Category Archives: Publishing

Dead authors as brands

We’re advised to become our own brand these days, to be as much a part of what readers buy into as the stories we create. This is all part of the relentless marketing that’s needed to get known, and is something that’s alien to most writers, who shun the limelight and work reclusively.

Once an author achieves a level of success that sees their name as recognisable as that of their literary creation, then that’s something publishers will capitalise on – even after the writer dies.

It’s happened with the James Bond series of books, where nine authors have written continuations of the secret agent’s adventures since his creator Ian Fleming died in 1964. These include well-known writers, such as Kingsley Amis, Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd and Jeffery Deaver.

Stieg Larsson’s untimely death has seen some nasty squabbling between his civil partner of many years and his family, about the fate of the Millennium trilogy of crime novels, including the continuation of the series. A fourth Millennium novel is about to be published, written by David Lagercrantz, a chameleon of a writer who specialises in mimicking the voices of others.

This has caused much controversy, but I can’t say that I’m surprised it’s happened. After all, if J.K. Rowling or E.L. James dropped dead, do you really think that more novels would not appear, using their brand name?

What do you make of this practice? Imagine your own identity as an author being continued after your death – would you be pleased for the ongoing fame (and income for your family), or offended that you were being exploited?

Image result for ghost of stieg larsson
Stieg Larsson

Social Media & Book Deals

This article in the Independent is worth a read:

Lots of differing opinions in the article, about how worthwhile having a strong social media presence is when it comes to getting published. Followers online aren’t necessarily going to buy your book.

It caught my eye, as I’m in the early stages of establishing my author platform, with a view to returning to self-publishing. My blog on writing is almost ready to go live, after which I’ll build a WordPress website devoted to my Cornish Detective novels.

(Me waiting for a train full of readers!)

I’ve long had a jaundiced view of Facebook, though I’ve had a personal page for 16 years and a business page for four years, which I’ve done nothing to. Facebook was once useful to promote sales by advertisements, but many writing gurus reckon it’s had its day:

Marketing experts are favouring mailing lists generated by subscribers to an author’s blog and website as the way to go to generate sales. I was mulling over how much time to devote to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, when the latest newsletter from James Oswald arrived. I’ve mentioned him several times before, and his success story continues to inspire me:

Image result for james oswald

He reveals his attitude to social media sites. He’s removed his presence from Facebook, owing to their stance on sharing users’ data. He doesn’t see the point of Pinterest (where I started 27 boards) and admits that he became addicted to Twitter—to no real purpose of serving his writing or book sales. I’m amazed at how many intelligent creative people have admitted to this addiction, so it’s something for me to be wary of…I’ve only made one introductory tweet when I joined three years ago. Oswald has suspended his Twitter account and relies on communicating with readers directly, by a CONTACT ME email link on his blog, but, as he runs a livestock farm, the animals take precedence. He says:

‘Above all else, though, Twitter is an enormous time sink. Struggling with deadlines, I often find myself nipping back to the site for a quick look ‘while I gather my thoughts’. It’s a kind of addiction, and one I can do without.

To that end, I’ve logged off the site, and am keeping my distance for the moment. I won’t delete it like I did Facebook. My publisher would have a heart attack if I abandoned social media entirely. My daily Blipfoto uploads automatically, as will notification of this newsletter going out. I will return to posting occasional Highland cow and sheep pictures, too, now that lambing is over. But until Inspector McLean book ten is delivered, my presence will be much diminished. Newsletters are the new thing, honest.’

Interesting, that he favours an image sharing site called Blipfoto, which I hadn’t heard of…where he posts pics of his sheep and cows. I may join:

The only tactic I believe in when it comes to social media, is to link everything that you do, driving readers towards your sales points. (Makes them sound like cattle!)

I’m going to be following James Oswald’s example by giving my first novel away for free, following up with the second in the series at a reasonable price. I’ve got three more written and edited, so feel like I’m in a strong position—but that’s only so if readers like them. I favour his reliance on newsletters. I’ll use Twitter to make contacts, network and to tweet the occasional witticism.

How do you handle your social media presence?

Cheat! It’s the only way to get published.

This article in New Republic makes for salutary reading. It shows how it’s not what you know, or what you write, but who you know that determines whether you get published. If you already have an ‘in’ to the publishing world, then your submission is more likely to be given serious consideration. 

But escaping the slush pile might be down to the whims of unpaid interns: if you think that your three chapter writing sample, synopsis and query letter is scrutinised by a literary agent or editor, then think again.

Weekend-Dingbang-Slush Pile

Never Give Up! Rejected 200 times, then wins book award

A heartening story about an author who persevered for ten years, through 200 rejections, before getting published. 

Brian Conaghan found himself in the running for the overall Costa Book Award, having won the children’s prize.

Coatbridge writer Brian Conaghan wins Costa book award – BBC News

Hope for us all!

I’m too bloody-minded to quit—some call this determination—others stubbornness.

I just hope that I don’t end up like one of those fighters who won’t admit defeat, staying in the ring until they turn the lights out!

Unbound – a way to finance your book.

Most of you will be familiar with the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, as a way of raising finance for a new project.

It’s possible to fund the publication of a book with Kickstarter, but Unbound is a relatively new publisher that uses contributions from the public to get literary projects into print. Founded in 2010 by author Dan Kiernan, John Mitchinson, director of research for British panel game Q.I. and Justin Pollard, a historian and researcher for Q.I. Unbound has raised funding for some unusual books. Paul Kingsnorth‘s The Wake made it to the Man Booker prize longlist in 2014, something that wouldn’t have happened without Unbound’s help. It’s due to be made into a film.

Image result for Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake

Pink & Glittery Book Covers

This article draws attention to a peculiarity of publishing, that could justifiably be labelled ‘sexist’—though, no one’s doing exactly that yet.

(click the BBC link for more of Jojo Moyes’ opinions on chick lit writing)

Many cover designs are formulaic and lazy. If you’ve ever thought that silhouettes were left behind in the 18th- and 19th-centuries, then you’ve never looked at a display of contemporary fiction in a bookshop.

Jojo Moyes makes some strong points about how books written by women are marketed. I’ve always found the pink and glittery approach to be patronising, but I feel the same way about action novels aimed at a mainly male readership—depicting guns, battleships and jet fighters—this is sometimes referred to as dad lit. How butch can you get?

For my own Cornish Detective novels, should they ever be published, I’d prefer something that wasn’t pigeonholing them as being for male or female readers, and I’d also like to avoid overt suggestions that they’re crime writing. I’m fairly skilled artistically and have designed the covers for all of the titles I published online.

I also created a cover for the second story in my crime series The Perfect Murderer, which shows an anonymous figure cycling at night; the serial killer used a bicycle to stalk victims.

Image result for paul whybrow the perfect murderer

I somehow doubt that my designs would be acceptable to a book publisher. The only author I can think of, who’s got his own way with book design is Alasdair Gray—who uses his own typography and illustrations within the text and for the book cover.

What do you think about the clichéd use of colour, glitter and weaponry on book covers?

Is it an acceptable form of targetting an audience, who know what they’re after and don’t care about the packaging?

Are you put off by such book covers, maybe missing a good story? After all, many readers are already deterred by a book being of a genre they think they don’t like.

Hold the front page!

Forget pink and glittery book covers, what we really need are pulp makeovers of classic titles, as this amusing article shows.

I particularly like the Immortal Madame Bovary A BRILLIANT AND CYNICAL STORY OF THE WOMAN WHO FLOUTED THE MORAL LAWS OF HER DAY COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED which has the price of 3 shillings and 6 pence printed on the title character’s bum!

On a serious note, I wonder how many fans of pulp fiction were introduced to serious literature by this marketing tactic?

Image result for chick lit cartoons