Friday, 27 November 2009

See the books people buy as they do it!

I am a fan of the Book Depository, because its prices are cheap and delivery is free.

Today I ordered a book on hen-keeping for my daughter as she has the crazy idea of keeping a couple of hens in the garden of her student digs. (I have a nasty feeling they will end up on my Hoxton balcony eating all my plants).

And I discovered they have a live webpage which flags up sales as they occur on a map of the world. Self-sufficiency Hen Keeping flashed up on the screen with a tiny Union Jack, before whizzing off to a James Herriot sale in Australia.

At busy times it's strangely compulsive viewing. I can imagine if one is an author with a popular book out, one would stay riveted to it for hours, counting the sales.

Take a look, here.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Self-publishing: the future?

Today I want you to consider the following facts:

  • Agents and publishers are getting more and more risk-averse; reluctant to take on new authors unless they are 100% certain of an early financial return.
  • Print-on-demand books these days are relatively cheap, and of a quality indiscernible from a traditionally-published book.
  • E-readers are set to become popular. Though Amazon is coy about revealing figures, estimates suggest they sold half a million in a year; compare that to the 378,000 iPods sold in its first year.
  • Publishers charge an absurdly high rate for e-book downloads.

I'm scenting a change in the wind. Good writers I know, fed up with rave rejections, are beginning to talk about self-publishing and e-publishing as a possibility they might consider, in spite of the fearsome task of marketing this would involve.

Yesterday Ray Rhamey, well-known for his blog Flogging the Quill, announced that he is to self-publish his novel The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles, because he fears the current vampire craze will have expired before he finds a publisher.

And not for the first time, I'm thinking that it will only take one novel, that happens to be self-published, to be mega-successful, and the face of publishing will change forever.

(A final thought - publishers love celebrity novels, which come with buyers ready-made. Who will be the first canny celebrity, I wonder, to twig that he doesn't need an agent or a publisher, but can hire an editor, self-publish and keep all the profits for himself?)

Friday, 13 November 2009

A modest blogging award which involves some work

Thanks to Sandra Patterson for including me in this harmless ponzi scheme with its delightful floral award (see far left).

It comes at a price: what I have to do is choose seven deserving bloggers, who then:

1. Copy and paste the award picture at the top of this post onto their own blogs, thank the person who gave them the award and post a link to her blog

2. Write seven things about themselves we do not know

3. Choose seven other bloggers to award, link to those bloggers, and notify them.

(Eventually, I guess, every single blogger in the whole world will be the proud possessor of this award.)

Seven Things About Me You Do Not Know
  • I have waved from the window of 10 Downing Street, and was disconcerted when a) the group of children outside all waved back and b) Tony Blair noticed me doing it.

  • I am taller than you think I am.

  • I catch spiders in my flat with a glass and postcard and release them to the wild, or as wild as it gets in Islington. (Did they contribute to the mortgage? No.)

  • I wore black throughout the nineties.

  • My ancestor, Alice Dick, was burnt as a witch.

  • I have to look up practise/practice every time because I never remember which is which.

  • All knowledge of geography was wiped from my brain by an evil geography teacher called Miss Henderson.

    My Seven Chosen Bloggers: all worth a read
  1. Alan Hutcheson
  2. Norm Benson
  3. Spinster of this Parish

  4. Tom Raymond
  5. Katherine Robb

  6. Rod Griffiths

  7. Self-publisher

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Writing pleasure and pain

I'm listening to Vaughn William's Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis. It's a piece of music that I associate with my first book, Torbrek and the Dragon Variation, and I am reminded of the pure visceral pleasure of writing it; the innocent thrill of creation, unequalled since. It all went straight down on to the page, reckless POV shifts, authorial interjections, slabs of backstory; nothing got between me and the intoxicating sensation of story telling.

These days I'm a much better writer. But that huge first joy is lost; not so much because I'm aware of technical concerns that went right over my head when I was a novice, but because of the consciousness of the near impossibility of getting published these days. You not only have to write a book people will want to read; you have to get that book on to the desk of an agent at precisely the moment she is hoping for a book like yours to arrive, and that's tricky.

I know, from the feedback I've had from agents, that my third novel, currently called Heart of Rock, is in the top 5% of the slushpile. I'm sending it out on its second wave of submissions. Can I just tip it over the edge? I don't know.