Standing on Three Legs

Zhang Huan Three Legged Buddha
Zhang Huan - Three Legged Buddha, photograph by Ryan D. Cole
A decade ago I would never have believed the publishing industry could change so quickly. I mean, this is the industry where the majority of houses still insist on paper submissions, printed in double-spaced Courier on only one side of the page. It's a dinosaur, surviving only because of the prestige of a traditional publishing contract and the hunger of authors that feeds it.

Four years ago I started the first book in a trilogy, choosing this format because I had three protagonists and liked the concept of one entire book per viewpoint. After I'd completed the first draft of the first book, I received some advice that made so much sense it changed my mind immediately. I was told that agents and publishers were very unlikely to sign a trilogy by an unknown author because of the risk involved. It would be more strategic to offer a standalone book. Since my book wasn't all that lengthy, I realised I could incorporate the three viewpoints into one story and solve the problem. But it was a headache. I needed to continue the story as if I'd already been writing from the points of view of the different characters, but I only had the voice of the first character established in my head. It didn't feel like the others were talking to me yet. Perhaps I needed to start again.

I decided to start a new book instead--one that really was a standalone--and shelve the headache to deal with when I had more time and mental energy to spend on it. But in the meantime something interesting happened. Some other authors began to have success with self-publishing ebooks, in particular via Amazon. One of these was John Locke, who has now sold millions of ebooks. But the crux of the matter is that these are not self-help titles or financial tomes or stock market secrets--the biggest seller on Amazon Kindle is fiction. Just over a year ago I spoke to a so-called "Internet Marketing Coach" who blinked in confusion when I told him I wrote fiction. "Maybe you should try publishing ebooks on Kindle," he suggested vaguely, before going on to advise me to do the usual keyword research and figure out what information product I could create to sell to people (in other words, exactly what I'd told him I no longer wanted to do). I dismissed his comment about Kindle at the time (after all, I didn't have a Kindle myself and couldn't visualise how anyone might read fiction on an e-reader).

How fast things change. Now I'm the one hitting that "Buy with One Click" button, thinking I'll give that author a chance for 99c. I'm actively searching out the Kindle editions of books I'm interested in (fiction and non) in order to save my poor bookshelves from collapsing. I no longer have to get rid of a few books before I buy more.

But, most importantly for me, I've noticed another trend on Kindle: trilogies and series books are back and more popular than ever before. Readers are so much more likely to buy all three books on Kindle seeing as they are (sometimes) much cheaper than the print editions, one can actually find the first book in a long series (it's no longer likely to be "Out of Print"), and these books don't clutter up any shelves (or waste too many trees) if they remain unread.

So I'm reviewing my standpoint on my trilogy. I have a draft of the first and a few chapters of the second, and now I think I may as well keep going. I knew there was a reason I had stalled.


Published by

Elle Carter Neal

Elle Carter Neal is the author of teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was (sort of) a real job.

5 thoughts on “Standing on Three Legs”

  1. Isn’t it wonderful? I’ve been able to read books that have been on my “list” for years. I do find it takes me a lot longer to read an ebook. Perhaps I’m being a more careful reader?

    I love series of books, and the idea of having a book per viewpoint is awesome. I can’t wait to read it.

  2. I’m thrilled to bits to have your book lined up, Karen. It seems a good section of my reading “pile” now consists of books by people I actually know. It’s so exciting.

  3. The changes in the publishing industry are quite encouraging. It just goes to show that all is not lost for writers. I wish you very, very well with your book, Elle!!!

  4. I love all of the changes in the publishing industry. I also love ebooks. I actually read much faster on my Kindle. Finally writers get to be in control of things instead of handing it all over to people who sometimes don’t know the right thing to do.

  5. Thanks, Selma. I’m so glad we have this second (third, fourth?) chance.

    Lauri, I agree, the freedom to take control is going to be wonderful.

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