No Wonder we exist!
This month I've decided to have a bit of a rant! The
reason; two things in the press caught my eye. The first was the
depressing reading that the UK bestseller lists make.
On the non-fiction side they are full of the usual suspects of B and C lists celebrities selling either their memoires, or a product that they promote in the course of their everyday lives. Not a hint of anything original. There they all are Jamie Oliver, Geri Halliwell , Rick Stein, Roy Keane, Mike Atherton, Murray Walker, Frank Skinner, ad infinitum, all famous and in most cases very talented in their own fields. No doubt some of these offerings are highly entertaining and probably even quite well written, but not an unknown name in sight. On the fiction side, with one or two notable exceptions you might just as well have been reading the best seller lists from a decade or even two decades ago, with authors such as Danielle Steel, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Iain Banks , PD James and even our dear old local resident, Freddy Forsyth littering the lists.
I've nothing against any of these authors, and have enjoyed many of their books enormously, but what, I have to ask, are so many of these old timers doing in the best seller lists all at the same time?. Has there been an old authors convention which motivated them all into suddenly submitting new manuscripts to their publishers? I think not! If truth be out, it's really just a case of the publisher lazily cashing in on the sure fire buck. It strikes me that in order to get a traditional publisher to attempt anything by a new author, with any kind of serious marketing budget behind it requires that the author, and I use the term in its loosest possible sense, must already be famous. I mean come on, how on earth will the next theory ever get published, or the next Freddy Forsyth come to the fore, if the publisher doesn't show enough confidence to actually invest in the first work of new authors?
But that of course is the crux of the problem, they
don't really have to even do that. Invest money in authors, don't
be silly! I mean all you have to do is mention the particular celeb
to the major bookshops and no doubt the shelfspace is booked before
the ghost-writer's pen has even touched paper. To quote an old 1960's
UK sit-com 'Never mind the quality'! Its a case of let somebody
else, preferably other sections of the media, do our job for us.
Why should we take a risk and actually have to promote a new author
when The BBC or the sporting/music/popular press can do it for us.
Meanwhile we can sit back and watch the money roll in off the back
of existing fame. Nice work if you can get it! It would be laughable
if it wasn't so serious. I mean these publishing houses, believe
it or not somehow manage to cling on to the popular held belief,
that they are actually the guardians of literature, and that nobody
really has the right to shelf space in bookshops unless approved
through the establishment route.
Which brings me to my second press article, or rather series of articles. Minerva Press, that heavily attacked and much vilified symbol of 'Vanity' publishing has finally gone to the wall, leaving many dissatified authors out of pocket. The press of course has had a field day and that well worn tabloid 'The Daily Mail's' letter's section, needless to say, jumped in to give us that old chestnut warning about authors never paying to have their work published. We love em don't we, such a realist attitude! Why don't they go the whole hog and tell authors not to bother writing books in the first place, because winning the lottery is only marginally less likely than getting them accepted for publication.
I wouldn't really mind if traditional submisions were the only permitted way to publish, as advocated by such people as Johnathon Clifford, provided the best work actually ended up in the bookshops. But we all know that won't happen. It will still be the same old established guard writing the fiction, and celebs 'writin' the non fiction. On this occassion I reached for my own pen (or rather keyboard) and tapped an e-mail to the editor of the Daily Mail. It wasn't published of course (Unknown author?). Much too constructive for that. I mean, fancy suggesting that POD publishing might actually be an economical way for authors to go. Dear oh dear, perish the thought! And as for the fact that this might also be the only way to actually get information to the public ahead of our 'C' list celebs, well that's probably just too much for them to take in. Tell that to Vanessa Wild who might just have the answer to the prayers of 6 million sufferers of a rare skin desease, or Garrett Jones whose fine research work on Alfred Lord Tennyson deserves a place at the top table in its field.
And finally, having had my rant I'm off to bed to indulge my weakness for well writen thrillers. I'm out to finish our latest, The Habit, which I am well into and I promise you, would sit quite happily on the shelves of any bookshop alongside the above mentioned authors. My partner will be lying beside me reading Alan Titchmarsh's Autobiography, 'Trowel and Error', currently at number 10 in the bestseller list, and if last night is anything to go by, as she turns each page she will be muttering, "He's lived a very ordinary life so far, you know!" Oh really - now why doesn't that surprise me? - Ed