Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Reading back through an old blogpost from 2013, I found myself reading this:

'The news that J K Rowling has been 'outed' as the author of the crime novel The Cuckoo's Calling has caused me some mixed emotions. The book, supposedly written by a former RMP investigator called Robert Galbraith, sold fewer than 500 copies before the secret leaked, which isn't a huge amount but is a realistic number for an unknown first-time author. I don't know if J K got an reasonable advance for the book but I suspect not; certainly not enough for an author to live on while she wrote it. The days of the decent advances have long gone - unless you're famous. Not that J K has to worry about such things of course.

The book enjoyed some good reviews although it's also known that several publishers rejected it. Only one, to my knowledge, has owned up; Kate Mills, the fiction editor at Orion Books, admitted on Twitter that she had turned it down, saying: 'So, I can now say that I turned down J K Rowling. I did read and say no to Cuckoo's Calling. Anyone else going to confess?' She later told The Telegraph: 'When the book came in, I thought it was perfectly good - it was certainly well written - but it didn't stand out. Strange as it might seem, that's not quite enough. Editors have to fall in love with debuts. It's very hard to launch new authors and crime is a very crowded market.'

All of which means that 'Robert Galbraith', without the support of being a celebrity, apparently managed to write a book and get it out there without the support of being a celebrity, which, in today's climate, is heartening and brilliant. J K herself has said that 'It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name'.'

I recall that, at the time, the news initially made me smile and gave me hope that the industry wa slowly moving away from its obsession with celebrity. It also made me smile because it appeared that J K Rowling had proven to the critics that she can write a decent book and not simply live off the success of the Harry Potter franchise.

But then came the news that, since the revelation, sales of the book had risen by 150,000% and that The Cuckoo's Calling had soared more than 5000 places up the Amazon best-sellers chart. Which means that thousands of people who wouldn't otherwise have poked the book with a shitty stick went out and purchased a copy simply because Ms Rowling wrote it. That sends a pretty strong message doesn't it? The public is still as obsessed with celebrity as it ever was. And the next Galbraith book probably cost the industry a fortune.

My smile started to fade pretty quickly, I'll admit. And, as I read more and more about the affair, my ex-police officer investigation glands started to kick in and things started to smell like very clever marketing. J K may have been acting wholly honestly when she wrote the book under a pseudonym to see whether the strength of her writing would stand up without the crutches of her celebrity. But I do find it hard to believe that The Sunday Times, which supposedly had its 'suspicions aroused' and 'did further investigation to find the truth about Galbraith' hadn't had a tip off.

Why else would they have identified one crime book - that had sold 445 copies - among the thousands published annually as worthy of 'further investigation'? It doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

And if there was a tip-off, where would it have come from? Is it just coincidence that the book was published by Sphere; the same imprint that published her previous adult book, Casual Vacancy?  Her spokesman said at the time: 'I can confirm the book was treated like any new novel by a first-time writer. We are not going into any more detail than that or commenting further.'


If I come across as cynical, it's because I am. I wish J K all the best; goddammit I wish I was in her position. She's a good writer and no one can argue with her success. But this story, which initially tasted as sweet as candy floss, quickly turned to ashes in my mouth. The Cuckoo's Calling is a competent enough book and I enjoyed it. But it wasn't super-special. And everything surrounding the book pointed to a very clever piece of marketing.

It's now six years later and, if anything, things have got worse. A tiny handful of celebs and established authors dominate the book charts and make 95% of all the profits. Add to that the fact that Amazon is adding 70 new e-books to their catalogue every minute - that's more than one per second - and what chance do any of us have of being noticed?*

All of which means that the money available as advances for the real Robert Galbraiths out there, who don't have the free time and the personal wealth to write their own Cuckoo's Calling, remain pitifully low and the chances of getting a book published if you're an 'unknown' are just as remote as ever.

As I said, mixed emotions.


*If you're interested in the maths, researcher Derek Haines mined Amazon to get these stats (see article here). He found that at least 1,670 new Kindle ebooks are published every day. This equates to nearly 70 ebooks every hour. In mid-2018 there were over 6 million ebooks in the Kindle store.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

No Parking!

The most pointless double yellow lines ever. Spotted in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Cover me up!

It's time for a cover reveal.

No, it's time for a double cover reveal.

Here's the brilliant Neil Gower's cover for The Diabolical Club. And look at those shiny cover quotes!

As the book is set in October, we went for Autumnal colours. They contrast beautifully with the Springtime theme of the previous book.

I'm delighted with both covers. And I'm also very pleased with this third cover, which resonates nicely with the novels:

As you may (or may not) know, everyone who subscribes to The Diabolical Club will get a free bonus e-book of short stories called The Nearly Invisible Man. This won't be available to buy in the shops so, if you want to read stories about the extraordinary detective Gavin Quisty, or the eccentric Mr Spurgeon and his flag collection, you need to pledge NOW. 

And do it soon as the funding campaign will be shutting shortly. What you'll get is an early copy of the book (published 11th July), plus the e-book (which also features a two chapter teaser of my next novel, Cockerings) and you'll get your name printed in the book as a patron.

So click here and pledge now!