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Self-publishing News: Bookseller Survey Exposes Reality Of Being A Traditionally Published Debut Author

Self-publishing News: Bookseller Survey Exposes Reality of Being a Traditionally Published Debut Author

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at The Bookseller's survey on the experience of traditionally published debut authors.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

In our brand new podcast, Howard and I talk about ALLi’s Indie Author Income Survey. We look at what the figures mean and what story they might tell over the coming years.

Ingram Spark Offer Free Title Setup for All from May 1

It won’t have escaped your notice from, well, anywhere authors gather, that Ingram Spark have made a big move. From the 1st of May 2023, Ingram Spark are now offering all their customers free title setup and free revisions for up to 60 days. 

Of course, this will have an effect on ALLi members, who previously benefited from a discount on the existing fees. The current ALLi discount will be replaced by a new offer that applies to revisions only. From May 1st, an Ingram Free Revisions Offer is being introduced for ALLi members. Members can use the monthly promotional code provided to waive up to five revision fees per month for titles that have been in production for more than 60 days on May 1st, 2023. This ALLi member benefit saves $25 on each revision. As this is a fast moving scene at present, it’s not fully clear whether this offer might be for a limited time only. 


Another Survey Sheds Light on a Writer’s Life

ALLi has, of course, just published the initial findings of its Indie Author Income Survey. Go and immerse yourself in the results here. But last week saw another survey grab headlines for its stark insight into the reality of being a writer. The Bookseller carried out an in-depth study of 108 authors whose debut book had been traditionally published. And the picture the results painted was not an enticing one.

The two headline figures are alarming. 54% of respondents said the experience of publishing their debut had a negative effect on their mental health. And just 22% said they felt well supported through the experience.

Responses lift the lid on some interesting aspects of the process. Launches, when they happened, were often disappointing, frequently paid for by the author themselves, and sometimes accompanied by little publicity. Ongoing communication and support seem to be the main cause of concern. This supports what many of us have often suspected, that there can be a constant rush for the latest “new thing” in which consistent support often gets lost the moment the shine starts to go. It seems ghost writing isn’t the only form of ghosting in the industry.

Our campaigns manager, Melissa Addey has been crunching the numbers for ALLi's survey. She had this to say about the Bookseller results.

“There are obviously real problems around what I'm thinking of as an expectation gap among new writers. Those who choose the traditional route frequently do so because they have an expectation of being thoroughly supported during the process of publication and beyond to a long and successful career as an author.

Sadly, The Bookseller survey showed in no uncertain terms, that expected quality or quantity of support mostly does not materialise. I've known multiple writers who achieved the much-desired ‘two-book deal' and then were unceremoniously let go. From a business point of view: fine, their books did not achieve what was wanted by the traditional publishing model.

But those authors were crushed by the experience. Most stopped writing altogether and I do find it pretty unforgivable to make a writer feel they were no good when in fact they were chosen from thousands and simply did not understand the model well enough to know their expectations were unrealistic.

It looks to me like a lot more education is required to tighten up that gap… and if the traditional publishing world won't do it, we at ALLi will work to fill that knowledge gap ourselves, because we support all authors in making informed publishing decisions. Your experience of publication may have lots of twists and turns and ups and downs, but it really should not be damaging to your mental health.”

Foreword Reviews celebrates 25th Anniversary

It can be easy to think of self-publishing as a new phenomenon. Having spent four years of a doctorate studying 17th century history, that has always amused me. Whilst the advent of the Kindle may have created more and more affordable opportunities for more people, being an indie author stretches back before 2007. A great example of that is Foreword Reviews, who have just celebrated their 25th anniversary.

At a time when many had a somewhat supercilious attitude to self-publishing, Foreword Reviews opened their doors to indie publishers and indie authors. I asked Editor-in-Chief Michelle Schingler what changes she had noticed in those 25 years. Her response was really interesting. “We've seen more daring, more boundary-pushing, and more titles in volume, but quality? That's always been there. We're so glad that it's being recognized more widely now!” That stands very much in contrast to the idea that it’s only a recent thing that indies started to take quality seriously.

A more recent observation is the increase in submissions from indie authors post Covid. Michelle reflects that many people who had long harboured dreams of writing and had stories fermenting finally had the space to sit down and get them written. We may be witnessing the literary equivalent of the baby boom.

AI: Can Only Humans Invent and Who Is the Big financial Winner from AI?

This week’s dip into AI takes in two stories. The first is a Supreme Court action in the US. The Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to a lower court’s ruling in a patent case. Stephen Thaler, founder of Imagination Engines, sought patents for two things he says his DABUS AI system generated on its own. The items, a light beacon and a drinks holder, might not be works of literary genius. And patent is not copyright. But this is a very interesting development in a fast evolving landscape.

Meanwhile, $300m of venture capital investment gives OpenAI a valuation of $27-$29bn. That should leave no one in any doubt as to the value people think will come from AI. Of course, a bubble is a bubble, and we know how soon such things can deflate. But this valuation illustrates a really important point about where the big money goes in any disruption. It comes back to the old saying about selling shovels in a gold rush. The real money won’t go to the creators. It won’t even go to the companies who take a small slice of value from each of lots of creators. It will go to the people who own the right to use the tools the whole house of cards depends upon.

survey highlights the difficulties of being a traditionally published debut author and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy… Share on X

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


This Post Has One Comment
  1. Publish with eyes wide open is good advice to new authors , but you may not see the pratfalls along the way unless you are told about them. I published in 2015 and achieve four out of five status from Amazon. This helped sales, although more recently it has come to light that Amazon reviews allegedly, can be bought and not by actual readers of your book at all. Funnily enough this mirrors traditional publishing, in that powerful publishers allegedly buy best seller status to position their chosen book. My books are in niche spots. For example maritime. When a maritime journalist gives a review a good review fro my writing sales lift. My science fiction novels , similarly in a particular reader market category, maintain interest through small numbers of sales. The reality is that key advertising arenas will lift sales. At national level you need to be recommended on television, radio, in the newspapers. There are more book programmes than when I started, You can be sure mainstream publishers will elbow their authors’ books on to these shows. Celebrities who review books go out of their way to appear as avid readers and their fan base will support and buy the book or books they recommend. Not suggesting you find a celebrity to promote your book, but it is how it works. The Richard and Judy book list will be supplied by publishers keen to get their authors noticed. In fairness to get on a good sales rating you then have to have new material ready to go to continue the momentum. This is where publishing advances of thousands of pounds may sound good. I don’t know about you? But the writing muse does need to in attendance to drive forward a novel for me. Last year my sales tripled from a small level, This probably attributable to readers, in Lock down finding my books online. Readers found me and bought copies when Amazon could or would not supply during Covid. Novels from yester year – 2016, 2017, 2019, 2021 sell at book events. One science fiction novel always sells a copy or two. With more promotion in the mighty media arena and more would mostly sell. Paid adverts to Amazon bring in inconme for many. Self publishers possibly need to invest in Facebook and Amazon adverts, but fifty percent of sales are still made through “old fashioned,” but newly popular book shops in your high street. Your charm, beauty, allure etc… oh yes and your completed novel can be the entrance door into building reader following. Sorry, but yes, being young and attractive will help to get book sellers interested. Otherwise, like this author attempt to transmit a young heart into the proceedings and not be physically ,over visible, because in the flesh a reader would likelyprefer his/ her author to be young and more relatable to. Author enjoys writing and seeks to entertain his readership and hopes to achieve growth in sales – over time and from positive reviews.

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