Continuing on my quest to get recognised as a writer and increase my chances by going about it in the ‘right way’, I have persevered and now finished reading… allowing for a few skips… the Writers and Artists Year Book Getting Published by Harry Bingham. It is full of helpful advice and, as mentioned in a previous post, does not beat around the bush. It paints a real grim picture of my actual chances of going anywhere with this book I’ve written. I’ve moved onto the next book that is marketed for any wannabe author worth their weight in salt and advised to read: The 2013 Writers and Artists Year Book. Its opening forward reaffirms that securing an agent or publisher is like trying to find a ‘needle in a hay stack’ . The book’s author, Lawrence Norfolk, comments that his breakthrough came from standing in the right place at the right time. I conclude that his success came about by a chance opportunity and was not as a result of following a well thought out plan or heeding any of the advice with which he manages to pad out his 800-odd page book.
Maybe I should consider self publishing? However in neither book is there much encouragement for this. The alternative names for self publishing are ‘vanity’ publishing or ‘subsidy’ publishing; which seem to describe how this end of the business is viewed. The figures don’t help either. The average number of likely sales you can expect from going down this route is somewhere around 50-60 and many only achieve sales equal to the number of relatives they have. In my case this would be depressingly low. If you thought, like I did, that having a book listed on Amazon would increase your presence, then apparently not. Amazon was described as being ‘lousy at selling books with unknown titles and authors’. It’s a fairly glum outlook for me, don’t you agree, which only gets glummer when I see what the competition is like. In the UK alone there are 90.000 new titles released each year. Only 10% of these can expect to sell more than 3500 copies, with a large proportion only selling 18 copies. My heart goes out to the latter group because if they have managed to jump all the hurdles, got excited and managed to secure an agent, their £10 book will bring home 8p per copy. That’s a measly £1.44. The advice ‘don’t give up the day job to write’ seems most sound.
So let me recap what I have deduced so far from my research. If I could absorb (but I can’t realistically) and then manage to use all the advice there is on offer, whether I gained it from reading supportive books, joining writers groups, entering competitions or completing a creative writing course, paying for professional help to polish the final draft, etc. etc. none of it would ensure my clinching a deal. It might place me in a stronger position in a highly competitive market, but little more. The only thing I see that it does guarantee is that I shall get poorer trying. That is unless, armed with this new wealth of knowledge, it helps me re-invent myself into one of those persons who can talk around a subject…. such as ‘stress’.
According to statistics stress is the highest cause of occupational ill-health in the UK , with a staggering 400,000 cases reported in 2010/11. That’s an awful lot of anxiety, amassed negative thoughts and lost vitality. It is said that 1 in 4 of us is likely to suffer from some sort of mental health problem each year. With such a grim prospect of ever finding a book deal, it could all too easily be me that succumbs and becomes the first recorded depression statistic of the new year. Too pessimistic you think? Some have said that I can be too negative; realistic is my word for the same. But in this quest of trying to make a book come alive, I am consciously keeping my mind focused and controlling my thoughts so that the book is framed positively. It would be all too easy for me to blame the system, my dyslexia and the fact that I dont have any contacts in the business and give up; falling back into a negative state of mind. But if I give up now it would make me a loser before I have given myself a chance to try. Worse, past experience tells me that if I take up this victim role again I will get stuck, wallowing inside my head, listening to a re-run of a sad sad story that just depresses me more and is harder to switch off and escape from. But at least, if I try to give my book the best opportunity, it provides me with a purpose. Makes getting up everyday more meaningful for me. If the system wants my book and is ready to receive it I assume the system will eventually find me. All it seems I have to do is to ensure that my hand keeps on waving in all directions. And If I am looking for that needle in a haystack, perhaps I would be wise to imagine my hand holding onto a large magnet for good measure.