Friday, 25 June 2010

The Future of Book Promotion?

What do you think of this as an idea for selling your book?

Which flavour would yours be?

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Holiday Moan

Back from the wilds, all rested and spaced out. But never one to pass up the chance to moan, here is my

Five Reasons to Hate Holidays

1 You become the prey of a multitude of carniverous beasts. OK, that's a bit melodramatic, especially when the worst of them is only a few milimetres long, but it's no fun finding a sheep tick attached to you, not to mention the million and a half I plucked from Theo's fur during the course of a week. Then there's the midges. Don't get me started on them.

How people do African safaris is beyond me.

2 The food isn't home cooked. It's a personal sacrifice but I draw the line at carting my apron and recipe book along with me, so the only alternative is take-aways and supermarket ready meals. There's eating out of course, and I continue to buy lottery tickets in anticipation of that happy day, but Dame Fortune so far has proved an elusive mistress. Yes, I know I could go all Zen and detox at the same time, but it's hardly fun, is it? And besides the males in my party would have several coronaries if I even suggested it. After a week of eating rubbish my colon is now fit for nothing and my system so sluggish it's all I can do to get out of a chair.

3 The beds are never as comfortable. In days long past I may have been content to put my back out on a rubberised hammock with all the softness of a medieval rack, but these days I like my home comforts. The mattress is never as soft/hard/wide/narrow and the duvet is never as soft/warm/cool/long as I like it. To overcome this I am forced to down several quarts of alcohol per night to guarantee a decent night's rest.

4 The accommodation is different from home. Well, of course it is, I hear you cry. But the downside of this is getting to know my way around. By the time I've figured out where the cutlery, tv remote control and loo paper are kept it's just about time to pack up and come home. I only realised the windows opened on the morning we left!

5 It takes so long to get there and back. Forget all those endearing travelogues with Michael Palin and Stephen Fry, driving anywhere for five hours in a car full of bags, dogs and significant others is a serious Pain In The Arse. There are no rosy sunsets, no colourful natives, only road works, motorways and - joy of joys - service stations. I'm convinced if there is a hell it is a service station where you never have enough change for the cappacino machine and there's a queue at the toilet. The trip home is always the worst. At least at the beginning of a holiday you have the excitement and novelty of going somewhere different. By the end you are so tired and fed up you just want to be beamed down a la Star Trek and have little patience for the helpful little notices on the motorway messageboards.

Still, moaning aside, I did manage to have a nice relaxing time - the quarts of alcohol certainly helped - and here's some photos to prove it.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

High Concept

Yikes - time getting away from me again. But I've had my head in about three books and trying to get to grips with Movie Magic Screenwriter which I installed a long time ago and hardly looked at so now I'm trying to figure it out.
This week I've made a start on the Romcom. I'm going to write it in some scenes first as a way of finding the characters. I find that's the way I get them, through their dialogue and interaction with others. The great thing about scenes is you don't have to worry about description and too much detail so it's quick and easy to write.
The Contour outline is done so I know where the story is going, I just have to figure out the individual scenes and finer points of the plot.

I've been tormenting myself with another writing book - The Screenwriting Formula by Rob Tobin which has some fascinating insights on High Concept stories. High Concept has always been de rigeur in Hollywood but only recently in these cash strapped and cautious times has it been echoing down the channels of publishing. So what is it? Basically it means a story that is instantly identifiable as original, broadly appealing to a wide audience, and easily summed up in a sentence or two. Well, the first two are hardly surprising but why the catchy hook? It seems people are getting shorter attention spans these days and so the shorter your pitch the better your chance of selling your script.

Well, this will be my last post for over a week as I'm off to (hopefully) sunny Loch Ness on Saturday. I'll try and get a picture of the monster for next time...

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Agents - What Are They For?

Don't worry, this isn't one of those patronising articles that assumes you don't have the mental power to find out for yourself. But I have noticed as I trawl around the online writing community that there are some misguided assumptions about agents so here's my take for what it's worth.

The received wisdom is you need an agent to get your book published. Well, considering all the major publishers refuse to look at unsolicited submissions there is some truth in this. An agent has the knowledge of the industry to know which publishers are looking for what. He also has a good grasp of contracts and can guide you and negotiate on your behalf when it comes to signing on the dotted line. If you're a really hot property he'll get several publishers interested so they have to bid for your product, a good way to get a huge advance. He's the go-between, smoothing things out if you have problems with your editor. And he should be the first person you talk to about any career plans or queries.

What an agent isn't is a writing coach. I know many agents have been editors and have considerable editorial skills. But it is not their remit to tell you how to write. That's your job, and if you can't do it you have no need for an agent.

With this thought in mind I was surprised to see a major agency offering critiques in a charity auction recently. Seems a bit odd. Charity auctions are usually for people donating their expertise while the recipient pays the money to charity, eg hairdressers give hair cuts, rock stars give concerts etc. But critiques are not what agents do. OK, they have to read a lot of stuff and evaluate it, but that's not the same as a critique. If this agency wanted to donate their skills to charity they should be offering their expertise in contract negotiation, not creative writing.

So what's wrong with this anyway? Surely if it's for charity it doesn't really matter? Well, yes it does. What it does is exploit the vast pool of unpublished authors who will go to any lengths to get their work into an agent's hands thinking it's the golden ticket to a publishing contract. And that's another misconception. This game isn't about getting an agent, it's about writing a great book publishers love. Once you can write books like that agents will be hammering on your door to represent you. You need to work on your writing, come up with an original story idea and execute it well, learn all you can to improve. Throwing cash at an agent, even if it's for charity, will not help you do any of those things.