut feel is that authors must band together in these times of turmoil and change for the publishing industry. By supporting each other we can at least enjoy our brief period at the table and ensure our books survive as long as possible.
And I keep writing. I’m going to finish two new novels this year. They are going to have to come over with a gun to stop me.
And I support the Writers Workshop 1000%. I encourage you to attend courses, to blog, to reTweet, like and share all fellow authors work.
And if you want to guest post on my blog (writers only – published & unpublished) email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
And whatever happens, I hope you’re ready for the new world of publishing. Because, in my opinion traditional publishing is dead.
Commercial publishing and internet driven author and reader engagement are here to stay. And if you don’t like it you don’t have to participate. But don’t deny what is happening. Because your opportunity awaits you.
Laurence O’Bryan – author of The Manhattan Puzzle
pre-order the paperback here
Because it’s payback time for the banksters!
And all the best from Dublin, Ireland.