Monday 26 August 2013

Something nasty in the Goodreads woodshed

I had a bit of nasty shock yesterday: 3 bad reviews. Not that there's anything wrong with that, bad reviews are part of the writer's lot and, once we get over the urge to napalm the reviewer and their entire extended family, if we're sensible we can learn from them.

This time it was different. Somebody calling themselves 'M Hanley' who joined Goodreads this August has flagged that they've read 3 books - my 3 books to be precise - and has awarded each one a 1-star rating, all 3 ratings being posted within 2 minutes on the same day. No written review, no, 'This book sucks because,' just a series of 1 stars.

A bit of research on Google shows I'm not alone and that in most cases this sort of nastiness comes from other publishing houses in an attempt to nobble the opposition. If that's the case with 'M Hanley' then I suppose I should be flattered. I've contacted Goodreads but am not optimistic that they'll do anything about it.

Edit. Having done a bit more research it seems as though I'm not alone and, considering what others have suffered, I got off pretty likely. There's a whole site dedicated to the problem of cyber bullying on Goodreads here

Thursday 22 August 2013

Hard truths about writing and selling books #3. More about agents...

The blogosphere is littered with people shouting, 'I don't need an agent.' Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Chances are that you do.

Having a good agent on your team takes a lot of the guesswork and learning by mistakes out of the process. Finding a good one with whom you just click isn't easy though. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I did have an agent (nope, still not telling you who it was, nor the name of the agency) but ended up asking to be released from my contract. I then got into  discussions with another agent who wanted to add space aliens and/or a supernatural element to a conspiracy thriller. Now I'm all for editorial input, but that was just plain loopy, so I walked away and signed up direct with Mauve Square Publishing.

It's worked out well for me, but without an agent and a big publisher's marketing budget behind you, you end up having to do a lot of the grunt work; marketing, financial, editing etc yourself. And if you have a full-time day job like wot I do, then it kinda cuts into what little time you have for writing.

So, don't give up on the submissions just yet - I know many agents are worth their weight in birdsh*t, but there are some good ones out there.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Hard truths about writing and selling books #2. Agents

Another thing you'll hear wherever you go is that agents are rude/cruel/stupid/arrogant gatekeepers standing between writers and publishers. Yup, a small minority of them are. However, most of them are just people like you and me, trying to make a living from something they once loved - books - and that thanks to an overdose of that something, now probably hate it. Some horrid, cold facts about agents and submissions to the dreaded slush pile:

i) You submission will be the 500th the agent has received in the last hour/day/week. Agents make no money from reading the slush pile, so, being rational economic beings, they tend to concentrate on the stuff that does make money, like selling their authors' books to publishers. When it comes to wading through the thousands of 'Dark and stormy nights' that flood through the letterbox every day, many of them outsource the job to an intern.

ii) If you are lucky, and I mean really lucky, the intern may spend 30 seconds reviewing your letter, synopsis and first 3 chapters that make up the standard submission package. So don't try and be clever, literary or go for the slow burn. If your book can't hook a bored twenty-something who's spent all day reading manuscripts written to try and hook him or her, then you go on the rejection pile. That's why, if the intern gets round to it or can work out which side of the stamp to lick, you'll get a boiler plate rejection slip, or more than likely, no reply at all.

iii) Agents do not have time to give detailed feedback on your book, nor should you expect them to. There’s a very good chance you wouldn’t like what they have to say about it anyway.

iv) All agents receive threats, nasty letters and e-mails from writers they've rejected. Nobody likes getting rejection slips, especially when they've spent months or even years crafting their masterpiece, only to be told, 'Sorry, not one for us,' but that's no reason to be rude or scary. Grow a thick skin and move on to your next submission. Unless you've used green ink or written your submission in the blood of your first-born, the agent has no way of knowing if you're a bunny-boiler or not, and this is another reason why they tend to avoid personal communication when it comes to rejections. Mother wants me to open a motel, by the way.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Hard truths about writing and selling books #1

 One question that gets asked all the time is, 'How does a piece of crap like <enter the name of a book you don't like> get published whereas my, ahem, masterpiece just gets rejection slips?' Well, there are a number of reasons:

i) Definitions of what's crap and what's good are pretty subjective - on TV I can't stand soap operas, reality shows or football matches (that's soccer if you're reading this from the USA), yet these genres are among the most watched in the country. So just because I think something stinks, it doesn't mean I'm right. Numbers count, particularly when people are paying: remember, the classifications in the media are called Best Seller Lists, not Best Writer Lists. Moral of the story? There's no accounting for taste.

ii) Your book isn't as good as you think it is. Go back, re-read it, get someone else to proof read it, have it professionally edited. Just because your mum, girlfriend, wife, cat, budgie, significant other etc say it's good, doesn't mean it is.

iii) Getting an agent and then your agent finding you a publisher both involve a huge slice of luck. Talent helps, but even agents and publishers can't forecast reliably what's going to sell. The Harry Potter series, Fifty Shades, Twilight etc were books that took the industry completely by surprise. All dealt with themes that had been done before, but they all had that 'something' that made them best sellers. By the way, I know what it is, but I'm not telling...

iV) Finally, don't ever say, "How did this POS get published?" to your agent. I did once and my agent got very cross, so I had to pretend I didn't mean it. Since then I've fired my agent, but that's private stuff and not for this blog.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Where have all the buyers gone?

Maybe I was trying to be too clever by half but according to my cunning plan, a big marketing push in late June and early July would be sure to result in lots of book sales as people stocked up on holiday reading matter.

Err, not so fast. The reality has turned out to be just the opposite - sales figures have fallen off a cliff and are at best flatlining - as in single figure sales for a book that sold several thousand in March and April this year.

Anyone else having the same problem?

Thursday 15 August 2013

Review of High Finance by Eli Lederman

 Product Details

I've just finished reading this highly unusual but entirely compelling book. The action centres round the equity trading floor of a New York investment bank and there's more backstabbing than the Ides of March.

Here's the 5-star review I posted on Amazon

Having worked in the equity trading division of a large American investment bank, for me, High Finance made riveting if uncomfortable reading. The plot teems with egotistical, dysfunctional monsters and if anyone thinks the author has overdrawn them, believe me he hasn't. People like this not only exist, they have a nasty habit of elbowing their way to the corner office. It weaves a saga of underhand office politics, backstabbing and greed, making it a book that's impossible to put down.

For someone who's never had the misfortune to work in trading, don't be put off by the technical jargon: the author explains it in bite-sized, easy to understand pieces and never allows trader-ese to get in the way of a compelling story.

Click here for the Kindle version High Finance on

Monday 12 August 2013

Celebrity writers of children's books 'edge out talent' (The Sunday Times, 11 Aug 2013)

An interesting piece from the Sunday Times. The original is behind a paywall here

For some reason Blogger won't allow you to insert a pdf version - almost enough to drive you back to Wordpress - so here's a paste of the text. Read it and weep...

THE market for children’s books is being ruined by celebrities such as Frank Lampard, Katie Price and Holly Willoughby who force out talented authors, a bestselling writer has claimed.

GP Taylor, who has written 14 books, with three being made into films, said “thousands” of gifted children’s writers were struggling to get into print because publishers and bookshops wanted household names even though they penned “the literary equivalent of lift music”.

Taylor, who has been hailed as a rival to JK Rowling, said he had been “squeezed out” and turnedhis back on children’s writing. The father of three from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, added that the children’s book market was being wrecked by the trend to sign up celebrities regardless of whether they can write.

“Bookshops have gone for the lowest common denominator,” he said. “It’s not about the days of Philip Pullman and Philip Reeve, who were bringing out exciting new books and booksellers were wanting to tell people. Now it’s about big advertising campaigns and getting on the couch on a television show.”

A film of Taylor’s Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box, starring Michael Sheen, is due out in October, with its sequel filmed shortly afterwards. Production begins next year on a film of his first book, Shadowmancer. “I feel completely squeezed out,” Taylor said. “I don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of getting published any more. I have three big films coming out and no children’s publishing deal. How weird is that?”

Taylor was “dubious” about Lampard’s book, Frankie’s Magic Football: Frankie vs the Pirate Pillagers. The Chelsea footballer admits that he came up with characters and story and wrote only “bits” of it. Willoughby, presenter of The Voice and This Morning, has written a book with her sister Kelly, called School for Stars: First Term at L’Etoile. Her website says the novel “combines Holly’s runaway imagination . . . with Kelly’s creative mind and love of writing”.

Price, who has published two book series, Perfect Ponies, and Mermaids and Pirates, admits she is “not a writer” and uses a ghost author.

Taylor said: “Book stores want an easy sell. If the celebrity makes an appearance, they’re going to be guaranteed queues of people. It’s depressing. There are thousands of talented writers who aren’t getting published.”
Simon Mayo, the Radio 2 presenter, this year launched his second children’s book, Itch Rocks. He writes his books himself and labelled authors who do not as “ghastly”.

Barry Cunningham, a children’s book publisher who discovered Rowling when he was an editor at Bloomsbury, said he would not publish a book just because it had been written by a celebrity. He said there were some good celebrity authors such as Mayo and the comedian David Walliams.

Random House, which published Price’s books, said: “If they introduced some children to the enjoyment of reading, then this can only be a positive thing.”

Terence Blacker, author of the children’s Ms Wiz series, said of Lampard’s book: “Boys who wouldn’t dream of buying a novel will buy Frank Lampard’s ghosted books. But children are never fooled. If a book is bad, they’ll give it up— however big the celebrity.”

Saturday 3 August 2013

Free paperback giveaway on Goodreads

The first book in the Death to Bankers series is now out in paperback. To win a free copy all you have to do is subscribe to the giveaway on by clicking on the link below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Minerva System by Simon Leighton-Porter

The Minerva System

by Simon Leighton-Porter

Giveaway ends September 11, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday 1 August 2013

Warm fuzzy

Have just finished moving my site from to Blogger under my own url. Apart from a minor faff getting the DNS settings sorted out, it all went very smoothly. Not only that, Blogger is sooo much easier to use and renders html far more cleanly. The functionality is far broader even if there's not much to choose between the ease of use.

It reminds me of the happy day when I gave up with Microsoft Office 2007 and its "guess where we've hidden it now" ribbon and reinstalled Office 2003.

No longer free on Amazon Kindle

The Manhattan Deception is free to download from Amazon Kindle from 1 Aug to 2 Aug.

Afraid I had to pull the giveaway. First day went well (31 Jul) but then something seemed to happen when the new month started. Don't know whether the rankings reset to zero but the downloads suddenly dried up so I pulled the free offer. The good news is that it's still available on Amazon at a ridiculously cheap price.