Friday, 27 April 2012

Frankenstein Publishing

By Richard Jay Parker

I see that Profile Books are launching an interactive app that will allow readers to navigate their way through Mary Shelley's Frankenstein from different perspectives.

This has, of course, necessitated rewriting the text.  That raises all sorts of questions about altering Shelly's work and vision.  But those aside it will be interesting to see if authors get on board in terms of their future works.  When writing a thriller it's difficult enough to keep track of your characters and subplots and attempt to hide relevant facts within the story without having to consider them from multiple perspectives.  Could be an interesting challenge.

Perhaps this is the way forward and it will be interesting to see if people go for this app.  They've certainly chosen an apt story to road test it with.  There are plenty that haven't set the windmill on fire.  Maybe the villagers won't like what the scientists are playing with here either.

It's good to keep an open mind though.  The important thing is that people continue to read and use their imaginations.

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Monday, 23 April 2012

World Book Night And Piracy

By Richard Jay Parker

Tonight sees a substantial celebration of the written word which is being held in the UK,  Ireland, Germany and the USA.  The 23rd was chosen mainly because it's the birth and death day of Shakespeare.

The main event involves a massive give away of books written by authors who have waived their royalties.  The idea is to remind people about the joy of reading and introduce others to its pleasure.  Whatever your opinion of its effectiveness, it's a well-intentioned promotion and the books involved in last year's give away have all enjoyed a boost in sales.

At the same time a publisher, Wiley, is suing a peer-to-peer file-sharing site for making their 'For Dummies' titles available.  It's estimated that its users have downloaded the books 74000 times for free.

It's a lot of lost revenue for Wiley but it's a massively popular series and one wonders how many of their sales have been amplified by word of mouth engendered by the free downloads.

As I've said in previous blogs - it's impossible to gauge word of mouth but in a new world where readers expect some of their content to be free of charge it's another headache for publishers to get to grips with.  How much giving away leads to increased sales?  It worked for Stieg Larsson's publisher and World Book Night seems to be another example of how this can work for other authors.

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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

All in the name of research

Recently one of my contacts on the police force invited me to visit a Homicide and Serious Crime Command Unit. In the course of a fascinating day, I visited the police cells - taking great care not to touch the panic strip on the wall on the way! Apparently it’s not unheard of for new recruits to set off the alarm by mistake, but as a visitor I didn’t want to make a nuisance of myself – not on the way to the cells at any rate…
I’ve seen police cells on the television, of course, but it was a strangely eery and depressing experience to see what little space is allocated to those held in custody. The cells are clean and safe, but very grey. Needless to say, I was glad to leave the custody suite. There was no dramatic clanging of metal gates or jingling of massive bunches of keys. Compared to representations on the television, it was all very low key (Sorry! Bad pun. Very bad.) The ‘rights’ read to prisoners are also very long compared to those you ever hear read out on the small screen, and very dull.
I admit to having a lively imagination – I do write fiction after all. So after my visit to the custody suite, it was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation to visit a closed prison to talk to prisoners about writing crime fiction. The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on me, and I couldn’t help wondering how my talk would be received. The gates of the prison clanged shut…
I can’t speak for all establishments in HM Prison Service, but the prison I visited offers educational and cultural opportunities for the prisoners similar to those offered in many colleges. Whatever your views on the rights and wrongs of such provision in prisons, there is clearly an admirable agenda to rehabilitate offenders and facilitate their return into the community. Whether or not it is effective is a complex issue to unpick, with so many other factors involved.
What I can tell you is that my prison visit was fascinating. Although the prison officers and the prisoners were very friendly and welcoming, I was still glad to leave. The visit also helped in the writing of the fifth book in the Geraldine Steel series – but you’ll have to wait until the end of the year to find out what happens!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Kindling For The Fire

By Richard Jay Parker

Today it's been announced that Ray Bradbury's novel about a dystopian future where books are outlawed is to be published as an ebook.

Its title, FAHRENHEIT 451, is said to refer to the temperature at which paper burns although it's since been estimated to actually be somewhere between 424 to 474.

This seems like a very apt title to release as an ebook.  If you believe one side of a familiar argument it appears to be contributing to the death of the paper book - the very entity the story celebrates.  If you're on the other side it appears to be contributing to its evolution.

Bradbury himself is said to have resisted the Internet and been dismissive of it in the past.  Now he has his ASIN number this is probably the ultimate example of what the future will most definitely mean for writers.

I wonder at what temperature a Kindle burns at?  I'm sure there are lots of people in the industry who would cheerfully 'take a reading.'

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