Regarding Avalon – reloaded

I think it’s time to start taking this self-publishing lark a little more seriously. I’ve got a book out, but to be honest, I don’t think I’ve done very much with it. Before I disappear completely into my next work, there are a couple of things I need to fix:

  • The cover
  • The price

Okay, let’s start with the cover. This was created for me by a very talented artist who, in a shockingly short space of time, delivered exactly what I asked for.

To be honest, I’m still a little bit in love with it, which is probably why I’ve hung onto it for longer than I should have. I think the Manga-cartoon quality is wonderful, and I love the darkness of the city beneath her. The other thing I like about it is that the whole story is pretty much there, right on the front. The woman in the wheelchair is the main character and the way she is dressed and the fact she’s holding a taser (assuming that you realise it is a taser she’s holding a taser) tells you  a lot about her character before you even read the first page.

The problem is that when shown on a website at smaller sizes, it’s a little bit unclear: a lot of the really great detail is simply lost.

The other problem is the tone of the artwork, which actually presents three problems:

  1. A lot of people have mistaken the book for a graphic novel. Nope, that never occurred to me until I started getting feedback.
  2. The ‘stationary’ nature is not really in keeping with the actual book: Regarding Avalon is a fast-moving thriller, and I think it needs a cover to reflect that.
  3. The title and author name doesn’t show up on smaller thumbnails.

So my lovely Manga-like cover had to go. 🙁

I decided that to get around the ‘Oh, so it’s not actually a comic book’ problem I would go for a photographed cover rather than an illustration. Fortunately there are a fair number of really cover designers plying their trade on the web, so after a quick Google search, I picked out Joie Simmons and tried him with a short list of contradictory aims for my new book cover:

  • It must be exciting, yet understated
  • Raunchy and tasteful
  • It must highlight the technology nature of the book, but, like the book, should be accessible to thriller readers who hate computers.

‘Sure, no problem,’ Joie said, and came up with this:

Regarding Avalon (new cover)It took us a few tries to get it right (Joie has the patience of a saint), but this is exactly what I was looking for. It’s colourful while retaining the darkness of the original and adds that element of action and movement. The two parts represent the two worlds the novel is set in, and the girl trapped in the digital realm could be either of two of the main characters in the book.

In a word, fantastic.

So, I’m relaunching the book with a brand new cover and a lower price, which I’ll talk about next time.

Thanks for reading … 🙂

The art of staying calm

Is it just me or do many writers seem a little uptight to you? Ninety-nine per cent of them come across as decent and pretty level-headed, but occasionally you run into one you’d be worried to share an elevator with, and I think this is down to the internet.

You see, the wonderful thing about the ‘net is that it allows writers to get much closer to their readers.

But there is a downside: It allows writers to get much closer to their readers.

In the bad old days, authors toiled for years without ever coming into contact with their fanbase. Now they can talk to them, directly, almost hourly if they want to. For most, this level of engagement is a good thing. But for a tiny few, it has given them the opportunity to respond, directly, to a bad review.  Years ago, if someone didn’t like your book and said so, then you’d just have to live with it. Hopefully, you’d take the criticism onboard, but aside from that there was little else you could do.

With readers leaving comments on Amazon, the slighted author now has the opportunity to really stick it to the uneducated pleb who dared insult his handiwork. And he can be really clever and witty while he’s doing it too because that’s bound to bring in more fans.

But you  see far worse from the writers I like to call ‘the unjustly unpublished’: a thankfully small group who seem to think that agents everywhere are conspiring to keep the public from discovering their literary genius.

Agents are human so, yes, they occasionally get it wrong, but seriously, if you’re sitting on a stack of rejections high enough to present a risk to air traffic then it’s time to a long, critical look at your novel – again. And remember, just because they’ve rejected this one, it doesn’t mean your next piece won’t be successful, unless, of course, you’ve spent the year in between rubbishing agencies online, in which case they’re not going to take you on, no matter how brilliant you are.

So before replying to any piece of criticism, whether it’s online or in a newspaper, just take a breath. Take several. Walk away from the keyboard, make a cup of tea, smoke, have a drink, look at this picture:

Do not return to your desk until you’re calm and at least halfway rational. Now, if you still feel hard done by, have at ’em.

Or, alternatively, you could thank them for taking the time to comment and then really show them by making your next piece even better.

How many submissions is enough?

I recently swapped words with a chap who’d sent his book to over one hundred agents. Now to me, that sounds like a lot, but as I sent mine to about twenty I’m probably a poor one to judge. It did make me wonder, though: when is it time to stop sending out submissions and try something else?

I suppose the easy answer is ‘don’t’, not until you’ve tried every agent interested in the sort of stuff you write. If that’s twenty, then send to all twenty; if it’s one hundred and twenty then the same applies. Whatever you do, make sure you have exhausted all your options before deciding on an alternative route to getting yourself published (and when I say ‘published’ I don’t mean one of those schemes that’ll leave you with several thousand copies of your unsold masterpiece laughing at you from the attic).

But dealing with those (relatively few) literary agents did teach me that genre is fashion, and fashion is king. If you write science-fiction then your options, especially in the UK, are somewhat limited; if romance is your bag then things are a lot more cheerful; write something where teenage immortals spend half the book draining blood from the population of a fictitious yet picturesque mid-western town, and you’ve probably got a runaway hit on your hands.

I set out to write a really good book and to that end I didn’t set out to restrict it to a particular readership. Some think it’s literary science-fiction, others think it’s a police thriller. It’s even been called a 400-page poem (not so sure about that one, to be honest). All very nice, but when an agent reads it, he’s probably thinking, Where would this fit in Waterstones? And if he isn’t sure, then he isn’t interested. Genre is important because that’s how books are placed. If you’re one of those lucky people who is genre-neutral then you could do worse than look to see what’s selling at the moment and slotting your next book there.

It’s the poets I feel sorry for, poor buggers. Where do they go to get their stuff published?