Friday, 26 September 2008

"Aren't Local Bookshops Brilliant?"

Sorry if this post's title is gushed forth in the key of Paul Whitehouse's anoraked fan-of-everything from the classic days of the "Fast Show".

But, that excitement I mentioned a few posts back, at the idea of getting books into bricks-and-mortar stores? Well, it's arrived...

Popped into Dundee Borders tonight after work and finally got a chance to chat to their sales manager there, Neil. A incredibly sound chap who gave plenty of time, and enthusiasm, to me, Fenriswulf Books, 'Maranatha', and - oh yes - my new project...

I've already interested a couple of writer and artist folks I know in contributing to an anthology book. A collection of writings, short stories, poetry, art, whatever by me and anyone else who's up for it. Neil had no problem at all in accepting 'Maranatha' for print sale, as well as the future local showcase book, and 'Maranatha's sequels as and when they arrive.

Probably the biggest buzz yet in this whole venture - the chance to actually see my work on display, in-store. I don't know where Borders get their staff from but their customer service is awesome. Despite my repeated calls in the last few weeks to try to pin down Neil when our works shifts didn't coincide, I've never had the impression that I was being seen as a nuisance. Quite the opposite, even - everyone has had plenty of time for me. Borders seems to be built upon giving new, young, local and untried writers a fair chance - which in this day of pile 'em high/sell 'em cheap bargain blockbusters that appeal to the lowest common commercial denominator, I find staggering. And very, very welcome. After all, they're doing us a great big favour.

Neil was happy to take on half a dozen print copies of 'Maranatha' (we originally discussed 8 - before I realised that actually do a flat rate postage charge of £6.30) on sale or return. So I ordered up a bunch as soon as I got home - no time like the present, and other clich├ęs.

And yes, local bookshops are brilliant. And electric carving knives. They're brilliant, too...

Monday, 15 September 2008

Words of Encouragement Go a Long Way

Popped an email off to Harry Bingham last week (successful novelist, founder of the really rather good editorial agency the Writers Workshop, and all-round good egg). Got a very positive and encouraging response to this very blog, wishing me all the best in this self-publishing endeavour, which gave me quite a good buzz. The Writer's Workshop (check them out under the 'Writer's & Publisher's Resources' link to the left) worked with me through several drafts of 'Maranatha', and helped to turn the book into its present form. If nothing else, the experience taught me the need for judicious editing, not only in the areas of exposition but also in the more indulgent passages, and pointed the finger at a few hitherto unnoticed problem areas.

The greatest thing about their detailed reports and feedback was that I was able to pass a little of that learning back to a few friends of mine on who are starting out in their writing careers too, equally ambitious and serious, and just as in need of a good, solid, honest opinion. I've already had one of those buddies tell me he "couldn't pay for a critique as good as that" after my in-depth analysis of his fantasy tale.

And at this stage in our adventures, we need all the encouragement and help that we can give each other.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


According to Lulu's revenue stats, I sold 3 copies of 'Maranatha' at the end of last month, and I didn't even realise. I had expected some sort of notification to alert me to this fact, but nothing of the sort occurred - perhaps because I wasn't expecting it quite so soon, having only just finalised the ISBN distribution. Although I can't trace the buyer, they were all retail print copies, so my guess is a bricks-and-mortar store somewhere in the UK. Which is quite a nice thought. The internet is all very well and good in its ability to disgorge an entire book, or library of books, onto your hard drive at the touch of a button and the conga-line of data dancing down a telephone line - but you can't beat the feeling of seeing a real book sitting on an actual shelf.

In other good news, despite a torturous wrangling with Amazon Stateside over their baffling and erroneous editorial description, that unwanted piece of paranormal hyperbole has now finally been removed from the site, and my cover blurb posted in its place. In recognition of this, I deleted my own review of the book which drew attention to the fact their product description was wrong. However, the grim impostor was not gone - by some strange electronic osmosis, it had simply migrated across the Atlantic, to the product page!! If I hadn't been using my laptop, my head would have collided with the keyboard. Noisily.

I popped an email off to customer support and was kindly advised to submit the corrections online. I did so. It wouldn't really have been that big a deal to start with, except that I was unhappy about the possibility of persons buying the book in the belief that it was actually what that description claimed it to be, and not a work of mere fiction.

All in all, a pleasing conclusion to the first chapter in the story of Fenriswulf Books. In the final analysis, I've now done exactly what I set out to do 2 years and 9 months ago - write a book, get it published and sell some copies. So far, so good - mission accomplished and all that. Everything else from now on is simply relative. Now I just need to keep doing it!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

"Achtung! Minen!"

Lulu and I have finally agreed on the (current) finished draft of ‘Maranatha’, after waiting for their ISBN assignation to complete once again. I’m now happy to accept that the thing can be about as good as I can make it at this point in time – without spending any more months on the project. One thing I’ve just thought about would be the addition of the Fenriswulf logo on the front cover, a la Penguin. It would be a visual design element on the otherwise purely typographical layout, but it’s a bit late in the day to start fiddling with details. As any future changes will likely involve a completely redesigned cover anyway, and a new ISBN assigned as a result, I might as well leave it for that.

It’s also been a funny experience reading through the finished book in its printed form. Suddenly tiny little details which went previously unnoticed during the dozens of proof-readings jump out of the page at me. I find myself thinking, “Hm, that comma shouldn’t be there. I should really take out that word…and I could have used a better word there.” What seemed great as a bundle of typescript pages, or a scrolling Word file, has now committed itself to the same level of judgment as Waugh, Burgess, Hemingway, Eco, Joyce, Conrad or, er, Lovecraft (as I glance worriedly across the length of my bookshelf). I’m now expecting to share shelf space with the great and the good, the lucky, the horribly bad, the celebrity cooks and the ex-Big Brother House evictees. Comparisons are pointless, though, as all judgements are subjective, including mine – actually getting some judgments upon the work, good or bad, is now the next goal. And this is where the legwork comes in, the real effort, the potential for disenchantment. While the book remains unknown and unread, it’s easy to imagine anything. Suddenly the idea of it making contact with inscrutable and unbiased members of the professional trade raises the ante. This is the start of the make or break period, where I discover if I really have developed a hard enough skin to be able to take the rough with the smooth, and it’s all a bit daunting, if not intimidating. This is where I pull on my tin hat and begin to tiptoe gently through the minefield. And while it may all just blow up in my face and stop me in my tracks, it's the idea of what may lie beyond which makes it also very exciting. I’ve contacted a few bookstores already, and that excitement will soon be shared within this very page…

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