As some of you will know I’m a member of Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?, a group of established authors who’ve branched out sideways into E-books because of our publishers’ reluctance to take a risk on anything unusual or publish anything that hasn’t got ‘instant best-seller’ stamped on it. An alternative name for the group might be ‘the Revenge of the Mid-List Author’! There are 28 of us - a mixture of children’s writers, young adult, crime fiction, mainstream fiction, poetry, general non-fiction and romance. So far I’m the solitary biographer, offering up my back-list of out-of-print biographies. Publishers haven’t yet woken up to the fact that E-books are brilliant for the back-lists of authors they want to keep, but can’t afford to keep in hard copy.
Recently it was World Book Night, which still doesn’t have an E-dimension, and we thought it would be a great idea to change that. So, we organised a free E-book giveaway for the event. The advantage of being part of an author’s collective is that you can generate so much more activity because you don’t have to do it all yourself. It’s also much easier to approach people if you’re promoting a group rather than just yourself. Some of the group wrote press releases, we all blogged about it, those of us on Twitter tweeted like crazy, we called in favours, approached contacts, talked about it on radio and TV and in as many newspapers, local and national, as we could persuade to give us a mention. From the Guardian to the Bangalore Times, from Irish TV to BBC radio we gave it our all.
The result was extraordinary. Between us all we ‘sold’ more than 24 thousand books and several of our members got into the top 10 best-sellers on Amazon. Jan Needle made number 1 with his political thriller ‘Kicking Off’, as did Dennis Hamley with his historical mystery ‘Of Dooms and Death’. And I sneaked into the number 1 spot on Amazon USA with Christina Rossetti. I was gob-smacked. Literary biography is a minority form and Christina Rossetti not exactly a household name. If only the freebies had been paid for, we’d all have been able to pay the bills for a month or so!
Since the giveaway we’ve all reverted to more normal ratings, but many of us have sold more books in the week since the promotion, presumably because Amazon is giving us more of a push, based on our downloads. It seems so far to have been well worth doing, and it’s also got Authors Electric mentioned a few times in the press (most notably the Guardian Book Blog).
Authors collectives seem to be the way forward for self-published authors because of the support and advice they can offer and the possibilities of wider publicity. We are also better placed to take on the sometimes hostile traditional publishing/bookselling establishment and defend the position of the independent E-author. Individually, we take every opportunity to comment on articles about E-publishing, and challenge some of the more outrageous assertions in the great E-debate currently raging in Book World. Some of us have also joined the Alliance of Independent Authors, begun by the indefatigable Orna Ross, which this year took a stand at the London Book Fair - the beginning of something much bigger I think.
This is all really exciting, but tremendously fragile. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.
[Please note that all the opinions in this blog are entirely my own!]