“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Those Whom The Gods Would Destroy …

… they first make mad. The publishing industry can be a cruel one, folks. A few years back, I was talking on the phone with the publisher of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, and he casually mentioned that the book was about to be published in Russia. “Criminy!” says I. “I’ll send you over a few copies,” says he. He sent one. It wasn’t EIGHTBALL BOOGIE. Had he put the wrong book in the post? No, he’d just confused it with another book he was publishing. An easy enough mistake to make, given that the title of the novel, OVERNIGHT TO INNSBRUCK, was rendered in Cyrillic – although the author’s name, Denyse Woods, wasn’t.
  Such moments teach us humility, if little else. I hope Denyse Woods sold a million copies in Russia …
  Anyway, as all three regular readers of CAP will be aware, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt late last year declined to publish the sequel to THE BIG O. Which was a bummer, especially as the deal was a two-book and HMH had specifically asked for a sequel. It must have been a close-run decision, though, because it seems as if someone in there had at some point seriously committed to the book, to the extent that it got an Amazon slot (as ‘Untitled Crime Novel’ by Declan Burke), and an ISBN number. Well, it’s that or the ‘Untitled Crime Novel’ was actually intended to be the paperback version of THE BIG O – although, in that case, they’d simply call it THE BIG O (pb), wouldn’t they?
  Either way, knowing how close the sequel, aka CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, came to being published is heartbreaking, because what its not being published by HMH means is that no one else will touch it with a barge-pole, especially as it’s a sequel. This despite the fact that, in my not-entirely-humble opinion at least, CRIME ALWAYS PAYS is a superior read to THE BIG O, being faster, funnier and slightly shorter, and being set for a goodly bit in the Greek islands, which is always a bonus. All of which matters not the proverbial whit – the book, poor unwanted orphan that it is, will only ever see the light of day if I decide to self-publish. Which I might well do, just for giggles …
  But back to ‘Untitled Crime Novel’ by Declan Burke. It’s cruel enough that it’s sitting out there in cyberspace, mocking me, but here’s the kicker – right now, at the time of writing, THE BIG O’s sales rank on Amazon.com is 858,436. Meanwhile, the phantom ‘Untitled Crime Novel’ by Declan Burke has a sales rank of 320,829.
  Sometimes, if you didn’t laugh, you’d have to cry …

19 comments:

Ali Karim said...

Hang in there Declan, adversity breeds strength of character - was it Fred Nietzsche who said,"What doesn't kill you make you stronger"

Enjoy the day

Ali

Claire Coughlan said...

CAP WILL find a home, I'm sure of it. Are you still off the smokes? Fair play, by the way.
Claire

Declan Burke said...

Nice one, Ali ... Erm, what was it that killed Nietzsche again?

Claire - still off the smokes, indeed. Feeling a bit smug about it, actually ... I still get the odd jolt, but it's nowhere as bad as I thought it would be. The danger now is getting casual about it, methinks ...

Cheers, Dec

Uriah Robinson said...

Good news about the smokes Declan but these publishers must be crazy. I read so many books [not much more you can do in my state of health except read] that I can't remember most of the plots or characters.
The Big O was an exception and I still laugh at some of the lines that you embedded in my brain.
I would actually buy a copy of CAP, and if that is not an encouragement to publishers what else can we do.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Declan, stumbled on your blog from crimespot. Anyway you could change your sequel so it's not a sequel but instead the first of a new series? Change the character names, add some backstory to fill in the gaps? Just an idea.

Rob said...

Would you go back and try Hag's Head again as a possible option? If you were going the partnership publishing route you could always tout for investors to offset costs further (and share in the spoils)!

Donna said...

This is the sort of post that makes me wish I'd won the lottery last night so I could set up a publishing company, give you a huge advance, and publish CAP. I loved THE BIG O and to think that there's a sequel written just makes my fingers itch with frustrated desire.

Barbara said...

Amazon .... that's pure dada. Good lord.

As for orphaned series - been there, done that. If you self-publish, just make sure they don't decide to take first proceeds because, you know, it's all about the money. And writing isn't, though it would be nice to have an income.

The fact is - they're clowns. The only thing that should break a writer's heart is if he looks at a manuscript and thinks "that's crap. Just poured my heart out and ... it's rubbish." That's a heart breaker. Some business in New York deciding not to publish something good is just par for the course. If they can't manage to send a translation to the right author (though, hey, they got the country right, is that good enough?) their judgment about which books are worth publishing is not to be trusted.

seanag said...

Well, the thing that would be unfair to us is if, now that the sequel's actually written, you didn't put it out there somehow. I'm not saying that it has to be right this second if there is a chance that a mainstream publisher might grab it up as part of some kind of package with Bad for Good, but if it's up to you, it's up to you. We want to read it, Declan! And don't just put it up for free--make a Lulu book or whatever out of it, and I guarantee you some of us will buy it, and blurb it and everything.

Keep up the good work on the not smoking, and you're right--don't get too complacent yet.

John McFetridge said...

Joe Konrath and others have been saying very nice things about books published for the Kindle in the US - so before you self-publish, think about that. If you do it yourself I think you have to charge a buck (but you get thirty-five cents for every one sold).

Some people are calling it a free (or close to free) sample of their work and what better promotion could there be of your work than, well, your work.

Declan Burke said...

Appreciate the feedback, folks ... To be honest, I just thought it was a funny story, and if I'm going to blow my trumpet about the good stuff, I have to play fair and fess up to when stuff doesn't go so well.

Uriah Rushdie - if CAP is ever published, you won't have to buy a copy. I'll hand deliver it myself ...

Dave - Great to hear from you, and I like the cut of your jib ... Yes, it'd be possible to change characters' names etc., and make it a standalone or new series ... if only I was a devious bastard. And, of course, I'm a devious bastard. I'll keep you posted.

Cheers, Dec

Josephine Damian said...

Stephen King wrote 3 (or maybe even 6) books before he sold CARRIE. Then those early, much rejected "duds" were brought forth and published to great acclaim (translation: hype)

Get hyped enough as a writer and even your to-do list becomes a hot property.

Self - publishing is the kiss of death, my friend. Keep your powder dry, and your BIG-O sequel away from the paper shredder (and the self publishers).

Remember the wise words of Stuart Kaminsky - time is a writer's greatest friend.

Declan Burke said...

Rob - It's possible that I might hook up with Hag's Head again, I think Marsha Swan (aka Ms Hag's Head) is terrific ... providing, of course, that Marsha was interested. We'll see how it goes.

Donna? Bless your cotton socks, ma'am ... I hope you do win the Lotto, for yourself.

Barbara - You're right, in that it isn't all about the money, but that it'd be nice to have some kind of tangible reward for the hours put in ... plus, nappies don't grow on trees. If something doesn't break for me - financially - in the very near future from fiction, I'm going to have to face facts and put the stories to one side for the forseeable.

Seanag - Very kind words, ma'am ... many thanks. Exactly the kind of thing a struggling writer wants to hear ... well, apart from, "How many noughts should I put on the cheque, Mr Burke?" No, seriously - a very nice sentiment, and deeply appreciated.

John - Funnily enough, you're the second person to say that to me today ... I love the idea of it, and I was blogging about it last week. I'm thinking of maybe uploading a Harry Rigby novel to Kindle, just for a lark. I'd do it with Crime Always Pays, but DM have the electronic rights ... Stay tuned.

Cheers, Dec

seanag said...

If you have something to 'waste' on Kindle, do it. Just for the experience of the thing. I shouldn't be saying that, seeing that I'm employed by an independent bookstore, but my loyalties are quite divided about publishing. From the author's point of view, though, it's quite clear: exposure is everything.

From a fan's perspective though, just get that sequel out there! I don't care in what format, though an exclusive Kindle deal admittedly would be a slight problem for me...

Rob said...

I'm not confinced self-publishing is totally the kiss-of-death, though it's certainly not without major problems, not least credibility wise. Partnership publishers such as Hags Head are, however, worth a look, I think. The Big O is proof of that. Because they have a stake in the book it is in their interests that book is half-decent and for it to sell. Putting the book out there led to the deal with HMH, which ironically is the publishing relationship that's gone sour. Without the initial partnership deal and publication however, my guess is it's probably unlikely that the HMH deal would have happened. Sometimes you just have to put the thing out there and try and make things happen. That or have years of rejection letters before (hopefully) someone finally sees the light and agrees that the novel isn't half-bad, publishes it and it gets the critical acclaim that The Big O received. Sometimes patience isn't always a virtue and time isn't always a writer's friend. Sometimes we just need to try and forge ahead and make things happen (whilst retaining full rights!) - such as with The Big O.

Declan Burke said...

I don't think self-publishing is the kiss of death, Josephine ... I can call it co-publishing with Hag's Head, but what that means is that I paid to get my book published ... vanity publishing, in other words. If Hag's Head hadn't co-published, I was already planning to self-publish ... with all due modesty, the problem with most self-published books is that they're not good enough to get published the traditional way. I knew The Big O was good enough, I just couldn't be arsed hawking it around and getting paid peanuts in the end ... I believed the co-publishing / self-publishing route would be far more interesting. And it was, not to mention more lucrative ...

Cheers, Dec

Declan Burke said...

"Sometimes patience isn't always a virtue and time isn't always a writer's friend. Sometimes we just need to try and forge ahead and make things happen ..."

Well said, that man. I agree, Rob - I'm a big fan of 'God helps those who helps themselves.' If I'd waited for mainstream publishing to do me any favours, I'd be a basket case by now ... Anything I've got out of this industry I've dragged out of it ...

Cheers, Dec

Declan Burke said...

Seanag - I'll be posting later today about the Kindle option ... bear with me.

Cheers, Dec

Rob said...

Declan, I think you're being a little bit harsh re. co-publishing being simple vanity publishing by another name. The company you're co-publishing with has to be convinced that it worth their half of the investment. As I see it there are four levels of publishing.

Self publish - you pay all of the costs and the printer hands over the books which you then distribute, etc.

Subvention - you give a payment towards cost of publication but you sign over rights and receive ordinary commercial royalties. (common in marginal academic publishing)

Partnership (or co-) - you contribute towards the cost of first print run but not to any other print runs and you retain the rights and receive half of the royalties; the publisher looks after copyediting, typesetting, printing, marketing, sales, distribution, accounts, etc.

Commercial - you contribute nothing to cost of publication but you sign over rights and get ordinary royalties.

Partnership publishing as I see it involves, admittedly small, financial and commercial commitment from a publisher. The pay-off is that you're not totally lumbered with all the jobs pre- and post-publication and costs of self-publication, and if the book does well, you do well. The downside is if it sinks without a trace then you're potentially out of pocket. It's a way of both the publisher and author of testing the market place with the author retaining rights to sell on whilst gaining a larger share of the profit if the book does well. At worst perhaps it's a vanity publication that someone has at least half bought into!

Clearly, commercial publishing is the preferred option for all kinds of reasons, but partnership offers more prospects than self-publishing, especially if you believe the work is good enough.