Sunday, 18 January 2015

Not Getting Rich Quick!

I wrote a post about bookshops (or lack of them) not so long ago. I was re-reading it just now and thinking of today's events...

It's my birthday today. Very cold, freezing fog and a smattering of snow on the ground. So we went out for breakfast - as we often do on a weekend when Andy isn't working - to the Aqueduct Marina, about twenty minutes drive from here. It's a small upmarket marina with a lovely little cafe that does a great breakfast and we can sit and watch the boats. Yes, we're old.

In the reception part of the marina (where they do the boaty admin and sell/rent boats etc), there's a large bookcase stuffed full of paperbacks, with a collection box for a canal restoration charity. So I browsed and grabbed a couple and made a donation. And it struck me that the poor authors got nothing for this secondary sale. But then I suppose if the book had stayed on the original purchaser's shelf, they'd have got nothing more either, so at least more readers would be enjoying their books. And might go on to buy/read more? Small consolation.

So we stopped at Morrisons on the way back home, so I could buy the obligatory bag of cakes to take into work tomorrow, and I'm looking in the magazine and book aisle. And there are paperbacks - recently-published paperbacks, chart paperbacks - for £2. Two pounds? Given that traditional authors generally get a tiny percentage of the profit from a sale, what kind of money are they going to make on a gross sale price of two quid?

Add to that the fact that a great many indie authors I know (myself included) have seen their sales bomb since the advent of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program in the autumn (Eat-all-you-want books? Fabulous for the reader? Not so good for the author), plus the usual seasonal slump and those of us that have a day job are glad we've still got it ...

Honestly. It's a good job none of us went into this to get rich quick, isn't it?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Rat Run

Lenny dropped the widget-thingy-whatever-the-fuck-it-is for the third time, threw the plastic box on the warehouse floor in a fit of temper and kicked the shelving. “Fuck!” The metal shelves rattled and something fell off one end.

He took a deep breath. It was just a job, like normal people had. Real life.

“You OK?” One of his work colleagues came round the corner. “Drop something?”

What does it fucking look like? Lenny swore again – under his breath this time – and picked up the box. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not really feeling the love for this, are you?” The kid grinned.

Lenny wanted to smack him. “Is it that obvious?” Could they not have found him a job that didn’t involve the fiddly sorting of impossibly small objects? His right hand simply didn’t have the dexterity for this sort of thing – not since wannabe gangster Mick Carlotti had crushed it in the door of a shipping container a year ago.

The terms of his prison licence required him to work how, where and when his Offender Manager said. He’d tried arguing with her and got precisely nowhere, so he was stuck in this crappy dead-end job for at least the next year and quite possibly forever, until he could convince both her and Darwin that he was completely rehabilitated and reintegrated into the community. Like I was ever a part of the community in the first place? Jesus fucking Christ.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Party Time?

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m contemplating my evening. Not new year resolutions or anything like that (gave up on them a long time ago), but how I’m going to spend the next few hours. I live on a small unadopted lane and we’re quite a social lot - there’s a party later on. I will know a lot of the people there and it’s a short stagger home, but I’m undecided.

Why? I hear you ask. Or not. Andy is unlikely to be drinking as he’s working tomorrow and he’s not very sociable at the best of times – he’d rather sit in the pub with the pint and a newspaper than make polite small-talk. Me – it’s not that I’m not sociable; I’m just really not very good at it.

I’ve said before on this blog that I’m actually quite shy. Half a bottle of wine helps, but I’m not very good at small talk. How do people do it at parties? Stand there and chat effortlessly about anything and everything? I can never think of anything interesting to say. It’s why, when I used to do the convention circuit, I was always on committees and doing stuff – sitting on a reception desk or running an event gives me a focus and a raison d’ĂȘtre. Without that, standing at the bar with nothing to hide behind and I’m just me. Even in the local pub, I’m far happier on quiz night or meeting to talk about the radio plays project I’m involved with.

And I wonder if other writers are like this. Is this perhaps why we invent our own worlds, peopled by characters we understand, who don’t judge us? Writing is like acting in many ways, walking in somebody else’s shoes, getting under somebody else’s skin. Being somebody else. It isn’t that I’m dissatisfied with my own life in any way – I just can’t imagine it being that interesting to anybody else!

If there was a poll of writers, how many would declare themselves as introverts and how many as extroverts? Sometimes I wish some of my closest friends were closer in distance so we could spend evenings with a bottle of wine and putting the world to rights. And I value my online friends too. You guys know who you are!

So I expect I’ll go out tonight. Put on a bit of slap and some heels and have a couple of drinks. Pretend to be somebody I’m not. And I know if I make the effort, I’ll enjoy it too. I will.

Here’s wishing everybody all the best for 2015.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

New Book!

And Ratline is finally live on Amazon UK and US (and other Amazon stores worldwide) in kindle ebook format. The paperback proof copy is on order - delivery date 22nd December allegedly, but I suspect the computers don't realise it's Christmas, so I'm not expecting it any time soon.

I'll be processing the other ebook formats in the next day or so. It'll be available at Smashwords in all formats before Christmas, but realistically I doubt it will make it into Kobo, WH Smith, Apple etc until after the holidays as at least one of the sites does manual reviewing.

So many other projects but I somehow managed to write the opening scene to the next (last) Lenny story. No plot as yet ...

Friday, 5 December 2014

On Editing

I was at a meeting of my local Writers' Group the other day and the talk got around to editing. I mentioned I was in the midst of shuffling files from my new book Ratline back and forth with my editor, and other people wanted to know what he did and why I felt I needed an editor anyway. I don't for a moment think that anybody was suggesting I didn't need an independent set of eyes on my writing (because we all need that), but more that people were wondering what you get for your money when you engage the services of a fiction editor.

My first published novel, Hamelin's Child, was agency-edited. The two follow-on books, I was reasonably confident about - although I do have a supremely-talented beta reader who can spot a typo at a thousand paces and is not shy about telling me the bits that don't work. I am eternally grateful for his support.

But when I got to my spin-off book, Rat's Tale, I was no longer so sure about what I was doing. Rat's Tale was shorter than my other books - more of a novella at under 50,000 words. And I wanted to do something different with the structure that I hadn't done before. I wanted a fresh pair of eyes and I was happy to pay for it - it's no different to buying-in design services for a book cover, or formatting (although I do my own ebook and print formatting). By this time, I was socialising widely on facebook and John Hudspith's name kept cropping up, so I thought I'd try him out....

So how does engaging the services of an editor work? With John, you get a free sample edit, so you know exactly what you will get for your money, should you choose to accept his quote. Your quote will be based on the sample you submitted, and you will be able to see for yourself how much/little support you need. He'll fix typos, suggest alternative words and correct punctuation and spelling. He'll also point out style issues, where perhaps sentences aren't flowing as well as they could, or where scenes need expanding or rewriting. He's also exceptionally good at cutting out fluff - those extraneous words that creep in without you noticing and threaten to smother your story. And he'll suggest rewrites where necessary (editing of rewritten scenes is included in the price - as are blurbs and synopses).

Most fiction editors offer similar services. Some are fixed-fee, some charge according to the sample. Many editors will ask for all/part payment up-front. John works in chunks of approx 10,000 words - so you can budget as you go along.

Whoever you choose - if you choose to employ an editor - it's important to have a rapport with him/her. You need to feel comfortable and able to discuss and query/argue with suggestions. Always make sure you know what you are getting for your money. Ask for references if necessary and make sure you are happy with the quality of the sample edit.

So what happens to my books? I have lots of fluff. I could stuff pillows with my fluff. Chapters coming back from Johnny have been positively shaved. I have typos - everybody has typos - and sometimes I overuse the same words or I get lazy with my research. I also have a habit of building up the tension and then losing it because I've not gone quite far enough to reach the point of no-return. I can't usually see it myself, but Johnny can. Oh, and he puts even more swear words in than I started with (and I'm not exactly mean with them), and sex too - so I'm blaming him entirely for corrupting the moral fabric of society ...

Lists of other editing services can be found here. Caveat emptor! Always ask for references or testimonials from satisfied customers before parting with your money.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Book Review

I don't post reviews of my books often, but this is just so awesome that I'm making an exception. This top 500 Amazon reviewer just totally "got" what I was trying to do.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Bookshops? What bookshops?

My local town doesn’t have an independent bookshop. My local town doesn’t have any kind of bookshop. Outside of the supermarkets (and we have lots of them), the only shop you can buy books in is a very small branch of WH Smith. Anything bigger and I’d have to drive to Crewe or Chester, or venture further afield to Liverpool or Manchester.

So I’m shopping today on the High Street. We have Rymans and Boots and Costa – even Marks & Spencer. But no book shop. I decide to have a wander around WH Smith just to have a look at what’s on the shelves these days.

Best-sellers – Sylvia Day and EL James. Fifty shades of erotica and more. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (I hated that book) in several different incarnations. Scandinavian crime and lots of romance and women’s fiction. I move towards the back of the shop, falling into old habits of hunting out the science fiction and fantasy. There used to be lots of it – now we’re down to a couple of shelves and if you don’t like Stephen King or Robert Jordan’s 300 books of the Wheel of Time or Terry Pratchett, then you might as well move along. Where are all the mid-list authors? The up-and-coming authors I used to meet at conventions? How are they ever going to sell if nobody buys their books? How is anybody going to buy their books if they don’t know they even exist?

I don’t have a dog in the Amazon v Hachette fight. I don’t want to see Amazon take over the world either. I’m happy reading paperbacks or ebooks, from both traditional and self-published authors – I don’t care; if the story is good, I’ll read it. But who dictates what books are on the shelves of WH Smith? The big publishers can offer the best discounts, pay for front-of-store promotions for their star authors, while the rest languish in obscurity. I don’t want to be offered a selection of what the people with the most money think I should be reading or buying. Why isn’t it about art anymore?

At least Amazon offers me a (relatively) unbiased selection of books by all authors. Yes, I have to sift through rubbish. Yes, I have to filter through whatever Amazon decides to show me first. I’m sure the big publishers pay for virtual shelf-space here too. But at least I can get beyond that and find books I want to read and not what the big boys tell me I should read.

I don’t think I’ll bother with WH Smith again.