Quality v quantity: should authors really churn out books?

A MEMBER of the popular BooksGoSocial authors’ group on Facebook recently told how she was “on a mission” to finish the third instalment of seven novels by the end of the month – bashing out at least 65,000 words in just two weeks.

The frantic writer also told how she held down two jobs and looked after a baby (and a husband) while writing her books and self-publishing them.

Her post on Facebook prompted responses from many of the group’s 16,800 members, with one writing: “65,000 words in two weeks? That’s crazy.”

Yes, it does seem crazy – but it’s increasingly becoming the benchmark in the world of self-publishing, where quantity can sometimes overpower quality in the race to produce as many books as possible in the shortest time.

Another member of the authors’ group, formed by Irish author Laurence O’Bryan, posted that he had five books all lined up to be self-published and asked if he should release a box-set first, or publish all five works individually first.

Leading the charge among self-published authors is Bella Forrest, who cranks out “fantasy, romance, action and mystery-infused stories” – and has sold more than six million copies on Amazon since her first novel was released in 2012.

Bella, an American writer, has written a staggering 58 books in just five years – averaging nearly a dozen titles a year.

In an interview on goodreads.com, Bella told how her debut novel, A Shade of Vampire, took just one month to write, although the idea had been brewing in her mind for several years. Her sequel, A Shade of Blood, took her two or three months to write.

She said her writing schedule was “crazy”, adding: “The early hours of the morning are my favourite for writing. So I get out of bed at like 1.30am and work through until 9am. The biggest chunks of my writing get done during this period.”

It all sounds like a word factory, but Bella’s books have garnered good reviews from readers. For example, A Shade of Vampire has more than 1,500 reviews on amazon.co.uk, and more than 1,100 of them are five-stars.

However, Bella’s multitudinous offerings are never going to go down in history as great works of literature. And on Amazon, you can find a host of other prolific self-published authors, releasing book after book after book.

Unfortunately, some of these books are absolute dross. The authors are too busy hammering out their works to worry about revising their manuscripts, or getting them professionally edited and proofread.

The world’s most famous novelists wrote at a much slower pace, usually producing no more than one book a year, and honing and revising their manuscripts for months before submitting them to their publisher.

Graham Greene: wrote one book a year

Graham Greene wrote around 500 words a day. “Over 20 years I have probably averaged 500 words a day, for five days a week. I produce one novel a year, and that allows for revision and correction of the manuscript,” he said.

Ernest Hemingway: the writing well never ran dry

Ernest Hemingway also wrote 500 words a day. He said: “I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

Michael Crichton: no dinosaur at 10,000 words a day

However, Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton pounded out 10,000 words a day. Well, who wouldn’t, with an angry tyrannosaurus rex looking over your shoulder? But he said: “Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten, including your own. It’s one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”

Gustave Flaubert: wrote one perfect sentence a day. Madame Bovary, below, took him five years to write

Gustave Flaubert, French author of Madame Bovary, is often described as a writer’s writer, but he was also one of the slowest authors in history, working at a drunken snail’s pace. It took him five years to write Madame Bovary and seven years to finish L’Éducation Sentimentale.

Despite working for 14 hours a day in his summerhouse above the River Seine, it often took him a whole week to write just one page. On an average day, his wastepaper basket would be full of discarded sheets, while he would salvage just one sentence that he was happy with.

Yes, good writing is a skill, an expertise developed over time – not on a conveyor belt in a word factory operating 24/7.

So why do some self-published authors work almost night and day to bash out a constant stream of books? Is it because of a love of writing, or purely a money-making exercise?

As a general rule of thumb, on Amazon it pays to self-publish a series of books, which can thrive off each other to boost sales, especially with Amazon’s special book price-cut promotions, such as daily deals and countdown deals. Many new authors discover this and cash in on it.

However, some self-published authors have had careers in other fields before catching the writing bug later in life. They get hooked on writing, and are happy to spend hours on end tapping away on the computer keyboard, producing a plethora of books. The income derived from these works is of secondary importance to them – the joy of creative writing is paramount.

If you’d like to comment on this blog, please use the comments box below.

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


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My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard

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Can Orson KO Kindle?

Richard Mason reading an Orson digital book

Richard Mason reading an Orson digital book

IMAGINE reading an ebook – let’s say it’s an historical novel – on your tablet computer and one of the characters plays a Chopin composition on the piano to impress a young woman … and suddenly you can actually hear him performing it as you read the passage.

Look closely at the screen and you’ll see the book’s text is typeset on the background of 19th-century paper embellished by hand-drawn designs from that era. As you read through the text, you’ll see historic illustrations. Tap on these, and up comes a host of floating images from the period.

Not sure where the story is set? Then a pull-down menu will call up a map of the exact location, along with image and video galleries to act as visual guides to the story.

And if you get tired of reading, tap the next paragraph on the screen and actress Joanna Lumley will step straight in with audio narration. Just sit back and listen to her reading the story to you.

These are just some of the features of a new digital book app called Orson, a high-tech reading experience due to be launched in 2017 by a Glasgow-based team of five.

On its website www.orsonandco.com, the Orson is described as “a digital edition that’s as memorable and beautiful as a printed book. It’s the result of authors, actors, musicians and visual artists collaborating to create awe-inspiring reading experiences”. The Orson app will be available free in the App Store for iPads and iPhones, and individual book titles can be bought in-app. A video demonstrating the Orson app can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDlRVpMgbhU

Orson co-founder and novelist Richard Mason writes about the new app in the latest edition of The Author magazine, issued by the Society of Authors in London, in an interesting article headlined ‘What ebooks could be’.

Richard Mason, co-founder of Orson & Co

Richard Mason, co-founder of Orson & Co

He says he and Orson co-founder and designer Benjamin Morse hit on the idea of a multi-media reading experience after Mason tired of Amazon’s Kindle reader. “I was exposed to the dull, repetitive reality of actually reading ebooks,” he wrote.

Their enterprise – Orson & Co – is a digital publishing house “in which the artists and storytellers are in charge of the coders”. Mason claims it “blows the Kindle out of the water”.

“We are at the birth of a new form, and the tools now exist to put authors in charge of its progress,” he added.

It’s a fascinating idea, and it’s admirable to see a small operation taking on the mighty Amazon’s Kindle platform, but it also raises a few questions about the future of ebooks and digital publishing.

Will this new multi-media reading experience detract from the simple pleasure of reading the written word? Do we need fancy videos, audio, maps, illustrations and all the other bells and whistles when all we really want is a damned good read?

And where will it end? Will the written story eventually become overpowered by the multi-media elements, rendering it almost worthless in the reader’s mind?

Kindle the conqueror

A NEWS snippet in The Author magazine also reveals that Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market is now estimated to be around 90 per cent of all sales. This follows Waterstones, Nook, Tesco and Sainsbury all pulling out of the ebook market. This monopoly is alarming, but it’s also comforting news for self-published authors, many of whom rely of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform for their livelihood.

If you’d like to comment on this blog, please use the comments box below.

Happy New Year … and all the best for 2017!

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


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My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard

 

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Kindle dwindle is a fantasy story

Simon Jenkins

Simon Jenkins, Guardian columnist, applauds the ‘demise’ of ebooks

IS the Kindle on the dwindle, while the paperback claws its way back?

Well, that’s the latest shock news from the book publishing industry, as reported this week in The Guardian newspaper − but is it the real picture or a distortion of the truth?

The article cites new figures from the Publishers Association showing digital book sales in the UK fell by 1.6% last year from £563 million to £554m − the first drop in seven years (when such sales were first recorded).

Meanwhile, printed book sales in the UK rose by 0.4% from £2.74 billion to £2.76bn − the first rise in four years, albeit a small one.

Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins applauds these figures, saying: “Clearly publishing, like other industries before (and since), suffered a bad attack of technodazzle: It failed to distinguish between newness and value. It could read digital’s hysterical cheerleaders, but not predict how a market of human beings would respond to a product once the novelty had passed.”

Deriding ebooks, Jenkins adds: “Virtual books, like virtual holidays or virtual relationships, are not real. People want a break from another damned screen.”

And he backs up his argument with this quote from the Publishers Association, which represents 120 publishing companies: “Readers take a pleasure in a physical book that does not translate well on to digital.”

But are these new figures an accurate reflection of book publishing in the UK, with ebooks seemingly on the slide?

computer-book

The Guardian piece (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/13/books-ebook-publishers-paper) triggered almost 900 responses from readers, with many of them rubbishing the claims.

Mike Robbins wrote: “The Publishers Association release should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Actually, an entire salt mine.

“I assume they’re referring to ebooks sold by their members, which are likely a small minority of those sold, because mainstream publishers’ ebooks are so stupidly overpriced. I buy more ebooks than physical books, but none of them are from members of the Publishers Association. They’re from independent authors and small presses. So the figures Mr Jenkins quotes are meaningless.”

Another reader, Lynne, wrote: “The Publishers Association publishes figures from publishers. It doesn’t take into account sales from a site like Amazon. Where do you think most ebook sales are made?”

Eden Sharp also slammed the report, saying the Publishers Association did not count books without an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) in its sales figures. Self-published ebooks often don’t have ISBNs, especially on Amazon, which allocates its own serial number (ASIN) to an ebook released on its Kindle Direct Publishing platform, at no charge.

Authors’ earnings figures probably give a more accurate picture of the state of the market. They show that self-published ebooks now account for 45% of digital sales on Amazon, while ebooks from the five biggest publishers have fallen to less than 25% of market share on Amazon.

My book editing operation (www.ebooklover.co.uk) helps independent authors to publish their books as Kindles on Amazon, and almost all of my clients choose not to have ISBNs − and so sales of their ebooks, and many millions more across the self-publishing spectrum, are not included in the Publishers Association figures.

One self-published author recently claimed to have sold 750,000 Kindle books on Amazon − all without ISBNs and therefore excluded from the Publishing Association figures. And there are many more like that.

So, far from being a Kindle dwindle, surely the real story continues to be an ebook explosion, largely driven by a fast-rising number of indy authors? And perhaps it’s snobbery in the traditional publishing houses that excludes self-published success stories from the big picture on book sales.

 

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


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My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard

 

 

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Self-publish . . . or be damned!

selfpublish

IN a recent interview on BBC Radio 2, award-winning English novelist Pat Barker was asked what she thought about self-publishing – and her response was a big surprise.

“Well, I’m all in favour of it, and I’ve been thinking about going down that road myself … oops, but don’t tell Penguin!” she said.

Barker, a Man Booker prize winner, has had all her 13 works released by mainstream publishers since 1982, such as Penguin, Virago Press, Viking Press and Hamish Hamilton. And they’ve all sold in their millions, including her latest novel, Noonday, released in August.

So it was a shock to learn that the 72-year-old author is even contemplating switching from a major publishing house to self-publishing.

Pat Barker

Pat Barker and her latest novel, below

noonday

Barker didn’t elaborate on her comment, but perhaps she’s tired of traditional publishing and just wants to ‘go it alone’ and have total control over her works, on both the creative and financial fronts.

And who could blame her? Even veteran horror writer Steven King, who has sold 350 million books worldwide, has taken to self-publishing, and sold one of his new releases for just $1 on his own website in 2000.

Carol Hedges

Carol Hedges at a book reading

In her latest blog, titled ‘How to make a million from writing’, popular English author Carol Hedges said of mainstream publishing: “What a shabby trade it is!”

She added: “Forget all those ‘X signed a three-book contract and has been offered eight squillion in advances and a film contract with a top Hollywood director!’ I now see these in the same category as those ‘teaser’ rates offered by big banks.”

Carol, who has written fiction books for young adults and latterly a popular series of Victorian crime novels, said publishers will skim at least 60 per cent off your earnings (on top of your agent’s fee) and are unlikely to offer you more than 40 per cent of the purchase price – “and remember all media outlets like Amazon discount furiously, so you have to subtract that from the final amount too”.

Carol ended her piece on www.carolhedges.blogspot.com by asking: “So why bother?”

On the other hand, self-published authors can earn a whopping 70 per cent in royalties if they publish a Kindle version of their book on Amazon.

Carol’s blog sparked 30 comments, including one from Jo Beckford, who said: “I recently met a published author who is on two-book-a-year contracts and he can’t wait for the contracts to be up so he can write books he wants to write, instead of catering to the publisher’s demands.”

Marjory McGinn, her dog Wallace and her debut book

Marjory McGinn, with her dog Wallace and her debut Greek travel memoir

Marjory McGinn, author of two acclaimed Greek travel memoirs – Things Can Only Get Feta and Homer’s Where The Heart Is – also commented on Carol’s blog post about her “miserable experience” with a small London publisher, Bene Factum Publishing, which released her debut book.

Marjory wrote: “Things were promising to start with but after a year, and despite good sales and the fact the book was one of the most popular on the publisher’s list of releases, he let it go out of print. And for the second time in a year he failed to pay royalties in the mandatory period. I had to go through the Small Claims Court to try to get all my royalties … and the fight still goes on.”

She added: “For those starting out, even with a contract and a ‘reputable’ publisher it doesn’t mean you won’t get messed around as I was. I finally got the rights of my book back (Things Can Only Get Feta) and republished it myself on Amazon, and later the sequel. And happily, the book seems to be doing better now than it did the first time round. “For anyone starting out now and dreaming of an agent or mainstream publisher, I would say, go the indy route. I have found it a breeze compared to my former experience. You have total control and you get royalties, on time, and statements you can understand. Bliss!

“There is no prestige in having a publisher who doesn’t treat you properly. I believe the publishing industry needs a massive shake-up. I think the offers/treatment some writers receive would not be tolerated in any other industry. It is under-regulated and Dickensian in some respects.”

I have helped Marjory to self-publish her two travel memoirs on Amazon, through my www.ebooklover.co.uk operation, and I agree with her that the traditional publishing industry needs a major overhaul – before it consigns itself to the waste bin of publishing history.

If writers of international repute like Pat Barker are seriously contemplating the self-publishing route because of disenchantment with mainstream publishing, other writers should now feel more confident in following in her footsteps.

(PS: If you want to share your own publishing experience, please comment on this post).

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


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My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 10 must-read children’s books … but no-one’s potty about Potter

Not such a wizard read ... Harry Potter

Not such a wizard read … Harry Potter

THE BBC news website last week published a list of the top 10 must-read books for young kids … and Harry Potter is nowhere to be seen.

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl and first published in 1964, topped the teachers’ chart of books “all children should read before leaving primary school”.

charlieandchocolatefactory

Dahl’s Matilda, published in 1988, also makes the list, at number four. However, J K Rowling fans were dismayed that none of the seven Harry Potter books are featured in the chart. It’s as if Dark wizard Lord Voldemort has wiped the young upstart off the radar.

Two traditional classics – Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Chronicles Of Narnia by CS Lewis – are also in the top 10. As a young lad, I loved CS Lewis’s fantasy novels, especially The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

My mum couldn’t understand why I was always clambering into the wardrobe in the spare room in the middle of the afternoon, desperately trying to visit Narnia.

lionwitchandwardrobe

The BBC story triggered several hundred comments, with some folk asking why kids’ books by Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton had not made the list. “What about Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Heidi, Tom Sawyer and Moby Dick?” one of them asked.

biggles

“Why isn’t Biggles on the list?” moaned one anonymous commentator, who in real-life is probably Wing-Commander Algernon ‘Ginger’ Lancaster-Bomber (retired).

Well, yes, and what about my other childhood, boys-own favourites: Billy Bunter and Jennings? Especially Bunter.

As Wikipedia puts it so succinctly: “Bunter’s defining characteristic is his greediness and dramatically overweight appearance. His character is, in many respects, a highly obnoxious anti-hero. As well as his gluttony, he is also obtuse, lazy, racist, inquisitive, deceitful, slothful, self-important and conceited.”

As a kid, I howled with laughter at Bunter’s antics in the books by Frank Richards. Years later I was doing the same thing over the Pulitzer-prize winning novel, A Confederacy Of Dunces, by tragic American writer John Kennedy Toole. His fat and flatulent anti-hero Ignatius J. Reilly is surely Billy Bunter reincarnated in the 1980s.

confederacyofdunces

Flatulent fatties … Ignatius J. Reilly and Billy Bunter

billybunter (1)

So what are your favourite books from your childhood? Dark stories by Dahl, or jolly-good-old-romp stuff like Swallows And Amazons? Please reveal all by clicking on ‘leave a comment’ at the end of the blog.

Here’s the top 10 list from the news story, which were chosen 500 teachers for the National Association for the Teaching of English and the Times Education Supplement magazine.

Top 10 children’s books to read before leaving primary school

1) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
2) Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
3) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
4) Matilda by Roald Dahl
5) The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
6) The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis
7) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
8) We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
9) Dogger by Shirley Hughes
10) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

 

TES editor Ann Mroz said many of the books chosen by teachers, are “not full of joy and mirth but are instead dark and full of horror – tales of ferocious monsters, abuse, abandonment and even death”.

She added: “They’re not what you’d think the average primary child would want to read. But these books serve an important purpose, giving children a safe place where they can take control of troubling subjects, where evil can be glimpsed and then shut within their pages.”

Scary stuff.

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


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My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard

 

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Age is no barrier to a writing career

Welcome! This is my debut blog about the book publishing industry, which I am involved in through my business ebooklover.co.uk, helping writers with editing, proofreading, book design, cover design and formatting for Kindle. I will be posting future blogs about books, which I hope you will enjoy …

oldauthor

A MEMBER of a writers’ group recently posted on an internet forum: “Is it possible to become a successful author after age 65?”

The question sparked more than 300 comments in just a few days, with a resounding ‘yes’ from all contributors.

Frank McCourt
Frank McCourt

Many told how they had self-published books in their late 60s and even 70s, and singled out the late Frank McCourt as a role model – his memoir Angela’s Ashes was published in 1996 when McCourt was 65, and won a Pulitzer Prize the following year.

'Sandy' McCall Smith
‘Sandy’ McCall Smith

And then there’s Alexander McCall Smith, now aged 66, who is still churning out novels – 16 years after the publication of his debut novel, the best-selling No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

P D James
P D James

Others mentioned the veteran crime writer P. D. James, who died last year, aged 94. Her novel Death Comes To Pemberley was published in 2011, when she was 91.

Many of the forum commentators said old age was no barrier to a successful writing career, especially when Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace operations don’t care whether the self-published writer is four years old … or 104.

Even traditional publishing houses are having to rethink their long-standing bias against taking on older writers for fear they may only produce one best-seller before shuffling off the mortal coil, with limited revenue for the company.

These days, if Methuselah had penned a cracking novel and puffed into the offices of Simon & Schuster, they’d probably sign up the 969-year-old on the spot with a 10-book deal and a big advance, rather than fob him off with a cup of coffee and a free dog-eared paperback.

One of the clients of my ebooklover.co.uk business is in his mid-70s and I was surprised when he contacted me to edit, proofread and format a novella he had written. When he sent me the manuscript a few weeks later, I was thrilled to find it was a superb piece of writing, what I would call proper English literature.

He astounded me even more when he later said he’d just completed a 95,000-word major novel, spanning the main character’s lifetime. I’ve edited this book and it’s a terrific read. And now he’s won a prize for screenwriting, telling me he’s never been so busy. Not bad for a septuagenarian.

That old idiom ‘There’s life in the old dog yet’ certainly applies to the world of self-publishing these days.

Maybe it’s even time to scrap those old-age jokes like …. “Old is when your wife says, ‘Let’s go upstairs and make love,’ and you answer, ‘Honey, I can’t do both!’” or “Old is when ‘getting lucky’ means you find your car in the supermarket car park”.

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


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My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard


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