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Becoming an e-book writing entrepreneur

Posted on November 07th 2013

Last Saturday I attended a seminar in London hosted by Bloomsbury Publishing on e-book marketing. It was very informative and well attended.

The meeting was held in a lecture theatre at Imperial College and so for all us literary parvenus it was rather intimidating to see cut out jet engines and other wonderous pieces of British engineering history depicted in sculpture or models dotted around the building. We commenced at 9.30 and finished at 6.00 and so had a packed day with speakers from Amazon, Kobo and IngramSpark plus interviews with various self-publishing wunderkinder. We also heard from two authors (Tracy Bloom and Mel Sherratt), who were just ‘unknowns’ 18 months ago and now were riding high in the Amazon best seller charts.

At first hearing the stories of the newly elevated it might appear that their miraculous leap from obscurity to having their doors beaten down by hungry literary agents was an easy rise to stardom. However, after listening to their various and candid life-journeys they revealed the hard toil, devotion and rejection that all writers go through to find fame and tiny fortune. And many continue to slog away but never go beyond.

In an interesting prologue to the day Dr. Alison Baverstock discussed a major academic research programme she had undertaken on the self-publishing revolution. She revealed that for most e-book writers it was not the clamour for adulation, recognition or cash rewards but simply the satisfaction of achievement in completing a book or short story. E-book writing is also predominantly a female occupation (over 60%) and the majority of writers have other jobs; so it is not just golden oldies who on retirement decide to write a memoire. One thing is for certain that on-line publishing is growing at a rapid rate; and not all successful e-book authors wants to switch to traditional print based output managed by literary agents and publishers. In fact some successful writers are even becoming their own publishers. The reason is ownership and control over their material and of course better margins.

I was surprised that many of the delegates, like myself were either already published, had literary agents or at least had one or two books on e-book platforms. Marketing is a key ingredient to e-book success; that is providing your material is of high quality and is in a popular genre. Ensuring that you get plenty of good reviews is vitally important to getting you noticed. This requires diligence and seeking out reviewers and bloggers who follow your genre of writing.

One big conundrum for all ‘indie’ writers is the amounts of time devoted to writing and the amount you spend cultivating bloggers, reviewers and other influencers? The conclusion was that writing has to come first. It was interesting to note that most of the successful e-book story-tellers had employed professional help in editing their material and had some level of support from outside sources in promoting their books.