Over the weekend, whilst recuperating in bed from a rather nasty brush with outdoor exercise (see previous blog-post), I was surfing the Internet, checking out the competition among other things. I like to read about other authors who write in my genre, especially those whose writing I have enjoyed. I learned a couple of things that have had something of an effect on me as a writer, a reader and a human being.
First guy I checked out was John A.A. Logan. I’d just finished his rather excellent book The Survival of Thomas Ford. It was a free download for a few days (why I got it of course) and one of the best I’ve read in a long time. I tracked him down on the web and found this blog-post, which is really worth reading for any aspiring author. It’s interesting and saddening.
Later, I found myself looking at the website of Damien Boyd who has been having a rich roll of the dice in the past year if his Amazon placings and feedback are anything to go by. The following blog entry, naturally, inspired a potent cocktail of emotions in me. For the record good luck to him. (There, that wasn’t so hard was it? My anger-management therapist would be so thrilled with that response…if I hadn’t killed her in a fit of rage when James Oswald got sorted from the chaff and she told me to simply get over it.) I urge you to read Mr Boyd’s blog-post now. (If you’re an aspiring self-publisher it might be best not to have any cats in the vicinity when you do this.)
Another one who’s made it over the fence. I’d dearly love to know what the Amazon UK deal entailed. Imagine being approached by not one but two literary agents and a tv producer and then Amazon trump them all with a deal. (Deep breath, Oliver.)
John Logan has all that great stuff said about his book by people that count – the gatekeepers – and it is very good in my opinion, but he can’t get a publishing deal and Damien Boyd knocks out a few police procedurals (I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them. I’ve only read one) and gets courted by the same people who have just ushered Mr Logan out of the back door.
I don’t want to make comparisons on the quality of the writing of these guys. I’ll leave that to others. But it does show you that even if you write a bloody brilliant book, if the people who judge these things don’t see publishing it as economically viable then it won’t get published. Market forces, I think they call it. What a travesty, I call it. But I must admit to understanding it. It should not be forgotten that publishing is just a business to these people, a money-making merry-go-round and if your prose don’t fit, you’re screwed.
I do feel for Mr Logan. It must be particularly frustrating to be told by the people that one needs to impress that you’ve impressed them in spades but it doesn’t matter because the bean counters don’t have a good feeling in their water about it and so they aren’t going to publish you anyway. How many books and authors a year suffer the same fate, I wonder. How many fantastic lumps of writing get rejected simply because of the bottom line, trends or fashion or whatever you want to call it? It must be devastating to hear, ‘Sorry, it’s brilliant but that’s not what matters.’ I mean, where do you go from there as a writer? Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with that kind of rejection. (Yeah, I know what I’m saying there. Very funny.)
If anyone is looking for arguments as to why the ebook revolution and the self-publishing of ebooks are good things or not, you should look no further than the examples of both of these authors. Mr Boyd might not have made it if he hadn’t had such a terrific response to his self-publishing venture, and without the option to self-publish, readers would have been denied the opportunity to read Mr Logan’s excellent writing.
I hope Mr Logan’s writing gets the recognition it deserves from readers and that one day soon he finds himself in the position of having those same publishers who wouldn’t take him on standing on his doorstep with their hats off, looking a bit sheepish. (Cue boiling oil from the battlements.)