Are All Self-Published Books Sh*t?
The short answer is no, but a gigantic proportion are, and more alarmingly it’s harder to weed out the trash because they exist on an equal platform, with no prominence to any particular title. Many titles sell to the undiscerning simply because they are cheap and long. And now the situation is going to get trickier.
The perfect book is now going to be an 800-page romp with a cliffhanger every few pages and a couple of pictures in each chapter, because Amazon is about to change the way its pays those authors – according to the number of pages read.
Self-published writers who go through Amazon’s lending library and its unlimited service currently get paid by the book, so if you write a novella you receive the same per book read as a doorstop.
From next month the new payment system will sideline writers of short books and those who write more demanding work. Amazon says that it will decide page count by using an equation accounting for line spacing, font size and the time a page remains on-screen. Non-text elements will count towards an author’s payment, so – lots of pictures.
The result is that this will encourage the writing of books with lots of secrets and hooks to be revealed further on, as Victorian magazines once did – and indeed Dickens used. But it’s a system that rewards cliffhangers and removes subtleties.
It’s arguably a good thing for those who buy books without discernment, because basically you’re buying a pulp novel, something to read without engaging the brain. It’s certainly worked for EL James, who has appealed to many who have never read a book before. I’m not being rude – research suggests she picked up a great many first time readers.
Under the new payment method, writers get paid for each page customers read of the book, the first time they read it. This could be called the ‘LOST’ approach to book-buying, all hook and no payoff. It might also create a system that keeps self-published books away from publishing house-sanctioned books.
The real losers will be those who have written something brave, unusual, specialist, experimental, and I know a number of authors who fit this category. But they will need to seek out proper publishers, who can also publish online. When my back-catalogue finally comes out, it will be under the aegis of Transworld, which removes the stigma of self-publishing.