Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Is there still money in books?

Thanks to the democratisation of publishing - through self-publishing on Amazon and Kobo and similar platforms - readers are buying more books, for less. So the profits are spread around a bit more than they used to be. As a writer, however, is it a worthwhile investment to spend your time writing? Prolific writer and editor Nerine Dorman weighs in:

Is there still money in books?

Yes... And no. Yes, if you can tap into a market that has great demand, for instance ghostwriting celebrity biographies or penning the next big thing in self help since Deepak Chopra. There's no accounting for readers' tastes – just look at the runaway success of Twilight, The Hunger Games or the Fifty Shades books. The problem is, that once a book is trending in traditional publishing, you're going to see dozens, if not hundreds of other, similar books in the genre, all trying to cash in on what's hot. 

Some may be more successful than others. Others will fade into obscurity without making any impact whatsoever. But the market will be flooded, and reader saturation will mean that the knock-offs may meet with a lukewarm reception.

Certain genres are perennial moneymakers, like romance, which will have as many sub-genres as you can throw a stick at, be it medical romances, LGBTI, paranormal, erotica, BDSM... The list is endless, and its titles ephemeral. Just go look at the best-sellers on Amazon. Depending on readers' whims, different subgenres will do better than others from time to time. Career-focused authors will push aside their personal preferences and write to spec, and a good portion of them will see a decent income. Granted, the ladies I've spoken to treat this like any nine-to-five job, and they work hard, sometimes releasing a book every two to three months. They endlessly self-promote on blog tours and attend conventions. It's hard work.

Nowadays it's easier than ever before to get your book published, but in many ways it's never been more difficult to get your voice heard. Book reviewers are bombarded with daily requests, often from self-published authors who don't have access to professionals for editing, formatting and design – and in many instances it shows. That said, some of the bigger houses are also guilty of letting through mediocre titles purely because the authors are proven sellers. 

Readers have nearly unlimited choices, but the trick is of course to find the golden wheat among the chaff. And there's a lot of chaff.

Authors who can carve out a niche for themselves, and keep at it while providing a quality product, can make a living wage, but it is a full-time job – and they are very much in the minority. For most it's a case of selling anywhere between zero to a dozen copies of a book a month, and for money to trickle in. The long and short of it is: don't quit your day job any time soon. If you want to make money, write for genres that popular, but don't hold your breath that you're going to be an overnight success. Don't try to copy what the successful authors are doing, but be aware of the elements of storycraft that strike a mark with readers. There are no guarantees in this industry, because sometimes even clearly derivative works end up being a bestseller.

What do you think? What has been your experience? 

See the list of books Nerine's had published here including the book Wordsmack Publishers published, The Guardian's Wyrd.