Tuesday, 22 June 2010

K is for Keeping it Together - Guest Post by author Neil Ayres

Sam has kindly and rather wonderfully let me take up some valuable space on her blog, ostensibly to do a guest post, but in reality to pimp my new book, which is for the present time actually unavailable as a hard copy. It’s a part of an iPhone app, see, which has lots of other stuff on it, all appropriately enough related to the book. There’s the wonderful cover photography by Nicole Heiniger, the fab illustrations by Johanna Basford, a bespoke music track by Rich Watson and a brilliant, overlooked novelette by Miguel Cervantes (he’s the guy what wrote Don Quixote). All this content has been corralled into order by all-round clever chap Russell Quinn.

But I did promise a guest post, and I know Sam has been working intermittently on her alphabet of publishing. It appears we’re on K. Sam was going to go with Kill Your Darlings, but I’m much too weak for that, and prefer to let them stumble around in the limbos of unfinished stories. More appropriate for me is…

Keeping it together

As with many authors, writing is not my day-job. I have a family to feed and a house to keep out of the hands of the re-possessors. The New Goodbye, the novel included in the app of the same name, took me a good few years to write, in and around working full-time in magazine publishing, getting married and becoming a father and running an online zine. Although not calling for a similar amount of intellectual application or soul-searching, producing the app has been as time consuming, and required managing the various strands that comprise the app. And if anything following its release a couple of weeks ago, the demands are even greater. There’s chasing up publicity, trying to arrange a deal with a mutually beneficial book retailer (fingers crossed that one will come off) and producing a music video that will be included in an update of the app next month.

In and around all this, and writing guest blogposts and the like, my own blog, I’ve somewhat neglected my own blog, which I share with Aliya Whiteley, and the project blog set up to promote the app. Needless to say, as for any ‘real’ writing, I’ve managed very little.

In addition to the marketing budgets assigned to her book, a commercially successful writer like Sam will be in the fortunate position of having a publicity team to work on her profile and secure coverage for her in the national and trade press. Lower down the pecking order though, new and mid-list authors are expected to do most of this work themselves. In addition to writing good, commercially viable novels they have to in some way try and maintain a media profile. Most often the way to do this is by social media, and few are lucky enough to have even a handful of media contacts to help them along their way. Even with these contacts, such as I’m in the fortunate position to have, actually getting coverage for a book is by no means a given, and without an interesting angle to a story, untested authors are going to lose out to established names or the current crop of zeitgeist-riding writers. It’s just not enough to have a good book out.

This isn’t necessarily fair, it’s just the way the media, and the trades that rely on them, work. Publishing success is often more about public word of mouth than media coverage, which is often soothing to an artist’s ego but doesn’t necessarily put readers in front of their work or cash in pockets. Having a huge author with a news story very much of the moment won’t necessarily translate into sales. Like my own novel, Hilary Mantel’s ManBooker prize-winner Wolf Hall has recently been released as an iPhone app. The difference is, people are downloading my app but not hers. To me, the reasons are obvious. I have an iPhone-friendly short novel with a batch of interesting, complementary multimedia features created from other artist’s interpretations of my themes. And, perhaps more importantly, it’s the type of book of relevance and interest to the iPhone-owning demographic of young professionals and parents. Oh, and it comes as a free sampler with the full all-singing and dancing edition costing just £1.79.

Mantel’s book is about five times longer than my own, not exactly conducive to a pleasant reading experience on the small iPhone screen. And, forgive me for generalising, but its core readership is likely to be comprised of middle-aged traditionalists unlikely to be keen to surrender their printed books for de rigeur technology.

It’s early days for The New Goodbye. My hope is that the bookshop deal I’m trying to put together comes off and that eventually a publisher picks the book up for print publication. But for now I’m just happy that people are downloading the app and getting to see the great, collaborative work that has been involved in putting it together.

Related links

Download the app here: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/the-new-goodbye/id372159294?mt=8

Official blog: http://thenewgoodbye.blogspot.com

Neil’s blog: http://veggiebox.blogspot.com

Developer: http://russellquinn.com

Illustrator: http://johannabasford.com

Music: http://www.myspace.com/richwatsonthe147s

Photographer: http://nicoleheiniger.com

Documentarian: http://iampingpong.com

Film-makers: http://thisisorder.com


Sam Hayes said...

Thanks for the great post, Neil, and adding to my rather neglected A-Z series! Your project sounds fab and I love the screen shots. Beautiful! Hope the words spreads...just off to tweet it!

Sam x

Aliya Whiteley said...

Great article.

Rehman said...

You've done a great job. Thank you.