First Anniversary post - e-Publishing for aspiring writers

First off, it's good to be back to writing posts. Year-end project work has kept me away from blogging, and sadly, also from following up regularly on tech news. I have missed both, and intend to get back to regular posting from this month onwards.

I started this blog in March last year. It seems a great time to say a big 'thank you' to all of you who regularly visit. Thanks for the encouragement, for commenting and for giving your time to read what I write; it has kept me going strong.

Like many bloggers, I am an aspiring writer, who found a voice through the internet. If you were to ask me why I write, I would tell you that it is hugely rewarding. I read and research a lot for each post, and in the process my own knowledge has increased. In real life, I hold a demanding and very enjoyable job that has nothing to do with technology. Blogging is my way of self-enrichment, of growth beyond my profession, and maybe towards a different future!

That's enough about myself - this was supposed to be a post about e-publishing.

Long ago, I came across this site called everyone who's anyone. Gerard Jones had a book called Ginny Good, and in an attempt to get it published, he contacted every literary agency and publication house that he could hunt down. Now anyone who has even tried to publish (I have) knows how hard it is to get a foot-in-door with any of these places. Gerard retaliated to the rejection (or in some cases plain silence) by publishing a comprehensive list of every literary agency and publisher.He tried to include as much details as possible including name of contact people, email IDs. If this were not enough, he also put up every rejection letter he received. Needless to say, many of his targets protested against this breach of privacy, but he persisted. I remember how much this site made me laugh when I first visited it, but I also felt that this was the power of the internet.

Nowadays however, we do not have to depend on the publishing houses or the agents, for our moment of fame. Nor does your work have to be a huge tome. Depending on what and how much you write, there are dozens of options for you to publish your work, and get a fair shot at making money for it.  Here are just a few that I am aware of.

1) Blogging


Sometime ago, NY Times published this article about Heather Armstrong, dubbing her as the "Queen of Mommy bloggers." Heather, who blogs about her own life and family at her own website Dooce, gets an average of 100,000 visitors per day and makes an estimated $30,000-50,000 per month in advertising revenue. Over and above this, she has also bagged a book contract.

Interior decor blogger Holly Becker is another example of a successful blogger who has not only gone on to publish her own book, but also to train, advise and inspire other bloggers through Blogging your Way, an online workshop for aspiring bloggers.

For me blogging is a safe sandbox kind of space to experiment with writing, find a style that works for you, discover what readers like and at the same time, get an audience that gives you constant feedback and encouragement. There seems to be enough evidence that if you persist, have a clear idea and write well, you will get some form of reward.

2) Self publishing through Amazon

The world of e-books has removed two of the huge obstacles to traditional publishing. Firstly, publishing houses/ agents as gatekeepers are no longer the arbiters of what will sell or not. Secondly, the cost of distribution and marketing no longer exists. All it takes, is to upload your work to a publishing site and collect a percentage of royalty on sales as and when they happen.

Amazon offers two options for e-publishing on its Kindle. One is KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). An author can publish a book in the Kindle store at any price between above 99 cents, and keep 30-70% of sales value as royalty. Amazon is basically giving a retail shelf to aspiring writers and keeping a profit margin.

The KDP system has created several best selling authors, the most notable one being 26 year old Amanda Hocking, a young indie writer who makes millions of dollars through her sales on Kindle devices, without a conventional publishing contract. She sells around 100,000 e-books every month. And she started earlier as a blogger, not as an established writer, so the digital platform has directly aided her success. The Business Insider points out an interesting fact; out of the top 25 selling e-authors on Kindle, only 6 were affiliated to a publishing house earlier.

In case you do not have a full length book, but just a short story, a well written article, or anything else, Amazon still has something for you. You can opt to publish shorter format  Kindle Singles, which are typically 5000-30,000 words in length. The definition of what could constitute a Single is pretty fluid. It's a new kind of content. John Gruber notes in his blog, Daring Fireball, "each Kindle Single is intended to allow a single killer idea - well researched, well argued and well illustrated - to be expressed at its natural length." 

And Wired Magazine extols the fact that Amazon will revive long form journalism, with article lengths that lie in the no-man's land between a short article and a short book.

As Charlie Sorrel observes in the article "In the past, there was no way to easily sell work of this length. Magazine’s just aren’t big enough, and book-buyers want to get their money’s worth in terms of page-count. Electronic publishing has no such limits. Indeed, the format seems perfect for tablets and cellphones."


Kindle singles will sell in a price range of 99 cents to $4.99 cents, which is a similar range to many e-books, But there may well be a target  audience for well researched shorts. 


It's good to know that writing and reading are alive and well in the digital era. And it's good to know that it has only become easier to publish, access and connect with people through the written word.





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