What we Learn from The Publishers Associationā€™s Statistics Yearbook 2014

More from Nicholas šŸ™‚

Nicholas C. Rossis

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksContinuing on the theme of change in publishing, I came across the latest report byĀ The Publishers Association, released a few days ago.Ā Philip Jones did a great job at going through it, explaining what one can learn from it. Although it refers specifically to the UK market, the trends are similar in the US. Please note the information below refers to traditional publishing;Ā there is a growing number of digital-only publishers not represented in the PA data (not least Amazon Publishing) that would help broaden our understanding.

You can read below what I consider to be the highlights.

The Highlights

The Yearbook confirms that e-book sales have softened for most trade publishers, with sales growing just 5.3% in 2014. The impact was felt most acutely in the fiction sector, where e-book sales did not bring in enough additional revenue to cover the gap made by printā€™s continuingā€¦

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How far do you dare to go?

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My current muse

When it comes to writing sex scenes involving your characters, how far do you dare to go while knowing that a written work containing anything that might be considered vaguely pornographic, is seriously frowned upon by all reputable publishers?

Read on to find out how I’m currently dealing with this dilemma.

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In my previous novella – Cataclysm, I alluded to the way the hero Gilbert Briggs and the beautiful transexual he fell in love with, Arianna, made love by simply saying just that, even though it doesn’t take much imagination on the part of the more intelligent among you to realise how they went about it. But precisely because of the transexual element, no lurid details were employed. I agonised over it for several weeks, and I freely admit that I was seriously tempted to spice it up at the time of writing it last year.

But this time, my current science fiction WIP The Guardian demands that I go a stage further. In this particular instance I’m currently dealing with the love affair between my principal characters, Lynne Crawford and Adler Stevens. The other characters, some of whom have already been involved in an orgy, are a lesbian Bayla and a bi-sexual Karin, plus two of the five other males – Anatole, Moshe, Philippe, Brett and Cliff, all of them perfectly normal individuals.

Thinking about it, who or what is considered normal these days, especially when it comes to the often thorny subject of sex? It’s weird how some people become totally prudish when confronted with the subject in a novel or novella, yet see nothing wrong in engaging in what after all is a perfectly natural act between two people, no matter their gender preference or indeed their preferred way of making love. A clear case of double standards if ever I saw one…

Getting back to Lynne and Adler, so far I’ve involved them in just two scenes together that can either be described as erotic or voyeuristic, depending on your point of view. Now I’m engaged in writing their first no holds barred love scene. Well, that’s not strictly true. I wrote the original seriously filthy version several weeks ago. In fact ever since then I’ve been returning to it from time to time to tone it down, first of all by gradually downgrading it from extremely to moderately pornographic, through to highly suggestive. At long last by yesterday lunchtime it had finally become merely suggestive, the state it will remain in until I take another look at it at a later date. Hopefully it will end up being a suggestive erotic love scene, not an easy task to achieve as some of you may think, believe me.

Remember this – while one person might consider a love scene like the one I’ve been working on to be erotic, to someone else, namely those of the prudish persuasion, it will always be nothing but unadulterated pornographic filth. The funny thing is that I bet the latter will re-read the particular passage several times, while uttering the imortal words – “utterly disgusting!” to alleviate their hypocritical moral outlook.

Face it folks, as writers you just can’t win. You are either damned if you do or damned if you don’t. In the end all you can do is leave it up to your readers to decide, always providing of course that it gets past your publisher first.

More later if you are good.

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Baudelair’s Revenge

Bob Van Laerhoven

The Award Winning Belgian Author Bob Van Laerhoven

Bob’s award winning novel Baudelair’s Revenge has received yet another brilliant five star review.

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Ross Macdonald, one of the pioneers of the hard-boiled mystery novel, once posited the theory that the modern detective story flows from Baudelaire, who, it should be noted, translated Poe and felt a deep emotional connection to the man who by most accounts invented detective fiction. Baudelaireā€™s supposed contribution according to Macdonald was to see the modern city as though it was a model for Danteā€™s Inferno. It is therefore particularly interesting to have a mystery novel so deeply inhabited by the poetā€™s ghost as Baudelaireā€™s Revenge.

Baudelaire is not a character in this book, which takes place in 1870, three years after Baudelaireā€™s death. But Baudelaireā€™s spirit haunts the Paris of the novel. It is a Paris during the Franco-Prussian war, a Paris where the rich amuse themselves with drugs and liquor and perverse sexual adventures and the poor are hungry and subject to the Prussian shells falling all around.

But the Prussians are not in the city yet, and so they only form the outer circle of the novelā€™s Hell. Baudelaire is at the center of the darkness. The novel is about a serial killer choosing victims from among those who tormented Baudelaire during his life. And beside each victim is a piece of Baudelaireā€™s poetry.

Paul Lefevre, the police commissioner, and his assistant Bernard Bouveroux, are opposites. Lefevre is intensely attracted to prostitutes and understands the call of sex in a way that his assistant cannot, for Bouveroux mourns for his dead wife but without approaching another woman.

Baudelaireā€™s Paris in this novel is not a hospitable place for every reader to spend time. The corpses, the bizarre characters, and the explicit sexual descriptions are not for everyone. Neither are the serial philosophical discussions or even the discussions of art and poetry. The author writes in an unusual way for a detective writer. He tells instead of showing, violating every rule ever uttered at a writing workshop. Action is not seen but talked about.

But without question, this is an extraordinary book. It is unfair simply to call it well-written. The prose is lush. Here is the first sentence: ā€œLife and death had taught Commissioner Lefevre to love poetry and wenches, and in spite of his fifty-three years, he still wasnā€™t certain which of the two he admired most.ā€ Itā€™s impossible to stop reading after a sentence like that.

The characters are what make the book. Their inner demons, their wild, dark drives and creative imaginations take us inside Baudelaire in a way that is deeply revealing.

It is a book readers will want to read slowly. It should be noted that Brian Doyle, the bookā€™s translator into English, has done an unbelievably excellent job. The sentences, dark as they sometimes are, are rendered with astounding verve.

If, as his mother claimed, Baudelaire was furious throughout his life because he had been born, readers of the book will understand why when they experience the dreadful horror he witnessed and see inside these charactersā€™ hearts of darkness.

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Many congratulations my friend.

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What’s The Ultimate Conundrum?

NSRW_Dodo

No not the Dodo – read on!

When it comes to that book we as writers have spent many months working on, sooner or later we are all presented with the same conundrum. Will it sell, bearing in mind that this business is extremely fickle?

Daily I see countless writers both new and old, endlessly talking/blogging about spending not only a considerable amount of time and effort, but also their hard earned money, on a book they wrote some time back that simply isn’t selling, in the vain hope that what they’re doing will increase it’s chances in today’s saturated market. In short we’re talking about idiots!

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until the day I die. If your book doesn’t work, no amount of spending money on changing its cover or having it properly edited, together with purchasing a number of copies of the new version from your publisher to give away in a book store or writer’s convention in the vain hope of promoting it to an already jaded public, will make one iota of difference in the end. What you are doing is flogging a dead horse!

Despite what so many still foolishly believe, the fact that you have availed yourself of the services of an editor and maybe even a publicist, or perhaps you have spent money having it’s cover, hook and link added to one of the countless number of book advertising web pages who demand payment for your doing so, spending your own money before the first sale has even taken place. Or maybe you even shelled out yet more money by employing a professional reviewer to help kickstart your book’s chances. Even then, using all of these options still doesn’t guarantee sales. No marketing strategy ever does, no matter how professional it may appear to be to the average man or woman.

There is no magic formula for literary success.

In the end, the only thing that does matter when it comes to sales, is whether or not the story in question actually appeals. It’s immaterial that you and your immediate family circle and close friends loved it. After all, you and they are too close to it to be objective.

So, what might the discerning reader be looking for? I can’t speak for others, but when I am perusing the millions of books currently available, first of all I narrow down my search to the genre that has appealed to me my entire life. Next, I totally ignore the often gawdy covers, if I want to look at pretty pictures I’ll buy a glossy magazine, published for air-heads who don’t read!

Instead I begin with a book’s hook. If what I’m reading intrigues me, bearing in mind that as a successful science fiction writer, I am extremely hard to please these days, then and only then will I read the first few pages. If I feel that the story appears to show promise, I’ll buy a copy. If not, I move on to the next one.

Oh, and before you ask – no I don’t take any notice of a particular book’s reviews, no matter whether they are good, bad or indifferent. Unlike the vast majority, aka ‘The Great Unwashed’, I prefer to make up my own mind. The other thing to remember is that having enjoyed reading a specific work, when I see another by the same author, I will always seriously consider it.

What do I mean when I say does a book appeal? There is nothing mysterious or complicated about it. If a story has been carefully thought out. If it builds towards a climax, with the odd red herring thrown in for good measure. If the characters and their relationships with one another are believable. Then and only then do I consider that any given book appeals/works.

There are a few other things to remember. In this business, to succeed you have to gain a reputation as a storyteller – not an easy thing to achieve. To do that first you have to have written several books, preferably honing your skills with each one. Normally your first few won’t do it for you. Secondly, you will find that even though your book or books are beginning to be read as a result of those free giveaway promotions, (more often than not by tightwads) there is no guarantee that you’re book(s) will actually sell in their thousands, meaning that you will earn serious royalties. Even if they do sell, the chances of more than ten to a dozen copies per year is slight, no matter how much time, effort and money you may have put in to promoting them.

Only one of mine ever became a best seller. Because of it, I earned that most elusive of epithets from my fellow published writers – consumate storyteller.

At the risk of repeating myself – unlike so many of you today, never once have I pinned my hopes on whether or not any of my covers appeal. What ultimately matters is what’s contained within any given book’s pages, and whether or not the story actually appeals. Remember, in this game you are only as good as your last book…

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