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May 21, 2007

Getting noticed .....

Getting yourself noticed is the most difficult part of becoming an author. A friend asked me the other day that most difficult of all questions to answer - "why do you write?" I suppose the short answer is "because I have a story to tell." The longer answer is quite involved and does really begin with "for my own enjoyment" and an even longer answer must include "to escape the harsh realities that surround us the rest of the time."

One of those realities is the battle to get your books published. Getting noticed is the hardest part of writing. First you have to convince someone, usually faceless at this stage, that you can write a good and saleable story. Next is to convince them that there is a market for the story, that it will sell enough copies to make a decent return (after all the publisher isn't in this game for the love of it alone - they have bills to pay as well!) and that it isn't just a new take on something that is already in print. Not easy to do, especially if you are not a sales person. And most of us do what we do because we aren't able to sell refridgerators to Eskimos!

Bill Gates' recent remarks on the subject of books is interesting because it does actually flag up something that marks a clear distinction between those authors seen as "published" and those who are seen as "vanity" writers. I would have to say that I am, presently, seen as one of the latter in the world of fiction in that I went down the route of having my book published myself. Past experience in the field of technical book publishing led me to believe that the fact that my technical works were published in this way, albeit in a specialist category, would lead to them being treated in the same way in the world of fiction publishing. That is not the case and there is clearly a distinction made in the retailers (some of whom happily sell my "other" work) between what they can buy from the mainstream publishers and what they label "vanity" publishers. Having explored some of the other work published in this way I can now see why.

Part of the problem in the UK is the limited number of publishers to work with. They tend also to limit themselves to a narrow range of "specialities" and to a known "stable" of authors represented by particular agents. Even so they are swamped with MS submissions every year. One publisher told me that they get over six thousand a year and accept and publish just under forty of those. This raises the problem of describing your work and fitting it into a particular genre. Those who have read Out of Time will know that it has elements which are historical, elements of science fiction and some elements that are probably best described as "Adventure". Is it General Fiction, Adult Fiction, Children's Fiction, Fantasy, Space Opera? What is the market? Does it have the potential to be another Harry Potter for the publishers? Very often these are the crucial choices, make the wrong one and you guarantee rejection slips by the truckload.

That brings me back to Bill Gates. My short stories are published here on Amazon Shorts - another form of self publication (vanity again?) - as e-stories. It would seem to me that Bill Gates is essentially saying that this will be the case with ALL future publication. In short, all authors will have to take the self publishing route. There may have been a time when I might have agreed with him - in fact it is something my present publisher suggested when I was exploring publication - but now I am not so sure. A little research suggests that there will always be a niche for the written and printed word. Many folk like me may buy an e-story, but we then print it off. Why? Simple really, it is difficult to scroll back and forth when trying to study a text, but turning the pages back and forth is much easier.

That's the tricky bit. So, what am I doing in the meantime. Well, a lot of research for a new book I am planning, it has also had to do with discussions with publishers, several in fact and the glimmer of hope of finding the right one is starting to look as if the tiny flame of ignition may yet become the fires of hope. That and there is an agent looking at the folio of work as well. Hope springs eternal as they say, but it could well be that perserverance is beginning to pay off.

Oh, and the sequel to Out of Time is now in final draft form and with the said publishers and agent. It is just possible that I might just have managed to get noticed .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at May 21, 2007 08:51 PM

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I had no idea you'd had a book published until I happened upon the image/link over at G'Day Mate. A belated (yet still hearty) congratulations to you!

Posted by: Cindy at May 21, 2007 09:58 PM