Victoria, Australia (MMD Newswire) May 1, 2012 - Will the phenomenal rise in e-book sales see print-book publishers scrambling to compete in this new electronic age by considering authors they previously rejected? Crime and mystery novelist Margaret M. Ford, a UK transplant now making her home in Oz, believes that just such a scenario is unfolding. And she says this is good news for authors everywhere who may have marketable books but have been thwarted in their efforts to get them into publication. But it's also good news for the publishers, whose continued success depends on finding new talent.
Ms. Ford feels the pain of all of those frustrated authors, but is encouraged by the options now available. "After 25 frustrating years of trying to get published the traditional way, I picked up on some clues that e-books might be a good way to go," she says. "So I joined the e-book revolution, and have been pleasantly surprised by the steady increase in sales of my e-books in the short time since publication."
Ms. Ford has already published several e-novels of different genres (including a supernatural spoof), and is currently working on a new crime thriller. All of her e-books are available on Amazon and on most major e-book sites worldwide.
She thinks her experiences can be a lesson for other writers seeking publication. Getting a print book published the traditional way, by a trade publisher, can be an exercise in frustration, she acknowledges. It has long been the case that most major publishers wouldn't accept a work directly from an unknown author, requiring that the author go through a literary agent. Unfortunately it seems that the most sought-after agents always have a full client roster, and/or they rarely take on unknowns. In many cases, it's the old Catch-22 situation, which is inherent in the traditional "gatekeeper" system.
But that "gatekeeper" system is getting a serious shake-up as more authors choose to take matters into their own hands, as Ms. Ford finally did.
She did so after having been through just about every disappointment known to an author. "I had been writing for many years," she says, "during which time several of my short stories and numerous technical articles were published. Although success with publications in magazines brought some gratification, what I really wanted was to see at least one of my full-length novels in print. That was the holy grail - the one achievement that kept eluding me." She got her hopes up several times, only to be disappointed.
For instance, a respected literary agent gave one of her manuscripts a thumbs-up, praising her original plotting, gift for dialogue, and meticulous presentation. However, the agent declined the work because it was in "the massively oversubscribed serial killer genre." To Ms. Ford, this illustrates the vicious cycle in which so many unknown authors find themselves, but she also notes that the praise her books are getting from readers seems to demonstrate that there's still a significant market for her chosen genres.
In another case, a publisher accepted one of her manuscripts, but just before it was to be published the company decided to discontinue print books altogether, offering Ms. Ford a new contract for e-book publication. She declined, her heart still set on seeing hard-copy publication of her work. In her view there's still a large market for print books, and most publishers are offering titles in both print and electronic versions. She thinks readers like having a choice.
Ultimately she decided to take advantage of the technology now available to independent authors, and the rest is history in the making. Ms. Ford feels that her own success, as well as that of other e-book authors, should be a lesson to the big publishing houses. "I do think they are beginning to take notice that they could find themselves on borrowed time if they don't start signing up new, talented authors now," she says. "After all, those famous names that are currently under contract won't live forever - and eventually the publishers may find themselves unable to sign authors who are willing to share the proceeds of their work, due to the ease of e-book publication, which they can achieve by themselves."
That said, Ms. Ford is philosophical about the rejections and near misses with traditional agents and publishers. "Even if they reject your work, they will often inform you of the reason, which can be very helpful," she says.
When asked if she has any advice for aspiring writers despairing of achieving success, she says, "One mantra to adopt is: never give up. If your work is original and a genuine page-turner, it will eventually be recognized as such."
But there's a caveat, she adds. Writers have to be able to take and use constructive criticism. "You can't rely on friends or family to give your work a genuine, critical summary, and you should always seek an independent view from someone who isn't afraid to offend you. Many companies offer this service on the Internet: Make sure you choose a reputable one."
Ms. Ford wants to make it clear that she isn't dissing the big publishers. After all, she is still hopeful that a major publisher will take notice of her work. Meanwhile, though, she is thoroughly enjoying her success as an independent e-book author. "Readers are hungry for new stories, and I'm glad to deliver," she says. "There's a huge market out there for original work, and more ways to publish that work than ever before. I'm very optimistic that the big publishers will jump on the bandwagon and become more open and accepting of new talent, but I'm also confident that no matter what happens, good work will always find an audience."
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