Tag Archives: Books

Humorous Book Cover Lessons for Aspiring Authors

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The ever excellent Buzzfeed has sent published some awesome examples of book cover clichés for our entertainment. The range covers both self-published and traditionally published titles. Rather embarrassingly, quite a few are from the publisher I currently work for (*hangs head in shame*).

I am particularly tickled by the ones that use exactly the same image (case and point above). Just thought I’d share

 

Lovecraftian Longings

LovecraftShameful to say, I have never read a single work by H.P. Lovecraft – a classic  master of horror rated alongside Edgar Allan Poe.

According to Stephen King: “Now that time has given us some perspective on his work, I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the Twentieth Century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” It is high praise indeed. I’ve only ever been mildly into the genre of horror, by why is it that I had never come across the actual works of Lovecraft until I stumbled across him in my research.  Shame on me, perchance. I had heard the name ‘Lovecraft’ bandied about, and like many unknown references, it was one I let lie. In my defence, I have never come across his books while browsing the sci-fi/fantasy/horror shelves in bookstores, or in libraries. Perhaps it was my personal oversight or a defiencies in the venues I frequented. Either way, I feel a little cheated.

His influence is wide ranging, for example the Arkham Asylum in Batman is attributed to Lovecraft. His fans include Neil Gaiman, Jorge Luis Borges and Michel Houellebecq. Not to mention, David Bowie, Metallica and Black Sabbath. An impressive fan base to be sure. So I will presently be embarking on my Lovecraftian horror adventure, I hope it will be as fulfilling as when I first stumbled across John Wyndham. The bonus is that all of Lovecraft’s works are out of copyright, so Project Gutenberg, here I come.

Buying Your Way onto the Bestseller Lists

Marketing

After all the kerfuffle last year about sock puppetry (the art of authors writing their own fake reviews on Amazon and other sites), it shouldn’t really be surprising that there are some authors out there that are actually buying their way onto bestseller lists as a quick fix way to get acclaim – as reported by the Wall Street Journal in their article: The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike. People began to twig where there were repeated patterns of an initial spike, followed by the book falling almost completely off the grid. Essentially, some marketing company figured out how to work the bestseller list system, and used it to their advantage.

It would be really tempting to make use of this. There are very few ways as a new author, especially if self-published, to get exposure for your book, and there are few ways to get great exposure for your book like being a bestseller. If it is actually a good book, perhaps it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy – the faked bestseller becomes a real bestseller. I suspect that that is what the authors buying into this marketing scheme figured. And even if not, you have had the exposure and can tout yourself as a bestselling author.

when does using marketing tools become unethical?

There are many tricks to marketing yourself and your book (and many books and website dedicated to this topic). If you look hard enough, you can find websites dedicated to mutual reviews on Amazon – an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” approach, where if you participate, you can get hundreds of reviews for your book, rather than just your mum and best friend’s reviews sitting there looking a little sad. I am sure that there are other examples of marketing tools that are in a moral grey area, but at what point do marketing tools become unethical?

For me, although tempting, buying your way onto the bestseller list is not the way I would choose to self-promote. I’m not sure if I could live with myself if I “cheated” like that.

Read Read Read – Read Everything

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.

Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window”

William Faulkner

read%20imageIt seems like any writer worth his salt advocates the golden rule of reading, and reading widely. I do think that one of my greater failings as a writer is that I had such a narrow reading focus for quite a large portion of my life. In fact, to a great extent, until the advent of the BF, I did not really read non-fiction for pleasure at all (newspapers and magazines excluded). It’s remarkably ironic really, as before we started going out, the BF almost exclusively read non-fiction. We’ve both encouraged each other to branch out, and have done. I now have some favoured non-fiction authors, one of which is Jared Diamond, acclaimed author of Guns, Germs and Steel – a title that I recommend to everyone. It is as an amazing analysis of the scientific reasons why Europe colonised the rest of the world and not the other way around. You might not agree with all of his theories, but  it is a truly fascinating read.

The reason I mention this, is (i) to encourage everyone to expand their reading horizons as I have thoroughly enjoyed expanding my own, and (ii) more to the point, I’ve come an article on io9.com entitled 23 Science Books That Are So Exciting They Read Like Genre Fiction, and I’m proud to say that, as a novice non-fiction reader, I’ve actually read two of them (which do read like genre fiction). A few of the others will be going on my rapidly expanding reading list.

io9.com’s list includes: Darwin’s Origin of the Species, aforementioned Jared Diamond’s Collapse, The Poisoner’s Handbook, The Silent Spring, and the one presently going to the top of my reading list, Rachel Maines  The Technology of Orgasm.

Pulp Fictioning the Classics

Tess Pulp Fiction Crusoe Pulp Fiction P&P pulp fiction Gatsby Pulp Fiction

Just thought I’d share:

Indie Publisher Oldcastle Books is reissuing literary classics with awesome Pulp Fiction covers and hilarious taglines. Their first tranch of titles include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s perenial classic The Great Gatsby, Hardy’s lamentful Tess of The D’Urbervilles, Daniel Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe, as well as The Hound of the Baskervilles and Wuthering Heights. Perfect for the literary enthusiast with a wry sense of humour.

The illustrations are the handiwork of artist David Mann, and designed by Elsa Mathern.

Oldcastle Books are also challenging fans to try to come up with good taglines themselves. The submitted taglines might even be used in the Oldcastle versions – but be warned, even if they use your tagline, you won’t get a piece of the action, only the glory.

I’ve recently compromised the space dedicated to literary classics in my ever expanding library (read: several overstuffed shelves). I have *shock horror* sold off all my well-thumbed wordsworth editions in favour of compiling all of the out of copyright classics onto ebook format, downloaded from Project Gutenberg. Not as pretty or satisfying to look at, but available at the click of a button and saves so much on space. There  are so many great editions of classics coming out, that, between the Oldcastle versions and also the beautifully cloth bound Penguin English Library editions, I’m rethinking my electronic edition compromise.

I’ve included a lovely little video on the Penguin English Library (non-cloth bound) editions below… a little trippy but way cute… ahhh how I love books…

Editing Fantasy – Words are Wind

A friend “book-bombed” me the other day. By that, I mean that she sent me a book she just read through the post and labelled it – a w e s o m e. I dropped all my other reading material in favour of this newly acquired and well-thumbed tome – The Night Angel Trilogy Book 1 – The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. (Thanks Lex, you rock!)

The Night Angel Trilogy

trust the reader

It came out in 2008, and a cursory search online tells me that it has a bit of a following. I’m about a third of the way through thus far, and the characters and the world are really well developed. There is some great use of language, imagery and scene setting. But I find myself frustrated as I mentally edit the book as I read. At the moment it’s good, but it could have been great. An example below:

Chapter 9

The following is told from Solon’s point of view. The scene has been set. My editing is as per the strike through

               “Men!” Logan said to the guards loudly to cut her off. “Lady Gyre is tired and overwrought. Escort her to her chambers. I’d appreciate it if one of you would watch her door this night in case she requires anything. We will all dine in the usual room in the morning.”

               Solon loved it. Logan had just confined his mother to her chambers and put a guard on the door to keep her there until morning, all without giving her an avenue for complaint. This boy will be formidable.

Trust the reader. Show don’t tell. The reader knows that this (the language that has been struck through) is what Logan’s done, he’s just said it. Brent Weeks didn’t need to repeat what he meant all over again. I find it really frustrating and distracting, because this sort of clumsy language is repeated throughout the book. It’s almost as if there should have been one last pass of editing that was never done. I am enjoying the depth of the story and the characters, and may well end up reading the full trilogy. But at the moment, it is only my friend’s recommendation that pushes me through the frustration to believe that the book will deliver.

lessons learned

This is a book that has been published by a major publishing house. I’m not sure that it means that their level of editing is inadequate, or it’s simply a lesson to all us unpublished authors that we need to get our level of editing right before our work is submitted.

For me, Brent Weeks’ world is inspiring, because there is so much depth to it. It encourages me to focus on my back story, and world building. But it also reminds me that I need to edit like hell and be ruthless with cutting material. Every word needs to fight for its right to be in my novel: Four and Twenty Blackbirds

The Financial Reality of a Genre Novelist

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GalleyCat today has posted a mildly depressing article about the Financial Reality of a Genre Novelist. It specifically mentions those who work in the genres of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Essentially the GalleyCat article relates the obvious truth that we all know (or at least suspect), that it’s really hard to make a living writing books. So I guess I won’t be giving up my day job any time soon.

I do still hold out hope that mine will (once finished) be the next big thing. Don’t we all.

But these are all distractions. The cart is way before the horse. Finish the book first, that will be a feat in and of itself.

The Joy of Books

Oh how I love books…

My friends might be familiar with this one, and it’s so good that I thought I would mention it here. The setting for the piece is Type Books in Toronto, Canada, a beauty of a store. Find Type Books: on facebook and twitter @typebooks

Sean Ohlenkamp, his wife, Lisa, and 27 volunteers lovingly made this film, shelving and reshelving books all night, every night. The patience it must have taken! Find Sean Ohlemkap: on facebook and twitter @ohkamp

The original music is composed and performed by Toronto-based Grayson Matthews. Find Grayson Matthews on twitter @GraysonMatthews

Being an independent bookseller is hard, I hope that all this effort and the artistry of this video helps to boost traffic.

As much as I do love bookstores, I have to admit that I am one of the many who has fallen for the wiles of Amazon pricing. Then again, in these cash-strapped days, its almost impossible to justify making an ethical purchasing choice when it impacts upon your bottom line. Especially when the ethical purchasing choice for books has expanded to include the large chain brick and mortar stores who are also feeling the burn and falling by the wayside. There are so many tangible factors that influence book buying – will publishers stop working on these tangible enhancements in favour of intangible bells and whistles in the electronic book realm. I hope not, there is something whimsical about beautifully engineered paper that no amount of interactive artificial intelligence can replace.