Friday, 13 August 2010

Networking now seems to be

an essential for writers. They are, it seems, expected not only to write the book but to sell it as well - and not just sell it to an agent and the publisher but to sell it to the public.
Okay, they have always had to do some of this but now they are expected to do even more of it, most of it. Some writers even self-publish and that means doing everything themselves. I will not go there but the idea of a writer, published by someone else, doing virtually all their own publicity is more than a little disturbing to me. What is the writing paying the publisher for this 'privilege' - because that is the way that it works. Someone has to be making money out of this. It is not the writer and, I suspect, not the agent. It has to be the publisher. The writer has to go out and sell the publisher's product. Of course they say, "But it is your product. You created it."
True, but they bought it.
However it seems to be a fact of life so then there is the networking. There are the internet tools like Facebook and Twitter and blogs, there are talks in schools, libraries, bookgroups etc. There are, if authors are fortunate, signings in bookshops etc etc. There is word of mouth. A good book gets talked about - if you are lucky.
Nicola Morgan is doing a 'social networking experiment' here:
http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com/2010/08/social-networking-experiment.html and I will be interested to see how well it works - rather well I suspect because Nicola is already well known. She is 'involved' in not just writing but in the social network of authors who attend the Edinburgh International Book Festival and other like events. Nicola has done a stint as President of Scottish Society of Authors - work yes, but also invaluable in getting one's name known. She sells herself to schools and has diversified into selling assistance to other writers as well. It is all hard work.
There are also writers who do not need to do any of these things. They write the next book and there is only a small chance that they will have it rejected. Such people are few and far between. What they write is not necessary uniformly good, indeed may not be good at all. They have a 'name' however and, like certain brandnames, the 'name sells'. Like Mozart or Monet there is an assumption that all their writing (or music or painting) is outstandingly good. I can think of a number of writers who should have been confined to the dustbin long ago but they continue to be published. They sell. People go on buying because Big W or Tesco stock the book and play a loop with a teaser designed to sell it to you in store. These writers largely get the work of selling done for them. I am not sure it does any writer any favours. The profit margin has to be low.
So, we are back to the networking. I think people probably need to talk more about the books they read. There are book groups of course. People talk about books there but, outside that, they talk about football and films. They do not talk as much, if at all, about books.
So, what is it about books? Why is it we cannot seem to network about books?

8 comments:

Rachel Fenton said...

So much there, CAt.

The publishers do not make much profit on books - the costs of book production aren't especially high - depends on the artwork of the cover and whether, for eg there is foil lettering etc - those sorts of things cost money, but the publisher, like the writer, get so little reward for mass expenditure of effort. Just the way it is. There are way too many factors to make it simplifiable in this way.

I think any writer who expects to churn out a book and then sit back and let someone else do the donkey work is not doing their research and certainly isn't doing themselves any favours. If you've put your all into your book wouldn;t you want to go out there and tell everyone about it?

Not showing off, either, just giving yourself the best chance.

I find networking difficult - I am naturally a shy person but I am enjoying meeting - even virtually - other writers and learning from their experience - and when you take the "want for yourself" out of networking and look at is as a way of keeping in touch with like-minded people, it isn't so scary or brazen sounding.

A very thought provoking post, Cat.

Tony said...

But there is a lot of networking about books, especially in the blogosphere (and, as a follower of a certain Dan Holloway, you'd know how much goes on in these areas!).

catdownunder said...

True Tony - but it seems I keep meeting the same people in these blogs. They are very interesting people and it is great to know them. You introduced me to some Japanese literatue that I would never have come across. But, outside the blog world, I wonder what goes on. The people I see on a daily basis do not read very much, some not at all - indeed seem bewildered by the fact that I read so much (and as for writing something!). I just wonder why we, as a society, do not talk more about books and books that we have read. I know it happens but not as much as one would expect given the use of libraries.

catdownunder said...

BTW Rachel, if it helps at all, the idea of having to get up and talk about something I have written terrifies me - I have, literally, had nightmares about it.

Donna Hosie said...

I agree with Rachel. No one makes a lot of money on the vast majority of books.

You also have to put it into context. Comparing it to soccer for example, there are only a few elite soccer teams in a few leagues around the world. Compare that to literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of new titles that are published each year. There is a lot of networking around books, just not the same ones.

catdownunder said...

Mmm do not disagree with Rachel or with you Donna - just puzzled that the people I know around here (and that is a lot of people) do not seem to talk about what they read - if they read. You are quite right of course - with all those books out there it is unlikely we are reading the same titles - which is why I would have thought it was important to network about what we are reading - the way you do but face to face!

Donna Hosie said...

But perhaps that is just where you are though, cat?

In my office this week, we spent an entire lunchhour talking about books and what we were reading. When I was looking for a job several months ago, an interviewer asked me to name the last 3 books I had read. We then totally got off track and spent most of the interview talking about "The Book Thief"!

Nearly every book I buy is the result of a recommendation from someone else.

Just sayin!

catdownunder said...

I wonder where I am Donna? :-)
It may of course be what you do for a day job. I don't actually see the people I work with - indeed have never met most of them and never will.
That said, I the people I see locally are a pretty diverse bunch and they really do not seem to "read in order to discuss"! Never mind, at least some of them are reading.