Every vampire/zombie apocalypse movie I’ve seen has about a thousand to one ratio of zombie/vampire population to human survivor. In the movie I Am Legend for example, there was one surviving human in a city of thousands, perhaps millions of vampires. I’ve often wondered why, when vampires drink blood, they simply just didn’t die out? It’s possible that they feed off each other to survive and if that is the case, what bleak and bloody future do writers face, stuck in the middle of a writer plague as we are?
Library Thing has 89 million books listed. Goodreads has 750 million books added. A 2013 Huffington Post poll claims that 28% of Americans had not read a novel in the past year, even thought the U.S. produces 300,000 new books every year, not including e-books. Some quotes suggest that there were 600,000 independent books on Amazon in 2013, and that there are around 50,000 traditional (albeit many of them are small) publishers in the U.S.
Are we in the midst of a writer plague? Are there too many books and not enough readers?
The evolution of modern writing is such that everyone can publish a book and it seems that everyone is. It doesn’t mean books are being sold. It just means that there are more books out there than ever before. And because there are more books than there are readers, writers can’t even give their books away because readers simply can’t keep up with the demand. Check out most giveaways these days and you’ll see that authors are giving away gift cards instead of books. The readers are happy. But will this help books sell?
Innovation is defined as using or showing new methods and ideas. In order to sell books, writers need to be innovative, which can take us out of our comfort zone. But to survive the writer plague, this is something we must do. However, there’s a catch. Think of Matthew Reilly, who self published his book in print and got it into the hands of a major publisher and now he's sold millions. This sparked everyone to do the same. Think of Amanda Hocking who self published her e-book in order to make enough money to visit a Kermit the Frog exhibition and then she ended up selling millions and is now with a major publishers. This sparked everyone to do the same.
Once everyone jumps on the bandwagon, that idea is no longer innovative. So it can be difficult to tell a new writer how you reached your goals when what you did to reach them might no longer work.
It can also be difficult to share that information when the competition is as fierce as it is. If, to succeed in the new literary world, it is a case of survival of the fittest, will it be those writers who are creative and innovative who succeed? Or will it be the cunning and clever writers who lead novices down steep paths over cliffs in an effort to reduce the number of books out there?
A blog I read this morning, which featured the below headlines and subheadings, got me thinking that the playing field is made up of both, and this may not even be intentional. Perhaps secrecy and omission of the truth is how many writers will win the battle against this plague:
8 simple ways to market and sell your book.
1. Have a website
2. Start a blog
3. Be active on social media
4. Try to get interviews in your local radio or paper
5. Be patient and persistent – it takes years to sell enough copies to quit your day job and not everyone will be successful.
The “8 ways to market and sell your book” article is about as helpful as:
How to win the lottery
1. Buy a ticket
2. Check your ticket
3. Be patient and persistent – it takes years for a person to win the lottery and not everyone will be successful.
I occasionally get asked by students, friends, and strangers, who are just starting out on their writing journey for some tips on publishing. And I find myself wondering if I should give horribly broad statements because, dare I say it, to give away trade secrets could be bad for business. I can give away snippets say for example the leg of a chair, but not the whole chair. Because if you have a chair and I have a chair, and there is only one platform for a chair then we could end up using those chairs to knock each other off.
I'm joking. I love to share tips on my small wins with our writers. But seriously, is the future of writing under threat of a writer plague? I’d love to hear what you think.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
D L Richardson is the author of speculative fiction. She has three teen novels and one short story anthology published. Her first novel reached number 2 at OmniLit and number 38 at Kobo Books. Her second reached number 1 at OmniLit. Little Red Gem is her third novel and recently won 2nd place Best Books of 2013 Paranormal Cravings. She lives in Australia on the NSW south coast with her husband and dog.
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