Buying your way to success

I have been following a discussion lately which started with the observation that E L James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, has got where she is today by spending £100,000 of her own money promoting her book. I have no idea whether this is true or not – perhaps she revealed it in an interview or maybe it’s an invention – but for the sake of this post I am going to assume it is true.

Some people thought, ‘Good luck to her’. If that was how she wanted to spend her money, fair enough. But others complained that it was hardly fair that one author could buy her way to success when another, just as good or better, with only five pounds in her pocket and a second-hand thesaurus out of a charity shop, could not afford do this too and so was doomed to languish unread on the physical and electronic shelves. It was not a level playing field.

Dealing with those who complained, two thoughts occur. Whoever said it was a level playing field in the first place? Taking authors as a whole, some are more intelligent than others, some have wider experience than others and, here’s one to think about, some have a better way with words than others.

But, the argument goes, money is different! Unlike having a winning way with words, having money is not a talent. It is not an authorial skill.

This is true, but surely if a book is unmarketable, no amount of money will make it sell. There has to be something to market which people will want to buy.

We don’t have to like this state of affairs, it may not be fair, but complaining about it won’t change anything. I think we should all just relax and have a bad time. That’s what we enjoy, isn’t it?


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8 thoughts on “Buying your way to success

  1. I know a lady that has just spent 2.000 euros getting her second book published, she has spent far more than she has made, she has a third book in the pipeline and she is thinking about self-publishing/publicising the next one. She is not looking for fame or fortune but even so it is a lot of money to fork out, I certainly couldn’t afford it.

    • I find this whole area very problematic, since I have no aptitude for self-promotion and also little skill with social media which, they say, is essential these days.

      Would you pass me a link to one of your friend’s books? I’ll check it out.

      • I’m afraid the books are written in Greek, I have done my best to translate the introductions for you.

        The Mistake of Silence
        Giannis started playing the guitar and began humming along to “PAPER MOON” Francesca leaned on his shoulder. Their voices mingled amid the tranquillity of the night. Along with the stars they counted the time was lost, counted silence. Eyes stared for so long. How sweet, despite the slight chill of the evening, but tonight it seemed the evening would…

        The Peace of my Soul
        Nicolas Vergidis is considered to be a lucky man. A purebred young man who is personable, intelligent and a successful professional that ranks him in big business. His reputation as the conquesto of the female sex is great; he is the ideal model for every man. Is he happy with all this? Two women in his life, completely different from each other, two roads open. But which one holds the key to happiness? Will he make the right choice? The little sister Maria plays a key role in their lives. Truths, secrets, passions, hatreds, loves, disappointments, coincidences and a blow of fate determine the lives of the characters who all have one purpose: to find happiness.

      • This has really got me thinking, but I’m on the move right now and fighting a virtual keyboard. I shall return, as Fu Manchu said at the end of the eighth reel.

  2. Firstly, I am abashed to think it didn’t occur to me that your friend’s books were written in Greek.
    Secondly, i’m very grateful for your work in giving me access to what they are about.

    Moving on to the nitty gritty. I am in much the same position as your friend, though I am selling copies of the first book. The second is recently published but I haven’t told anyone yet because I am attempting to market the first before trying to move the second.

    The potential market for novels in Greek will be a lot smaller than that for novels in English, but that shouldn’t matter much since the competition will be correspondingly less.

    And in one area your friend has an advantage. I have read that when it comes to self-publication, the genre that does best – by a long way – is romance. There’s a market for it out there, and it seems your friend is working in that genre.

  3. I agree, it’s no good complaining about how anyone else sets about the publishing business. For what it’s worth I self-published spending as little as I could get away with, probably, at a very rough guess, about £1000 over a year (including £500 to a relative to set the text and create the cover). I did very little real marketing and put no actual cash into this (a mistake), unless you count a lunch and a launch party. I created my own web page. It took about three years to break even. every time I buy another batch of my book, I go into the red again. I’m OK with this.

  4. It is difficult and discouraging, except that I do feel happy after I have written a few more words. It seems a reward by itself. I don’t have to make a living from writing but I do despair when someone has to. I could not market myself. I would simply pass out or shrivel at the first question.

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