‘I love that logic! But those of us in the business of deeper reality do not accept anything as coincidence. The word is synchronicity!’
Oh I accept many events as mere coincidences, Jonathan. Only the most multi-layered and mind-bogglingly unlikely conjunctions that life throws at us get granted the special status of being labelled – for entertainments sake - a KUU-incidence.
And ‘that logic’ is indeed I kind of logic, and I only wish I were a mathematician who could set before you an impressive if inscrutable mathematical equation which would I sure be more convincing than mere words. But if you consider that – as a born sceptic myself – I confessed to being only 95% sure than man was AM-J. Then I got the information that the dog (not an overly common breed) looked identical to the one I’d seen AM-J with, how could that not shift my conviction up to 99%?
And then, the next day, I got the following email from another friend;
"It would be Adam Mars Bars, he lives in Dulwich. Last time I saw him he was in full leathers doing a u-turn on a Harley in the middle of the village. Very gay."
On Sunday July 11, I went to my cousin's house to care for his indoor cat while he was away as I had been all week every two days. How was I to know that day when I went there at that time and day, I'd find a precious, helpless newborn kitten crying outside under a bush ? And that I'd be able to feed her milk and raise her to healthy happy 5 week old kitten that now uses the litter box, eats cat food, and jumps and climbs on things. Forest makes me laugh more than I have for a long time. Before that, I had felt like such a failure in my life. She has been one of the most wonderful things that's happened in a long time. I think it was more than just coincedence.
Hello forum folk, I hope you are all well. I just thought I’d drop in to let any of you who are not Facebook friends know that my first novel Etc Etc Amen is at last available commercially. You can get it as a physical object or a Kindle file on Amazon (for £9.99 and 2.99 respectively) or if you can visit my website and purchase a signed and – if you like – dedicated copy there.
It’s a little disturbing to say the least to note that over four years has passed since I first posted about it here. This time was spent intermittently reworking and honing the manuscript, looking for (and failing to get) an agent, and adding to my collection of satisfied customers in the hope it would help secure me an agent. You can read the full story over on this page of the website: http://etcetcamen.com/page2.htm At last some more positive news arrived earlier this month when I heard from none other than Tony Visconti that he was a fan of the book. He even went as far as to say that he was reading it for a second time:
“I couldn't read the Afterword last page because I don't want it to end. I'm going to read it very slowly today and then I'm going to download it from Amazon to read it again and see how you've changed it.”
If you know me at all, you will know how mind-blowing and exciting it was for me to be engaged in this Facebook private message dialogue with Visconti one evening, only to hear the very next day of the release of a new Bowie single.
But none of this has changed the fact that I am still having to sell this book one copy at a time by slowly spreading the word. Even when Tony made public his appreciation of it to his 5000 Facebook friends, I only sold around half a dozen extra copies.
So if you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, or you can think of anyone who may be interested in reading it, please do spread the word. If I only end up breaking even on this project I’d be happy. Now, here are a few links for you.
Well done, Howard - both in getting book out and scoring the Visconti endorsement. Self publishing is a reality for many writers now - my last book Sweet As: Journeys In A New Zealand Summer came out in NZ & Oz on Allen & Unwin but could not find a UK publisher. I put it up on kindle for the price of a pint (a Wetherspoons pint, I must add) and get the occasional payment but not enough to cover a gas bill. How does one promote yr own book? some people are gifted at this but I'm useless. I didn't publish hard copies simply because I cannot imagine what I would do with them. Here's hoping you find your way through!
How does one promote one’s own book? I find it very hard too. You can only do so much on Facebook and Twitter before people get tired of hearing about it. And then you’ve got to build up the twitter/Facebook followers/Friends in the first place! Funnily enough people on Facebook are quite happy to dish out ‘Likes’ like they’re going out of fashion but as soon as you ask for a ‘Share’, nothing (even though it only requires the same single click of their mouse). I'm not sure what that's about. So you’re stuck trying to Kershaw the book to the same few hundred people and trying to think of new ways of doing it.
I’ve also discovered that despite self-publishing having lost a little of the ‘vanity publishing’ stigma it used to have, it’s still darn hard to get a broadsheet to review a self published book. I had one Indie critic keen to cover it, so I decided to only admit to its self-published status (or lack of it) if asked. But presumably the editor must have googled the publishing companies name and discovered – horror of horrors – that I’d paid to get the book out there, and so the review never happened. No one has a problem with the independently released record or independently produced film – in fact if anything they are considered as having more rather than less credibility - so why should they have a problem with a book?
I think you just have to deal with the whole business on a day to day basis, taking opportunities when they present themselves. For example, I gave Visconti an earlier draft of EEA nearly two years ago at a gig I spotted him at. Then about a year ago he answered my friend request on Facebook and I sent him a private message asking polightly if he’d gotten around to taking a look at it yet. They answer was no. Another six months passed and I gently nudged him again. Then, just before Christmas, he messaged me to say that he’d started it and was enjoying it. However, my heart sunk when I saw a post from him at the beginning of January in which he said how brilliant Hitchens’ final book was. Damn – the man had given up on EEA, I thought. But perhaps he needed a bit of cheering up after ‘Mortality’ because he messaged me again a week or so later saying he was getting back into EEA and enjoying it more and more.
So, yeah, it’s just “slowly, slowly, catchy monkey” as Marcia likes to say in regard to such matters.
My Kindle edition is also the price of a Wetherspoons pint. Perhaps we need to get some posters printed up saying just that. Another bright idea I had the other day was to give out some EEA bookmarks I have (as part of my self-publishing package) on tube trains. After all, one can just jump on and off each carriage at each station - like a busker or beggar - scanning the seats for that one male reader of a certain age whose got a book open on his lap (there’s usually one). It’s target marketing on a very modest one-at-a-time level. I might spend a couple of days on the Circle Line doing that once the weather improves a bit, and see if it shifts any copies.
But the bottom line is that I think there are very few good self-promoters, particularly in the UK, because you’re always going to be up against a Brit mentality that sees such behavior as unseemly and faintly embarrassing for both the self-promoter and the poor souls they are trying to get to buy their product. I’m gradually getting a slightly thicker skin in this regard but I’m not sure how long I can go on for just selling one copy a week (if I’m lucky).
One time a young woman came knocking on the door, going round selling her self-published book. I think it was just the first two chapters she'd had printed up, and was trying to raise money to get the rest put out. I bought what she was selling, but said I wouldn't pay her in advance for the rest. I skimmed through it and saw it wasn't up to much, but I didn't want to be discouraging. I'll see if I still have it, and google her name. Maybe she struck it rich.
Your train idea is an interesting one. I once picked up a small sheaf of papers on a train, abandoned on a seat. I read it, of course. It was a gay porn version of Harry Potter. I was told (by one who knew) that there is - or was back then - a bit of a sub-culture around writing and passing on gay erotica through random contact. Maybe there's some mileage in this? Not the content, Howard, but the process!
Otherwise, how about posting a couple of sample chapters on free ebook sites? Last year's publishing bonanza was the Shades of Grey trilogy, which started out as an ebook.
Door to door selling of an unknown novel by an unknown novelist that isn’t even finished yet. Wow, that must have been one positive woman! Thanks for the ebook idea, Norman. The only time I’ve ever been to one of those sites the quality of writing was so spectacularly awful that I jumped back out again quickly for fear of contamination. But I suppose I should bite the bullet and investigate further. But do serious readers really choose what they read by dipping into samples at such sites?
Norman, I think 50 Shades started as fan fiction erotica - the characters of the dire Twilight having sex - and it proved such a hit amongst the fans that the author was encouraged to change the characters names and thus the biggest selling UK book ever was published. Maybe she gave it away as an e-book initially but she certainly had a loyal following from the outset.
I have the electronic rights to Princes Amongst Men I'm about to turn that into a kindle. But I have no idea how to market it. To endlessly promote it on Facebook will only alienate people. Ditto intensive email campaigns - spamming will only piss people off. I imagine there are people you can pay to promote yr books - PRs - same as you can yr albums. But I imagine they cost hundreds of quid - possibly thousands - that I don't have.
I have an American friend who published a successful e-book in the US on her spiritual/sexual travels in India - she had been blogging about this for several years so already had a following and book got to No 1 on Amazon ebook Travel. But this only translated into $500 a month at its peak.
Howard, getting newspaper reviews is almost impossible unless you have a powerful publisher/hype behind you. Princes got one (Guardian), More Miles one (Metro) and they are on Serpents Tail! I know David Katz also struggles to get his books reviewed in newspapers - they tend to go for well known literary types or friends of the reviewer (as you almost succeeded in the Indie). Obviously, best sellers can ignore reviews as they have momentum behind them.
My books are specialist - you have to be interested in the area of the world/music/culture I am writing on to pick one up - so what I need to find out is how to let readers who do like non mainstream travel and music find out about them? Any suggestions welcome!
Not much consolation now, perhaps, but I did see "More Miles..." prominently displayed in the LRB bookshop in Bloomsbury shortly after its publication. That's an indy bookshop, so doesn't go in for publisher deals on sponsorship, three-for-twos, etc. I was pleased to see it, I hope it sold there. Similarly, I see "EEA" in The Crow at Crystal Palace - another great indy bookshop with a lot of local status.
Getting into the larger stores is a complete impossibility, I imagine. How about copies to local libraries? Lewisham often has fiction by local writers, some self-published (not really my interest, most of them - gangsta stuff with redemptive endings). No sales, but a way of building interest. I suppose it may have to be a loss leader - take a hit on the first (yes, I know - the baby) while you write the second, and build up a fan base in the meantime.
Sorry if I'm coming on all Lefsetz. Some of his comments on music business models may be worth reflecting on.