Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ken Ratcliffe: Manhook

There was once a successful American playwright -- name will come to me in a minute -- who developed an elaborate garden somewhere in upper New York State (as I recall). One of his friends stood on the patio, surveyed the dazzling landscape as far as his eyes could see, and remarked that it showed what God could have done if only he'd had the money.

Moss Hart: that's the name of the playwright.

And yesterday I had an email which shows what a self-publisher can do if only he or she has enough money.

The email comes from a 'press release purveyor' at Universal Buzz, which describes itself, up-front in the email, as 'a publicity and communications company... that is responsible for bringing interesting new entertainment information to the most influential sites on the web.' No subterfuge there.

Take a look at the Universal Buzz site and you will find that they seem to concentrate mostly on rock groups, but they look like a highly professional outfit. They have a sub-division called Universal Buzz Intelligence which describes the various marketing services that the company can offer; and which, I would wager, do not come cheap.

The press release purveyor tells me that Universal Buzz is working with the former CFO of Apple (Ken Ratcliffe) to promote his new novel, Manhook. The book is described as a dark comedy about the inner workings of the corporate world, inspired by Mr. Ratcliffe's own experiences in the workplace. And the publicist clearly hopes that I will spread the word about this book; which I am quite prepared to do, because everybody is playing fair here. No one is pretending to be anything they are not.

The email comes with a link to a special web site for the book, and again this is a highly professional piece of work. This was not bolted together by Mr Ratcliffe's grandson one Tuesday afternoon while he was waiting for his tea. And you can explore it at length and see what you think. You are given quite a lot of information about the author, and ample opportunity to sample the text. You can also read many enthusiastic quotations from readers, and if you go to the novel's page on you can read some more.

The publisher, by the way, is Booksurge, a company which essentially serves self-publishers and is owned by Amazon itself.

So, what we have here is an everyday story of writing folk, writ a little bit larger than usual. Ken Ratcliffe, a man who has knocked about the business world, has written a novel about that world, which, naturally, he thinks is pretty good. He may or may not have approached agents and front-line publishers; I imagine he has. But at the end of the day he has found no takers (scarcely an unusual state of affairs), and has decided to do the job himself. And, being a professional sort of man with some resources behind him, he has given the book a hard push.

I would doubt, personally, whether he will get his money back. I would not, personally, buy a copy of the book on the strength of the sample pages. But that's just me. And the thing is essentially none of my business.

Even if Ken Ratcliffe has spent a lot of money, by self-publishing standards, I doubt whether he has spent more than it would cost for him and his wife to go on a decent cruise. And if he gets more satisfaction out of this than a cruise, why not?

As for readers, he is sure as hell going the right way about finding them. And it may well be that he will find them, especially among retired business executives and their wives.


Ken Ratcliffe said...

Mr. Allen,

I got quite a chuckle from your post. Although you point out that I 'knocked about the business world', I wish not to go back to knock about again. That's why I try to do smart things with the funds I absconded with after said knocking. The website you noted as being very professional (thank you)
was done by a brilliant student at the Rhode Island School of Design for less than a thousand bucks. However, your remaining points were spot on. It's tough for a debut novelist to get space on global shelves. I hired Universal Buzz to do some good old-fashioned marketing on my behalf; to put the book in front of informed readership. The product will stand on its own merits, or it will not.

Thanks for mentioning Manhook.

Ken Ratcliffe

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Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Allen,

I met Ken Ratcliffe in East Orleans last week. I want to contact him about Universal Buzz and his risd student. I live in the Providence risd area.

I've checked the web but have found no e-mail address for him. Do you have one? While I'm waiting for your response I'll make a few other calls.

If you are truly grumpy, you probably would benefit from reading WHEN WISHES COME TRUE, a fable for wise children and sensitive adults form 8-108.

Love Each Day,
Barbara Slater

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