Women are storming the platforms of every major ebook retailer. As if you weren’t already aware, the novels sitting entrenched in the No. 1, 2 and 3 spots at Amazon.com right now are the Shades of Grey novels. Racy and magnetic, these were written by a wife and mother in England, E.L. James.
James is an interesting story, not only because she self-published and not only because her titles first appeared as ebooks, but because she’s part of a new power demographic of authors who are taking over the fiction market. She’s one of approximately 22 independent female authors over age 30 who are in the recent top 100 ebooks on Amazon Kindle. Check out Ruth Cardello, Colleen Hoover, Erin Kern, CJ Lyons, Jamie McGuire, Karen McQuestion, Tamara Webber and Zoe Winters: all self-pubs, all women, all smart.
In an industry that has been dominated for decades by big publishing conglomerates and powerhouse male thriller authors such as Clive Cussler, Ken Follett, Stephen King and Dean Koontz, top-selling women authors have been traditionally relegated to genres like romances that are contracted to writers who can stick to a corporate formula. Women writing about darker themes like history, adventure or — dare we say it aloud — intelligently written psychosexual themes, have been all but nonexistent. It’s about bleeding time!
James’ success may be extraordinary, but her own life story seems rather, well, ordinary, at least by today’s standards. She is, by all accounts, a pretty normal gal. She is a former TV production assistant, and she always wanted to be a writer. She’s well-educated, she’s been married for many years to the same guy, she’s a mother of two boys, and she’s over 30 (48 or 49 actually, according to her Wikipedia entry).
There are three major reasons that I think women continue to gain traction in this arena.
1. We have the technology.
In my personal observation, women tend to be higher on the uptake for new technology. Our practical natures motivate us to seek out efficient new tools to solve problems, and we adapt well to change. We are able to multitask easily, and constantly have our ear to the ground. When the opportunities for independent authors in the ebook realm became clear, thousands of us jumped into the pool, some before we had even checked to see if there was water in it.
We’ve all heard that anybody can publish an ebook, and it’s true. But it’s not true that anybody can market an ebook. The daily digital marketing actions are where the real work of an independent author happens. It certainly starts with great writing, but it doesn’t matter how great a book is if nobody ever hears about it. Women can use their natural advantages to study, learn and test a variety of different online marketing methods, which is a very specific job.
2. We have the motivation.
Whether driven by the economy or other reasons, many women are looking for ways to supplement our mainstream income, or feasible ways to stay home and raise our children while contributing to the family pot. Ebooks are often touted as one way to do that, and for a skilled, motivated person, it works.
James started to write when her children were old enough to leave her the time to attempt it. Many women with children aren’t even waiting that long. When we do get started, we take it very seriously, and we treat it like a business. We take courses, online or in person, we do the required reading, and we take logical risks. We have learned to let our curiosity guide us to make business decisions based on instinct. In the world of online selling, that’s not a weakness, it’s a highly marketable skill.
3. We have the guts.
You can be a wonderful marketer, but the content has to be good or you’re dead in the water. You must deliver on the promise of an excellent, addictive ebook. (Actually, you need to deliver a series of them.) Women who make the top 100 in an arena where they are up against male writers with a staff of editors and promotions experts cannot possibly be wimps. They have to have killer instincts, born on the streets. Or at least, born of the grit it takes to fight your way up a career ladder for 20 years, against boys fresh out of expensive colleges (yeah, don’t mess with me).
Each month, that number of indie female authors seems to grow larger. The content is well-reviewed by both peers and juries alike. And the sales are definitely happening. I like to call this new gang the “eLiterata.” Like rebel writers before them, they’re breaking new ground, while keeping their standards high and knowing the joy of having their talents recognized. Nice.