John Locke=Simon Cowell

I spent an hour this morning reading John Locke’s “How I did” book. An hour was pretty much all it took to complete the book. Three minutes was all it took for me to decide that this guy nicely represents everything that’s wrong about the publishing industry (and to this man, industry is the keyword) in one self-satisfied, smug and number-crunching little package.

For those that don’t know of Mr L, he sold one million ebooks in five months. Ask him, he’ll tell you. He responds to any and every email dontcha know? He also loves and values each one of them. He should, he spent hundred of hours seeking them out and convincing them to buy his books with some excellent marketing and promo sneakery.

Whilst there are some good tips inside the books pages (many of which you’ll be able to find online for yourself), Mr L spends most of his time telling us about formulas, and strategies for writing. He (like the seasoned gambler) has, he believes, developed his “sure system” for successfully selling thousands of books. Mr L spends hours constructing the perfect blog, containing all the right emotions, themes and keywords to bring you to his book. Very clever (and effective too it seems) but whatever happened to writing because you just had to? Writing because there was something inside that needed to come out?

Not Mr L’s style. Rather, he targets people, deciding what type of beings they are, what they like, eat, dress in, watch at the cinema, and writes specifically for the most common denominator. He seeks out or manufactures the common ground between he and them, between his novels and them. He “gives people what they want” constructing scenes and character traits from a checklist of likes and attributes of what he believes people need or want in a book.

Mr L does not write from the heart. He has no great story to share or demons to exorcise with his work. He doesn’ t even really seem to seek to entertain people, just keep them coming back for what he’s calculated that they want from a book. Safe, predictable and familiar characters, written for a bottom line rather than for his audience’s pleasure. To be fair, it seems to work for him, if you measure success the way that Mr L seems to. In Numbers. In Sales. In volume of books, rather than quality.

Like the man himself Mr Simon Cowell, Mr L pores over data, figures, reviews, feedback and focus groups, assessing, will this strike the right note? Will my targets buy into this? Is it close enough to my “formula” so as to not alienate my core readers? Mr L refers to his books as employees, little soldiers lined up working day and night for him. Simon Cowell, with his endless stream of fame-hungry media-fodder would be proud and envious.

It’s sad to see, especially now at what may just be the beginning of a new era for Indie-Authors, a man like Mr Locke reducing the potential for good, passionate writers to make their mark by pishing in the literary waters with this data-driven soulless approach to writing. The man is a shrewd and calculating businessman first, a profiteer second, and a mildly entertaining writer (who seems to hate writing) third.

The mainstream music we listen to is written, manufactured and promoted by businessmen who care nothing for the art or the artists that they use up so readily and cast aside; onto the next. Music that the masses consume, written to a “formula” and a budget, with little or no input from anyone who cares what it sounds like, conveys or evokes in the listener. They shit it out and laugh as we scoff it down and fill their coffers, marvelling at their own skill in deducing exactly what we want.

Authors have a chance, right now, to break the traditional stranglehold and power that the big publishers and literary agents have over our original ideas, creativeness and yes, earnings. We have the opportunity to produce our very finest work and present it the way that we believe it should be, not diluted down and gelded by a committee of suits, who “know” what the public want.

In my view, books should never be written in this kind of formulaic and targeted way, but delivered from the authors’ imagination and heart onto the page. Polished and packaged up and yes marketed and promoted, but never designed to appeal to this demographic or that emotion. It is a business, writing and selling books, but its a privilege as well.

I hope that John Locke’s breed don’t do to the book industry what the suits in power in the music industry have done. Time will tell.

Keeping the Words Flowing

I’m Mark Wilson. Bobby’s Boy is my debut novel.

It’s been an interesting process, writing my first book, but a fantastic one as well. I began writing the novel as a short story titled “The Rusted Key” in October 2011. The story was based around a simple concept, inspired by a graphic novel called “Stray Bullets by David Lapham (I won’t divulge the concept here as it would act as a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t read the book). The short story grew so I started calling it a Novella and kept writing. The Novella began to gain momentum and slowly became my first novel. I made little progress over the next few months, finding myself short of time, and even shorter of discipline. Then January came.

January 2012 was a turnaround month for the novel. I decided at the start of the month, under the advice of Mark O’Donnell (my best friend) and Jack White (via an interview he did on keeping creativity flowing), to dedicate at least an hour every day to writing the novel. At the end of Janaury I renamed the book “Bobby’s Boy” as the previous name just didn’t work anymore.

1000 words a day was my target. According to Mr White, you’ve got to work your creative muscles like any other and use them every day. To an ex-gym addict it struck the right note. Some days it’ll be shite that you write (like that wee bit of poetry I slipped in there), others you’ll produce work that’ll make you wonder where the hell it came from when you re-read. I take the rough with the smooth. The important thing is to keep the story moving continuously and to not “wait for the rays of the sun to shine on your keyboard, ‘cos you’ll rust your ideas”.

Some-days I managed more words than I’d  targeted, a lot more, but I never fell below at least 1000 words a day. My new “working ethos” helped me jump from 22.500 words on January 7th, to 75000 words in the completed novel on February 14th.  I’m not saying that these words were all brilliant, some most definitely were not, but they did moving the story on, and were re-written on another day. Not bad for having a full-time job teaching high school kids and my three year old son (my top priority) to keep me busy also.

Invariably I would sit each session with a destination in mind for where the story would go, but no idea what words would come to get my main character where he was going. It was fun to discover the story s it came onto the page.

The discipline worked and the ideas and words just keep flowing. I truly didn’t have the time to make use of all the ideas my brain was bringing to the surface. Some were utter bollocks, some were quite good. I note everything down, every idea and quirk of thought in the hope of finding a few hours sometime to explore them. Perhaps one day I’ll reach my goal of writing full-time.

Tom Kinsella, my Novel’s main character, has had one hell of a ride through the book, travelling extensively through Europe and North America in the company of two rock acts and had some crazy experiences. In the process he confronted some truths about his family and himself that he was unprepared for, but survived to build a new life.

I’ve re-visited some really dark experiences during the writing of this novel and in the construction of Tom’s character and story. Some of these I’d forgotten about for decades. Other memories have resurfaced that I’ve enjoyed remembering for the first time in many years.  I had fantastic fun writing my first novel, and resent deeply the gap I have to enforce to market and Promo the book. I just want to start my next project, but books don’t get themselves noticed.

I’m looking forward to seeing the final edit of the book completed in the next two weeks and to putting Tom out into the world to be interacted with or ignored, what-ever the fates may bring. I’ll be sad to leave him and will miss writing about this cool, lucky, happy, tragic and a little damaged wee guy every day. Still, onto the next one, with gusto.

Orignally written as a guest blog for http://www.kindlepromo.com

That Difficult First Novel?

The cover for Bobby's Boy, Mark Wilson's debut novel

Um… not really, no. It’s been smooth sailing so far, well the writing part anyway, the promo and marketing and formatting and designing? Well that’s another matter.

I finished my debut novel on March 14th-ish and figured that was it. Get it on Amazon, wait for everyone to appreciate my witty prose and tear-jerking scenes and watch the readers grow. Yes, naive would be exactly the correct word to use.

I passed the novel to my editor confident that I’d given her a more or less complete and perfect manuscript. I was sure that there’d be many a spelling and grammatical error (I’m dyslexic after all), but was equally sure that everything else was in order. Ha, not so. I’ve had so many changes to make and sections to rewrite and clarify that its felt at times that I’ve rewritten the whole book. I do not resent a single change as each one is slowly polishing the jobbie of my story into a sparkling-clean and error-free debut novel. Each change is making the novel read better and rather than resent the changes, I’ve come to welcome them with gratitude.

I’m around a week or so from publishing at the moment and have spent my time since the March “completion” of the book wisely. I’ve learned all I can about the marketplace that I’m about to enter, about promoting the book, about social networks, blogging, networking, Createspace, LuLu, formatting, cover design…..The list seems endless and exhausting. All amazing fun though.

I made a collection of short stories and published a little 100 page book titled “Paddy’s Daddy” and released it for free, then at a very reasonable 77p on Amazon and was rewarded with around 400 people picking it up and 8 positive reviews. I released the short book as a taster for the novel and as a kind of extended Biography. I want people to know and be able to connect with me as a writer. People read and buy other people.

UK:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paddys-Daddy-ebook/dp/B007ODTM3M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333301957&sr=8-1

US: http://www.amazon.com/Paddys-Daddy-ebook/dp/B007ODTM3M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333302013&sr=1-1

I answer every email and Facebook post, every tweet and enquiry. It’s a pleasure to recieve the interest. I’ve done a guest blog on the intial writing of the book for an excellent and supportive site set up to promote Indie Authors which you can find below and I’ll post up as a separate blog:

http://kindlepromo.com/writing-book/#more-148

I’ll write a blog later in the month abbout what I’ve learned and found useful in the build up to releasing the book.

It’s very much like having another full-time job or a business to run, but one which you think about every waking (and some sleeping) hour, and one which you take great pleasure from every little success.