Warning: contains coarse offensive language! ‘She said whaaat???’ This is a cheap and nasty slight rewrite of a post from two years ago. Sorry. My brain just isn’t working today. Readers of a nervous, highly moral or religious disposition, please look away now. These days we aren’t as shocked as we once were when someone…
Back in 2020, I published my first non-fiction book, Self-Publishing, The Total Beginner’s Guide. It’s sold OK, as well it should since it costs just £0.99 as an ebook if you buy it from my own website, or £1.49 if you allow Amazon to sell it to you. (There is a print version, too, but who’s going to pay ten times that?)
The book tries to cover all the aspects of publishing that a self-publisher might need to be aware if, but there’s always something else that you might not be expecting. When it came to my first full-length crime novel, TheMidnightVisitor, published on 1st March 2022, I was hit by hay-maker of seismic proportions.
It’s a waste of time trying to launch a book in the week that Putin’s Russia is invading Europe. After all, who’s thinking about gentle crime fiction just now? Who really wants to do anything other than either watch the news anxiously or hide in a cupboard and just wait for it all to be over?
Don’t get me wrong. If I could give up everything from The Midnight Visitor and end the suffering in Ukraine instead, I’d do it in a flash. Somehow, though, I don’t think Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin would be much influenced by the offer.
So it looks as if the best I can do is to “launch” the book officially at some point in the future. In the meantime, though, it’s available to buy in bookshops, on Amazon, or – best of all, since I make the most money – from my own website. There’s lots of free stuff there, too. Ukrainians can have the ebook for free.
I suppose it’s good to be reminded of the two great truths of publishing. First, wars are more important than any individual book. And second, there’s always the next time.
Yesterday, an author posted a (since deleted) comment on my website. He’s a successful crime fiction author, and his first novel was suggested to me in 2013 by a bookseller where my own recently-published book happened to be on display beside it. It was OK, but it was a first novel and I recognised some of my own failings in it – for me, an uneven pace, a bit of a sag in the middle, and there were aspects of the central character that I wanted to know much more about. Given the build-up the book had been given by my friend in the bookshop, I confess I was slightly disappointed. No worse than that, though: it was decent, and the series – if a series it proved to be – showed promise.
I said all of that on Goodreads, adding that I’d definitely look forward to reading more in the future; I gave the book three stars. That doesn’t sound like a bad review to me.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the author himself commented on my review to say how much he disagreed with it. (I noticed he himself had given his own book 5 stars.) We corresponded privately for a bit, and I thought I’d managed to make him understand that my review wasn’t intended to be as negative as he’d taken it to be. I thought we were on good terms.
I did read other books in the series, and sure enough they were much slicker. (Remember this is all just “my personal view”.) The author worked hard, not only on his writing but also on his publicity skills (a necessary evil these days, he’s never off Twitter) and in time his detective series was snatched up on some sort of TV series contract. To be fair, it’s tailor-made for TV: it has the same appeal as Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series. I was genuinely pleased for him, and in 2018, fully five years after the original review that had upset the author so much, I posted an article on my blog congratulating him on his success, adding an excerpt from a newspaper article about it.
So I was rather surprised to discover an email in my inbox just yesterday morning (in 2022, four years later) saying that he’d left a comment on the 2018 blog. I was particularly surprised, given that the entire collection of blog posts had been archived around two years ago and was technically invisible. (Answer: someone had typed his name into Google and the archived page had appeared. He says, “a reader”.) He wrote:
“Given it was… one of the bestselling books in the country at the time, etc., I think we can safely disregard your opinion.”
So there you are, my opinion counts for nothing, unlike his own. His standard response is that he’s sold over a million books, so his opinion matters and mine doesn’t. It’s a bit like saying that Boris Johnson is always right just because a lot of people voted for him in 2019.
As if that weren’t enough, he did this on Twitter:
There’s absolutely no need to block someone on Twitter: muting achieves the same result without being deliberately offensive. I certainly have no intention of being so petty, and I’m still easy enough to contact.
Now, it goes without saying that he’s entitled to say and do what he likes, subject to all the usual legal limits, and he’s most certainly entitled to his opinion. That’s not a problem at all. (How I’m supposed to make that clear is hard to fathom when he’s blocked me, mind you.)
However, because the author has snapped and failed to acknowledge that I’ve read more of his books – which must say something about my opinion of them – I’ve now revised my opinion. There is now no chance that I will ever read, give or recommend any of this author’s books in the foreseeable future. There are many other excellent Scottish authors whose books I haven’t got round to reading yet.
It’s highly unlikely that the author (or anyone else, probably!) will read this anytime soon, but if he does, I bet, like the guy(s) in Carly Simon’s song, he’ll think this blog is about him. Of course, he’ll say he won’t care, but if by some chance he does, it’ll no doubt be with some reference to the number of books he’s sold by comparison with me.
But there’s an important moral to all of this for all writers – probably the entire human race, to be honest.
Never, never sneer at your reader or treat them with disrespect.It’s entirely unnecessary, and is the sort of thing you end up regretting.
There’s one thing we can say for sure about the changing taste of different decades. We might do it differently but we still do it. Party, I’m talking about, you smutty people. We humans have always loved a celebration. And no matter what we’re celebrating, that will definitely include music, and if at all possible we can all ‘get down and get with it’.
Here are a few playlist recommendations, depending on your era of choice.
If you fancy partying like it’s the 1740s, check out these bad boys, guaranteed to get you in the party mood as New Year comes around:
(There are not enough harpsichord concertos if you ask me.)
I’ll admit this is not for everyone, especially if you’ve suffered under our oppressive yoke. Sorry about that. Blokes with a superiority complex, boats, flags and guns, what can you do? But it is a banging tune.