Wednesday, 4 May 2011

An appeal - and an afterthought on Bin Laden

For a long time, I thought it was unbelievably difficult to write a novel. But now I’ve written three, it seems to me that it takes a lot of time and some persistence, but it’s not that hard. I don’t say it’s easy to write a good novel, and certainly one of my three needs such heavy rewriting that it may never be worth tackling at all, while the jury’s still out on the other two. But just getting the words on the page is less hard than I thought.

Much more difficult, it seemed to me, was getting a novel published and then winning some sales. But what I hadn’t thought about was just how difficult it was even to get a publisher’s attention. It’s like that moment in Sartre’s Roads to Freedom when French prisoners of war clamour for the bread the German guards throw them, and fight each other for it. The admirable character, the one we’d doubtless all hope to emulate, is the one who refuses to join the scramble.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I like the idea of going that hungry.

So it is with the 4000 or so of us who’ve put novels up on the ‘Authonomy’ website. You have to get your book to climb up to the top 5. Harper Collins have promised to review (not, I stress to publish) only that number. Like Sartre’s prisoners of war, we’re all therefore clamouring for notice. To be honest, to push the analogy a bit further, fighting for bread might not be enough – we’d have to borrow a guard’s machine gun and mow down our fellow captives.

Within Authonomy, each of us chooses up to five titles that we can ‘back’ by placing them on our virtual ‘bookshelves’. The more bookshelves a book appears on and the longer it stays on them, the further it climbs. There’s a lot of bartering – ‘I’ll put you on mine if you put me on yours’. I’m trying to be a bit more like the Sartre character, and only put a book on my bookshelf if I think it’s worth reading, though I have to confess that one of my two is there because I mistook ‘back’ (the book) for ‘back’ (to the previous page). It’s still there (for now) because I didn’t have the heart to remove it though I don’t really like it.

I’m taking my time over my other three choices, reading passages here and there until I find titles I think deserve support.

Would get by better with a little help from my friends
Meanwhile, what of my own Good Company? It may be a drawback that I chose to give it the form of letters (OK, I’ve called them ‘e-mails’ to be more contemporary, but it’s basically the same thing). I chose that form because I write letters with some fluency and ease. Unfortunately, that kind of epistolary novel was popular in the eighteenth century but may not be so appropriate to the twenty-first. The kindest comment I’ve had on Authonomy was from someone who said she’d love to receive letters like mine, though it may be significant that she didn’t actually back the book.

So far, Good Company has done reasonably well, climibing the rankings in just over a month from 4179 to 946. It’s great to be in the top 1000, but that does leave the small matter of 941 further places to climb. It feels to me as though the book needs a bit more support.

So do I get down in the mud and claw at my fellow prisoners with the rest of them? I’d prefer to find a compromise which avoids swallowing quite that much pride. A sensible compromise might be to turn to friends for help. And aren’t the readers of this blog my friends?

So this is my appeal to any of you who can spare the time, to:
  • Logon to
  • Register (you don’t have to use your real name)
  • Navigate through to “David Beeson” 
  • Read as much or as little of Good Company as you want
  • Back it, please, if you think it deserves a review by Harper Collins.
And to those who find the time to do that – why, many thanks.

Unrelated postscript

Back here in Britain, The Sun, a so-called newspaper belonging to that noted philanthropist Rupert Murdoch, carries a headline today:
  Bin Laden unarmed – just like his 9/11 and 7/7 victims
Let’s get this straight, I think the world’s a better place for no longer containing Bin Laden and I applaud the US operation that rid us of him. On the other hand, I feel less good about the enthusiastic celebrations the event triggered – death may be a cause for relief, when it’s that of a truly heinous criminal, but joy always seems inappropriate.
As for The Sun’s headline, it implies that the behaviour of terrorists should be a benchmark for us all.
Am I alone in feeling that this sets the bar just a tad low?


Malc Dow said...

Just a comment on the last words...

(the book stuff is interesting... more about that later...)

I cannot but think 9/11 was insurance job, and for some strange reason I can' help thing Bin Laden is another one.

Anonymous said...

I was unable to register; after 3 attempts, the system failing to recognise my particulars, I gave up. I would of course have given it the nod, on the assumption that you reworked it.
Re: the Bin, yes, whether his death would damage Al-Q or not is beside the point, but knowing the fellow is now dead, is a great comfort. I was irked by the clearly invented headlines about the man using his wife as a shield, as if the man needed more infamy to make him truly despicable.
Good luck with authonomy.

Irishdoctor said...

Maybe if the cover of your book didn't look like a carcrash you might have more readers..

David Beeson said...

If you read the book, you might know why the cover looks like a car crash...