Amazon the X Factor for books.

With the return of the TV programme in the UK, it made me think about how it gave people who have no connections, (cultural capital, my husband would term it), a chance to show what they can do. Creating something out of nothing without exposure, advertising or money behind you is very hard. Even with significant backing, it is still difficult to make a living beyond two or three years, due to the transient, throwaway nature of our society.

Love them or loathe them, Amazon has effectively done the same for books, as the X Factor has done for singers, not musicians I hasten to add. Amazon allows any indie author to live the dream and publish a book. It doesn’t guarantee it will sell, or that it will be a prize winner, other factors are needed to achieve this. Experts in the industry will point out, there was life before Amazon, but I believe it may have been more technically difficult to publish a book. Amazon in effect makes turning your manuscript into a book very easy.

Amazon has also spawned a whole cottage industry. More and more people offer editing services, writing courses, social media management, website design, cover design, advertising, and critical reviews. Everyone at a price, normally beyond the reach of most indie authors. Mass distribution across the Amazon site in the UK, US, and Europe is phenomenal, but in a world full of millions of books, you become a pebble at the bottom of the ocean.

In common with X Factor what Amazon does have, is people power. There is an army of unpaid, volunteer readers, willing to read and review books, helping indie authors to improve. For those of us who have managed to get past the avalanche of criticism following the first book, your suggestions do help. Other writers and bloggers are also very generous with their help and advice. I’ve mentioned Derek Murphy and Creativeindie before, but he does do a very good video on how to format print books in word and has a wealth of advice about social media.

Derek or D S Murphy as shown on his books is also a good example of someone benefiting from the reviewer’s feedback. I was perhaps a little critical of Shearwater when he first brought it out, as I felt the myth was not properly integrated into the story. However, Prescient was much better, and Orpheum is the best book he has written. My understanding is that he worked with reviewers and beta readers to help support and encourage him, and it shows.

A big thank you goes out to all you book reviewers. Keep helping those indie jams, (Teresa May’s – just about managing), to get better and forgive us when we can’t afford an expensive editor to correct all our mistakes. Phillip Pullman may complain that traditional authors can’t make a living from their books, but indies are just happy to be here.

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