Not so long ago there were one and a half ways to get a novel to the public: you’d need an agent. Many moons ago you found an agent by sending your full, printed manuscript wrapped in brown paper, to a dusty agent’s office in London. Most agents would look over a couple of manuscripts a day, stopping at the end of the first page if they were put off, and then they, or someone in their office, would tap out a mice rejection note, and Mr Postman would bring you that note about 6 weeks after you’d sent the manuscript in.
[For accuracy, you might follow the same procedure and send your script straight to a publisher, but very few publishers would accept your work unless you were already a name in some sense or the other.]
still getting decent reviews for all three books – I have over 300, averaging 4.3/5 stars
The arrival of the internet and word processors meant that more and more agents accepted electronic manuscripts, but the process was the same. It is interesting, but not relevant. that there are still one or two agents today who only accept paper manuscripts. Just as interesting, but still not relevant (did you know?), is that Jeffery Archer writes by hand and gets a flunky to type up his work?
And everyone still knew that getting a novel published via this process was as rare as hens’ teeth, so aspiring writers either had to have a second income stream, be supremely confident, or be as mad as a fish. Probably all of those three. As a result, there weren’t a good number of us – because the sane among us knew that failure was inevitable. What’s the quote from someone like JK Rowling? ‘I could wallpaper my bedroom with rejection letters and have plenty spare.’ Indeed.
Even with the dawn of the internet, the number of writers didn’t increase – because the process and rate of failure was the same, but with fewer felled forests.
Then someone invented the e-book. And spotting a market, Amazon decided to allow any idiot to publish their e-book for free. Boom! No, sorry, Kaboom! All of a sudden there are more novels than readers and, like choosing a series or a film on Netflix, you never sure what you’re going to get. This is because, unless a writer is a complete numpty and designs a rubbish front cover, the amateur’s book (on a pixel-screen) looks just the same as one that Penguin has put out there. Your cost = £0; Their’s – £10s of thousands.
excuse the quality – original is pdf
This is a good thing. And it’s a bad thing. Writers, indeed many good writers – who have enough rejection slips to run a biomass power station, can now find an audience. That’s good.
The bad? There’s so much chaff out there, it’s hard for punters to find the wheat. And without a decent marketing budget – which nearly all writers do not have – getting a book noticed is next-to-impossible.
Unless. Two things, I think. The first is you have to write something completely amazing and totally original – almost a new genre. You still have to find an agent, and that will attract more heartache than most mortals can endure, but you have a chance. A good agent will find a good publisher – and they will put their hands in their pockets. Second, you are already someone – a name. Take my genre – thrillers – for example. I’ll only cite one example, but there are many. Frank Gardner, the brilliant BBC security correspondent. He’s just launched the second in the Luke Carlton series, Ultimatum. I’ve not read it, so I shouldn’t comment. But I can say reviews are mixed. It’s about an SIS/MI6 agent (they’re not agents, Frank, they’re case officers) in an ‘action-packed and unerringly authentic’ thriller. Good luck to him. I tried to get on with I am Pligrim, by Terry Hayes (ex-Hollywood screenwriter and journalist; another name), which was the ‘only thriller you need to read this year‘ – in 2015. It was good, but too arcane and a bit slow for me. I did give it my best shot, I promise.
And that’s the thing about books (and music – and any art form). It’s in the eye of the beholder.
So, being a name (Dame Stella Rimington, ex-boss of MI5 – another successful cross-over to the novel business; I know, I know, I only said I would mention one) is a golden ticket. [Oh, bear with me, the biggest, latest and brightest is, of course, Bill Clinton – his new novel, The President is Missing, written with James Patterson, is out there now and getting mixed reviews. But do you see what he did there? Ex-president. Goes into the writing business with the best-selling thriller-writer of today? Name-squared.]
I did mention that there were two ways to secure publication. Actually there’s a third. It’s called ‘vanity publishing’, and all of us writers turn our noses up at it. I have just done an internet search, trying to find a vanity author who has actually gone on a become a recognised name. Ehh, I can’t find one – which speaks volumes.
Why all this writing stuff, this Sunday morning? Well, I have updated For Good Men To Do Nothing‘s script – thanks to my editor/proofreader. I love it. I have then, for luck, stuck it back though Word’s very powerfully spell and grammar check, and made some more corrections. And I have topped-and-tailed it. It is now with Amazon. Yesterday afternoon, I worked on the wrap-round cover, which I have always paid someone to do, as I didn’t think my competence stretched that far. That was much easier than I thought it was going to be as CreateSpace provide a template when they know how many pages your book is – it’s all to do with spine width. And that’s been submitted. Hurrah! If it comes back clean, then I’m going to order a proof copy, which I hope should be with me by next weekend.
That should make an early July publication date workable. I know this is my fourth and I’ve forgotten how excited I was prior to every launch, but I am now very excited. Very. Excited.
And then I’m going to focus on marketing. Once I finish work I’m going to take it seriously. The end date is Christmas Day 2018 – and I’m going to spend the money Amazon gave me to put Fuelling the Fire into their Prime Lending thing. It’s not a great deal of money, but it’s enough to prove whether or not self e-dvertising helps. More of which later.
mmm, v green bedroom…
For the record, we’ve finished the back garden, and with some burst of energy that I didn’t realise I had, we’ve painted our bedroom and C has sorted out new curtains. It looks fab.
And I haven’t been sacked from school. Yet.