Publishers – Get yer finger out!

An Indie friend of mine once told me that for me, writing would only ever be a hobby.  The reason for this is that I still have to do a ‘proper job’ in order to make ends meet, and that’s likely to be the way for the foreseable future.  Being independant he spends at least as much time marketing and selling his work as he does writing; a prospect I regarded with dread since I can’t sell my way out of a paper bag.

I can write though.  I have ideas that are queuing up to spill onto the page, manifested in the antics of characters who are more interesting and sophisticated than most stereotypes I read in other’s work.  My spelling and grammar is okay too.  All right, so I’m no Dickens or Tolstoy, but my first novel is at least average…

There, right there is a marketing faux pas!  No, no, no, my novel is truly groundbreaking and you absolutely must read it! (sigh)

And this is my point.  A writer should focus on what he or she is supposed to be good at – writing – leaving all the selling and marketing to the agent and publisher, who should own that particular skillset.

I was told that a publisher ‘can’t do it all’.  Why not?!  After all they are getting the lion’s share of the revenue from your work.  Financially it does them more harm than it does the writer, not to.

And yet the current culture seems to be to dump more and more of the workload onto the writer, encouraged in part by the rise and rise of the Indie writer.

My argument is that this is destructive because it undermines the overall quality of books being produced, with writers being forced to focus on things they are not necessarily good at, and therefore ultimately the profitability of the whole enterprise.

Okay, so things are never that cut and dried.  People always like to hear a writer talk about their book and the process of writing etc. etc., and only the writer can do that.  I have no problem there.  I have an ego like everyone else, and I’m more than willing to stand on my hind legs and tell a bunch of adoring fans my philosophy of life.  Of course there has to be some overlap.  I am however a little nervous that such things (and posting blogs like this one) can do more harm than good, and for that reason I won’t be giving up the day job just yet.

So what do I think about Indie writers?  I haven’t been kind to them in this peice, so far!

First, there are some that can’t write but are superb at selling themselves.  They have hundreds of 5 star reviews and ratings, and the poor old reader ends up being swamped with dross.  These people just get in the way, and I hate them – especially when they outsell me!

Then there are those who can write and who also embrace the selling aspect.  I hate them too, but that’s just jealousy.  In fact, I wish them luck, and I have some very good friends who do just that.

Finally, there are those who have simply decided to go it alone because they don’t want the publishers taking such a massive cut of their work.  Very often these people already have good brands, and don’t have to tweet ‘read my book!’ every five minutes.  Good luck to them too, I say.  Maybe one day I’ll be up there too, and I’ll have a yacht in the Bahamas and will spend my days studying the flying pigs.

I was quite pleased to land a publishing contract with Endeavour Press, because they promised to take all that marketing and selling work off me.  All they want me to do is maintain an author website, like this one, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page (which I have no idea what to do with).  Given that my original ambitions were modest – just to get a handful of readers to buy the book, and consider the time and money well spent – I believe they have helped me more than achieve that.  Having done that, of course, I want more – that’s just human nature isn’t it – and I begin to wonder if they have done/are doing as much as they could.  A little more effort should benefit both me and them

In my opinion the best thing a writer can do to help their marketing is to write more books.  I’ve just spent my morning doing that, and now, far too long writing this!

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Post Brexit Telly

Apparently the success of both the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump are due to ordinary people expressing dissatisfaction with the ‘establishment’ and its conventions.  So where’s it all going to lead? Where else have the population successfully challenged the iron hand of the regime?  Is this the West’s ‘Arab Spring’?

I watched ‘Silent Witness’ last night which showed the good looking blonde lead getting it right, yet again, and luring an immigrant refugee away from her repressive community.  Very ‘right thinking’, very ‘establishment’.

Wouldn’t it be nice just for once for her to be shown to have got it wrong, for the good side of the victim’s ‘repressive community’ to come out, and how her ‘enlightened’ future might end up corrupting her?

Preposterous?  Well so was Brexit, so was Trump.  It’s certainly a challenge.

Fifty Years on the Front Line

I was half watching Panorama the other day – you know how it is: ‘what’s on dear?’ ‘nothing much.’ TV goes on and you play with your phone – I guess about fifteen minutes in I stopped playing with my phone, enthralled by the story.

The program covered the major events of the journalist John Simpson’s life, but it pivoted around the death of his translator in Iraq in a ‘friendly fire’ incident, and Simpson’s subsequent visit to the man’s mother.  It was very moving.

As a kid I told my career’s advisor I wanted to be a writer.  He heard ‘journalist’. What? No! I thought.  You have to go around interviewing people, teasing facts out of them, and I’m rubbish at that. But then I’ve ended up doing a lot of things I’m rubbish at in my life (ask my wife!)  Would it have made a difference?  Could I have been John Simpson!?

Well, no.  Quite apart from my lousy interviewing technique and the fact that I am a coward, I could never tell a story as well as that.

So watch the program: Panorama on the BBC: Fifty Yeasr in the Front Line if you get the chance.

The Lost Legion

Well here it is at last!

‘The Lost Legion’ is now available on Amazon:

the-lost-legion

It’s set in ancient Roman times and is about one of the least known but most dramatic wars of the period – the Mithradatic campaign in the Middle East.

Have a look, buy it (only £2.99) and let me know what you think.

Some Research Observations

I’m writing about the Roman world of the Late Republic, and of course one cannot do that without visiting Rome itself. A wonderful city.

In ancient times it was a lot smaller, and in fact very little survives of the Republican era as most of the city was built of wood. Only in the Age of Emperoros, when people wanted to leave their mark, did the great edifices, such as the Colisseum or Trajan’s Column, start appearing.

As my wife is a good Catholic lady, we had to go to St Peters, of course. The Vatican was a field with a few huts in the period that I’m interested in, and now it’s a whole independent country.

One of the things that caught my eye were the Latin references to the Pope as ‘Pontifex Maximus’. This loosely translates to ‘High Priest’ and was a post that existed in Rome long before the Christian era. Julius Caesar, among others, held the position. I annoyed my wife by suggesting that he was in fact an early Pope, but as I recovered from my tongue-lashing I considered the continuity of religion.

After all, people all over the world get dressed up in their Sunday best to go to Church every week. They participate in a ritual, and then come home again and get on with their lives. And given that all religions make compromises to their predecessors to avoid trouble (Christmas just happens to fall on the same day as a Pagan midwinter celebration – I forget which. Help me out here!) were people’s attitudes and habits so different in Roman times?

Apologies first…

… to all my firends and family who don’t (yet) know I’m here. Nick Swyft is the pseudonym I use to write and publish under in order to protect the innocent.

In fact I’ve just changed this after a week because I decided it was too embarrassing and I didn’t want to ‘ruin the brand’ on it’s first outing.

Oh well!