Tag Archives: writers

Branding, Oblivion and Big Breaks

As you many have heard the  big news in writing in the last week is that male debut writer Robert Galbraith has been… lets say outed as the female and decidedly not debut writer J.K. Rowling. The full story can be found on BBC and I recommend you read it.

It’s an interesting story because it does show fairly graphically the problems faced by a new author and the power of branding. Depending on which source you read, in the time between launch in April and the Outing the book had sold somewhere between five or fifteen hundred copies in I believe hardback. Which, lets be honest is not that impressive a number. Even if we assume the writer got a pound for every copy sold (which she certainly did not) that’s not going to yield anything close to a living wage, especially if we consider that under the old school book-are-sold-in-bookshops model that a titles first few months are the make or break. After that it it will be sent back to make room for the next new release. Even in the new world of electronic publishing as I have experienced it, the first couple of months are the best you’re ever going to get for title.

It’s worth dwelling on the following facts.

  1. This book was written by someone who can clearly string words together.
  2. But stripped of the ‘Big Name’ was turned down by at least one editor and probably others (doubt many will admit to it though)
  3. This is a book which has made it past the Gatekeepers.
  4. So by conventional publishing logical that means it is ‘good’
  5. It has received all the support traditional publishing can offer in terms of editing, cover art, etc
  6. Has received good reviews from fellow writers in the genre
  7. Still hasn’t sold very well
  8. At least not until ‘The Big Name’ is revealed.

Probably more by accident than design J.K. Rowling has offered us a really interesting live demonstration on the limitations of traditional publishing and the power of a writers Brand. Traditional publishing could sell very few Robert Galbraith books, J.K. Rowling on the strength of her name alone could sell them by the shed load.


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Filed under Random Rants, Traditional Publishing, Writing

Exactly zero reasons to link to Amazon (unless you live in the real world)

A few days ago a post went up on the Booksellers website berating writers for putting links to their books on Amazon. It was followed a few days later by another on the Melville site going by the catchy title ‘There are exactly zero defensible reasons for authors to link to Amazon’; there are links to both articles at the bottom of this post, be advised in both cases the tone is aggressive. The gist of each post is that authors should seek to support their local book – indeed that they have a duty to.

Now I will clear, I like bookshops, I like wandering around them, I like buying books and I have a home where books are colonizing most flat surfaces. My books however, have never been sold in any of Dublin’s bookshops. They were briefly sold in a hobby shop owned by an acquaintance of mine but didn’t sell fast enough for me to feel it was an experiment worth repeating. I have never approached any of the city’s book shops because I don’t believe it is worth my time. The nature of self publishing and print on demand would make it a bit problematic but even were I traditionally published I doubt it would make much difference.

One of the accounting and economic concepts that can be applied to the business writing is that of Opportunity Cost.  It is basically the idea that all resources are limited and a resource spent in one way can not then be spent another. I’m pretty sure I’ve made this point before, a writer is a small businessman/woman. They have to be business like. Which is where these proposals come unstuck.

I am based in Dublin, Ireland. The majority of my readers are in the UK but I have also that I know of, had sales in the USA, Romania, Brazil and New Zealand – which is about as far away from me as you can get without leaving planet Earth. A link to Amazon offers the casual visitor from almost anywhere in the world a chance to purchase my books. A link to a Dublin bookshop offer a chance to buy in one tiny little piece of the world. In essence these proposals are asking writers to make their own financial interests subordinate to that of the book shops, which is not realistic. So in short if independent book shops wish writers to engage with them they need to remember this is a business – writers can and must be business like. There is no debt owed, only however much or little independent book shops can do for us. If the independent book shops wish writers to engage with them, then they have to  give those writers a good solid reasons for doing so.


Melville House

The Nameless War, available on Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo and paperback.

The Landfall Campaign, available on Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords and paperback.

The Job Offer, currently only available on Kindle.

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Filed under Self Publishing, Traditional Publishing, Writing