Tag Archives: Publishing

Humorous Book Cover Lessons for Aspiring Authors

Image

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

 

How a Book is Born

Publisher Weldon Owen has released a rather entertaining “74% accurate” infographic on how a book turns from an idea into the final product in the traditional publishing model.

I’ve been in and around the publishing industry for several years now and this flowchart is amusingly accurate. Although, as with any lifecycle, there are many more divergent paths that a book can take. A rather tragic path I once witnessed (many moons and jobs ago), was where the editor of a new author had left the publishing company. Although the new author’s book was about to be published, without anyone to champion it within the company, their work completely floundered – there was a token print run and very little marketing support. I’m not sure what happened to it in the end, but if it became a success, I would be surprised – every new author’s worst nightmare. I’m sure that there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Anyhoo, on a more upbeat note, enjoy the infographic.

HowAnIdeaBecomesBook_final

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.

The Anti-Climax of Publication

Head in HandsSelf-published novelist Arthur McMahon has given his very frank breakdown of how publishing his book didn’t rock his world. I was directed to discourse by GalleyCat who lead on his piece with their very apt title: “Publishing a Book will not Change Your Life“, 

*click*

It’s a little depressing to see another writer’s take on it. Yet, looking at it logically, it must be true. Especially in the realm of self-publishing – where the only thing standing between being an unpublished novel and a published novel is a click of a button. *click* That’s it. No phone call from your agent, no exultant feeling of your manuscript finally being accepted by an old-school publisher, and the kudos and validation that I imagine one would have from your book being accepted by a gate keeper of the literary world. Not that the latter will ultimately change your life any more, but I imagine that the elation would at least be longer lived. Perhaps.

failed expectations

I suppose it’s much like New Years Eve parties, or an over-hyped movie, or first-time sex. There are so many expectations caught up in it, that it can’t help but disappoint. Perhaps we can only hope to be mentally braced for that scenario when it finally comes. That publishing your book won’t solve your woes, it will just be a very awesome milestone that you can place in your trek through life. Expecting more from it may just be setting yourself up for a fall, for which Arthur McMahon has put himself forward as a case study. I do really respect and admire his candour on his experience, his closing words on the subject as follows:

I wonder if this is why so many authors are depressed drunks. Completing a novel didn’t change my perception of life like I expected it to. It filled no gaps in my soul or heart, and may have in fact widened them.

Still, onward I go.

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

Tor UK now accepting direct author submissions

Tor Books

Tor UK is the Pan Macmillan imprint specialising in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Until now, Tor (as with many other mainstream publishers) did not accept direct submissions. In a recent blogpost announcement, Tor Books has now opened its doors to the floodgates.

Tor’s authors include Douglas Adams, James Herbert, Robert Jordan and Amanda Hocking. I wonder if it was the acquisition of the self-published success story Amanda Hocking that inspired the move. The refusal to accept direct submissions has made most publishers more and more insular over the years. Brick and mortar publishers come to become over-dependent on their already established authors, as well as on literary agents to be their filtration system for submissions. This wider casting of the net seems to be part of the general trend of the larger publishers, who have begun to realise that the self-published market is becoming a real competitive threat. Especially in the SFF genre.

It does mean that Tor will be inundated, I wonder how will they sift the chaff? I know from my experience of working at a publisher who did accept direct submissions, anyone from the postroom staff to HR who volunteered to read through the slush pile can be a filter for submissions. The likelihood that it will get to the eyes of the editor is unlikely, as sadly, the majority of submissions are, for want of a better term, slush. Tor’s filtration system for submissions will be the true test of whether their bold move into the brave new world of publishing will work.

Tor will accept English language full length novel (95,000 – 150,000 word) submissions in the genres of science fiction, horror and fantasy only. Submissions need to be via email: TorUKSubmissions@macmillan.com.  Have a look on the Tor Blogpost for details of how to submit your work.

Writing in a Fad-Driven Market

Recent Book Fads

For the last couple of years, it’s been Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games and (heaven-forbid) Fifty Shades of Grey (and yes, I have read all three of the books, but that’s an exposition in itself). Before that, it was Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Twilight. Looking back at this list thus far, I realise that have read them all, bar Twilight (NB Twilight has been recommended to me as a great trashy read, but after only managing to stomach watching half of the overly teenage-angst-ridden movie, I have no impetus to read it – perhaps a classic example of should have read the book first. No offence to Twilight fans intended, I know that my younger self would have been relishing the world that Stephanie Meyer created). Before Twilight, there was Harry Potter. ‘nuff said.

But this is just the thing. The entire book and film market has become hugely fad-led. One big thing that turns the tides of commissioning for all the publishing houses. Who in 2005 would have understood an entire section of a bookstore being dedicated to Paranormal Romance? But there we go. Yes, to a degree, the market has always gone in the direction of the big thing. The children’s market sees it a lot: one year it’s aliens, the next it’s cowboys, the next it’s dinosaurs, who can keep up? Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t feel that the adult market had this sort of tunnel vision until the last decade or so (man, that makes me feel old). Not that there is anything inherently wrong with these books as fads. Some of them are brilliant works of literature, as well as being thoroughly entertaining. It’s just that it makes the market more volatile, and tending towards a singlular pursuit for a given time. Which basically means that if you are not of the correct trope, you’re unlikely to be published, and if you are of the correct trope, you’d better get busy finishing off that novel (my personal debilitating issue).

The particular reason it worries me is the fact that fairy tales are hot right now. Really hot. Look at the movies that are out: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and Red Riding Hood (2011) (as well as the upcoming Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), which looks dire btw), and much more prominently the TV series Grimm and Once Upon a Time. Granted, except for Once Upon A Time, none of these has made a huge splash, but they are indicator of the fas. I really enjoy watching Once Upon a Time and recommend it highly, but it does hugely dilute my material. It is pretty much a parallel of the work I’ve had in the pipeline for years. Yes, true, there’s no such thing as an original story, and far less so when you are rewriting existing works. The worry is still there though. I have to get my arse in gear, finish and publish my book Four and Twenty Blackbirds in time to latch onto this window, because it may be a decade or more before it comes around again. My only saving grace (thus far) is that I have not yet come across a new fairy tale-esk novel of note. But it’s only a matter of time. More application of arse to seat and pen to paper is required, methinks.

 

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.

 

Blood Song: Nearly on par with Game of Thrones

bloodsongAlthough there are many amazing unpublished writers out there, I’m always highly suspicious of self-published books. Not because they are definitively bad, but because there is so much vanity publishing that it’s really hard to distinguish the good from the trash. Even if it does have really good ratings.

For so long, we’ve relied on publishers to be our curators of taste, and to a large extent this is still the case. Self-publishing is in its infancy. Of all the genres that I Five-Stars1thought would definitely require a curator of taste, epic fantasy is perhaps the top of the league table. And this is why I was so surprised at this outstanding first instalment of the Raven’s Shadow series: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. It was recommended to me by a friend, otherwise I would have been hugely unlikely I would have paid for a random self-published ebook no matter what the star rating or how many people gave it (a sad fact, as I may well have to self-publish my own). BTW the rating on Good Reads and Amazon is 5* with thousands of reviews.

I’ve read widely in epic fantasy from a young age. From Tolkien to Eddings to Gemmell and more recently Martin. Some have been great, others less so. When I first picked up Game of Thrones, I thought that it was the best fantasy I’d read since Tolkien. Anthony Ryan’s writing excites me almost as much as George R.R. Martin’s. Anthony Ryan’s writing is fantastically honed and really tight, I wonder if he did his own editing or hired a professional. It is so impressive that this is such a polished piece of work. Unsurprisingly, Anthony Ryan’s book has now been picked up by Penguin US, and along the Game of Thrones lines, I can visualise a TV series to be made out of this one. Seriously it is one to watch.

Blood Song will be published in hardback on July 2, 2013 in the U.S. and U.K. by Ace (Penguin USA).  As discussed, the book is already available in electronic format.