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