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.