There’s a story in every single one of us. Many of us have a yearning to tell our story. It is as old as humankind, when our ancestors scratched out their tales on cave walls. Yet publishing one’s story used to be the province of a select few, namely those who are lucky enough to catch the attention of an agent (only a very small number of books are published today without the author being represented by an agent – most publishing houses would not touch an un-agented manuscript).
I was fortunately that it was a big publisher who came knocking on my door to ask me to write a yoga cookbook. The Kundalini Yoga Cookbook was published in 2005 and was a finalist in the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in the same year. I went on to publish five more books to moderate success, including one which won the Moms Choice Awards – Gold in 2oo6.
However, the world is changing. I wrote about this elsewhere that a new order is coming. It is seeping into every corner of the world, including the world of publishing. In 2013, print sales fell by 10% overall. In the same year, the sales of ebooks grew by 79%, with 18 million bought by UK readers. It kind of makes sense – print books are taxing on the environment and they do not reflect the way the new wired-up, on-the-move generation lives. There is also much wastage in print books – unsold ones are often pulped. It is an expensive and wasteful business.
When I chose to self-published The Science & Philosophy of Teaching Yoga & Yoga Therapy, my co-author and I invested a significant amount of money printing the book and engaging the services of a book distributor. We needed to print quite a large run because the distributor required a certain minimum. A year later, the damaged and unsold copies were returned to us and we had to pay the freight charges! Even if we did not want those unusable copies back, we had to pay for them to be destroyed! Fortunately, we made money from running USA Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher training programmes based on the book, and the book built our credibility.
But as you can see from my experience, print books are not for the faint-hearted (or those light in the pocket). Are e-books the way forward? People lament that they like holding an actual book in their hands when reading rather than read from a Kindle device, but how many books in the past year have these people actually bought?
The mothers I know from a Facebook group bought many books in a twice-a-year buying hysteria – when a big warehouse (called The Big Bad Wolf) has its mega clearing out of unsold books. The books were sold off at bargain basement prices that would not even cover their printing costs.
I, too, do not pay much for print books. I love trawling secondhand bookshops in London for my goodies and I do end up with some real good goodies. Why pay £14 for a murder mystery when I can get the same for £1.99, sometimes £0.99 from a charity book shop? The Oxfam Bookshop in St John’s Wood London is superb. Admittedly, I cannot get the books I want from a secondhand bookshop, but there are a great many lovely titles out there to keep me occupied.
E-books seem to elbow its older sibling out of the way.
Thus, it is no wonder that the big publishers are not taking on as many authors as they used to. The Big Five publishers – Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Shuster – accounted for a mere 16% of ebook sales on Amazon, whilst self-published novels represent a whopping 31%.
In the past, self-publishing is also known as vanity publishing and it is meant for those whose books are not good enough to be published by conventional publishers. But as mentioned, how things have changed now. Authors are actually making more money being self-published that if they were to go down the conventional route. I borrowed the title of this post from an article the Telegraph (link below) about the growing legions of authors who decided to bypass the conventional route of getting an agent and then a publisher. 300,000 copies sold at an average price of £1.99, with 75% going straight into the author’s pocket seems to be the ballpark figure. One author, Mark Dawson, was first published by a big publisher, Pan and the book was ‘completely bombed’. Fortunately for Dawson, his first self-published book sold very very well, to the extent that his books are now earning him close to $500,000 (you can read his story by clicking the link at the foot of this article).
And here’s a little known fact. Do you know, the most notorious book of recent times, Fifty Shades of Grey, started its life as a self-published book? Maybe it is time for you to get your story out there…..
Stay tuned. You might just see Catching Infinity on kindle. Big smile.
Photograph: Book signing at the launch of Barefoot In the City.