I have an admission to make: my name is Dougie Brimson and I am a professional writer. That isn’t an introduction to some kind of warped author or screenwriters anonymous group, it’s a statement of fact.
I mention it because the other day someone asked me what motivates me to write and having thought about it at length, the one thought that kept entering my head was ‘what a stupid bloody question!’ Let’s get this clear once and for all; I write for two reasons: 1. I’m a lazy bastard who likes sitting down all day and 2. I need to make money to facilitate item 1.
That seems fair enough to me but for some strange reason it doesn’t seem to sit well with the literati. For them, the very idea of a writer admitting to being motivated by income rather than some holier-than-thou desire to ‘create’ is almost akin to admitting a being a Brexiter and admiring Margret Thatcher. Mind you, both of those are true of me too.
I have never really understood this thinking. After all, writing anything isn’t just bloody hard work it takes an awful lot of time as well of a degree of talent so if you’re going to do it, surely the aim must be to get the final work published or filmed? Yet that will only happen if someone thinks that there is potential to sell copies or put bums on seats and if either of these things happen, you make money. That’s how it works and that’s why they are called the publishing business and the film business.
Yet for some reason, if you as a writer approach the process by looking at the market and giving it what it actually wants as opposed to what some commissioning editor or producer thinks it should have, you are regarded almost as a traitor to the art form. Believe me, I’ve met people who work in publishing, and film for that matter, who genuinely seem to consider being popular as something to be ashamed of (see my blog: Why are publishers so scared of lad-lit).
Well sod that. I might never win the Booker prize or receive invites to the Hay festival, I might not even be able to persuade independent bookshops to stock my work, but I know my market, I know what it wants and I’m happy to provide it with as much as I can and as often as I can. If the literary world doesn’t get that simple commercial reality then screw them.
The reason why this is so relevant is because as some people are already aware, In The Know, the third book in the The Crew/Top Dog trilogy has just been published and whilst I’m looking forward to seeing it on various bookshelves, I’m equally excited about knowing that it’s available to download as an ebook.
There are numerous reasons for this (most of which are quite tedious) but the two main ones have to do with speed and money.
It can take months, sometimes years, for a manuscript to make the journey from laptop to Waterstones and even longer for the meagre percentage of the cover price to reach the authors bank. With less and less independent bookshops stocking books like mine, that means either my publisher selling direct via their website or relying almost entirely on Amazon or online stores. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, far from it. Quite why I’m expected to show loyalty to indie book stores just because I’m an author genuinely escapes me when they do absolutely nothing for me at all.
However, with an ebook, especially a self-published eBook, it can be online, on sale and on Kindles within hours and any royalties in the bank within 3 months. More importantly, even though eBooks are significantly cheaper than paperbacks, that royalty is higher.
As a professional writer, that’s significant because at the end of the day, whilst I’ve sold plenty of books (around 1,000,000 at the last count) I’m not JK Rowling or Jeffrey Archer and I don’t get offered 6 figure advances. My income is generated primarily by sales. Equally, writing for the market I do, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll get my books reviewed in the mainstream media nor will I feature in the Sunday supplements spread across a comfy sofa so the chances of crossing over into the mainstream are minimal at best.
Don’t get me wrong, I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciate every single email, tweet, letter or comment I receive about my writing and when it comes to motivation, nothing works as effectively as praise from readers. But I also appreciate the income that my work generates if for no other reason than it buys me time, food and motorcycles. So anything I can do to increase that income and the speed with which it arrives, has to be a good thing.
The downside of course, is that by stepping away from the more traditional publishing route I’m actually taking work away from the very people who have for years been in control of my career.
I get no pleasure from that and with my paperbacks now being printed in Poland, I’ll certainly miss the thrill of watching my next book roll off the presses but at the end of the day, whilst my approach might not win me any friends in publishing, no editor would work for nothing and I’ll be buggered if I’m going to either.
On the subject of ebooks, it continues to astonish me that since it was first released as an ebook in November 2011, The Crew has almost continually held onto one of the top 2 slots on both its Amazon and iTunes chart and continues to receive 5* reviews as recently as yesterday.
Thank you to everyone who has brought copies and rest assured, as long as people keep buying them, I’ll keep writing them because to me, the reader is and always will be the most important person in the whole process. Which is kind of the point.
Dougie Brimson is the author of 16 books as well as the writer of a number of award winning movies including the cult classic, Green Street.