Garrets and Gatekeepers by Jane Ayres

Photograph by Chris Ayres
http://scubabeer.uk.to/jalbum

More than 30 years ago I wrote an article for the now defunct Composer magazine called Starving in Garrets.  It was all about how painfully difficult it was for composers to get their work performed and heard, and even harder to make a living from writing music.  In many ways, I don’t believe things have really changed that much for artists and creatives. There is still that struggle for discoverability.

I’m a writer, primarily.  But I’m also a musician and have worked with contemporary composers.   I recently read some sobering statistics for writers.  For example, in 2011 there were 211,269 self-published titles and out of at least 1.2 million titles published by the entire industry over the course of a year, almost 80% sell fewer than 100 copies. (source: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2012/09/7-book-marketing-mistakes/)

So how on earth do you get people’s attention? If you are a writer, it’s pretty tough.  If you are a composer, it’s even harder. We measure success by fame and celebrity status, regardless of quality.  So if you aren’t yet a “name” you are largely invisible.   How do you get the “gatekeepers” to listen to your music, or read your work? For anyone to take you seriously? If you are lucky, maybe 1 in 30 people you contact might reply and follow up your work. Many years ago, I decided to speculatively contact film production companies about one of my books.  I sent 35 emails with a pitch, had 2 replies, and this resulted in one meeting with a producer.  I was told this was a pretty good result!

The more successful you are, the busier you become.  Famous people have a whole raft of assistants (gatekeepers) which make it even harder to be heard.  Even a negative reply is a response, which acknowledges your existence.  You have been read, listened to.  Your creation is personal and precious and being ignored is far worse than rejection, though you may not agree.

But negotiating huge organisations like the BBC, for example, can be like scaling an impenetrable fortress.  If anyone knows how you manage to get a Proms commission I would love to hear from you.

Of course, the internet provides a global shop window on an unprecedented level.  Writers can publish without publishers, artists can create online galleries, composers and musicians can put their work on platforms like You Tube.  We can let the public judge.  As Natasha said in a previous post, artists don’t generally follow their calling for the money.  But they do need to be acknowledged, and better still, enjoyed.  They want to share their work.  That’s the whole point.

And so, with Xmas looming on the horizon, I’m including a recently discovered You Tube link to a moving performance of a haunting  Carol which a Canadian choir have used for their candlelit procession over the past 5 years.  The music was written by a UK composer who should be far better known.  Simply beautiful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIyhg8e04cI

To find out more about Jane’s publishing experiences, go to her blogwww.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teens (and nostalgic older readers!) are available for Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

Getting Published: Fifty Shades Style – By Emily Foster

Almost everyone in the publishing industry is reeling at the moment at the success of the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Last week it was reported that it has become the biggest selling book since records began, selling an awesome 5.3million+ copies worldwide. Films and music soundtracks based on the trilogy are now in the making as well.

So, while those of us in the industry are wondering how we can reach those record sales, I’m sure many budding authors are also wondering how they can pull off this major achievement through their own work – the nature of content aside for now. 

One key thing to take away from this success story is its creation. Urban legend has it, the basic framework of the story had already been written as fan-fiction for the Twilight series (another crazy-popular example) and published online by the author. The story was so popular that it got picked up by a publisher and the rest is history.

If you want to attract publishers, one way to go about it is to build an audience for your writing first. Think about it: say you have a blog or a website that pulls in thousands of views every day. There is clearly already an audience for your writing, and potentially those views could translate directly into book sales. I don’t like to talk about creativity and money in this way – but it’s true that the publishing industry is suffering at the moment, and investing in a project that is guaranteed at least some return sounds much saner than investing in an idea with little else to back it up.

If that sounds like a lot more work on the part of the writer, then think of it this way: debut novelists would be lucky to receive an offer from any publisher nowadays, let alone a decent advance. If you start the marketing yourself, and build your audience, you become a much more attractive candidate, and therefore in a better position to negotiate a good deal. In fact, if you do manage to gain a decent audience, and don’t mind putting in more work yourself, you could self-publish and receive a much greater cut of the earnings. The music industry went through the digital transition earlier than we did; just a few years ago we saw artists like Kate Nash and Lily Allen find huge audiences, and eventually record deals, for their music via their independent online presence, initially self-publicising through MySpace.

So, finally, the big question remains: have you read Fifty Shades of Grey yet? 

By Emily Foster

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The Art Of Publishing – By Emily Foster – Entry 1

I’ve been working in publishing for eight months now and one thing I’ve learnt is that there are lots of potential authors out there. It seems like every event I attend there’s an author in the making to meet, and every week I receive new emails from people pitching their prose.

Take last week for example – I was at a networking event chatting to the host when she introduced her friend, who just happens to have written a book. He launched into his spiel about a how-to guide to get into the games industry.

By now, this kind of conversation is nothing new to me. Usually I give some advice, but the response is always the same: “Will you publish me?”. Now, these are not unwelcome asks. At Limehouse Books we try to be as open as possible. We’re a very small, independent publishing house, a start-up and fully self-funded. We can’t publish everyone, but we try to help where we can. So, this time, I decided to offer something different.

I pitched him right back. I told him about our imprint, Limehouse Tower, how it’s a new outlet for writers to self-publish, whilst taking advantage of all the benefits a publisher can offer. What this means to us and the author is exceptional design, production standards and worldwide distribution channels.

It’s also the first time a trade publisher has openly created an outlet for people to promote their work that’s integrated with the running of our own Limehouse projects.

I gave him my card. He said he’d think about it and went back to the bar. Maybe I’ll hear from him. Or maybe I’ll wait to see what budding author the next event brings…

By Emily Foster

@emilyjayfoster

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/emilyjaynefoster

Emily Foster

Area: UK Britain East of England East Midlands London North East North West Yorkshire Scotland South East South West Wales West Midlands