Monday this week saw the arrival of the London Book Fair to Earl’s Court, and with it, a little more knowledge about the tics and tocs of the publishing world. You might recall that a few months ago I was e-mailed by Medallion’s foreign rights consultant asking if I’d like to drop by and have a chat with her. Well that happened on Sunday, just before the book fair, and the poor woman spent a whole two hours having her earholes bashed by my waffling and blathering about my books (well, she did make the mistake of asking!) Actually it wasn’t completely one sided, she shared plenty of interesting anecdotes about the world of literary agents and I came away much the better for it (not least because of the eggs on toast she treated me too – food always makes me happy). Our meeting reminded me how fortunate I was to get noticed in the first place; everything you read on the internet about those slush piles is true! So if you’re a budding writer hoping for a shot at getting published, always, always, always follow the submission guidelines and get everything as damned near perfect as possible, because making it through that slush pile is no easy thing.
It was a while ago – April of 2010 that I first received the incredibly good news that Medallion wanted to publish my novel, but I’ve since discovered that it’s not just a simple case of them taking my book, printing it, and then slapping it on book shelves. Medallion currently own the world-wide rights to publish The Soul Consortium, and The Beasts of Upton Puddle, but that’s just the start of it all. I hadn’t even heard of a foreign rights consultant until February! Her mission is to promote my books to publishers in individual countries. The London Book Fair is host to a great many scouts, agents and publishers from around the globe, all looking for the next big thing.
And so, armed with a brochure bursting with literary goodness, she showed me what else she was promoting. I got the feeling that this was what it all came down to – this is where the real selling happens. Each novel had a page or two dedicated to it. There was a picture of the author together with their credentials and any literary achievements that might stand out. There was sometimes a brief excerpt from the book, a picture of the cover, lines from ARC (advanced review copy) reviews, tag lines, and that all important sentence that’s designed to grab a prospective buyer by the eyeballs and convince them the book’s a guaranteed seller.
If they do like the look of it, they get a copy of the manuscript to mull over, and if they decide they want it, Medallion sell the rights to that publisher to publish it in that country. Ever wonder why some books have loads of different covers? Well this is one reason for it – different publishers in different countries get their own cover art. You learn something new every day.
So, cross your fingers for me. The book fair is over now but I’m told there has been interest in both my books. We’ll just have to see what happens.
Aaaah, Easter bunnies, Easter eggs and hot cross buns and stuff. Brilliant! Seems like a few of my writerly friends are feeling generous this holiday because there are a couple of books going free in electroic format. Both Craig Wallwork and Eddy Rathke have books out: Quintessence Of Dust and ASH Cinema (respectively). I have tremendous respect for their talent and will be digging a hole in my reading agenda to digest these. Highly recommended.
It’s been an active week – lots going on. Things are still ramping up towards the launch of The Soul Consortium and I have a mountain of things I need to get done. But whilst things are getting busier, they’re getting exciting too…
I got the pdf version of the novel back from my editor this week and I’m loving the look of it; there’s a nice sphere theme going on in the page template which marries nicely with the central character’s setting. Over the next couple of days whilst Medallion are proof reading this final version, I also have to do the same. And when that’s done I believe the next step is the print run. Various reviewers will be reading ‘advance review copies’ before the main release, so I’ll be looking forward to what they have to say.
You might be interested to know that there has already been a review of the book over at SingleTitles.com. You’ll find an overview of the story and a few lines about their overall impression there.
But that’s not all I found out this week. I’ve had word from the foreign rights consultant that a German publisher has requested the book too! Naturally I’m very excited about that, but know very little about it at the moment. I have more to tell, but need to get cracking with the proof reading today. I’ll keep you all posted.
For a minute, I thought I was about to write some sort of clever blog entry about the mysteries of time travel, but no, I’m not. At least, I don’t think I am. I haven’t come back from the future yet to tell me what to put in this entry anyway. No, I just popped by to say I have an opportunity to get some writing done this week. I won’t be able to work on my non-writing project for a few days, so that gives me some space to do what I like best… write!
Must go… the wife and the dog have returned!
It’s three or four months away from the release of the movie ‘Prometheus’ (the Alien prequel – which I’m more than a little excited about). It’s also four months away from the release of ‘The Soul Consortium’. And in one of those little quirks of serendipity, the two are connected. Anyone who’s seen an early draft of my novel may remember that the myth of Prometheus features quite prominently – there’s an entire chapter dedicated to the tortures that this god had to endure. So whilst the publicity for the movie ramps up, have a small taste of what you can expect from my book…
It’s done! Last week Medallion sent me their edited version of The Soul Consortium for me to correct and tweak, and after a few days of diving headlong into it I got through the other side in one piece.
I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve heard stories about authors getting broken-hearted about some of the parts they have to cut from their novels, but, I’m very pleased to say, that wasn’t the case here. That’s not say it didn’t need a fair amount of work – with the suggestions and errors highlighted in red, it looked like someone had taken a big mouthful of tomato soup and then been slapped in the back of the head with a large plank! But that’s to be expected. Even after countless times of staring at the words, and then having other people stare at those words, it’s still difficult to catch all the errors that creep in.
Writing is a never-ending learning curve, and I learned some good lessons from these edits. For example, I managed to develop a habit of repeatedly slipping character names into the dialogue. It’s not what we naturally do when we talk to people, but for some reason, I found it necessary to do it almost all the time. It’s an easy fix though, just a lot of deleting!
The next step will be seeing the book formatted and ready for printing. I’ll keep you all posted with what happens next…
As The Soul Consortium edges towards its release, the list of things I need to do is growing. This week put two significant items on my to-do list, both of them exciting developments on the road of publication, but only one of them expected.
First, I was contacted by Medallion’s foreign rights consultant to arrange an informal chat in a couple of months’ time. She has the task of representing them at the London Book Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair, and she will be trying to sell translation rights for my books to other agents, editors and publishers around the world. How exciting is that?
And second, I’ve now been sent the ‘redlined’ version of my manuscript. It’s at this point we really get down to the nitty-gritty, pawing over every last detail of the book, so that we can get it as perfect as it can be. I’ve had my first flick through the edits and have to say that I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen. These editors know what they’re doing you know! There are no big changes, just some tightening and tidying up to do, so I’m ready to roll my sleeves up and deliver. I’ll let you know how all that goes next week…
It’s been an abnormal week for me this week. I’ve been crawling around on my hands and knees with a terrible case of the man-flu. Off sick from work for most of the week and unable to apply my befogged brain to anything constructive, I chose to let my DVD collection and books inspire me afresh. Reading traditional fairy tales and watching the Hellraiser movies again is an odd combination, but entertaining nonetheless. So the Hellraiser movies are a bit dated now when you look at the SFX but I’m still awed by Clive Barker’s imagination. And the fairy tales are interesting too. As my latest novel is of a similar ilk, it was useful to draw from them. Amongst the tales were Jack the Giant Killer, Robin Hood and the golden arrow, King Arthur and the hideous hag, and a bunch of others which were new to me. What struck me was the simplicity of the stories. They were completely predictable yet still entertaining because of their simple charm, mythological tone and sense of innocence. I guess that’s the sort of flavour I need to aim for in mine too.
I have a few other projects still peeping over the horizon, one of which is a sort of resurrection from something I started with a work colleague. I caught up with Adam Wakeling last week who is as immersed as ever in creating new and inspiring music (look him up on iTunes – a varied artist with a lot of talent), and a while back he took one of my early short stories (Koma) and put music to it. He’s told me he’d like to complete that, so hopefully, fingers crossed, this will emerge in the near future.
Anyways, enough about me – since I’ve made a pledge to post here more often (I only skipped last week because I was ill – let me off!), I want to use it as a platform to highlight some publications from other writers I’m acquainted with. I found out the other day that my friend Craig Wallwork has had his story included in the first edition of Dark River. He’s an excellent writer, so if you have the stomach for horror, please go check it out.
Bye for now.
So now that Gaia’s Engine is on the back-burner for a while, I’ve changed the look of the place. Nice? Good. But why the sci-fi theme? Simple — I’ve been watching that stargazing show on the BBC and I have a thing for black holes and spatial anomalies right now. Besides, it fits nicely with the theme of my novel The Soul Consortium which is near the top of my agenda at the moment (more on that soon – lots happening).
Anyway, seeing as this site will no longer be dedicated to just the one novel, I can tell you a bit more about what else I’m up to in the writing world.
This week I’ll tell you a little about this year’s project. I’ll be work-shopping a completely new story which I’m calling ‘It Started With The Orange Tree’ (until I can think of a better name). This isn’t going to be a massive novel, in fact it may only be a novella. What’s the difference you ask? Well, the difference is in the word count. One source says this…
- Epic – 250,000 words or more
- Novel — 40,000 words or more
- Novella — 17,500–39,999 words
- Novelette — 7,500–17,499 words
- Short Story — 7,499 words or fewer
- Flash Fiction — 1,000 words or fewer
My novella will probably land in the region of about 35,000 words. At least, that’s the plan; my books usually end up larger than that. Writing a novella isn’t the norm for me, but it’s necessary to write something smaller this year because—aside from the fact that I’m working on a non-writing related project—I’m finally getting around to challenging a concept that’s been accepted for quite some time in writing circles, and a bigger word count might be biting off more than I can chew. The concept I’m challenging is conflict: it’s generally accepted that conflict is essential to telling a good story, but I don’t believe that.
I think conflict is just the dark child of a larger parent: contrast. It’s contrast that makes life interesting and it can come in many forms, conflict being only one of them. Contrary to what many believe, I don’t think you need to have evil to appreciate good. You just need to have ‘difference’. Expressing the bad to highlight the good is very effective but it’s just a quick and easy path – the dark side, (yes I did just say that in a Yoda voice).
So there’s my challenge – to write a story that has no conflict in it. Of course, conflict is part of everyday life. Even internally we often have to deal with opposing points of view, so any story I come up with must have a strong fantastical element to make it work. To that end, I’m having a crack at a sort of urban fairy-tale. I’ll try to hold the reader’s interest by weaving in and out of strange and bizarre concepts as the narrative unfolds, and that’s going to involve diving into a modern-day fantasy world where new miracles are thrust upon the characters in each new chapter.
Here’s the blurb:
“The Earth is growing tired and the world we know is about to change. Dramatically. Angel Goodsun recounts the days when the miracles began, when the sky grew bright with the light of two suns and wars ceased. When death and sickness fled, when soul-splitting began, and when Nature took pity on humanity instead of revenge. In the midst of the unexplained phenomena that are systematically restoring the planet into a place of unspoilt beauty and impossible harmony, Angel begins his pilgrimage to seek out the Green Man, and learn the secrets connecting him to the miracles. As the answers unfold, Angel discovers that the truth is even more astounding than the miracles themselves, and his destiny equally profound.”
The first couple of chapters have been seen by some of my group at WriteClub, and so far, the feedback has been positive. I’ll keep you posted. This isn’t going to be easy, but hopefully, it’ll be fun.
So it’s a new year with new projects. WriteClub has got started full speed ahead and I’m writing a new novel, or possibly a novella. It’s going to be a busy year – The Soul Consortium is already available for pre-order ready for its 1st July release date, and I should be receiving the updated and edited manuscript ready for me to make final adjustments in the next couple of weeks or so. I’ll let you know how that goes.
In the meantime, if you were following my progress with Gaia’s Engine, you might be curious about what’s been happening with that. Well, the submission went in, Medallion asked to see the full manuscript (which is always a positive sign), but then it was rejected. Was that a gasp? Don’t be shocked – rejection slips follow writers around like shadows. It’s quite uncommon for a publishing house to explain why they rejected a manuscript too, but on this occasion, they were gracious enough to explain, and they’ve given me permission to share this with you…
“Thank you for the opportunity to consider Gaia’s Engine. While your writing is superb, we’ve determined this particular work is not a good fit for Medallion Press. I’ve attached the formal notification for your records.
For your review, the following are some of our concerns:
1. We feel the manuscript should be tightened up, word count reduced, pacing increased.
2. We feel the orbs themselves aren’t graphically haunting enough to carry many scenes. People can certainly relate to them, however, so they are crucial in the beginning of the MS and should be used in moderation throughout. However, the “possessed” humans do quite well capturing the imagination and maintaining suspense and carrying scenes.
3. We are not certain that the references to the specific religious culture alluded to in the MS will appeal to a broad enough audience. For example, will Christians accept that a believer would embrace a fourth deity? Will others understand the significance of certain phrasings and actions specific to niche Christian culture?
4. We felt the events of the small town—the deaths and strange sightings—would have a bigger impact on the outside world. For example, how would national media and the government respond?
We would love to see more submissions from you in the future. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to partner with you to publish The Soul Consortium and The Beasts of Upton Puddle and also to review this manuscript. We wish you the very best with placing Gaia’s Engine.”
So there you go, that was the response. So how should you respond to a rejection? You should respond graciously, especially to a rejection as nice as this. Whilst this might seem like common sense, I have heard and seen examples where the rejected writer has responded badly. I suppose it’s natural – you can pour your life and soul into a manuscript and invest months of time on it, so there’s no question you’re going to feel bad. But place yourself in the editor’s shoes for a moment – what must it be like to tell someone (and they have to do this many times every day) that they weren’t successful?
So what’s the plan now with Gaia’s Engine? The plan is a re-write. But not just yet. Usually, to stop after one submission is unthinkable. Some writers I know send off to hundreds of different places before their work is accepted, and I’d be confident that a publishing house somewhere would take this novel, especially after following Medallion’s advice, but the more I think about the book, the more I can’t help but think the story belongs in the 19th century, with a first person perspective. So I’ll go where my gut tells me. It’s unlikely I’ll do that for at least another three or four years though – I have too many other projects on the go and I’d like to give this one chance to breathe for a while.
Next time I’ll share some plans about what I’m writing next…