Friday, April 06, 2007

Lulu does it for Ron

Well, there's nothing like a success story for warming the cockles of the old heart, is there? Try this one.

A while back, retired Fleet Street photographer Ron Morgans decided to write a thriller. You and I know, of course, that Fleet Street columnists are well connected fellows, and ladies, celebrities in their own right, and so when they turn their hand to fiction they don't have any trouble in finding a big-name publisher. Photographers, on the other hand, are a different breed -- rather vulgar fellows, don't you know; tend to use the wrong knife and fork -- so Ron wasn't received by agents and publishers with quite the same warm enthusiasm as would greet, say, a 29-year-old, mini-skirted columnista from the Grauniad, or wherever.

So Ron published the book himself. Through Lulu.com.

Ron tells me that, after reading about Kill Chase here on the GOB, Clare Christian of publishers The Friday Project asked to see the book, and liked it. So too did her colleague Scott Pack (ex Waterstones).

The outcome is that The Friday Project will publish Kill Chase and Ron's second novel, simultaneously, in March 2008; sales and distribution will be through Pan Macmillan, which should help.

This is by no means the only example of a modern self-published book being picked up by a 'proper' publisher, but it isn't a common occurrence and constitutes a considerable achievement.

15 comments:

Andrew O'Hara said...

His Grumpiness will forgive my going a step further by suggesting this is actually a poor example of a self-published book being picked up by a "proper' publisher.

Mr. Morgan's connections most clearly came into play--while it's no doubt better to be a "mini-skirted columnista from the Grauniad," being the "picture editor" of several newpapers, tabloid or not, clearly helped greatly here. Color me wrong for suggesting the 'breathtaking' review by the Daily Mirror would never have happened without Mr. Morgan's connections. We know the answer to that, regardless of any posturing. All in the family, let us say. I put more credibility in your review of the book as written "tolerably well," "neat," and "perfectly competent."

I do hope the price of the book goes down--heavens to Betsy--so that people can at least buy the thing. Given the high price when it first came out and the even higher price now, as well as its zero-sales rating on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, it clearly wasn't sales that propelled him into publication, either.

Andrew O'Hara said...

I would hasten to clarify--I am not questioning the quality of Mr. Morgan's book. It is, I'm sure, as worthy of publication as many other self-published books. I only point out that his connections to the industry were undoubtedly instrumental in the Mirror review and allowing him to cut the line, thus making him a not-so-good candidate for the "struggling-writer-makes-good" award :) I'm sure there are better examples--or hope there will be.

Martin said...

A-haa! Three entries in one week! I know you wouldn't be able to stay off blogging for long. (-;

Scott Pack said...

The majority of reviews in most of the newspapers are all down to who knows who. If an author has a contact or possible 'in' then they'd be mad not to use it. Should they not tell any of their friends or acquaintances in the media about the book 'to keep things fair'?

Andrew O'Hara said...

Very true, privilege comes in many packages and it's not a question of "keeping things fair" in an industry where fairness has nothing to do with reality. I don't rue the mini-skirted columnista's connections--this stuff's been going on for ages and is just part of the light and mirror show that makes good PR. Hey, I'd probably do the same thing in a heartbeat!

bhadd said...

Achieving publication may be good to Mr Morgan and certainly wont hurt. Whether this is an according to Hoyle miracle is beside the point I think.

The Hood Company

Andrew O'Hara said...

Well said. Nothing new under the sun. I wish him luck and good fortune.

Doug Davis said...

I myself have not read this book. It may be a well written novel, yet I agree that the author's connections have played a part in getting picked up by a "proper" publisher.
I am an author as well(Publish America), and my book of poetry (althought garnishing much acclaim from it's readers) has yet to do much of anything on Amazon or any other major bookseller for that matter.
It has been, and continues to be very difficult to even get the "brick and morter" book stores to carry my title. That is because I don't already have some sort of fame or connections.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of favouritism in the book business where cronies take care of each other. This is why there are so many poor to middling books being sold as great stuff.

Clive Keeble said...

Previously self-published and recently trade published =..."Unimagined", and "My Friend the Enemy" (Foster Fatherland)...and very probably "The Thorn of Lion City" (although this might have been a very small run just for family and friends). Incidentally I can thoroughly endorse the first and last titles without any advantages of cronyism, "bungs" or other marketing inducements !! (I haven't yet read the second title !)

John Baker said...

What a nic e story. I'm glad the book got picked up this way and wish the author the best of luck.

Senior Living said...

Congradulations on your book. Hope for the best.

prairie mary said...

People are still confusing PRINT on Demand with PUBLISH on Demand. To use Lulu.com is to get one's book PRINTED. The distribution is pretty well handled by UPS (though everyone complains about the murderous expense, which will probably go down when there are printing facilities here instead of Britain). It's the PROMOTION that makes it published and selling. If one has the contacts to do one's own promoting, publicity, contacting and so on in the same way a publisher's staff would, then one really IS self-publishing.

If one has no idea how to do such a thing, there are entities available through Lulu.com who can be contracted to do it. In fact, I hear that there are so many publishers now who don't spend any money or effort on promotion that some authors go ahead and hire a publicist on their own hook IN ADDITION to being published through a "proper" publishing house.

What needs to be questioned, maybe, is how a publishing business is organized: acquisition, sorting, editing and supporting (which is another place that publishers seem to be saving their money), actually printing, distributing and promotion.

It appears that what many publishing businesses are doing something called "packaging," on the same model as a television show. Someone comes up with a concept, a committee develops it, someone or maybe several are assigned to actually write and edit (without much care about where they acquire the actual language or about doing research -- let alone developing a personal vision), and an "author" is developed in much the same way as an actress or actor is cast in the leading role. This person is promoted in accordance with advertising research -- THAT's where the research component comes in.

It seems to me that authors are simply trying to re-invent pubishing, for good reason and with some success. What a publishing house CAN do is to create a "brand." There was once a time in my life when I systematically bought anything published by the Graywolf Press. Now I take a sharp look at anything published by certain university presses where the chief editor has a clear vision.

Andrew O'Hara said...

Some very well reasoned thoughts by Prarie Mary on the issue of printing/publishing on demand. One of the best analyses I've seen, in fact, of the phenomena going on of recent. There are some subtleties worth paying attention to and that most of us are missing.

Much of the problem is the failure of what is being called, here, the "proper" publishing crowd, to acknowledge the rapid changes taking place around them.

Equally guilty are elements of the more serious self publishing advocates pounding at the doors of the establishment like heathen at the walls of Constantinople.

The result has become a "we versus them" environment between Establishment and Groundlings (who should want to be "properly" published). I've been guilty of letting myself get swept into that argument and must reconsider my stance.

The truth is, I realize, both sides are changing dramatically. Print/Publish on Demand is taking on more the look of "proper publishing.' And "proper' publishers are borrowing many of the tricks learned by the POD's. Horrors, neither side wants to admit it. Look around. Like it or not, the entire industry is going to look quite different in a few short years and it will become harder to distinguish one from the other, barring a little extra gold leaf on the cover, perhaps.

There's more excitement than meets the casual eye, particularly the eye that clings to 'tradition.' Creative Commons. New avenues of marketing for the self-published, such as opened by Borders Books and, certainly, by some of the self-publishing houses (if one discriminates). E-Books, while struggling, have opened doors to new ways of doing things. More authors are putting their work out their for free, and not merely because they're mad.

In a world of 6.5 billion people, few writers today are going to extend too awfully far beyond their home towns and circle of friends and associates, whether self-published or "properly' published. But they won't know unless they try every trick at their disposal.

I saw one estimate that, worldwide, 600,000 books are published each year. Yet "Everyone is reading the same 20 books," Paul Slovak, associate publisher of Viking, complains.

Proper/improper/self/vanity/mimeograph, whatever lines you want to draw. The point is, Everyone's doing the best they can in the limited sphere they're in, and bully to them all. Especially to Mr. Morgans, who deserves a pat on the back.

Though I hope he puts a copy on line for free--just to be a rebel.

Susan Abraham said...

I do feel pleased for Morgans, Michael. He would have been delighted when the Friday Project approached him right after Lulu. Sometimes, a person reaches his dream through an extraordinary fashion.