Monday, 3 August 2009

It's bloody out there!

OK, so the whole Bloodsport thing kicked off with a great piece in the Sunday Times Atticus column … which was swiftly followed by the pre-publication interview on The Rap Sheet (which should also link to the story itself from around 4.00pm London-time on Monday onwards) … and a bunch of blogs and trade-sites like Sarah Weinman’s Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind and

And so far – touch wood! – the tooled-up lads from Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, otherwise known as SO15 haven’t come crashing through the door on one of their 4.00am raids. So that’s a relief!

To me, what the whole experience illustrates is that authors today must accept that they are going to have to take responsibility for generating their own PR – which, I guess, the very existence of the Curzon Group proves. Publishers simply have too many books fighting for the attention of their PR staff, who are working in a media environment that could not give a damn about any author who is not famous, cute (esp. if young and female), or blessed with a personal tragedy so harrowing that it makes good copy, even in the absence of fame or looks.

So there’s nothing to do but fight a guerrilla campaign. Take risks. Work in ways that corporate publishers either do not understand or actively dislike. Because if you don’t – and this is a lesson I learned the hard way in the States – nothing happens at all … and then you’re really in trouble.

Plus you can have a lot of fun, writing short sharp stories and getting them out there – online or n conventional media – in a fraction of the time it takes to go through the process of publishing a book. Having spent almost 30 years, on and off, in Fleet Street, I love the buzz of getting a commission at lunch, writing it by 5.00pm and seeing it in the paper over breakfast the next day. Meanwhile a book idea can grow stale before ones eyes.

Last year, for example, I was thinking of doing a Carver book set in the City and/or Wall Street. It involved a gigantic international conspiracy to make stock markets and banks collapse … and while I was mulling over this notion, bugger me, that’s what went and happened for real … before Samuel Carver could stop it.

At roughly the same time I wrote a short story for the Daily Mail, based on Lord Carlile’s warning that Britain was in danger of terrorist attacks from the air. That was three days from commission to publication, and was probably read by 10, even 20 times as many people as have ever bought one of my books.

I guess what it comes down to is that the business of writing fiction is going though radical changes before our eyes.

And if we don’t adapt, we die.

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