Greetings, travellers! Just a quick note to let you know that Night Shift is on sale for this week only! At just 99p (or cents) for the ebook it is more of a bargain than ever, and should you be lacking a copy I obviously heartily recommend you take advantage.
Important news: Human Resources has been postponed. It will now be released in November, not July as originally advertised.
First off, I need to apologise to all you who have already pre-ordered it. What’s that, you say? You haven’t done that yet? Well, it’s still orderable from Flame Tree Press’ website and, presumably, all good bookshops. What are you hanging about here for?
The delay, I hasten to say, is nothing to do with me. My copy-edits were in on time and the editor was happy with my work. It was instead a business decision. I’m not allowed to give any details beyond that a new deal has led to Flame Tree’s release schedule being rejiggered and my book is amongst those affected.
I can also say that it should work out to be a positive move both for me and the company; this isn’t one of those ‘oh my god it’s all gone to shit’ moments; it’s a good thing, I’m assured (I know very little about the actual business of publishing, though I’m learning).
Good thing or not, it’s a disappointment to me personally. I was hoping for some sort of launch event at Edge-Lit and maybe take in one or two more cons as an author with something to talk about. Now I have nothing to declare but my incompetence.
It’s also a short-term blow financially. Like most authors, the advance I will/have received for Human Resources is split into three payments: one upon signing of the contract, one on receiving of the finished text (though I’m not entirely sure when that arrives; I’ve done my copy-edit but not received this payment yet) and the last upon publication. Obviously I won’t now be receiving this last part until November. Not that it’s a great deal of money, you understand. But it’s money I won’t now be getting when I thought.
Long-term it may well be better for me to wait. Depends how this deal pans out, though in any case it’ll be very hard to judge cause-and-effect. We shall see.
Of more concern to me, however, is that it now feels like my career’s on hold until November.
Normally I’d advise people to try and fill their downtime with either writing their next novel or trying to get other material published and that’s what I’m going to be doing myself. I’m somewhat limited, however. I’m not a writer of short fiction, which is bread-and-butter to a lot of writers, and I’m contractually unable to pitch my other big novel-hope out to publishers at the moment. I don’t have an agent (my perpetual refrain; sorry to go on about it) and so don’t have the benefit of their advice on how to take my career forwards.
So, although I will be continuing to write and my endless search for an agent goes on, I feel like I’ve nothing really to do until November. My career hangs in limbo, and has done ever since the release of Night Shift – a gap of two years between publications. Two years’ wasted time.
(It’s not wasted, of course it isn’t. I’ve been busy writing; I’ve edited two novels and a have a third on the way. But that’s how it feels. Like I’ve been twiddling my thumbs all this time.)
So what do I do? I fill my downtime with writing, of course. And trying to find an agent. And making more friends amongst the writing community. And getting better at what I do.
I just wish I had something to sell, something to get my name out there. Tiny steps; no miracle-hunter I.
Something to make me feel like I was making progress.
Ain’t it a beauty? Yes, it’s the cover no-one’s been waiting for: Human Resources is here!
It’s available now for pre-order before its official release date of 23rd July 2020. The link’s to Flame Tree Press’s site but you can also order it from all good bookshops or, failing that, Amazon.
Please feel free to harangue your local library into stocking a copy or two. We heart libraries here and most (all?) have online forms to put in stock requests.
I am overcome. I still can’t quite believe this is happening – Human Resources is the result of years of hard labour and to see it graced with such a magnificent cover kinda blows me away. I wish I had the name of someone to credit but I think it’s all done either in-house or by an agency.
Really hope you like it too.
The important details again:
Release date: 23/07/20
ISBN: 9781787584938 (hbk)
Available now for pre-order!
Authors are not employees. They are freelancers who aren’t tied to any particular business and who can be contracted to several – or more – at the same time.
I was reminded of this a few days ago when I got an email from my publishers that opened with ‘nice to be working with you again.’ As far as I was concerned I’d never stopped working with them. It also raises the possibility that, at some point, my work had simply dropped into a canyon of disinterest; that, once my novel wasn’t new anymore, they had no interest in either it or me.
This is both true and not true. Of course any publisher will prioritise new books and bestsellers; it’s the way of the industry, and they can’t keep trying to flog every old potboiler that just happened to slip through the quality-control net. There is a point where one is just throwing good money after bad. Or, to be less cynical about it, to take what slender earnings they received and move on.
But publishers still want to sell their back catalogue and so, once a relationship is forged, it never simply disappears. As long as a book is available – not remaindered, if such a thing has any meaning in this world of ebooks and print-on-demand – then both author and publisher want to sell it. They just don’t want to spend any money so doing.
So the relationship between author and publisher is always a bit confused. An author might want to promote a book that’s been out a year, but they’re not employees – and the industry has moved on. A publisher won’t simply forget an author but, ultimately, they have no responsibility to look after them once the terms of the contract have been honoured.
The agent-author relationship is even more complicated. Technically the author employs the agent but it can often feel like it’s the other way round. The agent deigns to accept a writer as a client; a writer doesn’t have hordes of agents clamouring to be selected. The agent critiques and edits the work and often has great creative say in what’s eventually put out.
But the money flows from writer to agent, and that’s ultimately what it comes down to. The writer hires the agent. Don’t forget that.
It’s all terribly confusing. But, if you’re looking for advice, allow me to present you to with a few quick bullet-points:
- Maintain good relationships. Try not to piss people off; you might only be working with them for a limited time but you might always publish more than one book with the same people. That’s surely the aim. Don’t get a bad reputation.
- Remember that, beyond the terms of your contract, you are beholden to no-one and no-one is beholden to you. Do a good job. Thank people who have helped you. But don’t be fooled into thinking you work for them. Be free!
- If you’re lucky enough to sign with an agent, don’t think you have to slavishly follow their every command. If it’s not working – for any reason – you have the power to make changes. No relationship is better than a bad relationship
- Keep writing. It’s ever so tricky, sometimes, to remember what you originally were: there’s so much publicity to do, so much business to clear. But you must keep on producing material because every new work is a new slice of freedom. Unless you’re tied in to a multi-book contract – in which case I doubt you’re reading this – each story is a new deal. And you can take that deal anywhere.
- Keep track of what you’ve sent where. All this freedom can all get terribly, terribly complicated – especially if you’re working on short stories, poems, or other things where you might be sending out multiple things to many places at the same time. Try and develop a system – even if it’s only the simplest of spreadsheets – so you don’t feel like you’re drowning
So, tell us about your novel.
It’s the question that authors hate – the first time, at least. The good thing is that we get asked it so often that we have time to prepare an answer; to evolve a soundbite that we can wheel out and reuse as required. Mine begins with ‘it’s a murder mystery set in near-future Antarctica…’ and often stops there too.
A book description, however, is a different beast. It’s disturbingly close to being a blurb – a written account of your book that the publisher will use for publicity. As such it’s got to be punchy, moody and to the point – but, unlike a synopsis, it has to avoid spoilers and the end must remain resolutely not given away.
Then there’s the author biography. How much character do you want to put into that? Where’s the fine line between
dull and factual and cringe-makingly jokey and self-reverential?
Guess what I’m doing at the moment?
Yup, it’s another ‘author questionnaire’ for my publisher: the document that they’ll use to try and flog my efforts – to bookstores, to distributors and to the media, should they be interested in interviewing me in whatever form.
And it’s horrible. This is the second time I’ve had to do it and it’s wincingly horrible. Even though I can copy-and-paste some of my answers from the last time I did it, I just have to have a little tinker and in a trice I find myself back inside the prison of my attempts to make myself sound interesting.
Interesting but not an attention-seeking freak: again, it’s a fine line.
It is, in fact, rather like writing this blog.
I am currently working through Human Resources for the last time.
This is, of course, untrue. There is no way in hell that it’ll be the last time I go through the manuscript, armed with a future list of corrections and clarifications and just a general sense of must-do-better-ness.
But it is the last time I’ll go through it before I send it off to my editor. I have no more to give – I’ve got my beta-reader’s feedback and, though I don’t feel able to address some of the larger points in the root-and-branch manner I should, this is one final pass to kill a few typos and to add a little bit of explanation where it’s needed.
This novel has dragged on for years. It has been through many different sets of clothes. Now it may not be perfect but I’m happy with its overall shape, the pose of the mannequin; and it’s time to dispatch it to my publisher in the hope that – while they too might not think it’s perfect – they can see enough good in it for it to be accepted.
It’s not a done thing. I’m talking about ‘my’ editor but I have no contract, no guarantees. This could easily die a death.
But there comes a point when one must draw a line under a project, bite the metaphorical bullet and move on with life.
I believe Human Resources is good enough to be published. But the journey won’t be over when I send it out into the scary world of editordom. Now…
- The editor will read it and make notes
- They might send it back to be to altered even if they want to sign it
- It may go to a structural editor who will suggest changes
- It will go to a copy-editor who will suggest changes
- It will be proofread and there may be changes
So the work’s not done, not by a long shot.
But I can do no more. I console myself thus:
- The novel is good enough to be published in its current form
- It can be made better
- I will be proud to see it released
- It will not be a disappointment to those who liked the first novel
I believe in what I’ve done. I wish the road had been easier; I’ve found so much angst, so many hair-pulling moments through the process.
Now I have just another 130 pages to edit, then one more quick pass, and I’ll be done.
The last time until the next.
Today my book is released onto the great unsuspecting world. And today it struck me: there is no-one (save my wife, who doesn’t count, and my daughter, who calls me Momma most of the time so her evidence must be considered suspect) within an hour of me who knows who I am.
It’s out. And nothing has changed.
Hell, I’ve not even got any copies of the novel. I’m going on rumour and hearsay – well, the word of my publisher – that anything’s happened at all. There’s such a colossal disconnect between my daily life and my Twitter-life that, right now, I’m struggling to marry the two.
I’m still a writer trying to get work completed and out in the public domain. I’m still distracted by publicity, by events and by life, the universe, and – as they say – everything.
But now I have a novel out.
They say – those ‘they’ again – that, no matter what else you do, you should mark the occasion. A book release is a big deal, ‘they’ say. It must be celebrated. Frankly, I’ve been too busy with emergency proofreading work and with trying to organise trips to bookshops and conventions. There’s been no chance to even think of organising my own party too.
So: happy release-day to me! A quiet day will be had, unless I spend a little extra time on some promotionary tweets. But there will be no cake. No champagne. Really this is just another day; one spent with a sick child (just a minor snuffle with accompanying nasal oozage) and with no chance of hitting a bookshop or a library or anywhere else where I might see my work.
Maybe this evening I’ll polish this off
Or maybe work on this
But there’ll be no visit to the inebriatorium. That’ll have to wait until the much more tangible prospect of the few events I have lined up. They’re the things I’ve been working towards. The actual day of release has arrived as something of an afterthought.
So yes, I’m happy. Hell, I’m delighted. This is the day I’ve been working towards for years. It’s just that… nothing at all has changed. Nappies need changing. The bins need putting out.
Can you smell the glamour?
“Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”
Blimey, the world moves fast. A week ago I had nothing to say and no plans. Today I have three events lined up. Any more and I’ll have to set up a special Events page.
First things first, though: if you missed the news on Twitter or Facebook, publication of Night Shift has been delayed by nine days due to problems with the printer. By which I mean a company that does printing, not my dodgy old inkjet – although, given how much I swear at that, I suppose complications on a far more extensive job are only to be expected.
But every cloud has a silver lining. A delay just means more opportunity for getting the prosecco nice and chilled. And for me to invite you to…
Sledge-Lit, Derby: 24th November
This is only my event in the sense that my attending any sort of literary gathering is an event. Seriously, this’ll be the first genre convention I’ll have ever been to; I’m not so much out of the loop as out of the galaxy.
But here I shall be and I’ve not given up hope on Flame Tree Press having some sort of presence I can gatecrash. If you’re in the vicinity, please come and talk to me. I’ll be pathetically grateful for the company.
Besides, if you’ve not heard of Sledge-Lit, it looks great. Some top speakers lined up, a goodie-bag for all attendees from Fox Spirit books, and hopefully a wonderful crowd. I’m hoping it’ll be a great way to lose my convention-virginity.
A talk and reading at Mostly Books, Abingdon: 26th November 19:00
And hot on Sledge-Lit’s heels I’ll be giving a brief talk and reading at my once-local bookshop. I shall be buoyed by wine and terror. I have newspapers (well, at least one) ready to interview me. I’m currently drawing up a list of invitees.
I know no-one! No-one will come!
Ahem. This is an invite-only event – but you’re welcome! I hereby invite you. Just drop me an email at email@example.com and I’ll add you to the list. See before RE: pathetic gratitude.
Wine and informality: 30th November (TBC), Between the Lines, Gt Bardfield, Essex 19:00
I’ll be giving a brief talk and reading in this bijou-bookshop, hopefully in the presence of local media. Come get your photo in the Dunmow Broadcast* with me.
Also, if you’re a prosecco fan, this is the event for you.
*Dunmow Broadcast not confirmed.
And that’s it. More may happen, though I’m not aware of anything in the offing. The good thing about a book, though, is that you can keep pushing it until everyone’s sick to the back teeth of the damn thing.
Rest assured, though, you will be kept informed. In the meantime, keep on being wonderful and magnificent and, if you’re at all in the mood, ask your local library if they’re stocking Night Shift. Your support makes all the difference.
Hope to see you in the very near future.
Today’s blog is brought to you in association with a vague sense of panic.
It is a month until the Great Day of Publishing. I have so much to do. And I have nothing at all to do.
On my mental list:
- Write an article for a local magazine
- Answer questions for another magazine
- Write many blog posts
- Be interesting and insightful
- Arrange bookshop events
Like many people I can make myself work hard and be personable. I can cold-call companies, and bookshops, and ask favours and make demands on strangers’ time. But it’s hard work. I’ve just got off the phone to a bookshop: it took me a whole weekend to work up the courage; I had to rehearse what I wanted to say; I had to be the very best ‘me’ I could possibly be.
It takes time and energy and, until the last decision is made and the final arrangement tidied, there’s always a sense of incompleteness.
Of course, nothing is ever truly finished. Arranged an event with a bookshop? How am I going to get there? Do I need to book accommodation? What do I need to take? Oh God I’m probably going to have to do a reading!
What if no-one turns up?
On my to-not-do list:
- Harass the publisher
- Over-commit my time and energies
- Piss anyone off
I want to tick off the tasks. I want arrangements to be signed, sealed and delivered. But I’ve never done this before – do I do it myself or do my people (ha!) have people to do this sort of thing? I don’t want to duplicate work. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. How many enquiries (per hour) can I send out before my emails get switched straight into the ‘annoying author’ siding?
What I should be doing:
- Writing something new
- Editing old works
If all else fails go write. It’s a healthy mantra.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to focus on the things that matter when there’s so much still unresolved.
Still, best be grateful; I can only imagine how the publisher’s feeling right now.
Apart from anything else they’ve got all my emails to read.
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the
streets of London novelist’s journey from manuscript to book. But before we go anyway I must caveat in your general direction: I haven’t had a book published yet. I have only my own, limited, experience to draw on via the medium of a single publisher. Your experience will be/will have been different.
The broad sweep is likely to be similar, though, hence the ‘this might be of interest’-ness of this post. I also suspect that many of the stages will be applicable to all you self-publishers out there.
And, without further ado:
Step the First: Write a novel and make it good
Yes, it is possible to sell a novel on the basis of a pitch: Gareth Powell did that with his Ack-Ack Macaque stories (and very good they are too). But he did that on the back of a lot of previous highly-regarded writings. If you don’t have a track-record, or if you’re not already famous, you’re going to have to go the long way round.
Step the Second: Find a publisher willing to take you on
Yes, I know I’m skipping a helluva lot of steps here. But to detail every single rise and fall, every stumble and trip, in here would make this article three times as long. Besides, most of this blog is taken up with these gaps.
Step the Third: Sign a contract
You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about agents here. That’s mostly because I don’t have one, though I’ve spent more time trying to get one than I have trying to get a publisher. Again, please refer to the rest of my blog ever for my agonies over a lack of agent: suffice to say that I’d really rather like one and this is where they come into their own.
A contract is a potential minefield and it’s here you can be shafted by an unscrupulous organisation. For that reason I recommend that as soon as you get a contract offer you join the Society of Authors. They’ll read through your contract and – very promptly – tell you if the contract’s exploitative and suggest amendments in your interests.
A few short notes:
- Money goes to you. It’s not a great sign if you’re asked to pay costs
- Keep your rights. Don’t sign away the rights to adaptations or the right to be respected as the author
- Make sure that, if something goes wrong (if, for example, the publisher goes bust), the rights to your work revert to you. Clauses that state you can publish your work elsewhere if the novel isn’t released within a year or two of manuscript submission, or if less than a number of copies a year are sold, are nice things to have.
Step the Fourth: Tell the publisher all about yourself
This, I suspect, is where people’s experiences will start to differ as different publishers will have different mechanisms for building up their publicity machines. Some may not do anything at all; others will have legions dedicated solely to your novel.
But as soon as I signed I was sent a huge document to complete: I was asked to write long- and short-form author profiles and a long and a short-form novel blurb. I was asked to give any useful contacts, any bookshops I lurked in, any podcasts I recommended. I was also asked to give ten questions and answers to provide to the media.
I was also invited to share any ideas I had for the cover, which I believe is, if not unusual, then at least a long way from standard.
This took a long time. I’m still not entirely sure what of it has been used, what will be used, and what has been forever dispatched into the netherhells.
The good thing about this is that, once done, it can be recycled: like the perfect submission letter you may tinker and rewrite but once the facts are down you’ll only need periodic updates. This work isn’t wasted.
Step the Fifth: Write something else
This process is full of gaps: of feverish activity followed by lean, fallow months. Don’t sit back and sweat: make your next book sing.
Step the Sixth: The cover
A few months pass quietly. Then I receive a proposed cover and for the first time see your name in, as it were, lights.
I was, at this stage, invited to comment and feed back on the mock-up. Not all publishers do this.
Step the Seventh: A long period of quiet with occasional stabs of publicity
This is where I needed an agent and possibly made my errors. Or at least the errors I’m aware of; I’m sure more are to come.
My publishers were hugely busy with a great number of books and I didn’t want to hassle them so I retreated to Step The Fifth – I got on with other things. I was also contacted by Unnerving magazine and asked to do an (email) interview, which was both good for my ego and helped me feel like I was helping.
But I feel this was where I should have been doing more to organise publicity for the release. Could I have tagged myself onto any festival lists? Should I have contacting bookshops or libraries, or at least haranguing my publisher into so doing? I’m really not sure.
Step the Eighth: Copy-edits
Aha! As if from nowhere, a task appears! To be honest this was a bit of a relief; doing something, even if it’s a difficult, angst-wrencher of a task, is better than waiting. It’s also a sign that the publisher knows what they’re doing (not that I doubted it, but still) and things are progressing. Huzzah!
Step the Ninth: Proofs
…and hot on the heels of the copy-edits come the proofs. The turnover was so quick as to be almost the same task; here the difference is really that I was working in a PDF (and thus was visible the pagination, the preliminary pages and so forth).Also the urge to skim was stronger as there wasn’t any handy marginal notes to draw my attention to Bad Writing.
This is, I’m led to believe, the last time you can amend your text without seriously annoying your editor. I also inserted thanks and dedications here.
Step the Tenth: Final (final) changes
Another email arrives and causes me to immediately cease all other activity: another PDF and a last list of editorial queries. This are all little things – the difference between a settee and a couch, for example, or whether something should be in a personal or a personnel file.
Step the Eleventh: Serious publicity
This is where I now sit.
Except I’m not really sure what I’m doing, other than querying my publisher’s plans and, upon invitation, sending them some ideas. It’s two months until the damn thing’s out there and I’m not sure how best to go about promoting myself and my work.
Except for going on about it here and the occasional humblebrag on Twitter, of course.
But I’m hoping things will come together. There’s still time; I have to trust my publisher – they want my novel to succeed as much as I do. In the meantime it’s time for me to return to Step the Fifth.
Step the Twelfth: The great release
So… what happens here? Will we go out with a whimper or a bang?
I’m still hoping there’ll be some sort of event to accompany the release. Even if it’s in my own house, in my own head, having one’s book actually living and breathing is a rare thing. It should be celebrated.
And if I do actually do anything, if there are any events to make the moment, be sure I’ll be letting you know, lovely folks.
Step the Thirteenth: The inevitable comedown
Things don’t stop when the book is unleashed on the public. There may well be continuing publicity. What there will doubtless be is more work. A debut is a beginning, not an ending.
A pause is worthwhile. A glass of reflection is earned. But then the work resumes.
Nothing sells a book like another book.
Back behind the keyboard, young ‘un. There’s more words to be mined.
* * *
Night Shift is due out November 6th courtesy of Flame Tree Press. Available in all good bookshops and libraries, and possibly some rather dodgy ones too.