June 2024

Want to be a published writer? It’s never been easier

Until about five years ago, there were two main routes to becoming a published writer:

1. Literary agent and publisher – you sent your masterpiece to every publisher you could think of and most chucked it on the ‘slush pile’ and then into the bin without even looking at it on the principle that if it was any good, a literary agent would have snapped it up. Or you sent it to every literary agent in the Writers and Artists Yearbook and most of them chucked it in the bin or returned it to you if you sent an envelope and postage. If you were lucky, an agent might look at it and send you a rejection letter. Most likely you’d get a standard preprinted letter thanking you for your submission and informing you that the agency wasn’t taking on any new writers. But in the rare case where a literary agent did agree to represent you, you had a very good chance of a publisher eventually buying your book as the agent would know what each publisher was looking for

2. Vanity Publishing – you might have noticed the small ads in your weekend newspaper saying something like “Authors Wanted”. These ads are put in by so-called “Vanity Publishers”. For a fee, they’ll publish your masterpiece however good or dire it is (they don’t care) and then you can order a few copies to sell to your hapless friends. Your friends will, of course, feel duty bound to both buy a copy and to tell how how wonderful your book is and how it should have been a best-seller. But you’ll probably be left with a huge pile of unsold copies and you may lose a few friends in the process.

But now anyone can become a published writer thanks to something called “Print On Demand” (POD). With POD a printer only produces a book for you each time you actually sell one. So you no longer have the danger of being left with heaps of unsold copies. And, of course, with ebooks you don’t need to print anything at all. The best POD and ebook service for authors is run by Amazon and is called CreateSpace

With CreateSpace, you just log in and you can build up your book and design the cover completely free of charge using their templates. If you need a photo for the cover, you can get one for just a few pounds from a website called “Shutterstock” which has four million for you to choose from. If you struggle a bit with the CreateSpace templates, you can pay a professional probably about £150 to £200 to do the whole thing for you or you can pay CreateSpace to help you.

Once you’ve built your book, it will feature on and anyone can buy either an ebook version or a paperback (or hardback) copy. And you get paid for every copy sold. So it can cost you almost nothing if you do everything yourself and probably less than £200 if you get someone to do it for you.

A standard paperback should be about 60,000 to 70,000 words (though you can get away with 40,000 to 50,000). But if you can express your great thoughts in fewer than 30,000 words, then you can use CreateSpace to publish a Kindle Single – a shorter ebook version of your genius. My publisher decided to publish my latest book THE GREAT CHARITY SCANDAL as a Kindle Single rather than going to the bother of producing a full book. I think that around 1,000 copies have been sold so far.

By the way, THE GREAT CHARITY SCANDAL is on a special promotion for January for just £0.99. So hurry if you want a copy. Remember you don’t need a Kindle Reader to read it. You can read it on any device – computer, tablet, smartphone. All you have to do is go here and download the free Kindle reading app to your device:

But once you’ve written, produced and got your chef d’oeuvre onto, you have the issue of how to sell it . If you really have something original to say, then it might be worth paying a PR person about £500 for 15 hours work to push your book with newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. Most PR people are total rubbish and just send out streams of emails to their supposed ‘contacts’ which are routinely ignored. But I do know of one who is quite good and you’re welcome to contact me if you have a story that the world needs to hear.

That’s it. You’re a published author and then you can click into each day to see how sales are going.

So you don’t necessarily need a publisher (although it’s best to have one as they give you an advance payment when they buy your book and will promote it). And you certainly don’t need and should never use an expensive Vanity Publisher.

Hope this is useful to all budding authors out there.

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