Friday, 1 July 2011
When is an author not an author?
On Authors and Societies.
Like Mr. Acland (author of Friday’s article, ‘When is a writer not a writer?’) I have found myself not rejected but ignored the Society of Authors and, last week, the Author Magazine, and am aware of the automatic omission of 'self-published' authors from admission to literary competitions (for what seem to be obvious reasons).
Having set up my own micro-publishing company, Raven’s Quill Ltd., (taking inspiration from the micro-breweries of California) to publish my own fiction, children's and adult, I published my first book at the end of Oct. 2008 and my second at the of end Oct. 2010.
Here's what I've managed so far:
• My first book has sold 7,000 in hardback at £15 and second 1,300 at £10.
• Both books are in Gardner’s and Bertram’s wholesalers.
• Raven's Quill is a member of both the PA and IPG.
• Company is in receipt of UKTI grants to exhibit at international books fairs and have done so at the LBF, Frankfurt and Bologna.
• Translation rights sold to S. Korea and Israel for first book.
• Big Apple, Amo, and Ilustrata agencies represent in their language zones.
• I am lucky to enjoy a great relationship with the Waterstone's chain (Central children's buyer: "Those are really phenomenal sales") at which I promote my own books quite effectively at signings, averaging 30+ on weekdays and 40+ on Saturdays (It took 2 days to sign up 31 branches from Exeter to Ipswich for my summer tour).
• Both books, as e-books, are now on Amazon Kindle's 'Summer Reads' promotion as of today (Friday) till 31st Aug. (each priced at £1.49)
• 'Curd the Lion' was made a Book of Year for the Lovereading4kids website, at the end 2009 (review, see below)
• 'The Flight of Birds' featured on its sister website, Lovereading, placed at the top of 'Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi' in Dec. 2010.
• Curd was reviewed by The Northern Echo, The Yorkshire Post, The Oxford Mail and by Reading Time (journal of Children's Book Council of Australia).
• 'Curd' has had two brushes with Hollywood so far and HiT Entertainment wrote of it: "We really enjoyed the inventive witty narrative and surreal humour in the book. We can see that Curd the Lion might work very well as a family feature film." Tfou (TF1 France) wrote similar assessment.
• Children’s author Katherine Langrish wrote: "I agree this is a really unusual book - with brilliant illustrations, too. Think Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, lots of wordplay and paradoxical fun, and you'll be there. Not for every child, perhaps, but any budding chess players or crossword puzzle fiends will have a whale of a time. It demands something of the reader, and that's not a bad thing at all."
• BookWitch Blog wrote nice review of 'Curd" in March: http://bookwitch.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/curd-the-lion-and-friends/
• Lovereading4 kids review. "Reminiscent of the writing of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, this brilliant debut children's novel is completely unputdownable as well as being almost uncategorisable. The author has succeeded in delivering on a book that incorporates a terrifically funny yet mysterious story, full of larger-than-life highly improbable characters that I couldn't begin to do justice to by describing them here, other than to say they are wild and wacky and completely original. He's also delivered a story that is full of tongue-in-cheek humour and skilful wordplay. It's 174 pages of pure unadulterated pleasure and deserves to be huge. This book will be loved by anyone from 7 to 107."
• Mike Shatzkin - e-book guru and organizer of last week's 'Publishers' Launch' conference attended by the cream of British publishing - kindly invited me for an hour's conversation at his hotel last week after that conference. Previously he had written: "Alan, what a great story! I'm glad you didn't ask me before you undertook to do this because I would have told you it was nigh on impossible! But, having achieved this much, I think your Korea sale is just the first of many you'll make around the world. You should find a literary agent to sell rights for you in the US, Canada, and Australia right away." [A few weeks before the Israeli offer]
[The activities in which I have been engaged look remarkably like those of a traditional publisher with the exception that one person performs most of them. You can judge for yourselves whether this constitutes any kind of validation of legitimacy as an author.]
Neither of the Society of Authors nor the Author Magazine has responded, even to acknowledge my applications, despite being sent polite reminders. [I am not aware that I have been in any way discourteous to them.]
I am merely arguing here for more flexible criteria used by the AS in assessment, as more and more authors, whether published previously or not, are turning to self-publishing (mainly as e-books) with a variety of different motives: to keep their back list alive; to gain more control of the forms in which they are published; to prove (or not) the viability of their new work in the real marketplace, in some cases to attract the attention of traditional agents or publishers, in others to see if they can earn more this way than traditionally-published authors.
Authors choosing this route are not in general decrying the value of the services provided by traditional publishers (editing in all its forms, marketing and promotion) except where these are seen to be failing due those publishers’ concentration on certain sections (celebrity) at the expense of others.
I am asking that the criteria of acceptance should not merely be based on whether an author is being or has been published by an established publisher but should be widened to take cognizance of actual real world achievement, where this exists, by authors who fall outside this simple categorization.
To use my own example: I set up a company to publish my work. I have written under two names. Now had I set up the company (as I was originally tempted to do) under a pseudonym or friend’s name (i.e. Son-in-law), that company would have been seen to be publishing two authors each of whom was gaining solid, if not thrilling, sales. Thus those authors could quite validly apply for membership of the Society of Authors and be entered for literary competitions by the startup company under whose aegis they wrote. My guess is they would almost certainly be accepted into that society because their publishing company was seen to be publishing authors (other than themselves).
I do wonder at the apparent rigidity and question the validity of the criteria the Society of Authors imposes for acceptance as an author in this time of flux and radical innovation impinging rapidly upon the accepted mores of the publishing world of the last century.
'The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion (and us!) in the Land at the Back of Beyond' - Alan Gilliland, author / illustrator. 80 illus. 160pp. h/b. £14.99. ISBN 9780955548611 (e-book -42) A nonsense quest story for children.
'The Flight of Birds' - Alan Howard. 400pp. p/b with French flaps. £9.99. ISBN 9780955548628 (e-b. -66) An adult - Y/A gothic ghost tale.
I otherwise illustrate exclusively non-fiction for publishers – including the Penguin Group, Osprey, Windmill (ex-BRG), Ivy, Aurum and others – and architects including John McAslan & Partners. Former graphics editor of the Daily Telegraph (18 years – 21 national / international awards).