There’s a seriously funny book on my bookshelf called How Not to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittlemark. Irrespective of whether you want to write a book or not, if you love reading, you’ll find this book a real joy. The book opens by citing the case of John Kennedy Toole who, unable to find a publisher for his novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, took his own life. Apparently his mother took up the cause and eventually got it published to great acclaim!
Of course, no such histrionics are necessary these days. Any fool can foist his mindless drivel on the rest of poor, unsuspecting humanity thanks to the mini-revolution that is print-on-demand and the disruptive technological advances that have resulted in the e-publishing phenomenon. Thankfully, humanity is largely protected from the tide of fatuous, illiterate shite that’s pumped out by the fact that, without the help of an agent, most of these pitiful scribblings will remain forever undiscovered. Yes, there will be exceptions like 50 Shades of Grey!
And so it seems that planet earth will remain safe from my novel. Efforts to promote the book are not progressing well. After nearly two months, this website has managed to attract no more than 24 subscribers, although this obviously increases the odds for those of you eager to win one of the 10 signed copies. Google Analytics reveals a peak visiting day of 18, shortly after I posted on Facebook. The fact that the ‘new post notification’ system in WordPress wasn’t working won’t have helped engage those subscribers I have.
In short, my own personal PR machine is lamentable, which is a shame, because the first chapter of How Not to Write a Novel is about creating a plot, a compelling storyline, which is what I’d like to do here. I want you, my avid audience, to stay tuned as an extraordinary story unfolds. ‘Self-published author hits the big time,’ the dramatic ending should read.
Do you think it feels the same to say “I’m a published author” if you don’t have a physical, printed book in your hands? I certainly think it would be nice to have a copy sat on my bookshelf, and to know that there are a couple of libraries in the country where someone might wander in and pick it off the shelf.
Five agencies out there have yet to respond, have yet to send me an email like this last one that I received on Monday…
“Many thanks for sending us this proposal, which I read with interest. I considered it carefully but I’m afraid on balance it just doesn’t quite grab my imagination in the way that it must for me to offer to represent you. So I must follow my instinct and pass on this occasion. I’m sorry to be so disappointing, but thanks for thinking of us. Of course this is a totally subjective judgement, so do try other agents and I wish you every success.”
[Agency Name Withheld]
Then, on Friday, I received this from Book Guild Publishing in Brighton…
“Further to our email of 11 July, we have completed aninitial assessment of the submitted sample material. We very much enjoyed the opening chapters to New Fire. The set-up is excellent, and your descriptions of the city and the activities that go on there are lucid and memorable. With vivid characterisation and a strong narrative right from the start, this material certainly whets the reader’s appetite, and we look forward to reading the complete novel. Please submit the MS to this email address.”
Now, the difference here is that Book Guild Publishing have a ‘partnership’ programme which builds a package for each author and requires the author to share some of the costs of publishing. Book Guild really seems to have grasped that their industry has changed forever and that the costs of printing no longer require the extraordinary levels of risk-mitigation that the old industry needed. In this modern, internet enabled world with print-on-demand, the barriers can be lowered a little and the readers be empowered to decide what they want to read. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a fine example of a book that would probably never have seen the light of day twenty years ago. Now, fee-paying readers have the choice. It may not be a literary masterpiece, but hey, 95% of readers don’t ever read a Booker or Pulitzer prize winner.
Where was I going with all of this? Oh yes, if I can raise several hundred pounds, I might just make that physical copy a reality and stand in Waterstones all Saturday with a winning smile on my face.