Is writing novels a road-map for living?

Our little plan is becoming a big plan. It sounds like something out of a novel, out of my new novel, where the heroine scarcely knows her heart’s desire, but stumbles towards it.

The plan is to build a portal to enable Australian authors like us, like me,  luddites like me who almost have no bravery at all when it comes to the internet, to e publish. A site that any author can use. A site that attracts readers, and connects them with authors. There are many e publishing sites already, but even though I’ve learned to find my way around this new world, they are probably intimidating to many authors,  like the author I so recently was.  And they don’t seem an alternative at all, financially speaking.  We’d be exchanging one lot of lords of the manor for another. We’ll still be ekeing out a living, growing turnips for the big house on the hill, our children still hungry, our families in despair, and our turnips gulped down and scarcely noticed for the life work we’ve put into them.

But how can we afford to build an interactive portal for authors? Authors carry begging bowls, asking for the world’s spare change. Where will the money come from for an interactive portal?

We are applying to big funding bodies, and small. Our applications go everywhere. Everyone’s knocking us back. They don’t share our imperative. We’re too small, too inexperienced, there are many sites already. At least, because of all this hard thinking about how exactly to explain what we want to do, we’re learning so much about e publishing, and more, we’re working out exactly what’s needed in the portal, which other sites simply don’t offer. Elements that only authors would offer, only authors would think up.

For instance, one of my friends says that one of the problems with e publishing is that it’s like printing a whole lot of your books and having them languish on your garage floor. Who’s ever going to know about them? Marketing is essential to get books off the garage floor. Direct marketing seems the answer, getting around the need for huge marketing budgets that traditional publishers have, the sort of budgets that allow ads on the sides of buses. We need a way where authors can market their work directly to existing readers, if the readers agree, of course. The technology allows this, but no other site will share buyers’ addresses with authors- why not? Our site must do that- and the extension of that thought is, our site must also allow readers access to the authors, if the authors agree, so that authors can find out who their readers are if they wish, can even try out new work on selected readers, uniting both authors and readers in the common purpose of building literature.

And with app technology, it might be possible to have a site where authors don’t have to wait for someone to stumble into the accidental discovery of the garage stacked with books, but to reach out to thousands of potential readers.

And then, of course- the royalties. Our site must pay good royalties. In the old days of traditional publishing, authors were lucky to get 10% of the earning of their sales. (I always say how wealthy would the impressive Bill Gates be if he had to give away from the very beginning of his career 90% of his possible income?) Of course, publishers meet many costs, including the huge percentage paid to bookshops to stock the books, but still, little is left over for the person who’s put unpaid years into a book. (For me, five to seven years on average- for many authors, much more).Research shows that most Australian authors earn little more than $10,000 a year! This must change! Our site must turn this around, must earn the author up to 90%!

Sometimes living seems just like writing a novel, where you daren’t look at the big picture, for if you did you’d give up in fright. You just do the next little bit that’s in front of you, and somehow that leads to the next bit and the next bit, and eventually those tens of thousands of bits become a novel, and somehow the novel is more than the sum of its parts.

But like so many times before in my life, I’m thinking: why doesn’t someone else do this?

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