This morning a new twitter follower who runs a blog called Extremely Average
sent me a link to his review of John Locke’s
new eBook, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months
. I shelled out the $4.99 for this eBook several days ago, after a recommendation from David Gaughran
over at Indie Publishing for International Authors
. (If you’re not subscribed to David’s blog, you need to be! And watch out for an eBook version detailing Dave’s digital experience soon to be released). I finished reading Locke’s eBook sometime afterward, at about two in the morning. (I have reclaimed the wee hours of the morning as “me” time). Both reviews said Locke’s eBook was worth the $4.99, even though there is, in fact, rather little in it that they weren’t already doing. I can only agree with them.
While the eBook won’t offer a lot of tips for the canny “Authorpreneur” who is already utilising social networking and online marketing to move books off the virtual shelves, it was worth the $4.99 and, if nothing else, is an interesting insight to Locke’s success.
Written in the somewhat circumlocutory stye common to copywriting and marketing, Locke’s book shows why he is such a success, which probably has more to do with his marketing genius than writing skills alone—a point he makes himself rather self-deprecatingly.
I won’t tell you what his mind-blowing secret to success is—suffice it to say that the build-up is rather more interesting than the “big reveal” itself—but I will tell you that he does two things very effectively that big traditional publishing houses should take note of.
The first is simple and something every writer must do: know your audience.
The second is a little more time-consuming but equally as important: connect with them personally.
In my experience, “big” publishing is notoriously bad at doing either of these things. “Genre” you see is different from “knowing your audience”, which is more about understanding the demographics of your intended readers. What do they like? What are their hobbies? Where do they shop? Where do they eat? Most importantly: what do they want?
And, even more importantly, how can you give them what they like and what they want in a place where they shop.
Traditional publishers tend to focus more on whether a particular genre sells well, where it sits in the store and the look and feel of a piece. While getting the cover right, the length right and the price right is part of knowing an audience, it is not the only part. Few publishers truly do extensive marketing research and that Locke thinks about his audience even before he puts fingers to keyboard is a telling part of his success.
Mind you, sometimes publishers get lucky. A case in point is the Stephanie Meyer
Twilight Series. Is it fabulous writing? I don’t believe so. Yet it garnered many millions of fans and, quite frankly, I’d swap paypackets with Meyer anyday. It did so because Meyer knows her audience and she gives them what they want: teenage angst, a rather insipid everyday heroine, romance, a choice of two hot “boys” (who just happen to be supernatural), and a simple read that doesn’t tax their vocabulary while getting them hot under the collar without overt eroticism or even any sex scenes at all (who’d have thunk it?). Timing, with a vampire genre that hadn’t seen such success since Anne Rice
, also probably had something to do with her success. Charlaine Harris
‘s much better-written (imo) Southern Vampire series also tapped into that subject area.
Traditional publishers, at least from what I have seen, also tend to promote the author, but rarely promote a true one-on-one personal connection with the work or the author, outside of book signing events. Self-promotion using social networking, on the other hand, now allows for fans to connect directly with authors and forge a personal connection, and that connection is gold … quite literally in Locke’s case. Responding personally to fans takes time. In fact, marketing takes time. Locke may have made 1 million in just five months, but he has put an awful lot of work into getting there, and much of that has been in marketing.
Late last year I went to a seminar run by IF:book Australia
where Kate Eltham and Richard Nash mentioned that, where in the past “content was king” in today’s publishing word “connection is king”. People want to connect with their favourite authors without the middleman of a publisher and self-publishing and social networking are allowing them to do that.
I can see that Locke’s book is going to be useful and inspiring for lots of authors seeking self-publishing success. My only caution would be that it is important for authors to ensure they spend as much time making a reader like
their book as they do making a reader want to buy
their book. What I mean by this is that, while excellent marketing and business skills (which appear to be the common denominator in the success of many best-selling series) can take a good book and make it great, even they can’t take turn a turd into a treasure. Good, preferably great, writing AND proactive marketing skills are both necessary to make it in the new world of self-publishing.
So until I feel that my novel is the absolute best it can be and will totally flabbergast readers, it won’t be going up on Smashwords or Amazon, but perhaps, one day, it will.
Visit Karin’s website at www.editorandauthor.com
for some great writing tips and to see more samples of her work. She also has a poetry anthology
available on smashwords.
Several years ago, my colleagues and I at a small, independent publishing company gathered in our conference room to discuss, with some trepidation, the state of the publishing industry and the likely effect emerging eReaders and tablets would have on sales.
We all recognised that a revolution was starting. We all wondered what would happen to our jobs and livelihood, and many of us, like myself, were even mildly excited about the possibilities the new technology offered. As an editor, eBooks could be seen to have presented a real threat to me and my profession, and to some degree they do, but, as an author, being able to publish directly to a large, technology-driven readership was a prospect that piqued my interest. However, at our meeting, after much deliberation, senior management concluded that, although eBooks were coming, they weren’t coming just yet and wouldn’t present a threat to our industry or to printed book sales for many years to come. Fast forward to 2011 and the collapse of Angus and Robertson and Borders, among the largest players in the book retail industry in Australia, and it is clear for all to see how wrong they were. How wrong we were.
Several reasons they believed eBooks wouldn’t challenge traditional printed books, and certainly not to the level suggested by hot-headed media commentators at the time, were thrown around:
(1) People love to browse bookshops. Bookstores, with their paper-smelling stacks of shelves dotted with engaging “wobblers”, and watched over by turtleneck-wearing, bespectacled booklovers, are where the crème de la crème of intellectuals gather to sip lattes and fawn over the newest releases.
(2) The smell of books. Oh, that heady scent of pulped paper liberally poured over with carbon black, titanium dioxide and wax. (This is one of the biggest reasons proponents of the printed book give for sticking to tangible books over eBooks.)
(3) No-one wants to read on-screen; it’s too much like work and too hard on the eyes.
(4) Who wants to read an eBook in bed (where a lot of booklovers do their reading) or in the bath?
(5) People like collecting books. They like having bookshelves filled with books that reflect their personal tastes and make them look clever.
(6) You own a printed book and can share it with friends or give it away. You can’t do that with an eBook which is actually only licensed to you.
(7) The Australian market for iPads, Kindles, Nooks, MobiPockets and other eReaders is still far from saturated.
What I now know is that none of these reasons was ever going to halt the advance of eBooks and their steady encroachment on traditional publishing. I know this because last night, I--me, book editor and publishing professional of 14 years, avid reader, collector of books—popped my iPhone4 into a ziplock plastic bag and took it with me to the bathroom, where I spent an hour luxuriating and reading Justin Cronin’s The Passage. (Editing aside, I do much of my reading in the bath—always have.) For the past few years I have kidded myself that electronic devices and bathwater are arch-enemies. Not so. Cue the tiny ziplock bag and rubber iPhone case and reading in the bath has now “gone digital” remarkably easily.
Since I have had the iPhone4, a little over four months, I have bought several eBooks, usually paying $4.99 or less. Titles I have picked up are largely work-related (grammar guides and how-tos) but I have also purchased several novels and short story collections and downloaded a lot of free apps and eBooks. Admittedly I haven’t yet shelled out the $9.99 to buy an eBook version of a bestselling paperback novel, but I am sure that time will come.
So why the change? Why would I, a devout printed booklover, turn so easily? The answer is convenience. Other circumstances, such as having a baby, no doubt hastened my conversion to eBook reading—after all, it is much easier to read on an iPhone while holding a sleeping baby than it is to read a hardcover or paperback book, which requires two hands. Pregnancy related apps on the iPhone, which link to websites that cover a range of pregnancy questions probably helped initiate me into reading onscreen on the iPhone. So perhaps there were extenuating circumstances, but I now believe that none of the points above would ever have remained important enough to stop me going digital eventually. Let’s look at them in detail again:
1. Bookshops are fine if you’ve got time to browse the stacks. But when you’re a busy mum trying to fit in writing, house cleaning, shopping, socialising, writing and freelancing, finding the time to sip lattes at your local bookstore is just about impossible. Kindle and other apps on the iPhone allow me to see what’s new and keep in touch with latest releases without having to change out of my spit-up covered pjs (Ah yes, it’s a glamorous job, editing. Luckily most of the manuscripts I see don’t make me spit up too much ;-)
2. The smell of books is one of the most commonly repeated reasons for not converting to eBooks, but really? I mean, really? How many dedicated book sniffers do you know? And anyway, most of my books smell like mould from being … dropped in the bath … or being thumbed through with wet, soapy fingers. Several smell like wine and some may even smell like cheese, these being my two favourite things to put in my mouth when reading (with the exception of the end of a red pen and sometimes a partially loaded gun when editing). Smell is clearly not a reason to swear off eBooks forever.
3. While it isn’t quite the same as reading on paper, reading on a small screen isn't that bad. Plus, all editors will tell you that it is harder to pick up errors on-screen than it is on hardcopy, which is perhaps a blessing given the state of the grammar and punctuation in some self-published eBooks whose authors haven't bothered hiring an editor! But I digress. What I have found is that the illuminated screen means I can now read in bed without eliciting whines of: “It’s 1 a.m., for God’s sake turn the light off, Kaz!” from my long-suffering, non-reading partner. Also the lit-up screen makes a great torch to guide my way to my wailing infant’s nursery at 4 am for her early morning feed and nappy change and if I’m feeling particularly naughty and manage to switch off the mummy guilt for a second I can even read while I nurse. (Bad mummy, bad!)
4. So, that’s reading in bed/nursing already partly covered. It’s actually far more comfortable to read lying down holding a slim smart phone or eReader than it is holding a heavy hardcover or thick paperback. Plus, if you’re nifty, you can do it one handed, leaving your other hand free for reassuringly hugging your partner and pretending you’re asleep, or whatever else you might want to do. (I can see this being a real boon for dedicated readers of erotic fiction, but let's not go there). Surprisingly, reading in the bath is also easier on an iPhone, providing you take precautions. The touch screen and scrolling worked just fine through a “zippy” and being able to read one-handed meant I could shave my legs at the same time. (Kids: don’t try this at home. Having a child has made me a masterful multitasker, but nicks from safety razors still sting).
5. I have been one of those “never throw away a book” people my entire life, until recently. When we bought our own home a few years back and I had to move box after backbreaking box of books in, including Greek Democracy and Politics in Early Athens and other such gems that were required reading for the Ancient History strand of my degree, I had a change of heart. Out went the textbooks I acquired in university. Out went the books I never got around to reading. Out went anything that didn’t live up to my expectations. Having said that, I still have hundreds of books, so many that I have no more bookshelf room. My new role as mum and the lack of a second income has put a partial ban on book buying outside of St Vinnies or charity shops, and my partner has put a total ban on buying any more bookshelves. So I either have to be extremely selective about what I purchase and maintain a stringent door policy of “one comes in one goes out” or I turn to eBooks, where my options are limited only by my finances and the amount of memory left on my phone.
6. Yes you can lend a book to your friends, but, really, I don’t advise it. Nine times out of ten whenever I have lent out a book it has never been seen again. So you don’t own the eBook that sits on your eReader or iPhone, big deal. You also pay considerably less for it (particularly in Australia) than you do for the privilege of owning a printed edition … and you don’t have to find shelf space for it either. You can recommend it to all and sundry by writing a review, and you can still recommend it to your friends and help spread the word and support the industry.
7. It is true that eReaders haven’t lived up to their anticipated potential in Australia. I don’t have one because I have a laptop and an iPhone and I’m not sure how much the iPad or Kindle or some other eReader would make a difference to my habits. But almost everyone has a smartphone that enables them to read eBooks and with ever more affordable eReaders and more and more eBooks hitting the virtual shelves every day, surely this will fast change. Not only that, but the publishing marketplace is more global than ever before, meaning that publishers (both traditional and self-) from around the globe can cheaply and easily make books available to readers worldwide. Publishers and authors should be looking at the global market for eReaders, rather than being too parochial and taking into account only local sales.
When I look back on it, I think the reason that we were easily persuaded and placated by senior management back then in the mid-to-late 2000s was not that we didn’t believe eBooks would be big, but that we didn’t want to believe it. Even today some publishers and publishing professionals still have their noses stuck in a traditional printed book and refuse to remove their rose-coloured reading glasses to see the screens lighting up all around them.
As an author, I’m pleased to say I was wrong, because the eBook revolution is offering authors much more creative freedom than traditional publishers ever have. As an editor, I’m pleased because I’ve seen how the ease and affordability of e-publishing has allowed self-published authors to finally begin to be more professional and channel their “start-up” costs into getting expert editing and cover design, rather than putting it all into the exorbitant cost of printing. As a reader I’m even more pleased, because anything that provides me with a convenient and simple way to access written information while juggling my other daily tasks is, quite simply, a godsend.
I touched on this in a previous post but wanted to revisit it because I think it's crucial to the success of the modern author. What I mean by the Writer's Web is not that vast conglomeration of information that is the internet —although that's a large part of it, but the networks, associations and communication channels (both virtual and in the real world) that radiate outwards from the author and act as the mechanism by which the author (in analogy to a spider) attracts and "captures" their audience (poor little flies don't know what they are in for, do they?). As well as those hapless flies, your sticky little web may also attract other authors, publishing professionals and eventually even an agent or publisher, all of which will up your author appeal and provide you with a solid support network.
The first thing authors need to recognise is that even once the hard work of securing a traditional publishing deal is done more elbow-grease is required. Few authors have the luxury of a publisher that furnishes them with a blank-cheque marketing budget, and many small independent publishers appreciate an author who is "self-promoting" (the self-saucing puddings of the publishing world, for those of you who have a sweet tooth). For self-published authors, promotion and publicity is even more crucial. Either way, the more publicity gigs, speaking engagements, signings and promo tours you can generate, the more sales you can generate. Aside from that, however, other elements of your "web" require attention:
1. An author website. You need a home on the web — a place to direct your unaware flies to. You also need to ensure it will have a high google ranking by optimising keywords on the site. What is your book about? If it's about divorce, make sure your web content has a high hit-rate for that word (and any synonyms or associated words), without sounding unprofessional. Include your name — a lot (e.g. writing in third person) — it'll be one of your most useful keywords for those who want to find you. Also make use of links to related services or sites. The more links from your site to other high-traffic sites, and the more links on other sites to your site, the higher your google ranking will be.
2. Develop an author blog. You can blog about whatever you like: random musings, political and social science, gardenias. It doesn't matter what you blog, it matters that your readers want to read it and that they feel it connects them to you in some way, either as a "go to" for the topics they're interested in or just to see what you're going on about this time. You'll also need to promote your blog in a sea of blogs, which means directing traffic to it by letting all of your database of contacts know where it is and suggesting they share it with others.
Link your blog to your website — hell, plug your website shamelessly if you like. Like this, www.editorandauthor.com (See, that didn't hurt a bit now did it?) For most authors, I recommend having several blogs. They're free to create with huge blog sites like wordpress or blogger, and often your web creation company will also have blog options. Blog on, peeps! Don't be afraid of it, but also recognise when it is acting as a procrastination tool to stop you doing what you do best: writing. (Like now, in my case. But it's okay; when I hit a small impasse in my novel, I blog it out!)
3. Forums. There are countless writing, publishing, speaking, gardening, relationship ... you name it ... forums out there on the worldwide web and most are free to join. Every time you post, you're adding a sticky filament of gossamer to your own personal web because you should include your name (or pseudonym) and links to your blog or site. This way others on the forums can start to develop a relationship with you not only as a forum member, but as an author.
4. Up the "freemium". Don't underestimate the power of a good freebie. Giving away some of your writing for free at sites like Scrib or Authonomy or TextNovel can help you establish fans. In the world of direct selling, those slick, greasy salesmen have a motto: "You have to tell most people the benefits of something at least 3 times before they'll buy it". The same is true for you as an author. Fans are made not bought, but giving them something for nothing will make you look like a lovely, generous author and also, if you're good enough, suck them into your writing. Once they're sucked into the web, they're yours for life (assuming you treat your fans well with special offers and a regular stream of "personal" communication). Also, if you've got spares and you self-published, gift your local library with a signed copy of your book. Self-published titles can struggle to get library representation but doing so might just have the librarian asking you to come and take a community writing group or do a reading there (if your work is good enough).
5. Network, network, network. Go to industry events. Run industry events if you can. Mingle with other writers and with readers at writing groups. Join online social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Linkedin and promote yourself on those too. The more threads your web has, the more successful it — and you — will be. Hand out business cards by the boxful, just get your name out there.
6. Treat others how you would like to be treated (even if you are a lurking spider). Hate those companies that bombard you daily with crud as soon as you make the mistake of signing up for their free newsletter? Even if it is something they're interested in, most people don't want to get an update every 20 seconds. RSS feeds on blogs aside (because people know they're going to get live updates and that's what they want), don't "overload" your audience or mail too frequently to your database. Aim for "top of mind" awareness contact say once every three weeks as a maximum. Of course, if you run a forum or a site where your audience can comment, always respond to comments or thank members for commenting. If they make contact with you, then by all means, reciprocate, but don't be pushy.
There are many other strands you can add to your web, e.g. promotion through print media, magazines and newspapers, advertising via your car and business, or establishing cross-promotional deals with others in a relevant field or business, as well as utilising the power of "the referral", but I'll deal with them in subsequent posts, because right now ... I've got my novel mojo back.
Cheerio ... Karin
Over the past decade, much has been written and postulated about the future of the book. For years publishers have been blithely ignoring the bleeding obvious and turning a blind eye to the telling and ever-increasing marketshare of digital "options", such as iTunes in the music industry. They've been whispering cagily to themselves: "This won't happen to us: books are revered, respected, the last bastions of elitist intellectual superiority". However, since Amazon and Apple first began their sortie on "traditional publishing" several years ago, things have changed, namely, public perception of what the book is and what it can be. Such radical thinking is starting to force traditional publishers to rethink their, rather precarious, position.
Digital media threatens to transform the book into something that is no longer an object but a concept. For centuries the tangible has made books hot commodities (and no doubt the printed book will never "die" as some hyperbolic commentators have suggested). But now, it is the intangible: the potential, the melding of new media and the inclusion of features that transcend the traditional "noun" of the book to add a richness of features that act as the "adjectives" and "adverbs" of digitised content. These concepts will serve to amplify what the book truly is -- a way to communicate with others and share a world (albeit fictional in many cases) and the internet will become an important extension of that author-to-reader communication.
Yesterday I attended a fascinating seminar series produced by if:Book Australia and the Queensland Writers Centre and titled: Next Text
. As always, Kate Eltham, CEO of the QWC was a sterling representative for authors, publishers and booklovers. She was joined by Richard Nash, formerly of Soft Skull Press, who added several unique perspectives from the point of view of a former Indie Publisher now establishing a "new model" publishing venture that focuses on win-win solutions for authors and independent, enterprising publishers.
Overwhelmingly, the message that rang true to authors and to publishers in attendance was that the book industry is undergoing a revolution. I don't mean the "quick get the guillotine and put the agents, editors and publishers heads on the block" bloody uprising that I often see wild-eyed wannabe authors call for (particularly those already wounded by the rejections of established publishers), I mean a throwing open of the gates, a changing of the guard, a broadening of possibilities for all authors, publishers and publishing professionals.
According to Nash, the days of publishers wielding the big stick and throwing authors a small carrot are over. And the author side of me barracks, "Vive la Revolution!" The publishing professional side of me, however, wonders if I will have a job five years into the future. Might be time to write the big one
Digital media circumvents the laborious and political chain of command that has dogged the book industry for so long: author to publisher, publisher to distributor, distributor to retailer, retailer to reader. It alleviates the need for a sale or return supply model and it allows authors -- those mercurial and often hermetical "primary producers" of the industry -- the chance to access a greater percentage of profit from their work and to directly connect with their readers in real time, should they wish to.
The meteoric rise of social networking media, print on demand companies and all things "digital" has woven the chain of command into a complex web of opportunity for authors willing to exploit this sticky social gossamer. Give away your content free online, but parcel up portions of your brain and make them available to the highest bidder in one-off editions? Sure -- go for it. But don't expect that all traditional publishers will embrace your new-found anti-capitalist writing exercises.
The opportunities are there for entrepreneurial authors who have talent, and many will be snapped up by traditional publishers eventually and will no doubt relish that vindication. But there will still be plenty of mediocre authors who attract only a small online presence and earn enough to fund only their caffeine habit (which is still better than a poke in the eye or a form rejection letter). Ah, but traditional publishing will be vanquished, vamoosed, I hear some authors, struck by the pangs of unrequited love for a big publisher, snicker. But I don't think so.
So what does it mean for publishers? Will the traditional guardians of the written word be buried under a flurry of ebooks? The answer, I believe is that some will. I believe the traditional bookstore will suffer more (venegeance for demanding 50-60% off RRP or more for so long? Possibly. They too, will have to adapt or face slow extinction and it may be that they team up with PoD and develop virtual and literal bookstores where a range of options are available to booklovers). Back to publishers, those who are unethical, authoritarian or inflexible will struggle to attract authors (especially those savvy enough to know they should individually license off their multi-acted "rights" as profitably as they can). Those who offer new methods, more appealing contracts and better royalty payments will also be able to move away from the distribution and chain-store model into web shopfronts where they keep a greater percentage of the RRP and are also able to give authors a bigger slice of the pie. In return, authors will still get books on literal shelves, will benefit from a larger marketing budget, and will have the credibilty afforded by being "banked upon" by a traditional publishers. Authors, I believe, will unconsciously become the gatekeepers of quality and the printed word purely out of their desire for print validation. The cost of printed books will undoubtedly rise, and boutique, rather than chain, bookstores may stock only the best, most popular titles and authors and offer high-priced premium and limited additions as well as become "events management" sites for direct author to reader interaction in the flesh - super signings, if you like.
What about other publishing professionals? The availability, accessibility and affordability of ebooks and even PoD has already resulted in a significant downturn in DIY offset publishing, and authors are buying into the success of net marketing doyens, such as Doctorow. As a freelance editor and publishing professional, as well an an author, I all too often feel a decidedly chill wind when I walk into a room of disgruntled wannabe authors (and its not about the lentils). Words like "shark", "scam" and "vanity publisher" are all too often erroneously banded around on author forums and in writers groups, making the assumption that all editors, agents and publishers aim to channel funds away from the writer. (Oh, how many times have I heard the old chestnut, "Money should flow towards the writer" and thought "if only they'd build a bridge over that fast-flowing river of potential Meyer-esque riches they'd have so much more chance of the traditional success they seek but simultaneously deride.") This attitude, and the affordability of "publishing" with Lulu or Smashwords or CreateSpace has meant authors are increasingly unwilling to shell out for professional editorial, jacket design or publicity/distribution services, which IS affecting the quality of the books that are hitting the, admittedly figurative, shelves of online bookstores. It is also likely to affect the role of an editor and an agent, and we need to think about how to change the perception of what it is we do and why we do it.
The challenge for all publishing professionals is:
(a) how to stay relevant in an age where there is "no fence". Don't want to publish an author? Fine, they'll jump the fence (if there even is one anymore), publish themselves and sell their book on their homepage for two dollars a pop. Offer them a shitty contract demanding all digital rights lumped into one and 10% RRP of net receipts - goodbye! Publishers need to look towards models that satisfy both parties, similar to Richard Nash's hinted-at business model for Cursor (which is fledgling but appears promising).
(b) how to reverse the damage done by traditional publishing to encourage ALL authors that services such as editing, distribution and book design are valuable, worthy and, here's the big one -- ethical. Part of this is in weeding out those who do suck, or who prey on the naivety of authors (and they are out there). I think this will occur by natural selection as the industry constricts. The rest will be more effectively communicating to authors that editors and agents are advocates for the written word, not the "policemen" of it. An editor's job is not to wring the author's ego right out of the page and an agent's job is not to "screw" the publisher (or the author) but to negotiate a satisfactory outcome for both "stakeholders". Editors are lifesavers in the sea of words -- think Pamela Anderson in Baywatch but substitute the little red floatation device for a red ballpoint and the red one-piece for, well, something less overtly sexy. They'll drag your gasping text out of a frothy dumper more times than you can count if you let them, and they'll do it so quietly no one will even know you were floundering.
(c) how to remodel the way publishing professionals attract, entice, deal with, pay and promote authors in order to keep print publishing viable and alive. This could be a variety of licensing methods or new publishing mechanisms and models that, as of yet, haven't even been conceived. One thing is certain, all of them will mean rethinking the "cut" authors make out of the publishing process and finding ways to give the authors and the readers more credit. And that, in my mind, can only be a good thing ... just don't tell my publisher. :-)
Recently a friend of mine suggested that I join an online freelance community in an attempt to break into the American writing market. Online networking sites, writing forums, and other creative communities can be excellent "workshops" for growing writing skills, and as I was no stranger to getting my inspiration, and some of my writing jobs, from off the web, I signed up to elance with little trepidation. However, my hopes of US domination were quickly dashed. Also dashed was any faith I might have had that writers were at last beginning to be respected as skilled professionals working in a trade that requires creativity, dedication and talent, rather than simply late-risers in unwashed T-shirts bashing off 500 random words before lunch.
It is truly disheartening to witness the disregard some of those seeking providers on elance have for the welfare and skills of writers. Many are offering jobs such as writing five articles each day for a month (that's 150 articles in a calendar month for those of you who, like me, might consider themselves sufferers of dyscalculia) for the paltry sum of $500 (or just $3.30 per article). And, at $3.30 for 500 words that's a measly 0.0066 cents a word, a far cry from The Australian Society of Authors' suggested rates. Even if most of us recognise that the ASA is highly optimistic when it comes to authors' rates, to be paid less than 1 cent per word is surely akin to slavery. What's worse is that not only are writers bidding on these jobs (therefore letting these parsimonious operators believe their ludicrously undervalued jobs are justified) but they're actually doing them!
Are writers living on even less than baked beans on toast and two minute noodles these days or what? More likely, talented and experienced writers are being undermined by those living in countries with low living costs or are being forced out of the market by night-owl college students prepared to hand in a second-rate article in exchange for beer funds. (Not that I'm saying they're not welcome to them, but my point is that experienced writers have to maintain their dignity, and their mortgages, and refuse to mark down their skills and their profession by participating in unwinnable bidding wars only to then use up their productive writing hours on financially unproductive jobs).
High bidders (even those punching below their usual hourly rate weight and putting in bids that are still below the reserve set on the project) are being rejected in droves. Now, we all know the old saying, "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys", and I've no way of measuring the success of some of the "literature" coming out of elance, but some of the examples given of how to "spin" an article are true bastardry of the English language. Invariably, employers seeking monkeys to write their articles, ebooks or biographies insist that "This should be an easy task for someone who knows what their [sic] doing". Oh yeah, if it's so easy, why didn't you do it?
it is unlikely that writers will ever shrug off the unprofessional, dirty T-shirt, living on the breadline image while sites like elance continue to perpetuate the idea that writing is easy, that writers don't need to eat, pay mortgages, or buy new tracksuit pants, and that good writers are expendable.