Monday, June 07, 2021

Self promotion, buttock-clenching and shark jumping

Last week, bound proofs of my latest title began to head into the wild. The actual book isn't hitting the stands until August here in the UK but obviously both the publishers and I want to generate what heat we can both ahead of time and around publication. There is so much reading matter out there that I believe we have to scream, scratch and scramble to get even a little attention.

In a display of shameless self-promotion, here is the advance proof alongside its series running mates.

Naturally, I am nervous. I always am when a book leaves the confines of my mind and the fingers of my editors. What readers think really matters - will it be met favourably or will it be dismissed as a waste of paper and ink?

Time will tell.

What I will say is that I am proud of it. I have done the very best I could. I did what I set out to do, told the story I wanted, developed Rebecca Connolly's character the way I wanted.

That doesn't mean everyone will agree.

Nobody can predict how their book will be received. There are authors who are super confident,  so certain that they have written an absolute belter that they don't lose a moment's sleep. There are, naturally, authors who are so successful and beloved that they could release their groceries list and be met with heaps of praise and prizes. And groceries, probably.

Then there are authors like me who still wait for someone to say that it was all a mistake, that they never meant to give you a contract, let alone money, which they want back, by the way. 

When I say this to friends they laugh - oh, how they mock - and say I've never produced a book yet that was really badly received. I've had some bad reviews, obviously, and poor little Janus Run never did find its feet but overall I've been very lucky. 

The fact is, we are all capable of producing a stinker.

In recent months I have read three books by authors whose work I not only respect but also covet. Frankly, I wish I was as good as them. I'm not going to name them but let me say that none of them are Scottish, so any of my friends reading this needn't look at each other and wonder.

As I say, these are three of my favourite writers. One of the books was well up to standard. Tight, pacy, enthralling. It wasn't simply enjoyable, it was a book to look forward to getting back to. Yeah, it was that good.

The other two?


One, as they say, jumped the shark completely. In fact, had there been a shark in there for characters to hurdle it might have been more interesting. In my view, the first three quarters of it could have been almost completely ditched, the information delivered in two, maybe three, chapters. The final quarter was, frankly, ludicrous.

The other was too long. Way too long. I mean, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long. In fact, there were complete sections I skipped because I realised that it had no impact on the plot or characters. Unfortunately, I feel there was an element of self-indulgence in those chapters.

Now, it has to be pointed out that this is all subjective. What I think is not necessarily what other readers think, although we will come to that. It was obviously not what the authors or, indeed their editors, thought. Because I didn't like them does not make them bad books, far from it. All it means is I didn't like them. And it doesn't make me right!

All three of those authors are super successful and rightly so. Their overall output is something to be admired and praised.

But I wondered about the two who had, on this occasion, disappointed me. What happened?

Are they so successful that they can tell an editor to go take a leap in the ocean and maybe find a large predator to leap over? Because there were things in these particular books that I firmly believe my editor would have suggested I reassess. 

But then, what do I know? These authors sell in the millions all over the world while I, well, don't. However I've had a look at the reviews on line and, though it is a mixed bag, there are a number of readers who share my views.

Will this stop me from reading further works by these authors? No, it won't. They are superb writers and one disappointing book doesn't mean they are limbering up for another go at that great white.

But I do worry that if authors of their skill and magnitude can (in my opinion) produce a couple of stinkers, then any of us can do the same without realising it.

Hence the current buttock-clenching as my new one goes out to early readers!

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