Sunday, October 5, 2014


Gobsmacked! Yesterday I was astounded three times with new information about elements of books and publishing.

There are How Many Self-publishers in Australia?

The first piece of astounding information occurred when reading Jane Sullivan’s Book Marks column in The Age. I am a bit behind in my reading so I was reading her August 2 column. The column was on self-publishing and she wrote “…many of the 225,000 registered self-publishers in Australia…”  225,000 self-publishers!! That means one in every hundred Aussies has self-published a book. No wonder it is so hard to get published. But I am curious where they register.  

All Self-Published Writing is Crap Though, Isn’t it? 

I have read a few self-published or indie published books and all of them were good reads, for example Hugh Howey’s Wool trilogy. So I don’t buy into the self-published equals crap claim. Then I read in the same August 2 edition of the Age that Paul Kingsnorth’s crowd-sourced novel The Wake has been long-listed for the Booker. I immediately thought that a self-published book had been nominated for one of the most prestigious writing awards in the world, but then I decided to do some research. 

The Wake is published by the crowd-sourcing book site Unbound. This is how Unbound appears to work: a writer submits a pitch for a book they propose to write to Unbound. If Unbound reckon the finished book might make them money, they put the pitch and other info up on their website. Readers then pledge money towards the proposed book. In return, like Kickstarter, the pledger receives a copy of the published ebook or printed book. Larger money pledgers get tickets to the book launch etc. They all get their name listed at the rear of the book.

According to an article on PE Hub, a successful Unbound pitch usually takes three months to raise on average $27,500 from 500 supporters. This money allows the Unbound team and the author to pay for the writing, design, editing and printing of the book. Unbound says once the book is published they split any profits 50/50 with the author. They say the scheme is like subscription publishing. Depending on how much the author gets for writing the book, I reckon it is getting close to vanity publishing – where an author pays a publisher to publish their writing - only this time the author solicits money from other people to pay for the publishing of his book. I am curious what happens if the pitch is successful and the author writes a terrible book. 

Was William Golding Right After All?

The third time I was astounded occurred when watching the first episode of the latest series of Survivor. One of the tribe members did something that I thought impossible. This impossibility relates to William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies. In that novel Piggy’s glasses are used to start a fire. Starting a fire with glasses is supposed to be impossible. I think William Golding even acknowledges that he got this wrong in the afterword in some editions of his novel. But on Survivor a fire appeared to be started using glasses.

On Survivor a 50-year-old farmer broke his glasses in two so he could use the two lenses to concentrate the sun’s heat on some coconut fibre. It took him about an hour to start a fire. Did Survivor fake it? I did some googling and found a video of a guy using glasses to start a fire. But he says generally it won’t work with prescription glasses. I gather he used cheap spectacles that just have magnifying lenses. In the video he breaks the glasses and used both lenses layered together. I wonder if the Survivor guy watched the video before he went on the show.

I am betting Piggy would have had prescription glasses, so Golding is probably not wrong about being wrong, and I am not as astounded as I initially was.    


Anthony J. Langford said...

I cant believe those figures. 225,000? Where do they get this information? Probably multiple books each author but still. With traditional publishers moving away from doing what they used to, its a crazy time to try and do it the old fashioned way.
And yet, with all of those books out there, how many people are actually buying them? Outside of one's 'social circle', I would estimate few have success. Bookstores still wont stock them. With those figures you can see why... and there is a lot of crap out there. Clearly not all. You've done your research, you know what constitutes a good book. Perhaps delve into the crime or romance sections and find a lot of average works.
One needs a business strategy and good salesmanship to make something out of a self published book. Two things I'm not good at. Perhaps why my 7 unpublished novels remain just that.

Graham Clements said...

I found the number hard to believe too Anthony. I was wondering (hoping) if a lot of them are school students who are just doing class projects. The original newspaper article never said were the writer Jane Sullivan got her figures from, but I have had no reason to previously doubt her research.

The Fast Fingers said...

That figure is not impossible. Self-publishing has opened the door for aspiring writers.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Each to their own - the minute I self publish, the minute I will feel like a failure.

Graham Clements said...

Anthony, I reckon you should have a go at self-publishing your novels. Graham Storrs and Dave Kitson both self-published their first novels and were noticed, now they have traditional contracts, and then there is Hugh Howey.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Cheers Graham. There are always success stories of course. But out of those 225,000 novels, how many writers sold enough to qualify as a success? Probably 99% failures.
I know how much trouble I had moving copies of my books and that was with a legitimate publisher, albeit a small one. You have to be a really good active self promoter and I struggle with it.
It may work out for you if you decide to go down that path.