Friday, April 21, 2006

Odds and ends

Chris Abani

Truthdig is a US-based online magazine which deals with current affairs. By the look of it, it probably isn't funded by right-wing Republicans and born-again Christians. Not unless that lot have suddenly become critics of Bush and a whole lot more broad-minded than I take them to be.

As far as I can see, Truthdig does not cover the book beat to any significant degree, but it does have an essay by Chris Abani on how he came to write his novella Becoming Abigail. You can also read the first four chapters of the book.

Well, I guess all fiction has an origin in something or other, even if we don't know what it is. In my own most recent case, How and why Lisa's Dad got to be famous, the story came to me in a dream.

Yes, I dare say that does explain a great deal.

Publishers Lunch on Amazon

The Publishers Lunch yesterday carried a short article -- well, actually a long one by PL standards -- listing all the new innovations that Amazon 2.0 is beginning to offer. Such as: tagging (as in; customer discussion boards; ProductWikis (a sort of Wikipedia, for products); profile pages for customers; Squidoo-lens type services; podcasts; Flickr-type image posting facilities; fulfilment for dealers; interactivity; and, doubtless, more. Amazon sells groceries in the US, someone told me.

Publishers, meanwhile, seem to think it's still 1995. PL comments:

It's time -- or rather way past time -- for publishers to look at getting out of the controlled, static web page mode and into the visitor-focused, information and interaction driven world that defines today's Internet. Today's world provides for, and practically demands, more dynamic 'publication' via the Internet. As we've mentioned before in other more limited discussions, if you're not the primary open-source source for readers then someone else will be -- Amazon, Google, MSN,, MySpace, and so on, and whomever you allow to develop those relationships in your place will be the entity holding the leveraging (and charging the fees) in the future, until at some point they really are the publishers.

See also Lynne Scanlon, below.

Stephen Sheppard

From time to time there are writers who experience a substantial success, and then they kind of disappear from view. For example, Robert McCrum did a piece in the Observer a couple of years ago about Desmond Hogan. And then there's James Adams, a high-powered Sunday Times journalist who wrote three thrillers in the 1990s ('One of the world's best defence journalists makes a stellar debut' -- Tom Clancy), but hasn't written any fiction since. Finding out what happened to him is almost impossible because the name James Adams is so common.

But the one who really used to puzzle me was Stephen Sheppard. He was perhaps the first UK writer to get a really massive advance out of a publisher. His novel The Four Hundred was signed, if memory serves, for £40,000 -- which was a lot of money in the late 1970s.

I kind of had it in the back of my mind that The Four Hundred was something of a flop, and that Stephen Sheppard had never written anything else. But it seems I was quite wrong. There is a blog -- well, actually more of a blog used as a web page -- called Kingdom. This explains everything. It seems that Stephen Sheppard did very nicely by most writers' standards.

Lynne Scanlon's survey

Lynne Scanlon has published (20 April) the results of her survey. Not perhaps conducted according to the most rigorous methodology that I've ever come across, the survey throws up some interesting data.

General conclusions: people read bestsellers but don't like to admit it; for all practical purposes, no one gives a shit about iUniverse and Lulu; no one reads free PDFs; no one pays much attention to author's web sites/blogs (except other authors with web sites and blogs); no one gives a repeat shit about publishers' web sites.

As for the last point, Lynne says:
The truth is, publishing companies don’t really care about their online sites. Author’s online web sites are a measure of desperation and determination. Publishing industry vanity web sites are the sweet arm candy of self-satisfied, rich guys on 345’ yachts pulling up to dock at Little Palm Island: irrelevant, but pretty, and good for the ego.
Which is pretty much what Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch thinks too (see above).

Maddox and all like that

The International Herald Tribune has joined in the chorus of stuff about Tucker Max, Maddox, and so forth. This will go on now, because newspapers, like bloggers, feed off each other. (Link from


Anonymous said...

Yeah, Dude no question. It's a leap forward to see Amazon and their clones going, how did they phrase it, "into the visitor-focused, information and interaction driven world" on their sites. I assume, by now, most readers have looked at the new "discussion forums." Try comparing them to the pimply crowd's Xanga blogs, which I think they see as the wave of today (thus begins one of the leading ones: " OMG!!!!!!!! Thrusday F--kin' rocked my socks off......... I...").

Wise bunch, PL, to see this as the new way to get the "leverage." I'm quite excited, as you can see. Dude.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Sheppard now lives in Torquay in the UK, where he is currently putting together a number of production deals on his works, in particular a TV Series for The Orient Express.

Joan Collins who starred in her production of Stephen's Monte Carlo will also be in Torquay next week and Stephen has approached her with a view to taking a leading part in Orient Express.