Category Archives: Debate

Why You Won’t Find Fifty Shades in ‘Dichotomy’

On April 11, publishing journalist Danuta Kean posted up an article ‘How to write a bestseller’ at which point I became involved in a conversation with her on twitter.  But, having read the article, and even though encouraged to do so, I didn’t comment there at the time as I hadn’t read any of the books she cited.  I felt some research was required.  The most obvious one to start with was the current publishing phenomenon (and controversy) that is E. L. James’s Fifty Shades Trilogy, the first of which is Fifty Shades of GreyContinue reading

Why I Stopped Reading on Page 15

This is refers to a specific novel and I am not going to name it.  Truth be told, by page 15 the actual prose element clocked in at about two thirds of those 15 pages.  I won’t name the novel as I don’t want to put people off trying out the author concerned, and the book.  But I do wish to bring my issue to the attention of British publishers delivering translated works into the UK market and, perhaps, encourage a debate amongst readers.

The book in question has a Nordic setting and is written by a Nordic author.  Though the English translation was not produced by an American, it is Americanised.  Words end in ‘–ize’, we have ‘ass’ not ‘arse’ and ‘pissed at’ over ‘pissed off with’.  As such, I felt I was reading a novel set in the US and not in a Nordic country.  Put simply, the book had lost its original setting.  I could have been in the Bronx.

I have form on this, noting a remarkable change when Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s third novel Ashes to Dust was published in the UK, with a new, third and American translator. I may have risked offending some American cousins at the time, but I felt the translator had lost important aspects of the author’s voice brought so clearly to the fore in Bernard Scudder’s translation of her first, Last Rituals.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


Please.  Indulge me for a moment.  I’d like to tell you a story.

A couple of years ago I met up with someone who’d been a school friend; someone I hadn’t seen in about thirty years. We spent the next hour and fifteen minutes at the end of the check-out in the M&S food hall having a catch up.  Within that conversation she said to me ‘I remember, you always had a book in your hands and I was always the gobby one.’

‘Always having a book’ is probably true of me and it started young.  It also started at home in my local library.

An earlier friend – a play mate from nursery days – was the grand-daughter of the Editor of the local newspaper.  We both read a lot.  We both had our own shelves and we were both big library users.  Now, I have to admit to being quietly competitive; I did not like the potential that she could read more than me.  So we both devoured from cover to cover, book after book.  And this would not have been possible without the wonderful stocks at our local library. 

The library was a place of enjoyment for this child, an ongoing source of books and stories.  The shelves seemed purpose-built for me as I browsed and picked.  It was a place of competition and ambition: moving onto the next age group as soon as possible (even better if the age was not yet achieved) and eventually graduating into the adult section (now we have arrived).  Library visits were a way of life, a continuous activity: we went to change our books, not simply to return them.  Growing up in a family where education was important, the provision of the library’s facilities was an essential factor in that and in growth.

Libraries also promote a sense of community.  Surely this is something that should be promoted for this (to me alien) concept of the ‘big society’?  My current local library runs some excellent author events at which I have seen the same faces, as well on my visits to the reference section.  And am I the only one to find the proposal that librarians can be made redundant with their roles taken oven by volunteers insulting and ludicrous?

Sadly, I couldn’t make it to my local library yesterday, the day of protest across the country.  But the message is clear and it’s not for one day only: use it or lose it.  So use your library and then use it more.  Encourage others to do the same and introduce newbies.

Libraries are an essential part of education. 

Monitor the campaign on twitter by following #savelibraries.

Courting controversy? Are serial killers now a cliché in crime fiction?

It's bothered me for a while.  And when those delightful people at HarperCollins asked me for a guest blog for their Killer Reads site I felt the need to pose the question.  Following a revamp of the site, said guest blog is now posted up.  What do you think?  Please add your comments there.  I'd love to know who feels the same as me and if not, why you disagree…

Book Posts Coming Up

I was pleased that I caught up with a couple of book blog posts earlier today.  Also, I hope to get these out, in order, before we break for the festive holidays:

  • The Frugal Life – Piper Terrett (non-crimefic book on watching your pennies in these times of austerity from an author who practises and does not preach)
  • Dead Tomorrow – Peter James (the proof copy could double up as a door stop, but when reading this thriller those pages go flickety flick, flick, flick and faster than the cars he likes to race)
  • City of Thieves – Cyrus Moore (City-based thriller that lifts the lid on insider trading and corruption)
  • Blacklands – Belinda Bauer (an engaging début coming in January 2010 written from the point of view of a boy seeking resolution for his family after a tragedy).

I also have some comments to come on the 2010 Book Club TV programme in the UK: that is the follow-on for the previously successful Richard & Judy incarnation.  I believe phase two may be both missing the point and missing a trick…

Finally, there will be a post on academics seeking your help in the world of crime fiction, especially in relation to WWII and the Nazis.  I know some of you are experts in this area, so please keep your eyes peeled for this post before we see in the new year.

Comments left on 09/12 are likely to see a delay in publication as I will not have access to the internet for the most of the 24hr period.  I'll catch you later in the week. Enjoy your reading!

Bloggers Must Disclose Payments for Reviews

From December 1,this rule from the Federal Trade Commission in the US applies.  The New York Times reports:

'…The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products…'


'…Penalties include up to $11,000 in fines per violation.'

In respect of the UK, this requires some further investigation, e.g. what if a UK-based blogger has received a book from a US publisher/PR company/author?

Any thoughts, folks?  Immediate reaction?

Update: You can see the FTC press release here (you may need to click on your IE compatabililty button to scroll down).  It includes the text:

'…The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims…'

GUEST BLOG: Why Crime Fiction Always Sells

Today, It's a Crime! welcomes Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of forensic scientist schools.  In the following article she considers why crime fiction always sells.  Over to Adrienne:

There are varying forms of crime fiction – some focus on the crime, others on the main characters; some are violent and gory, others do not refer to the crime other than in passing; some are series featuring recurring characters while others are standalone novels, each of which is complete in itself. Crime fiction is a genre that will always find readers; it has been selling from the time books began to be published and will be around even though other new genres come about. And the reasons why crime fiction sells are:

• The author is good: When you know and love an author, you don’t think twice about buying his or her books, even when you don’t know the storyline or the plot. You know you love the author’s style of writing and that’s all that matters. A good crime writer can hold readers’ attention and keep them coming back for more, even after a long break.
• There is a series: Some crime stories are written as a series, with one or more books being linked together in terms of characters and plot. This makes you want to know what happens next, and you end up waiting avidly for the next book in the series.
• People are attracted to crime: in a very strange and compelling way. They don’t want to be at the center of the crime or even related to it in any way, but they do have voyeuristic tendencies that make them crowd around crime scenes, read crime news in the paper, and of course, buy crime fiction. Also, a good whodunit is an entertainer for all seasons and makes for light reading at any time.
• Readers are curious: They love to find out how the crime is solved and how the criminal is brought to book by the protagonist. They are curious about the method used to solve the murder or rape, and this makes them continue to buy crime fiction even though they have never read the author before.
• Some people want the thrill: If you’ve ever read a good crime thriller, you’ll know what I mean when I say that you tend to feel a sort of anticlimax when you reach the end of the book. It’s like you build up to a crescendo during the closing pages, the ones that lead to the capture of the criminal. And once the end has come and the last page has been read, your adrenaline levels drop down drastically, leaving you wanting another fix. This makes people buy crime fiction books repeatedly.

Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions, including at her email address: adrienne DOT carlson83 AT yahoo DOT com.  Many thanks to Adrienne.

Time to Ditch the Subtitles?

In Monday's Guardian Robert McCrum wrote an article expressing the thought that nervous publishers ought to ditch book subtitles.  One example cited was John Carey's recent work on William Golding, subtitled The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies – just in case a prospective buyer didn't know who Golding was before shelling out up to £25 for said tome, surmised McCrum.

Do we like or hate subtitles, readers?  And why?

PR fails & how to lose customers

And while on the topic of Allison & Busby, Chiara Priorelli, Publicity Manager recently put up a blog post about PR disasters linking to this article on Top ten online PR fails.  It makes for an interesting list as some have had more publicity than others.  I was surprised to see Neal's Yard on there, but Ryanair takes the ginger nut as per usual.  I have never flown with Ryanair, but I have read a lot about them and their business philosophy.  (Think: sort of Neanderthal and pulling people forcibly by their hair, but charging per centimetre for the privilege, in this millennium.  I guess I just joined their ranks of "idiot bloggers" with that comment.)  Do read the list for some fun and learning.  As Chiara says "Why learn the hard way through your own mistakes, when you can skirt disaster by learning from other peoples‘ mistakes?"

Innovative ways to sell and market books.

Earlier today, a blog post appeared on The Bookseller's website about The Curzon Group's launch into 'red-eye' promotions at UK airports.  After Richard Jay Parker's launch party on Thursday evening of last week, he set out, along with fellow Curzon Group members Matt Lynn (author of The Bookseller article above) and Leigh Russell for a mid-day Friday and 05:30 Saturday start at two UK airports for a WHS book-signing.   Definitely innovative on their part and they signed and sold quite a few books.  They are now ready to pursue the supermarket route, showing they know where major sales are at.  Good for them!

StopMe 001 StopMe 004 Before I left Richard's launch party, he thrust something into my hand.  It was a beer mat, bad photos to the left.  If I remember correctly, he said he'd issued them at a recent beer festival.  Now that's what I call marketing.

So, any innovative ideas folks?  Based on settings or topics in the novels you've read recently?

For me, one that immediately sprang to mind was L C Tyler's Ten Little Herrings as it takes place immediately after a postage stamp conference in the Loire.  To Len and Malcolm Pryce and Jasper Fforde, who share a cover illustrator in Mark Thomas, I say "Get thee hence to a philately exhibition/sale asap, offering your novels as signed limited editions along with an exclusive set of stamps featuring the beautiful covers of Mark Thomas on your books."  If there's one within Swindon, Aberystwyth, London or the Loire (for real), you're laughing, so get organised now!  If there's not; well, try pushing or organising one of your own making.  But really, if you could add an exclusive and limited stamp collection to your 1st edition books, I think you would sell some and attract attention for the future, to be developed as desired.

Chris Ewan's 'The Good Thief's Guide to…' series has already taken in Amsterdam and Paris and will move to Las Vegas next, before embarking on Venice.  A traveller's dream?  Chris could hook up with travel industry guides and tour operators; and again, organise airport signings at peak times for travel to the destinations in his books.  Why not leave a set of flyers at Schipol?  (At the very least…)

On twitter, Ali Karim (@AliChemist) recently divulged that he has a palm-sized list of recommended books to give out when he goes to social gatherings.  His most recent was a wedding and I suggested he could slip it in to the order of service.  He replied that he wouldn't go that far.  But think about it, if you feel you have the right audience…  We've seen this on YouTube re weddings for example, (and I hope the couple has a long and lasting marriage).  Be innovative!

Over to you.  What innovative examples of marketing and selling books can you come up with?