Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Anyway, must dash – I have an interview in a few minutes that will be eventually published here.
Monday, January 29, 2007
I am writer who writes for himself, a selfish writer I suppose (but then I will never let myself be compromised by writing something I know is being done simply for profit). However, to enable me to write and hopefully write fulltime I must rely on the public to buy my books, and so I believe that once my book is written and published then any request that is made of me to make the book more personal to the reader i.e. a signature and a little message, is more than reasonable (unless the reader wishes me to sign it in my own blood – perhaps then I will decline).
At the Macmillan do last week, my fellow MNWers and I discussed the thin line between reasonable requests and exploitation. There are certain websites who have made advances to published authors for signed and dated copies of their books for them to sell on for more than a tidy profit. I know of a couple of websites who have already bought several signed copies from one of the more reputable London-based bookshops – of which I agreed to sign a hundred or so copies – and are now selling them for twice or three times the publishing price. Obviously I encourage my books to be sold, but I have to point out that if you bought a copy at a book-signing (plans of which are in the works) then I would sign it free of charge and you would only have to pay the cover price.
The writer never gets a cut of a book that is sold for say £50. We only get the usually royalties, so there is no added benefit for us, nor the publisher and definitely not the reader.
Now, I guess if in ten or twenty years time, someone sells a copy of The Secret War (first edition, signed and dated) for maybe a couple of hundred quid, I don’t think I’d have a problem with that because it would be out of print but hopefully repackaged etc. I think that would be acceptable.
But the fact is, The Secret War has only been out for a couple of weeks, and while a first edition is getting rarer all the time, I baulk at the idea of someone having to pay 2-3 times as much as they should. It is their business, but I feel it’s also exploitation - as does other writers who I spoke to that evening. When you are confronted by a dealer in that way, knowing what they will sell your book for later, you feel like the Devil is coming for your signature and that perhaps you are compelled to sign away your soul in the book. It would be different if the same dealers came to me and said “I’ll buy 100 copies of your book…” but just a dozen or so? Sorry, but no.
There are dealers out there who are selling sign editions for the same price as you would pay for the book in your local Waterstones. Like anything, searching the internet will bring up the right ones, so if you are tempted just do a little digging before buying.
As for signing…
Well, I stand by what I said at the beginning of this blog entry. If someone asked me to sign a copy of my book for them, maybe to include a little message etc. then who am I to refuse? After all, a personalised copy of a book brings writer and reader closer together, don’t you think?
Friday, January 26, 2007
Another red-letter moment
Travelling down alone (my good wife was fulfilling her duties of being an NHS staff nurse) I managed to squeeze in some writing during the two and half hour journey from Sheffield. From the station I was met by friend and fellow writer, Dave, and after dropping my gear off at this, we wandered the streets of London – or rather wandered into bookshops to check if they were stocking The Secret War. In Sheffield this kind of thing is limited – there aren’t that many bookshops unfortunately – but in London there seems to be one on every corner. The ratio of The Secret War sellers to non-sellers was even, and those who did sell it seemed to have a few copies and spaces were copies had been sold. One shop had sold out completely which is always good news.
It was also during this stage of my visit that I experienced another red-letter moment, at Goldsboro books near Leicester Square (a great place to get signed first editions by the way – I parted with most of my cash buying a rare signed first edition of my favourite book, Weaveworld by Clive Barker).
Whilst buying the book, I was amazed to discover two people in the queue behind me were buying a copy of my book. I joked that it was a setup, but it was actually a big thrill to see someone spontaneously buy The Secret War in front of my eyes.
I wonder if other authors felt the same way the first time someone bought a copy of their book while they were browsing anonymously – writers who I will not name-drop here simply because it would be too crass to compare me to the heavyweight bestsellers of the world.
But even they had to start somewhere, right?
The reason for coming
Mike Barnard is retiring. There will be some here who do not know this name, but there is a reason why writers who visit this blog should remember him. It was Mike who brought together Macmillan New Writing, and as one of my fellow writers said at the end of the retirement-do at the Macmillan building, “I must say goodbye to God.” I kind of feel the same way. A writer is what a writer does, that is to write. But an author’s life is dependent on being published and the giver of that life is certainly Mike, and the staff of Macmillan New Writing. I think the strength of this gratitude was summed up in two moments. The first is that so many of the Macmillan New Writers turned up to the retirement do – perhaps the largest concentration of any of the writers Macmillan has published during the course of Mike’s long career.
The second moment was during Geoff Todd’s (also retiring) speech, who described Macmillan New Writing as Mike’s fan-club. And I guess we are in a way. We have a lot to be thankful for, as should any writer who gets that first break be it a good one or false. It is one of the hardest things in the world to be published, as all of us on Thursday night agreed – and none are complacent. The second book is something that each of us feels a certain pressure to deliver and while some are getting their second novel into print, there are other Macmillan New Writers who are not.
As for me, I suppose the best gesture I can give to the man who discovered me amongst the thousands of hopefuls, is to ensure that The Secret of Mhorrer isn’t as good as The Secret War...
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
And so to the blog entry that should have also read…
“Debut a Debut”
I came across this competition while surfing the ‘net for reviews on The Secret War. It looks really interesting and has support from the web-reading community. From the standpoint of a debut writer, I am very happy that The Secret War has been put forward on the list; it’s great publicity for me - it’s great publicity for all new writers.
It’s also another link between the recently published and the unpublished, who – as one commentator rightly pointed out on Iswriter’s blog – are only separated by a few steps further forward.
Hopefully the competition can bring something positive from all the corners of the writing process, from writer to publisher, maybe even to bookseller…
Note: Macmillan New Writing are also supporting the competition by putting up a copy of my book as one of the prizes, so if you get a chance, drop into West of Mars and give a new writer a go…
The first reviews are coming out and SFX carried the first major press review of The Secret War. The review is not available on-line, so without breaching any copyright I can say my book got 3 stars out of 5, which isn’t bad when you consider Naomi Novik’s third Temeraire book only got 2 and a half stars. So I must be doing something right then!
I think of all the reviews I’m looking forward to the most, the Amazon reviews are at the top. Amazon reader reviews tend to be the most honest, usually without trying to sound too glib or overly referential (they’re the reviews I usually follow if musing turns to purchasing).
I’ve been told it takes about 10 days for reviews to go on-line – so I’m holding my breath for the first words to come in.
Which leads nicely to…
My Amazon twin
Well it appears I’ve sold enough books now to be twinned with someone on Amazon: Simon R Green, and his book the Hell to Pay. I haven’t bought a copy yet, but I am curious. Has anyone here read this?
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
…Back when I was a student at university – those wistful years of hedonism that were all too brief – I remember organising house-parties, with rooms crammed with cheap beer while Radiohead or Cowboy Junkies spilled from the various stereos in each room. Ah, great days. But there was always that fear – ever-so slight – that come the time of the party no-one would turn up. It was almost a blessed relief when the first knock on the door came, a prelude to smiling faces, plenty more drink and the promise of a good night to come…
It was this memory that preyed on me as I waited nervously inside Waterstones, in Orchard Square, Sheffield, on the 11th January. By 6:10pm, the shop looked great and the staff were in good cheer. Also present were myself, my wife, editor (Will) and publishing assistant (Sophie), chatting about what was to come (while I secretly brooded hoping that everyone would turn up).
To my side were the books. 88 copies in all, and looking quite impressive, if a little intimidating. Afterall, that was 88 copies to sell in an evening and I didn’t want the whole thing to go flat with only half the order sold.
Such worries were soon crushed by the early arrival of guests 15 minutes before the event. Having set up early, the Waterstones staff opened the doors and the launch had officially begun…
I signed my first book just before 7pm, and then came the rush. It’s a quite an experience seeing people you know or don’t know eagerly queuing up for a signed copy of your book. It’s also a little mad – having to smile at friends or family down the queue, keeping everyone happy and trying desperately to think of something to sign, witty or not so witty depending on your mental and physical state throughout the evening. As suspected, my signature grew wilder as the drink flowed, and having not eaten anything since 3pm the beer went to my head quite quickly – though earlier fears that I might “screw-up” a signature were thankfully not realised!
A highlight of the night was the four foot broadsword. This magnificent steel weapon was definitely cause for some photo moments, and I must have spent many minutes standing and wielding the sword by the (thankfully) dwindling copies of the book on the display case. I also realised the advantages of having a large broadsword in one hand and a bottle of Becks in the other, as the vision of a slightly merry psycho-author in a bookshop crammed with people was the catalyst for many to move out of the way so more photos could be taken with me by the books.
I am glad to report that no limbs were lost, and no one was skewered (though I believe I did put a small divot in the floor when the tip-guard fell off).
I forget how many books I signed – as there were many and there were many smiling faces afterward, so I must have been doing something right. I also forget the words I inscribed on each page – but I know there were many emotional moments and messages. So many, that when it came to the speeches, I was already feeling choked-up. Even though my speech was written from the heart it wasn’t overly sentimental, but after a couple of beers and the emotion of the signings, I was reduced to tears by the end of it (as were a great many others). Yeah, it definitely felt like a wedding… but it also felt like a relief.
After the reading – that was interrupted with outstanding comic timing by my father-in-law, Raymond, and my nephew, Reece (who later went on to trigger the shop’s security alarm!) – I really felt relaxed, relieved, and reinvigorated.
I was now an author.
An author with a published book.
A published book that people were buying and wanted me to sign.
A published book people were buying in the largest bookshop in South Yorkshire.
A book that was sitting amongst my peers and selling very well.
And as Lee Harris said to me later “Matt, you look like the cat who got the cream.”
When eventually we left the launch – a little giddy, and little tired, only to be applauded as we entered All Bar One next door – I felt an ambition had finally been achieved. It was my last, first book launch – and I think nothing will come close to that evening again.
But there are other ambitions, and hopefully other nights of celebration to come. Where these will take me, I do not know, but I’m looking forward to greeting them with one hand, my broadsword in the other...
Thanks to everyone who came to the launch - here's to the next one!
Further photos of the evening will be posted on the website under a new section, The Gallery (references to "Take Hart" are not intentional).
And Waterstones sold 80 copies of the book on the night. Not bad, especially when your editor also tells you on the very same night that The Secret War has gone to reprint already. So the message is: “get ‘em while they’re hot!”
Photographs © copyright Carol Donally 2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
If The Secret War was published on the 5th January, then the book wasn’t truly released for me until the 11th.
Last Thursday began interestingly, with a 6:15am start to appear on BBC radio Sheffield’s Breakfast Show. I think the interview went well, despite being half-asleep. I find it difficult to be enthusiastic about anything at 7:30am – so I dug deep that morning, a little high on the prospect of the evening’s events.
The night before had been spent writing my speech, cobbling a CD together for the launch, and of course, what to read. The following morning, whilst one of four trips into town, I looked through the speech, and kept changing what I planned reading. Readings are funny things. Sometimes even the best writer in the world can become the world’s biggest bore if their readings go on and on and on. So I settled on a two page offering that tried to captivate the mood of the whole book… Not an easy task, especially when you feel like you’re bearing your soul to everyone you know.
After what I thought wasn’t a bad interview at BBC radio Sheffield, we picked up further provisions and dropped the rest of the stuff off at Waterstones in Orchard Square, which was pretty quiet at 11 in the morning. It’s a big store, wide open spaces and plenty of books on display (including my book – which gives me a tingle whenever I see it sitting amongst other authors I am totally in awe of). It was all a little surreal, especially bringing a four-foot steel broadsword into the shop (hoping the police didn’t catch me between the car and Orchard Square!). The broadsword, before anyone asks, is a promise to myself that I have now fulfilled, much like being published. It was also a good excuse to display the engraved sword at the launch (a move which produced added attention and a little fear later that evening – but more on that in part 2).
Later came the third trip into town, to meet up with David Headley of Goldsboro books to sign some of his stock – around 100 copies as it happened, which gave me a chance to flex my signature-writing muscles. It might sound odd, but I feel slightly nervous whenever I sign a book. I mean, what happens if I screw up the message, or make a hash of the signature itself? That’s a book worth £12.99 down the pan, isn’t it?
And that was when I was sober too. God knows what I would be like that evening with several beers or glasses of wine down my neck…!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
With tomorrow being the Waterstones book launch and with quite a bit to do (wondering why I didn’t take today off work – fool that I am), it’s been a busy day on the whole publicity side of things.
My interview with the Sheffield Star was published in today’s paper (you can read the article by clicking here!) I think it reads quite well, and put a big ol’ grin on my chops. No sooner had I read the article, then I get a call from BBC Radio Sheffield. Anyone who can receive the said radio station will find me talking about the book on the Breakfast show from 7:20am onwards… (hopefully I’ll be awake by then!!).
Finally, I’ve been invited by e-sheaf magazine as their guest writer for their February launch do in – you’ve guessed it – February. They’ll be carrying a review of the book as well as an interview which I’ll do tomorrow at the launch.
(Phew… Might have to sit down now and try to wipe that foolish smile off my face…)
And if you’re still reading this thinking “what is all the fuss about…?”, click here for more details.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
When all the preparation has concluded – the mental preparation that is – for what is the biggest moment in any writer’s life, that moment can be a little of an anti-climax. I speak of the day an author is published for the first time, and for all intents, it should be a life defining day, a spectacular day in effect, like when an album or movie is released, right?
Well, actually, it’s not like that at all. Indeed, I spent the morning of last Friday trying to find out who was actually stocking The Secret War. Being a hard-back book, coverage is not extensive and a little patchy but then I guess it’s only realistic as bookshops are still immersed in the New Year sales; so copies of The Secret War are in stock rooms waiting for shelf space to become available.
For a writer, it’s frustrating, but I have to be realistic about it – and patient. I’m learning that the publishing business is a slow affair, that success takes time and books are never fleeting. Just look at the bestsellers of recent years – often they’ve been sitting on shelves for months before a crowning review occurs and the whole thing takes off.
So, at first I was disappointed, but after coming to terms with the fact I am not instantly a bestseller writer (grins) I settled with the news The Secret War is cropping up in quite a few bookshops across the country. There have been spottings in Aberdeen, Chester, Southampton and Bournemouth. Dave in London sent me a photo of five copies of The Secret War in Borders, Oxford Street. So yeah, you can buy The Secret War on the high street, but like me, patience is involved. You can always order it online as well, which people have been doing so with Amazon and Goldsboro books.
And what did I do with the rest of the day? Well, I had lunch in town with my wife, sorted out the details of the book launch for the following week, and had a fantastic evening in Cipolla in Broomhill, Sheffield – a wonderful Italian restaurant which put up with a raucous party consisting of myself, Sarah and a few friends and family:
Everyone got a t-shirt – perhaps they’ll become collectors items in the years to come!!! It was a great end to what could have been a strangely subdued day – and I have the following people to thank: Dave Budd, Will Atkins, Sophie Portas, the gang at The Secret War party on Friday night, and of course my wife, Sarah, who has been amazing and organised a spectacular end to the day.
Yes, at times The Secret War day was anti-climatic, but then writers aren’t film or rock stars… are we? And I'm certain there will be plenty of times to get excited in the weeks ahead...!
Thursday, January 04, 2007
They must try to survive assassination attempts, political machinations, epic battles on land and sea, and above all the power of a mysterious bronze pyramid – the Scarimadean – that brings everlasting damnation to all who come into contact with it.
Their only allies are an old man, a fading secret organisation in the Church, and an enigmatic warrior, who may hold the key not only to the friends’ fates, but to the fate of all mankind . . .
The year is 1815, when angels and daemons walked our streets . . . "
The Secret War is out 5th January 2007 and available at all good bookshops.
Alternatively it can be pre-ordered/or purchased* at the following websites:
Macmillan New Writing,
Goldsboro (signed copies)
Amazon UK, France, Japan
(this list is not exhaustive!!)
For more information visit the official The Secret War site or Macmillan New Writing site.
Or read an extract here.
(*If you’re feeling skint after the festive hols and have no book vouchers to part with, remember, The Secret War is the perfect new year exchange item in case you receive more than one copy of the new James Herbert or Stephen King books, or the Dangerous Book for Boys!!)
This message has been brought to you buy the Order of Saint Sallian “helping to keep our streets free of vampyres and daemons this holiday”.