Saturday, 27 October 2012

Sheep shagging - the future of publishing?

I once had a conversation with a guy who runs a small press who told me that reviews make no difference to sales. I can't remember the exact details but his experience was that a book had received a good review in a wide circulation magazine and he'd noticed no increase in sales. Now one review does not make a summer; or something like that anyway. We might assume that a series of reviews will have greater impact but that alone won't do it.

I recently heard that I've had a new review in Deosil Dance magazine but I don't expect it to make that much difference on its own. (That's assuming that the review is positive as I haven't seen it yet.) However, when the next order of books comes through, and I start mailing out samples to pagan book shops—hopefully in time for the Xmas rush, I'll enclose the press cuttings and perhaps it will make a difference. A book in a shop is worth two in the Amazon bush; or something like that.


People are like sheep and that's not to insult people. I'm sure I've met some very nice sheep and any aspersions on my character regarding my relationship with sheep are purely scurrilous. But basically we, like sheep, are social animals so we depend on the opinions of others to help us make judgements. It's not a perfect system but it probably allowed our society to grow in primitive times by sharing the responsibility of making judgements of new situations.

So big publishers take advantage of this and have concerted campaigns by getting reviews at the same time as organising TV appearances, buying space on bus shelters, etc. Of course small publishers can't do that but to say that reviews do nothing is to give up. However, using press clippings constructively, doing parallel Facebook campaigns or Google ads, perhaps even viral marketing, all these are within our means; they just take time.


So when a new book hits the market we can't make judgements without information to go on, but with a little bit of help, perhaps a concerted effort and some planning we can make a decision whether it's worth shagging that sheep.

In the absence of the specific review here's a link to other information on said book including links to previous reviews, Facebook, Twitter and other stuff.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Next Big Thing

This is a Wednesday thing, I've no idea why, Wednesday's don't have any intrinsic value, they just are. (If you want to get into the philosophy of Wednesdays then please do so in the comments.)

Last Wednesday the very sexy, and equally blonde, Debbie Viggiano posted a blog in The Next Big Thing series. Like viral marketing and chain letters The Next Big Thing is a clever way of bringing fertile new ideas to people like you. I don't know how fertile Debbie is but I'm not going to go there because she has an Italian husband. Nuff said?

(Interestingly I talked about chain letters as information viruses in the first edition of Satanic Viruses in 1989, before anybody had ever thought of viral marketing.)

Anyway, the idea is to answer ten questions about writing and the writing life, then pass the baton on to five more authors the next week. Now, I suppose, reading this blog you are into writers and the writing life; so here's the good stuff.

What is the working title of your book?
I'm currently working on the second novel in the Hidden Masters series, tentatively called The Hidden Masters and the Techno Knights. However, that might change as the story has shifted a bit under me as I've been writing it and it seems to have a bit more techno and a somewhat fewer knights.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The book is the second in a projected series of four about The Three Hidden Masters, two from Hemel Hempstead and one from Bricket Wood. They save the universe at the weekends. In the first one they went north to Blackpool after which I hit on the idea of doing one for each of the compass points. I'd like to make the adventures relate to the correspondences for the directions as used in ceremonial magic. In the first book, in the north, they dealt with money so it was earth. I'm sure there is some system that places earth in the north. (Those who are not familiar with cabalistic correspondences may know about the Tarot or Astrology and understand that Earth is often related to money, and so on with the other elements.) In the second it's going to be Hay on Wye in Wales, so west, therefore the plan is to make it water. There will be a love interest in this book; a young girl in unsuitable shoes who starts off climbing a mountain on a dark and stormy night. So really the ideas for the books are beginning to be dictated by things like cabalistic correspondence and the like. I'm not sure who is pulling my strings here.

What genre does your book fall under?
The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil is an occult adventure with trouser issues so I'm not sure there really is a genre for that; I certainly find it hard to categorise on web sites. Amazon seem to think that occult is part of horror but they clearly don't know shit! It's not horror because almost nobody dies and there is no blood. What's horrific about candle lit rituals with clouds of incense, guttural incantations and blokes in robes getting tangled up in exercise bikes? Otherwise it gets lumped in with fantasy but the books are set in Britain in the modern era and there are no non human races, perhaps apart from cats. Does that make it fantasy?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Which book? It'll have to be a sentence about the first book, The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil, as I don't have enough idea about the second one yet.

Three apparently ordinary blokes, who are secretly master magicians, discover a plot to build casinos in Blackpool, so turning the resort into a seedy, tacky and depraved town; so they head north on Friday night to put an end to the plot, but they have to save the universe by Sunday evening as they have to be back at work on Monday morning.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
 I'm pleased to say that I'm now published by a small press based in Oxford called Twin Serpents.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first book took about three years to write and another year or so to get it ready for publication. Even then it wasn't really finished until I found a new editor a couple of years ago which led me to do a crisper, sharper new edition with a glorious monochrome cover and a whole new joke. The second in the series is slow going but I have a career writing other, more profitable but less entertaining, stuff for people that takes up most of my time and all of my energy.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Again with the genres! Okay well I'm writing comedy, or at least I hope I am. Robert Rankin writes comedy about similar subjects drawing on sources from religion, myth and the like. They describe him as 'a mix of fantasy, occult, urban legends, etc.' That sounds like me. People have made comparisons to Douglas Adams which I'm really chuffed about. There is quite a lot of drink and drugs in the first book so it's been described as 'Fear and Loathing in Blackpool meets the Illuminatus trilogy'. The word gonzo has been used. Some US reviewers have made comparisons to other Brit comedy such as Monty Python, and Red Dwarf being absurd and silly, and again I'm dead chuffed to have that said about my writing. Hold on most of those are not books. Am I allowed to say that? Sod it, I'm not changing it now.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I really haven't thought about this. I'm making a viral marketing video/graphic novel type animation (see my photos on Facebook) and I'm using images of actors to draw the faces from. I'm not sure that I'm prepared to say who I'm using as models as I don't want them asking for money but I will say that both actors have guested on Have I got News for You over the years. I won't enter into any public correspondence about who they are but privately I may be persuaded to say.

There's a review on that suggest Peter Sellers should play the part of every character in a filmed version similar to sixties British comedy films. (I'm beginning to see a theme here about how Americans view my work and I like it.) I suppose we could dig him up.

(By the way, If you read any of the reviews beware. There should be a spoiler alert against giving away some of the hidden gags.)

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I was getting drunk with these three stoner magicians one night and I decided to tell their story. Oh, did I not say, these guys really exist and they really do go to places like Blackpool and Hay on Wye for the weekends.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There's already sex and drugs and apparently satanic rituals with jokes, what more could you want? (It's not really satanic but some people might mistakenly imagine that.) Oh, hang on I know what else might interest you, Debbie Viggiano… Well no she's not in it but I could, but then again her husband would probably kill me.

Thanks to the following authors for allowing me to tag them. Do go read their blogs and their books.

Jaq D Hawkins:
Rebecca Emin:
Dave Evans:
M T McGuire:
Marilyn Chapman

You can find The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil here.