It is always, I suppose, heartwarming to find people who agree with me; but it is also distressing, frankly (especially for a sensitive chap such as myself, who has led a very sheltered life), to discover the snarling, rabid hatred with which some people despise that which I merely (in my mild-mannered way) dislike.
These thoughts are prompted by a visit to The Lumber Room, where Elberry has posted a piece about literary fame. I particularly like the story about Yeats's response to being told, at four o'clock in the morning, that he'd won the Nobel prize: he opened one eye and said, 'How much?'
But what really catches the eye in The Lumber Room is the comment from one gravely disillusioned Canadian, which runs as follows:
Right on the mark. Living in Canada, where there has never been such an industry in the government support of “approved” fiction writers, I can assure you that the decision making process on all these awards is the same: it is an incestuous butt-fuck procedure.
The group that votes are always the same who have a personal stake in the determined “short list.” Either government supported “businesses” who do no real business, or a certain crew who give or are given government grants. It is all very disappointing.
I will give you an example of the government slash publishing industry in Canada. A few years ago, there was a large book selling chain, by the name of Sandpiper Books. Sandpiper was instrumental in the giving of numerous awards during the 1990s. Sandpiper also received most of its stock from two or three government sponsored publishing houses, one being Coach Hill Press, which continues to operate.
Sandpiper had a nice deal with Coach Hill. Coach Hill provided Sandpiper its stock absolutely free–accepting a cut of the sales, if a book actually sold. If a book did not, then it was returned to Coach Hill with no penalty. This remarkable financial situation was managed because Coach Hill Press received $10 million yearly from
the government to support “Canadian Literature.”
This was nice for selected, approved writers of the Canadian establishment. It appeared, for the general public, that their books were important, as they were on the shelves of dozens of stores across the country. The writers could then pat themselves on the back, gather for important readings and apply for their grants, all with the appearance of being part of the business community.
In 1999 the government pulled three quarters of Coach Hill’s funding. Coach Hill, in turn, could not provide the considerable number of books Sandpiper needed to fill their shelves. Sandpiper went out of business within a few months.
It’s all crap. Every bit of it.
Wanna make a bit of a splash? Get your name in the papers? Sell books? If so, make a provocative statement in a public place on a slow day for news, and the papers will love you for ever. Run with it for weeks, they will.
Example: Ian Rankin (creator of Inspector Rebus) did his best to generate copy with a statement made in an interview last year that women crime writers in general, and lesbians in particular, are more bloodthirsty than men.
'The people writing the most graphic novels today are women,' said Rankin. 'They are mostly lesbians as well, which I find interesting.'
No one, it seems, took a lot of notice at the time, but Val McDermid is no sort of fool. Come her appearance at the Edinburgh book festival, she trotted out the Rankin quote and beat him up for it. Result: lots of coverage.
I don't wish to be rude or sexist, but McDermid herself is a big, heavy, butch-looking lesbian, as well as a very successful crime writer. If you think that description is rude, all I can say is that (a) she's made no secret of being a lesbian, and (b) I saw her on telly the other night, and she is big, heavy and butch-looking. I sure as hell wouldn't want to annoy her in a dark alley. But she is dead right, of course, when she says that Rankin is talking 'arrant nonsense'.
Try the Guardian. And some comments on the Guardian blog. Link from booktrade.info.
June Austin is the author of Genesis of Man, a self-published non-fiction book mentioned here a while back, and she has been spending what seems like a huge amount of time and energy marketing her book. This is the only way, one gathers, to achieve significant sales, though unfortunately the expenditure of time and effort does not guarantee significant sales.
Anyway, June has been slogging away. Like any well organised author, she has her own web site, where you can learn more about her. She works through Authors On-line, which is a provider of services for self-publishers on a POD basis.
June's achievements will sound modest enough compared to those of any even halfway competent trade publisher, but will doubtless make a big difference to her sales. She has managed to persuade book distributors Gardners to handle her book on a sale or return basis, and she has had several reviews in magazines such as Nexus (circulation 100,000). The Self-Publishing Magazine has not only reviewed her, but asked her to write an article for them about how she operates.
How she operates, by the way, involves working her way through a list of Waterstone's and Borders shops, ringing them up, and asking them to stock her book. So far, 1 in 5 of the shops has agreed, and she has been asked to do signings and/or talks in two of them. She plans to start contacting universities shortly.
As I say, time and energy.
The book, by the way, is a sort of antidote to Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion.
The BBC reports that staff in an Australian bookshop failed to recognise Stephen King, and when he started to sign copies of his books thought that he was a vandal, defacing the stock.
Well, hey, that's understandable, isn't it? Could happen to anyone. King is only just about the world's biggest-selling author. (Link from Publishers Lunch.) You and I, if we'd seen him at it, we would probably have thought he was just another four-eyed git too.
CreateSpace.com, an arm of Amazon.com, has announced the launch of a new online Books on Demand service. The company is no longer charging setup fees for books, audio CDs and DVDs. As a result, 'Authors, filmmakers and musicians can now offer their works to millions of customers on Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com and via their own free customizable eStore without any inventory, setup fees or minimum orders.'
Publishers Lunch tells us that a publisher has discovered the wheel.
In a letter to agents and authors, Random House Audio Group publisher Madeline McIntosh has put forward the amazing idea that digital rights management systems are no help to anyone and won't work anyway.
Now where have I heard that before?