Burning Time

Despite the purge of a lifetime of accumulated books, I still read as much as I ever did. I have not fallen out of love with it in any way, nor books themselves for that matter. 

The publishing world - alongside of the music business, the movie/TV business and more than likely, every other business you can think of - continues to change. It's confusing out there for writers. Hell, you don't even have to be new to the game to find it the business equivalent of the Grimpen Mire. 

To bring us up to date with the world of me, a couple of years ago, I released a book called The Family Of Noise. I didn't make a huge deal out of it and pushed it out only to a few friends and people who like to follow me here regularly with a plan for a real PR campaign in the following weeks. I thought it was good... but word came back from many of these people that I should put it out through major channels for it to get the audience it deserved. That's just what you need to hear when you've spent two years smashing yourself in the face with a hammer.

I retracted the book from public eye along with any sales channels and set about pitching it to agents and publishers. Although you can apparently find a used copy on amazon for £120... in French! I don't think this item exists because I sure as hell never got it translated and know exactly where every single copy went. Go figure.

The upshot of which is that it's still sitting here a good year later - maybe it really does suck, but oh, how I wanted that book to be picked up by a huge publishing house and for all my dreams to come true but such a thing is not to be - at least not yet.

All that has happened in that year is a year has passed by in which nothing has happened.

Such is the price you will pay (if you want to view it that way) if you want to be a writer... but this is not quite true. 

There are two types of fiction writer and both are very real and proper. For some, validation comes from being picked up for mass publishing and it's a big deal. It means your material was good enough for somebody with something to lose to invest in you - and it is a big deal. It's the traditional way and it makes all of the wheels spin. It's what I've spent my whole life investing in on a weekly basis. I am not pouring scorn on it...

...but I have decided, I don't have that kind of time to squander, hanging around waiting for something to happen with my own work.

This is a really long way around of saying, I am going back to publishing my work through Bad Hare - which is my own imprint. I will likely sell as many copies as I would through any publisher that wasn't one of The Big Four, I like being responsible for my own cover art (which is not something I can bank on anywhere else), I will probably make more money from it but mostly - and this is important, I will be writing and moving forwards instead of waiting for somebody to tell me it's OK to keep writing. 

I do not write because I want to be an award winning writer. It would be nice I guess but I do not want it and I sure as hell am not hankering after such a thing. I don't write for money because I have a great job already and the actual odds on me making enough money to live on in such a niche game are slim. I do not write to be part of a group in which we all slap each other on the back and meet for beer once a month, not for kudos, sex, fame or anything else that might spring to mind. I don't even blog to try to convince anybody passing to sign up to a mailing list so that I can 'harness the audience' - to my eyes, that's cheap, desperate and smells of 'me-me-me-marketing' at its very worst - the internet is littered with them.

I write because I like writing and I want to write.

I write because so far, the people who have read what I write, like what I write - hell, some even love it.

I write because I have no idea what else to do with my life.

My only real fly in the ointment without a publisher is finding an audience... then again, here's the cover of Mary Miller's The Last Days Of California, which I thought was incredible for all the right reasons but have you read it?

No. You have never even heard of it, so I rest my case.

But sometimes, there are those little voices in my head that tell me I am Super Wrong and that I should hold out - but they are lying and I know this because this morning two things happened.

1. The voices began their dawn chorus

2. A few minutes later, I saw this in a thing Mr Gaiman did with The Guardian today:

There’s nothing like studying the bestseller lists of bygone years for teaching an author humility. You’ve heard of the ones that got filmed, normally. Mostly you realise that today’s bestsellers are tomorrow’s forgotten things.

I went to have a look at what was hot at the New York Times this week throughout a few random years. Here:

1995: Beach Music by Pat Conroy

2000: Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

2005: Lifeguard by James Patterson and Paul Kemprecos

2010: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

2015: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee 

The first two I have never heard of - author or book, Lifeguard is unsurprising because J.P. knows how to sell a book no matter what you think of him. Nobody cared about Larsson until Dragon became a film, so that too is understandable and Watchman is a blip on the radar - and also, compared to Mockingbird, garbage - that's nothing but a lawyer, a publisher or an estate cashing in on a legend. For point of reference with that, the week after Friction by Sandra Brown was sitting at the top.

No. Me neither.

What can you deduce from this? I'll tell you... people bought what they were sold. As always, Mr Gaiman is bang on the nose. Some made some money with their books, some still are... and at least two of them are dead.

I just want to write, so I am signing out of using my limited time on the planet firing shots at the publishing world. I am going back to flying solo - which also means I don't need to be concerned with ever looking at such lists again and can content myself with doing what I want as best I can and hopefully, finding an audience who like what I do too.

Le Fin.

Sorry it was a long-ass way around the block and if you got to the end, I salute you. If nothing else it made me feel better about the future.

Footnote: I do think however, that if you are writing a crime/mystery novel or police procedural, a publishing house is unmistakably the way to go. A series - like John Connolly's Charlie Parker series - needs it. I'm not sure I would have discovered it otherwise and that would make me sad. Maybe we should all just know ourselves a little better by being honest.