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Friday, 8 October 2010

Anyone want to buy a book?

Today I am going to write about something that I have not written about for some time - my experiences as a self published author, and the problems associated with book promotion. I have not actively promoted my own work, Genesis of Man, for over a year now, in fact probably nearer two years, since after my return to work in retail in November 2008, it became more and more difficult to do so. I found out the hard way that the two things for the most part at least, are just not compatible. For those who work in the service sector, as I did and still do, it is well nigh impossible to concentrate on both your paid job and your book, as at the very time that you should be at home promoting your work, by writing press releases, phoning book shops, arranging book fairs, talks and signings etc, you are at work promoting other peoples wares. Writing, not to mention promoting a book, takes time and costs money. How are you to this on the ever dwindling royalties that authors now earn? The majority of authors, unless that are married to or in a relationship with someone famous, or have other independent means, cannot do this and have to find some other means of making money, which inevitably takes them away from what they love. It is a struggle and a dilemma that authors the world over have to face, and one that spelt the death knell on my burgeoning career before it had even got off the ground.

The thing that has prompted me to write about this today is another anomaly within the writing world that I found incredibly frustrating during the two to three years that I was promoting my work, and which has re-surfaced back into my consciousness again this week, prompted by a link to a free review site for print on demand works which I was notified of my another blogger whose site I used to read on a regular basis. This anomaly is the fact that there are far more resources (and far more of them are free) for fiction writers than there are non fiction.

Think about this for a moment if you will - what are the typical resources that writers use to perfect their craft and promote their wares - writing courses, networking via the Internet (blogs, peer review sites, forums and so on), radio, television and the press. Now some (in fact most in my experience) would say that non fiction is easier to market because the market is more clearly defined, and in many cases this may well be true, but they are assuming that the work in question can be defined in the first place. When that work (as was and is the case with mine) falls into three or even four categories then what do you do? It as my friend described the promotion of fiction, like throwing paint at a wall.

Actually though I disagree with his observation and his views that promoting non fiction is easier. In my experience it is in fact the opposite. It is a fact that the majority of resources that are open and available to fiction writers are closed to those who write non fiction. Peer review sites for example - there is to the best of my knowledge just one that accepts non fiction and even then without a separate Editor, blog sites - again most state fiction only, writing magazines are full of articles on how to write love scenes, how to write thrillers, write for the stage blah, blah, blah, but try finding an article on how to carry out academic research and gain access to the British Library archives or some such and it is nowhere to be found. The closest I have ever come to a writing course for non fiction writers was one in journalism, which is hardly the same thing (although I am an amateur journalist too as Editor of my village newsletter, so the course was useful from that point of view).

It all though leaves a very sour taste in the mouth and makes you think why? And more to the point what is the point, because I cannot see one. Even with forums it is the same, and I find doors slamming shut in my face - one in particular that I joined a few years ago, is a case in point. It is supposed to be a site for book lovers, but the non fiction forum is rarely used at all. When I contacted the owner about getting my book reviewed, I was told "We will get back to you". Two years later I am still waiting, and in the meantime, fiction writers who joined five minutes ago have their work reviewed and heavily promoted by free. It is just not fair.

I suppose though the point I am trying to make is that it is precisely the fact that there are more resources and more avenues for the fiction writer to try that makes it easier to promote. With non fiction, once you have exhausted all the avenues that are open to you (contacting magazines, specialist websites and forums etc, the press and so on) and they have done their piece or more likely not bothered to get back to you, what do you do then?

The fiction writer however has endless opportunities to play with, new sites and new avenues are constantly springing up to cater to their needs and help them with whatever it is they need, and all this despite the fact that at least two thirds of the books published in the UK are not fiction at all! Surely it should be the other way around and the the resources should be directed at us, but no, not a bit of it. Oh well, I guess I can't change people's attitudes, so maybe I should start a site of my own to try and address these issues. The trouble is I am too busy earning a living. Anyone want to buy a book ? !

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