Thursday, September 29, 2011
August 21, 1863
The early morning sky grew bright as the three hundred men approached the outskirts of Lawrence. Travel-dusted from the prairie, they were weary, having been in the saddle all night. Quantrill, their leader, heard vague mutterings and must have guessed some were beginning to waver now that their target was near.
“We’ll be cut to pieces,” one said.
“It’s madness to go on,” muttered another.
Quantrill roweled his horse in front of his men. “This is what you came for. This is war. Time to show what you’re made of,” he declared harshly.
His words galvanised those who had begun to doubt and gradually the dissenting voices fell silent.
A short while later, Quantrill said, “I need someone to ride through the town and check for resistance.”
Charlie Weston’s heart began to beat wildly in his chest as he listened to Quantrill’s words. Would he volunteer? He had to; this was his chance, his opportunity to show his determination. “I’ll do it,” he said, the words spilling from his mouth in his eagerness to put himself forward.
Quantrill nodded in his direction. “Good. What’s your name?”
“Good man, Weston.”
Weston rode off into the early morning gloom. He rode hard, all the while expecting to find himself under fire, for the town to be suddenly alight with Union soldiers.
He approached the outskirts of the town and then passed by barns and homesteads before coming upon rows of houses and business premises. Main Street was quiet. The town was asleep, ripe for the picking!
When he reached the end of the street and turned and rode back to the gang, completely unmolested.
“All quiet,” Weston panted excitedly when he returned. “It’s a clear run.”
A smile crossed Quantrill’s face. “Good man,” he said and patted Weston on the shoulder. Quantrill’s words helped him to forget how tired, cold and hungry he was. He was eager to continue with their mission. The guerrilla war against the Union forces and its sympathizers in the area must continue, and this raid on Lawrence was going to be Weston’s biggest engagement yet. It had been planned months in advance and now that they could smell the town it seemed as if all the preparation had been worth it. It was time to cause mayhem.
They rode quietly through the outskirts; the idea was to get to Main Street undetected and their progress was rapid but cautious. Every so often, they would checked their horses as if fearful to proceed and when they realized they were still undiscovered, they almost couldn’t believe their good fortune. They kept going until eventually they reached the high ground facing Main Street. Here, the gang paused.
Weston checked his weapons. He wore two Colt .44 revolvers in his hip holsters and a Winchester in his saddle scabbard. He took one of the Colts and gripped it in his right hand; he’d be able to manage the reins with his left. The Winchester stayed in the scabbard but he knew he’d be able to draw it easily if needed.
The morning light was beginning to fill in the details of the street below. It was nearly time. The streetlights still flickered, the lamplighters not having come around to quench them yet, casting eerie shadows against the walls and windows of the saloons, general stores and other business premises that populated Main Street. The buildings were dark, the only evidence of life at that early hour were the sounds the guerrillas made as they readied themselves for battle.
Suddenly, Quantrill’s shouted command pierced the air: “Rush on to the town!” he shouted.
They charged forward, yelling like demons.
Weston spurred his horse, anxious to be near the vanguard of the charge. Each man knew his job, their duties having been assigned beforehand. Detachments scattered to every section of the town in order to overwhelm the locals in as quick a time as possible. Weston was part of the forty men in Quantrill’s group. He pushed his horse hard to keep up with his leader.
“To the hotel!” Weston ordered. The provost marshal of the Lawrence garrison resided in the Eldridge House hotel. If he could be captured, then the town would be theirs. Quantrill’s words drove Weston on. He felt as if it was fire and not blood that was flowing in his veins. He’d never felt more alive.
Gunfire erupted around them as the locals finally mustered themselves into action, but the guerrillas were ready for them. At first, Weston’s hand shook as he fired his revolver, the weight of the weapon pulling as he rode, but he quickly grew used to the action.
Damn it, they’d been halted by this sudden resistance. The men of the town poured out of their houses, guns blazing. They were going to do their best to defend their homes and families and struck back hard at the guerrillas, their gunfire toppling men from their horses.
Weston heard the bullets ring as they passed his ears and watched as the rider next to him slipped from his horse, blood blossoming on his shirtfront.
He was filled with dread excitement and then with a cold resolve. He felt a certain satisfaction as he saw a man fall dead as he was hit by the lead from his weapon. Women and children emerged from houses also as the first flames lit the morning sky; they fled down the town’s streets, their piercing cries filling the air. And as they ran they must have known that they were leaving behind husbands, sons, fathers or brothers to die, for it quickly became evident that the raiders intended killing every male found.
Weston dug his spurs into his mount’s flanks, urging it forward. They rode on, wiping out any remaining resistance as they went until they finally reached the Eldridge House hotel, a four-story wooden building that towered over its neighbors. As well as housing itinerant guests it also contained permanent residents, offices and stores.
Weston waited for the expected resistance from those inside the hotel to manifest itself. In fearful suspense, he gazed at the windows above. He felt as if he was the only person there. As if all the men about him were mere spirits, intangible shapes that had no bearing on the conflict. He felt as if he were conquering the town by himself, winning the war single-handed. This intoxication hit him harder than any cheap, raw-tasting whisky. And he liked the sensation.
Quantrill walked toward the front of the hotel. “This is Captain William Quantrill!” he shouted. “Surrender the hotel and all its guests and you will not be harmed.”
They waited. Gunfire could be heard around the town but it seemed to Weston that it was lessening as the guerrillas gradually subdued the local resistance. At last, one of the windows on the second floor opened. He trained his gun toward the opening, hammer cocked and ready to fire. He breathed out, waiting for the moment to pull the trigger. His eyes narrowed, waiting for someone to show himself at the window. Gradually, something emerged from the dark opening. He squeezed the trigger gently, waiting for the right moment to fire. His shoulders slumped suddenly, though, and he relaxed the pressure on the trigger. A sigh of relief escaped him. It wasn’t a weapon thrust out the window but a white flag.
“This is Captain Banks,” came a faltering voice from inside, “Provost Marshal of the State…” Weston knew the man was the key to the capture of the town; the armed townsfolk, at least those who were left alive, would take their cue from him. “How do I know that you will keep your word if we surrender?” Hesitantly, Banks’ head poked out from the upstairs window. He looked to be in his fifties, with a wispy, graying beard, although it was hard to be sure in the gradually brightening morning light. Weston thought about shooting him, like a man who had grown addicted to the feel of the trigger on his finger. He imagined Captain Banks, and the shocked look on his face as the bullet entered him, and then the body toppling and falling slowly onto the street below, maybe hitting the canopy over the entrance. He envisioned the lifeless shape on the dry, dusty ground and the others turning and staring admiringly at him, awed by his prowess. But that wasn’t going to happen; this man was not his to shoot. At least, not yet.
Quantrill was about to respond to Banks when a shot went off inside the hotel.
Weston ducked instinctively before he saw the opportunity this development presented. He brought his revolver up and pointed it at Banks’ head. Shock was evident on Banks’ face and he turned to look behind him to discover the source of the gunshot. Weston felt the satisfying, thrilling pressure of the trigger as he squeezed it, knowing that each minute contraction of his index finger brought Banks closer to extinction. He heard the report of his gun and felt the shudder of the weapon in his hand. But Banks didn’t fall, he didn’t plummet from the window but stood half in and half out, waving his hands theatrically. Weston had missed.
“Stop!” Banks yelled in a voice that seemed to grow more highly pitched with each syllable, “Don’t shoot. It was an accident.”
Banks’ protestations came too late, however, as a fusillade of bullets thudded into the hotel, shattering windows and ripping the wooden cladding from the front of the building.
Weston fired rapidly, quickly using all the bullets in his weapon. He reached for his other revolver. His breath came short and fast, the excitement of the moment coursing through his body, heightening his senses. In the deafening thunder of the gunshots, he couldn’t tell if those inside the hotel were returning fire or not. Suddenly, the hard sound of firing dissolved and Quantrill’s voice could be heard clearly: “Stop firing!” His voice sounded a little querulous, Weston thought.
Quantrill looked hard at Weston whose gun was raised, ready to take another pot-shot. “They’re not firing at us,” Quantrill bawled.
Weston heard the sharp accusation in his voice.
Banks continued screaming all this time, trying desperately to explain that the town clerk, not used to handling guns, had accidentally discharged his weapon into a portrait of Jeremiah Eldridge while trying to impress Ms. Oppel. The incipient attack was thus halted before the guerrillas could surge into the hotel and wreak their own brand of havoc.
The sudden and fierce outbreak of firing must have convinced those in the hotel that their situation was hopeless as they were greatly outnumbered. Terms of surrender were quickly arrived at, and the inmates of the hotel filed out onto the street, flanked by Quantrill’s men.
Weston stared hard at each man as they emerged; stripped of the power they once held. They looked dishevelled, drained of their energy and their purpose. What made them what they were had been taken from them by Quantrill and his men.
They made Weston feel powerful, vitalized. He felt in control of them. They would have to defer to him, these supposedly powerful men. These decision-makers. They hadn’t even put up a decent fight. Not even fired a shot. Unless the clerk’s destruction of the ancestral portrait could be counted. Banks was the last to emerge, bringing up the rear of the column of twenty men; the captain the last to leave his ship.
“Take them to the City Hotel,” Quantrill ordered. “It will be protected. I boarded there before and was well treated. The prisoners will be safe there.” The prisoners were as obedient to orders as any of Quantrill’s own men and gave Weston and the men that escorted them no trouble as they were herded to their house of refuge.
After the Eldridge House surrendered, and all fears of resistance were removed, Quantrill rallied what men were left with him and gave them their final orders: “Burn the place, set it alight. Anything of value that you find is yours to keep. It’s your reward for tonight. And show no mercy to any men you find.”
With Quantrill’s words ringing in his ears, Weston rode off in search of plunder. Much of the town was now on fire; he would have to move fast if he was to find anything worth appropriating. He wasn’t entirely sure where he was headed. Bodies were strewn along the sides of the streets, illuminated by the burning buildings behind them. It was obvious that the area had already been ransacked, so he decided to keep moving. He could feel the heat emanating from the flaming houses, barns and businesses. It was the sign that they were successful: that’d achieved their goal. But it was also a sign that there were few places left for him to loot.
A figure emerged from a house to his left. He instinctively trained his weapon on the shadow. He pulled back the hammer of the Colt, ready to fire. The shadow stepped onto the street, just yards from him. It was a woman carrying a small child. He looked about. There was nobody else near.
At about nine o’clock that morning Quantrill’s pickets saw a column of mounted troops approaching the town from the direction of Kansas City. The guerrillas were at once called together and they left town by the road leading south, avoiding the troops.
Upon their departure they left behind a scene of terrible devastation. Massachusetts Street was a bed of embers. On this street seventy-five buildings were destroyed. The dead lay all along the sidewalk, many of them so burned that they couldn’t be recognised. Here and there among the embers were the bones of those who perished in the buildings and been consumed.
As Weston rode away from Lawrence that morning, little did he realize the consequences that their actions would bring to bear on the rest of his life.
Super Thursday has begun with a welter of press coverage about one of the busiest days in the publishing calendar.
Today, 225 hardbacks hit shops including titles by Jamie Oliver, Alan Partridge, James Corden and Robert Harris.
In a piece in the Times, the paper notes the plentiful supply of memoirs by comedians but also notes "less predictably a strong showing for more erudite books". It highlights forthcoming titles including Claire Tomalin's biography of Charles Dickens, Jeremy Paxman's Empire and Carol Ann Duffy's The Bees. The Telegraph's tips for Christmas include Lee Child's The Affair and Robert Harris' The Fear Index as well as May I Have Your Attention Please? by James Corden and Joanna Lumley's Absolutely: A Memoir.
BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme and BBC Breakfast News ran pieces on Super Thursday. Yesterday's Independent quoted HarperCollins editorial director for non-fiction Anna Valentine who said: "I think this year will shape up very well against last year, one of the most high-profile years in recent memory, because there are some very big hitters."
Century publishing director Ben Dunn said: "Now more than ever, selling non-fiction outside the Christmas window is becoming impossible."
In a second piece in the Telegraph, Jon Howells, spokesman for Waterstone’s, said that its sales force has been working with publishers on the Christmas campaign since March. "Super Thursday is really the first time the outside world sees what we’ve been up to all these months. It is like a starter pistol for the campaign, only this year it is more of a relay race, since there are quite a few big books being published over the next few months.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, a Waterstone's spokesperson said Jamie Oliver was the one to watch this Christmas, after his record-breaking success last year. He said: "I don’t think there is anyone else that can touch him."
Among the serialisations running this week are Paul Scholes' memoir (Simon & Schuster) and Lee Evans' autobiography (Michael Joseph), both in the Sun.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
There are many pertinent questions that need answering in the digital books market. Here are just a few: What is the actual size of the overall e-book sector? What is the hard data telling us about the trends that are emerging? Which genres are up and which are down? The best answer to those questions may be with another: who the hell knows?
Individual publishers and retailers know how much they are shifting, but full market information can only be couched in approximations. Until that day comes when all the e-tailers get on board and start sharing credible e-book sales data with Nielsen, we are stuck with fag-packet calculations.
It seems a far off day, a book trade Zeno’s Paradox, where we never reach the end because we can only ever go halfway there—let’s call it Bezos’ Paradox. There is some irony that we are flailing in the dark a bit in the digital age with e-tailers having more ability to extract exact customer data—not just in buying habits but when and how users read digitally.
Yet there are some lessons we can learn about the state of play of the market by simply looking at the bare statistics that are available on Amazon—which has perhaps 80%–85% of the UK e-books market (depending who you ask).
First let’s look at the total number of titles. This is a very blunt instrument—not least because these numbers are added to daily, and the vagaries of the Amazon search metrics. But at the time of writing, there are 775,239 Kindle books on Amazon.co.uk. Of that 36% (279,795) are classed as fiction and 64% non-fiction. Compare that fiction/non-fiction ratio to Amazon’s paperbacks. There are over 14.1 million title entries in paperback on Amazon (this, of course, includes out of print, print on demand and rare books), of which 7.8% (1.1m) are fiction. This seems to confirm some of the received wisdom that digital is far more fiction-friendly.
Breaking down Kindle and fiction sub-categories by genre is interesting. The top five Kindle fiction sub-categories by number of titles are: Romance; Crime, Thriller and Mystery; Science Fiction and Fantasy (two categories I have combined); Children’s Fiction; and Erotica. Romance accounts for 18% of all of Kindle fiction titles. The top five in paperbacks are Contemporary Fiction; Poetry and Drama; Crime, Thriller and Mystery; Romance; and Sci Fi and Fantasy.
There are many caveats in looking at these lists, but interesting conclusions can be drawn even given the caveats. First of all, there is the different categorisation Amazon uses for its e-book and paperback offers. In paperbacks a book will appear in more than one major sub-category, but just one for its Kindle edition. David Nicholls’ One Day (Hodder), for example, is number one in both Contemporary Fiction and Romance in paperback, but does not appear in the Kindle Romance category. Some categories are not the same; on the Kindle there is Men’s Adventure, which on paperbacks morph’s into the similar Lad Lit.
Genre fiction rules for the Kindle, but it is interesting how closely the two Top 10 fiction category charts relate, barring the strength of Romance and Erotica. Erotica is the only entry of any category that appears in either top 10 which has more Kindle books than any other format—53% of all
the category’s titles that appear on Amazon are digital.
We can see how immature certain genres are on the Kindle. Children’s books make up about 25% of the Nielsen BookScan overall physical books market and there are almost 1.3 million children’s title listings on Amazon in hardback and paperback. Yet there are only just under 25,000 Kindle kid’s entries—or about 3% of the total number of Kindle books.
We hear again and again about how the e-reader will be a boon for a rebirth of the short story and short form reading. That might not be panning out just yet, given the amount of publishing into these categories. Anthologies barely make a dent in the Kindle universe—just 3,555 titles.
Although one can prioritise book searches by price, either lowest to highest or highest to lowest, Amazon seems cagey about letting its users know the exact number of free titles on the site. A strict “for free” content search is limited to “top free” bestsellers; even searching under the term “£0.00 leads to only 464 Kindle books.
Searching by price band is limited, but as one might expect, the bulk of Kindle books are towards the lower end of the market. Around 60% of all Kindle books are £5 or less. The highest priced book at the moment on the Kindle? That would be Nuclear Energy, edited by K Heinloth, Volume VIII, Number 3 in Springer’s Landolt-Bornstein Numerical Data and Functional Relationships in Science and Technology series. It is yours for £4,363.86.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
— PART ONE
I’m not a newbie at writing. I’ve been writing books for 20 years—two through a major publishing house and three self-published. All have sold well.
For my first book I went through the traditional publication process, partly because I thought that was what you were supposed to do, but largely because I believed the “myth.”
That myth, propagated through the media, pictures an author’s life like this… you sit at your computer, composing your latest book, occasionally taking a break to go to the mailbox and pick up your next royalty check. The myth says once you’ve published a book, life will be easy. You will be rich and famous. You can live anywhere and have lots of free time. All your problems will be solved once you get that publishing contract. WAIT! What’s that sound? Oh NO! It’s the alarm clock! …It’s time to WAKE UP!
Let’s look at the harsh realities of the “writing life.” I’m not a psychic, but I CAN PREDICT YOUR FUTURE if you go the route of traditional publishing:
AGENTING – You may spend a year or more finding an agent. I’ve talked to some who have spent several years, sending query after query, and still no agent. Rejection slips pile up. Some agents don’t even send rejection slips any more. If they’re not interested, you never hear back from them. You wait… and wait… and wait…
EDITING – Once you have an agent, your book will be edited, and the agent will ask you to make changes in your manuscript.
FINDING A PUBLISHER – Your agent will then begin the process of trying to sell your book to a publisher. That also can take time.
RE-WRITES & PUBLICATION – You find a publisher. The publisher may also ask you to do re-writes of your book. Then comes the actual printing and distribution. The typical timeframe from a query to seeing your book published can be 2 ½ to 3 years.
EUPHORIA – You have a brief period of euphoria. You are now a published author! You hold your new book in your trembling hands. Your name is on the cover. IT WAS WORTH IT ALL!
Then come more harsh realities…
NO PROMOTION – Your publisher will do little or nothing to promote your book. (You didn’t know that was part of YOUR job?) Without promotion, no one outside of your close circle of friends even knows your book exists!
LITTLE DISTRIBUTION – Your book may or may not make it to your local bookstore. If a bookstore carries your book at all, it will usually be only two copies. Two spines on the shelf, among thousands of books by better known authors. Chances are very good your book will not sell.
FAILURE – The typical shelf-life of a first-time author’s book: 3-6 months. If it hasn’t become a best seller in that time, it’s usually taken off the shelf and returned to the publisher. No time to develop a fan base. No time for word of mouth. Your book has failed.
According to statistics, the failure rate of first time authors is 90%. You’ve poured your life into your book; you’ve gone through the agony of seeking an agent and the long process of publication. And in 3-6 months, it’s all over. Your book, if not sent back to the publisher, will be put on the clearance table. Your dream has been shattered. You’ve not made much money. Few people have read your book. Many first-time writers are so discouraged by the process they never write another book. That’s the experience of the majority of first-time authors!
The truth is, the traditional publishing model has always been a bad deal for writers. The problem is, until recently, it’s been the only option. (Traditional self-publishing was even a worse deal for writers.)
But in the last 5 years a major earthquake has struck the publishing world. Things like the rise of Amazon.com, print on demand, and most of all, the E-book revolution! The whole paradigm has changed.
The key to success used to be having your book prominently displayed in brick-and-mortar bookstores. Let me tell you a secret: That’s not even an issue anymore! We’ve entered an era when a smaller and smaller percentage of books are sold in bookstores. Think of it like this: When was the last time you went down to a record store and bought a vinyl LP so you could listen to your favorite music? See the point? The same thing is now happening with books.
The whole publishing game has changed drastically! If you read the trade publications, bookstores and publishers are frightened. They’re desperately trying to find a way to survive in this new reality.
And in this new reality, the traditional route of getting an agent and a dead-tree publishing company is no longer the default option. In fact, unless you are a celebrity, or you’re already a bestselling author, that route is probably not your best option!
In part two of this post, I will give six reasons WHY I believe self-publishing is a much better deal for a first-time author. In fact, I believe, for almost any author, it’s foolish NOT to self-publish.
WHY IT’S FOOLISH NOT TO SELF PUBLISH — PART TWO
Most of us have assumed that traditional publishing is the only route to success for a writer. That may have been true at one time, but it’s no longer true. In the first part of this post, I tried to “burst the bubble” on the myths associated with publishing.
In recent years, a number of authors have achieved success by doing an end-run around the publishing industry. A good example is the Christian novel, The Shack by William P. Young. Young submitted The Shack to 26 publishing houses, both Christian and secular. It was rejected by every single one. The Shack was too “different.” It didn’t fit any of the standard categories. So together with three friends, he formed his own publishing company for the sole purpose of publishing his book. (Essentially, they self-published.) The Shack went unnoticed for over a year, but suddenly became popular in the summer of 2008. By May of 2010, The Shack had over 10 million copies in print, and was number 1 on the New York Times best seller list for 70 weeks. According to Wikipedia, The Shack achieved its success via word-of-mouth and a $300.00 website!
Yet The Shack was written before the E-Book revolution! Now the whole publishing industry has changed. Just as MP3 players and music downloads have made “record stores” obsolete, now E-readers and downloadable books are putting brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business. (I’m not saying that’s good. It’s just reality.)
When I wrote Iona Portal, I assumed the best way to publish fiction was to seek an agent and a publisher. I even queried one agent. But in the process I began to research the publishing industry. As I read the trade journals I discovered that publishers are frightened. They see the traditional model in decline, and are struggling to find a way to survive in the new paradigm.
But while the new paradigm might bring hard times for publishers, it offers unprecedented opportunities to you, the author. Here are 6 reasons why I believe self-publishing is now a better route for most authors…
1. YOU BYPASS THE QUERY PROCESS
Many aspiring authors spend years seeking an agent. They send query after query and get rejection after rejection. Why do they have such a hard time finding an agent? Maybe the book is no good. Maybe the book is great, but the author writes poor query letters. Maybe the book doesn’t fit easily into one of the agent’s categories. As The Shack proved, the success of your query doesn’t say much about the salability of your book.
Of course, the agony of the query process would be worth it IF getting an agent would guarantee success. But as we’ve seen, having an agent does not mean your book will sell. 90% of first-time authors—most of whom have agents—still fail.
2. YOU MAINTAIN CONTROL.
In traditional publishing, you yield control of your book to the publisher, who may ask you to make major changes. In my first two books, I was lucky and few changes were requested. But on my third book, the publisher asked me to make major changes, which I was unwilling to do. That’s when I switched to self-publishing. Interestingly, that self-published book (WITHOUT the publisher’s requested changes) has sold better than either of my traditionally published books!
3. YOU DRASTICALLY CUT THE TIME TO PUBLICATION
The average time from query to publication is 2 ½ years. Combined with the year or two you spent finding an agent, that means you’ll have to wait a long time to see your book in print!
With self-publishing, you can have your book published on major e-book platforms in less than a month! You can spend those extra years marketing your book and building a following instead of trying to get your book published.
4. You get better DISTRIBUTION
When my first book was published, I assumed the publisher would distribute it widely. My naive dream was to go into bookstores and see my book prominently displayed. It never happened. Three times I found my book on a bookstore shelf. I actually had people write me asking where they could get my book. They’d seen a friend’s copy and wanted to buy one, but could not find it in a bookstore. That kind of availability is not a formula for success.
But with e-publishing… in a single weekend, you can have your e-book for sale in the biggest online bookstores in the world, available to anyone who wants to purchase it, no matter where they live.
5. YOU CAN EARN MORE MONEY
The royalty rates for self-pub e-books are WAY ahead of anything traditional publishers offer. So even though your e-book costs less to buy than a dead-tree book, you will make more money on each book sold. That’s a better deal for the reader, and a better deal for you.
6. YOU GAIN TIME FOR YOUR BOOK TO SUCCEED
When my first book was published, I assumed the publisher would market it… that they would invest time and money to “get the word out” so people would buy it. Wrong again! The publisher did almost nothing to market my book. That’s pretty much the norm.
FEAR OF MARKETING – One of the biggest reasons people give for NOT self publishing is the fear that they’ll have to market their own book. The truth is, if you are not a celebrity, you WILL have to market your own book, no matter how you publish it. (But you CAN learn to do that! Other people do it, and you can too! There’s tons of material on the web to help.)
THE SELF-PUBLISHING ADVANTAGE – Self-publishing gives you one major advantage in marketing: TIME. With dead-tree publishing, you have a 3-month window to make your book a best-seller. If it’s not a success in 3 months, bookstores begin pulling it from the shelf. (Every book you’ve seen on a book clearance table represents some author’s crushed dream.)
There’s no time for word-of-mouth. There’s no time to build a following. You must “hit it” in a 3-month window. Some books are overnight sensations. But others take time. It took a year before people began to notice The Shack. But then it went viral.
Self-pub e-books give you all the time you need. Your e-book will be available to everyone, in the biggest online bookstores in the world, for as long as you want. You still have to market it. But you have time!
That’s why I decided to self-publish Iona Portal. And that’s why I believe, for the majority of first-time writers, it’s foolish not to self-publish!
Joanna Trollope is to write a contemporary reworking of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility as part of a new series to be published by HarperFiction.
Publishing director Louisa Joyner bought world rights from James Gill at United Agents. Trollope's Sense and Sensibility will be published in autumn 2013. It will form part of a series of six novels that rework Austen's books by well-known authors.
Joyner said: "I’m so excited that we’re able to announce the author so regularly described as a modern Jane Austen as the first literary marriage in this set of six betrothals. Joanna Trollope and Jane Austen share an extraordinary ability to combine heart-rending plots with a social acuity which has powerful resonances for contemporary audiences."
Trollope said: "This is a great honour and an even bigger challenge. It’s a hugely exciting proposal to attempt the reworking of one of the best novels written by one of our greatest novelists.
"This is a project which will require consummate respect above all else; not an emulation, but a tribute."
Yesterday on the Morning Media Menu, independent publicist Lauren Cerand helped new authors answer a tough question: Should I hire a book publicist?
Cerand has worked with a variety of clients, including authors, booksellers, rock bands and publishing companies.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview: “I think there is less of a need to have a publicist on retainer who can broker high level major relationships for you … There are all these great places you can go online with a budget and you can say, ‘I want to learn one skill … Then you can decide, ‘Do I want to do a tour? Is there something I want to do that would make sense to have a publicist?”
Cerand continued: “Then you want to find a publicist in your price range by asking around. People can always contact me and I would be happy to point them in the right direction. You have to remember it is a custom project. Too often I see people with books about a subject that they are the absolute dead experts on and no one can touch their authority–because they have researched it all their lives. And they expect this junior publicist that’s in charge of their book to know better than they do about where they need to go to reach their readers. I think that’s a fallacy.”
She added: “You want a publicist who has a sense of what’s best for you strategically what’s important for you and who are going to open doors that you can’t. In the age of the Internet, we’ve largely democratized the process. For authors, I always say: It’s really about learning as many of these skills as you can. That’s what’s going to serve you best in your career, not keeping somebody on retainer indefinitely.”
Cerand concluded: “I’m really inspired by the flourishing of counterculture and independent publishing that happened in the 1920s, in New York especially. One of the things that has always interested me is that throughout time, artists have really done it for themselves. You can look at so many examples: Shipping heiress Nancy Cunard starting her own magazine to bring attention to social justice principles or people around the world who thought, ‘Perhaps I’ll go to Paris and see what else people are writing about’ in the time between the wars. Or the people who have sent a letter to someone who inspires them. We have to use our time on this planet to its greatest advantage, for human beings that always happens when we connect with someone else who shares some aspect of our own experience or who can teach us something we want to know.”
Readers have nominated Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird as the book they would most like to see given away as part of next year's World Book Night.
During the past two months, more than 6,000 book lovers have nominated the titles they would like to see included in next year's event with more than 8,000 individual titles put forward. The top 100 most voted-for books has been compiled, with Lee's 50-year-old classic topping the list.
Three classics make the top 10—Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (number two), Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (four) and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (eight). Neil Gaiman has the most titles in the top 100 with American Gods (11), Neverwhere (35), The Graveyard Book (76) and Stardust (86) all receiving votes.
Julia Kingsford, c.e.o. of World Book Night, said: "It's wonderful to see the passionate choices of so many people and, above all, the diversity of those choices. We had always expected there to be a wide range of books nominated but to have so many titles chosen is a great reminder of the power and passion of individual readers.
"And though many 'old favourites' from previous top 100s are present, it's a really fresh, dynamic and fascinating snapshot of the books people love with some genuine surprises."
The selection will be used to inform the choice of WBN's editorial selection committee. Chaired by Tracy Chevalier, the committee will reveal the 25 books chosen for World Book Night 2012 on 12th October at Frankfurt Book Fair.
The top 10 voted-for books are:
1 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee 2 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen 3 The Book Thief Markus Zusak 4 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte 5 The Time Traveler's Wife Audrey Niffenegger 6 The Lord of the Rings J R R Tolkien 7 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams 8 Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte 9 Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier 10 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
Saturday, September 3, 2011
01.09.11 Lisa Campbell, Graeme Neill and Charlotte Williams
Publishers and trade figures have broadly reacted positively towards the scrapping of Waterstone’s 3-for-2 promotion.
As The Bookseller revealed earlier today [31st August], the offer is expected to be scrapped in September and replaced by discount off individual books. It marks the end of arguably the most recognisable book offer, which has been part of Waterstone's for more than a decade.
Ursula Mackenzie, c.e.o of Little, Brown and chair of the Trade Publishers’ Council at the Publishers Association, said Daunt's move was the right one as in difficult economic times customers are not necessarily looking to buy two books. She said: “Refreshing the offer will be a good thing, I’m not sure that the 3-for-2 is what people are looking for. They want one book, at the cheapest possible price.”
Kerr MacRae, executive director of Simon & Schuster, said scrapping the offer needed to be done. He said: “I don’t think anyone will mourn 3-for-2s to the depth and level that they ended up in Waterstone’s. When it started it was quite selective, sticking to specific authors or genres and it grew into a bit of a monster. It became the default position in terms of Waterstone’s front of store proposition. In scrapping it, it’s the first step for them to look at new and innovative ways to sell things differently.”
Scott Pack, publisher at The Friday Project and former buying manager at Waterstone’s, defended the offer on Twitter and said W H Smith would be "delighted" with its abolition. He said: “When we tried to reduce the number of books on the 3 for 2 offer it didn’t work financially, it didn’t make as much money. But that was a different time. This may be more of a cultural change...It is the end of an era. It is really fascinating how many people are talking about this – authors, readers, publishers. It is part of our cultural fabric.”
One indie publisher said: "If you get a book in the 3-for-2 offer it sells and sells and sells. Even though the margin is lower, it is a dream for us."
David Roche, former Borders c.e.o. and Waterstone's product director, said: “Love it or hate it, the 3 for 2 campaign became a treadmill that always resulted in a headache whenever you attempted to extricate yourself from it. It did sell a lot of books and over the years has boosted the career, or certainly individual titles, of many an emerging author.”
However, he added: “Having said that, everything has a sell-by date and there should be no taboo in replacing the 3 for 2 with something that might be more relevant to the current state of the market/economy and for the variety of store locations that Waterstone's currently operates in. The magic is to hit on a formula and balance that works better, or to have a range of scaleable offers and incentives that help put a spotlight on a curated selection of individual books (be they frontlist or backlist) and different authors, be they household names or new writing talent that needs championing. Carrying on as Waterstone's were is clearly not the answer so James should be applauded for trying something different rather than doing more of the same."
Some Waterstone's staff were told of the move earlier this week, with one source telling The Bookseller campaign books would subsequently be uniformly priced at £5, while another suggested a more staggered offer for paperbacks, with £3, £5 and £7 pricepoints available.
Jonathan Lloyd, c.e.o. of Curtis Brown, echoed those who said three books is not necessarily what customers always want. He said: “3-for-2 often meant spending enormous amounts of time looking for a third book you didn’t really want. Like so many activities, two is more satisfying than three.”
The news has seen coverage in The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. Writing in The Independent, David Prosser said: "In axing Waterstone's three for two offers, Mr Daunt is steering the bookshops towards the sort of philosophy that has worked for him in the past." But he notedL "The three for two deal is an effective way to shift the work of lesser-known authors, to expand their audiences and to turn them into the bestsellers of tomorrow. Without the support of being thrown into promotions featuring today's star-names, those authors may find the going tougher."
The Guardian quotes the author Robert Muchamore, who said: "Multibuys have never worked for me with books because you need to find three eclectic non-identical products."