Insights for self-publishers from an article in The Guardian
The average earnings were $10,000, which sounds good--but half of the self-pubbers surveyed earned less than $500. 10% of the authors surveyed accounted for 75% of total earnings, leaving just 25% of the pot to be split among the other 90%.
For me, the really interesting part was that self-publishers who received help with story editing, copy editing and proofreading made 13% more than the average; help with cover design upped earnings by a further 34%.
The article says, “There's a clear link between earnings and the amount of help, and therefore feedback, that an author is willing to take on board. Authors who engage editors end up with more royalties. Readers are excited by having access to new voices, but they've not been waiting for unedited, unproofread and amateurish books. There's more to being a successful author than finding the 'Save and publish' button on Amazon, but there are a lot of authors who haven't realized that yet.”
The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.
Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.
What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below.
A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.
Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.
Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.
- Story questions
- Tension (in the reader, not just the characters)
Sean has sent the first chapter of a historical-romance-comedy/alternate history, Bobby Vs. The Duke.
The Abattoir Blues.
A cow makes a very big noise when it falls down, stunned from a shot of the bolt pistol to the head. James Darling spent every weekday hearing that noise over and over again. It was like a giant’s footsteps in a fairy tale.
James’ job at the abattoir was sweeping and hosing. When it was his turn on hosing he had to keep the hot water flowing all day, spraying the pieces of shit and dirt into the drainage grids in the centre of the floor so no one slipped on them and when they got a surprise inspection they would be up to code.
Sweeping was basically the same job but someone else held the hose and he swept up the bits they missed into the grids.
Once the cow was stunned it was strung up by its hind legs on and flew over their heads to the processing lines where its throat would be cut and it would be carved up. James watched an unconscious cow, hooked onto chains and a line, float past him into the next room. Little clumps of dirt fell from its hooves onto the floor and James hit them with the hose stream. James loved to eat meat but still had a sentimental streak a mile long and every time he saw a cow go past he felt a little sad.
He worked at the Stanley abattoir in Liverpool, the biggest abattoir in the North of (snip)
Nice writing and voice, and the chapter continued in that vein. However, there was no real tension for me, no story questions raised--and the chapter continued in that vein, too. Characterization happened, but nothing more than James works, has a conversation with a co-worker, and goes home with his dad to discover that his uncle is there for a visit. Around FtQ this has become known as “throat-clearing.”
We’re also a bit distant from this character, too, observing him rather than being embedded in his experience. Find the place where something happens that does/will change his life and forces him to do something and that’s where the stuff of a stronger first page can be found. The writing is fine, the storytelling needs focus, IMO.
For what it’s worth.
Submitting to the Flogometer:
Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):
- your title
- your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
- Please format with double spacing, 12-point font Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins.
- Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
- And, optionally, permission to use it as an example in a book if that's okay.
- If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
- If you rewrite while you wait you turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.
© 2012 Ray Rhamey