Yesterday, spy novelist Jeremy Duns – creator of the Paul Dark novels – shared this discovery on Twitter:
It’s a “James Bond” novel.
However, there’s just one small problem with it:
Because the cover is probably the FIRST THING anyone sees of your book, and we all know how important “first impressions” are, I have to believe the cover art issue drives every indie author nuts. It does me. Naturally, you are desperate to get it right.
None of the covers I’ve seen over the years from artists offering original artwork in the romance genre have been, let’s say, what I wanted for my books. The last thing you need is the cover letting down the story inside that you’ve worked hard to bring to life. If the cover’s a turn off, there are potential readers who will turn away and never read a word of the tale.
[WARNING: This post contains an upsetting photograph.]
Our imaginations and personal interests will invariably take us down our own writing paths. It’s any author’s right to invent what he/she wishes to invent. Our creativity means everything.
So I’m not one usually to hit out at other authors’ chosen fictional subject matter. Yet there are times you feel you have to make clear where you stand as a matter of fundamental moral principle. Thankfully only very occasionally are there those tales that make you, frankly, gasp and shudder:
A story of an SS officer, his Jewish wife and their fight against the Reich
After gasping and shuddering at that cover blurb, I could only shake my head in disbelief. I’m sure if you want to, you can find that indie novel; but I won’t name it here. (I think it’s a 2015 publication.) I had never heard of it before, nor of its author, until I first saw its full cover pop up on my Google+ the other day.
Have you read any good books lately (besides any of mine)? 😉 If so, on which “platform?” E-book or paperback?
Thus tweets the editor of the New York Times Book Review. Some replying have questioned it, pointing out for instance that it is just one year, and also that many e-books are “overpriced” by large publishers while many paperbacks are “priced to sell.” Yet it does once more address that tantalizing question: E-books or paperbacks?
I hate talking money. However, occasionally we do all alas have to nod to it in life. Many readers might not know: Kindle and other e-readers have been a real boost for us lesser-knowns and those looking to break into authoring, who often indie publish to get a start.
We know there are the “sneak peeks” that the likes of Amazon use to drive sales. But that is not always enough. Much as with musicians who do free gigs and artists who display paintings merely to be seen, when you are lesser known as an independent author it is certainly unreasonable to expect readers to part with money for your work until they believe it is worth it.
So making a novel free is often necessary. Still, it does go against the grain to offer complete free books to enable readers to get to know your work when yours aren’t “shorts” produced every few months for quickie consumption. It’s a lot easier psychologically to give away 1 “short” book when you have “16” others out there, than it is to give away a 400 page novel when you have only 2 of them.
* * *
Much is also made of the fact that independent novels, be they shorts or full-length, are imperfect. They may have, for example, typos:
Inspired, I sensed afterwards, by my grandfather memories that I’d posted in the morning, I spent the day yesterday smashing through the opening chapter to Distances. Although it’s not long (but none of my chapters are really “long”; I dislike “long” chapters), it’s – I believe – on target.
Textured. Sentimental. Sharp.
A new character also zooms in, offering the novel’s very first line.
I know this post appears much later in the morning than usual. However, when you have an unexpected light bulb go off over your head you have to drop almost everything and get the idea into your manuscript as quickly as possible. If you don’t, it may vanish forever….
Having done that, on to this post. Yesterday saw me pass 40,000 words. So with Distances looking daily more and more like an actual book, rather than just bits and pieces, I took a break and decided to have another mess around with a potential cover. That’s always fun:
Well, everyone, I’ve struck out with the first literary agent. She emailed me that she likes my books’ idea (whether that’s really true, who knows?), but (and but is always the operative word) added that what she had read did not “grab” her enough. She concluded – quite politely – that she must “pass.”
Naturally not the response I had hoped for. Then again, not bad for a first try either. That’s the business. I took up this endeavor without illusions. You need a skin as tough as marble and to possess the ability to shrug off “passes” and move on immediately.
Because not everyone is going to be wildly impressed by what you write. Even the likes of Sir Salman Rushdie have produced books some consider “unreadable.” Every author gets rejected.
I choose to see this “pass” primarily as her loss. She had read only a little of it, and I’m sure if she doesn’t want it someone else out there will. As in sales, you just have to keep knocking on doors, and may have to pile up lots of unanswered queries and “Nos” until you encounter someone who says “Yes!” 🙂
About five years ago, we had a laugh with my English niece (now 16) and nephews (now 19 and 12) about which would they prefer: fame or fortune? At the time they said they wanted “fame.” We told them you don’t want fame, because you might be famous and unable to put food on the table.
But as young kids not having to put food on the table for themselves, naturally they didn’t quite get what we had meant. Things have moved on. We asked the question again recently of the older two, and this time they were emphatic the other way: they wanted “fortune.” My niece, in particular, loves money in her pocket – as we discovered a year ago when she was visiting with us here in New York; she could have shopped until we dropped.
The default position seems to be everyone wants to be “famous.” The assumption narrowly in our context here is if you blog, or use social media, you are cravenly just seeking attention. However, I don’t buy that as applicable across the board.
Yes, out there are certainly the likes of my HarperCollins published uncle. He is a complete extrovert. He loves being on TV. He relishes being the center of attention in the room. Facebook is the worst invention imaginable for him: he can carry on to a couple of hundred “friends” about how he wishes he’d been in the Spanish Republican army in 1936 or something. (God, I hope he never sees my blog. Then again, he’d probably laugh, because he knows I’m right.)
Myself, I just want to write entertaining novels that stand on their own, which when a reader finishes she/he says, “I enjoyed that.” I seek to use this blog and Twitter to help spread the word and to be there for those curious about my books. However, I have no desire to be a “celebrity”…. as odd as that may sound in the novelist biz today. 🙂
Cas, that is a stonking good post. Much of what you write sounds familiar – especially the rewriting and “fixing holes” and the 39th book by age 18, and the British vs. “American” spellings. (In early drafts, I fell into that latter trap!) I won’t even begin to try to address all you note. You’ve delved into the issues so fully already.
I will say I don’t know that there’s ever been a time when a “good outcome” has been out there for authors. My uncle is a long-published HarperCollins fiction author. (He does NOT know I have written a novel and intend to write more of them; but that is another, decidedly personal story.) He has an established readership, but much of his back catalog is out of print. He wants to get the rights back to many of his earlier books; and I’ve suggested he get them on Kindle when he does. They need to be available or no one can buy them! He knows what the Kindle is, but overall, technologically, he is an author “of the 1980s/1990s.” He’s also now in his young 70s – he doesn’t even have an author site. He doesn’t “quite” understand that, nowadays (as with so many other businesses), in many ways your author web site is your “shop front.”
Myself, I wanted to write the books I wanted to write. And I work hard to make them good ones for readers. If anyone desires similarly to write (via self-publishing or chasing a traditional publisher), my best advice is…. write the book. Don’t worry about the other side…. yet. Fretting over publishing is a waste of time when you don’t have a manuscript. Write! Write! Write!
There had once been those “gatekeepers” preventing us from reaching any readers whatsoever. So there had been “vanity” presses. Today, we may self-publish and we will reach readers, even if only a few. But that’s how journeys begin: with a first step.
My wife has told me that I must consider myself an author; that that is now my career (for now, at any rate). Just because I don’t sell Stephen King levels of books does not mean I am not an author. Nor you. Thus far I’ve sold more of my first novel than I had thought I would – not thousands of course, but enough that I feel positive about where I’m headed.
Based on what I’ve heard over the years from my uncle, I’ve decided to try to find an agent. Authoring is sales. Success in sales in any field is about piling ups (sic) “nos” until someone finally says “yes.” I well-know I will have to keep at it and be tough-minded about it. If one says “We’ll pass,” or doesn’t reply, find someone else. Keep at it.
Can I support myself writing? Absolutely not. But does that mean doing so [is] impossible someday? Who knows? Achieving anything worthwhile requires work. Above all, the product needs to be something people want to buy. Many people won’t buy books any longer; but many people still do. Hundreds of millions of them around the world.
No one is going to hand us money. Anyone who seeks to write needs to remember that reality at the outset, and manage expectations. If we keep them low, as we exceed them we’re thrilled! 🙂
On reflection, that does broadly speak to what I believe about authoring in the current publishing climate. It is not very different, really, to what musicians now face. Or actors.
The actors at the performance we saw were (in my humble opinion) excellent, and the show flew by. While we learned one had been in small roles on RTÉ television, most were P/Ters or amateurs. None had (so far) hit the “big time”: meaning, for instance, London’s West End or Broadway. Nor were most likely ever to do so.
So what? They were on stage and doing what they loved. And all of us, their audience in the small theatre, appreciated it greatly.
That is what matters also for us as writers. Yes, it would be wonderful to “hit it big.” However, doing what we love, being proud of what we do, and reaching our audience – no matter how small or large that “crowd” may be – is what this is about.
And the absolute bottom line is there is no hope anyone will ever read your superb novel…. unless you finally write it!