Wednesday, 3 April 2013

‘Sir, may I see your artistic licence?’ – Nick Green


           Our usual blogger for the 3rd, Sheridan Winn, is not feeling well - so we've added another guest post, and were lucky enough to find Nick Green in...

The Storm Bottle by Nick Green
           I’m generally a good driver. Meaning, I try always to remember that I’m inside a fast-moving tonne of steel, possibly the most efficient accidental murder weapon ever designed. So if I happen to get stuck behind someone who maybe isn’t going as briskly as they could be, I hang back and tell myself that they might be old, or a newly-qualified driver, and I only overtake if it’s safe. I’m good that way.
          BUT…
          If you’re that guy who drives right up behind me when I’m in the fast lane and already at the speed limit, and flash your lights to command my immediate removal from the path of your precious Audi, then I’m afraid you’ll unleash my inner maniac. Trust me my friend, you will sweat blood before I let you past.
          Because this is what driving tests are for. I must say, I struggled with the whole car thing, probably a shortage of testosterone in the womb, blame my mum’s crash diets, but I took meticulous note of everything my instructor told me (except for his claim about cannabis not affecting your driving), and after I did pass my test on the second try, I continued to drive pretty much by the book, two-second-rule and all. The only exceptions occur when some Alpha Male has a problem with this (see above).
         So anyway, there I am on the M6 Toll, when –

          [What’s that, Sue? About books? Wait… The Authors Electric blog? Top Gear is next week…?]
        [Frantic shuffling of papers]
       [Long pause to think of a way to link this topic to e-publishing]

         Like I said, we all have to pass our driving tests in order to use Britain’s roads. And this is a bit like [creak] the way an author traditionally has to – no, I don’t hear a creaking sound, shut up – get the go-ahead first from an agent and then from a publishing house, before heading out onto the highways of commercial fiction (there! done it), destination: Reading. Okay, that’s enough.
Nick Green

         That’s how it’s been for many years. Then something happened. Ebooks, Smashwords and Amazon KDP. Suddenly, anyone moderately computer-literate could publish a book without stirring from their sofa. There need be no more humble submission letters, no more parcelling up of the synopsis and three chapters (the photocopier! The envelopes! The stamps! Oh God, the stamps), no more waiting one month, two months, three, no more walking-on-eggshells gentle reminder letters (‘I know you would probably have told me by now if you were planning a multi-million pound franchise based on my book, but just in case you forgot to get in touch…’), no more crushingly brief and unspecific rejection letters, no more pulverisingly specific rejection letters, no more grinding through the whole Sisyphean cycle yet again, no more despair. You can be published. Just power up your laptop. Utopia is here.
          There’s a funny thing about Utopias.
          Imagine David Cameron saying: ‘From tomorrow, no-one needs a driving licence.’ That’s a wonderful thought, but not if the result isn’t Cameron being straitjacketed off to a quiet but secure retreat on the Isle of Man. No, imagine that they actually pass that legislation. Oh, and they’re also scrapping insurance and road tax, and all driving offences, and the age limit, and wow! They’re giving out free cars as well. I’m sure plenty of frustrated learner drivers would vote for that… for about five seconds. Until they make it out of the driveway onto the road.
          It’d be bad enough for those impatient kids who just longed for a car. But what if you’re someone who spent time, money and a tonne of stress actually learning to drive? Well I’m sorry, but you’re royally stuffed as well. And since the metaphor is creaking again, I’ll spit it out: publishing your own ebooks isn’t the short cut we hoped it might be.
          Really, little has changed. Only that, instead of fighting to escape the slush pile on the publisher’s desk, you’re in the thick of a slush pile that’s skidding out into the world. Out here it’s arguably worse for the old-school writers, the ones who bothered to learn a few manoeuvres and where to put, commas, because at least on the editor’s desk it’s only book versus book – it’s about the content.
Cat Kin, Book 1, Nick Green
         But not out there. Out there you’re up against people whose actual writing might be all over the road, but who have nitro-injected marketing savvy that can leave yours in the dust. All that time you spent alone in your room, honing your craft, why! – they were out there making friends, forging networks, raising their profile. Most serious writers can’t compete with that, given that by definition we’d rather be curled up at home with a book.
          Now it’s up to readers to sift through the morass of self-published ebooks, and many must be at a loss to know what to choose. If you aren’t already familiar with an author through their traditionally published fiction, then how are you ever going to spot the occasional diamond amid all that broken glass?
         History shows us that things like this have a way of sorting themselves out in the long term. In the end, readers will decide what they do and don’t want, as they always have. But in the meantime, drive carefully out there. And if you do happen to spot my Ford Focus on a merry jaunt up the M6… please be nice.

          Nick is the author of the acclaimed (and self-published) Storm Bottle and the Cat Kin trilogy.

9 comments:

Lee said...

Welcome to the fray, Nick!

(As to sorting itself out, I'm rather less sanguine than you, but I would be, wouldn't I?)

julia jones said...

What a lovely funny article - thanks Nick. Every considered a career as a preacher? Such a gift to haul the metaphor round to whatever your purposes with only the smallest of creaks. Enjoyed it a lot.

Dennis Hamley said...

This is lovely, Nick. Thanks. A sane look at the new world. Oh, how I remember the stamps. And I promise my little Mazda 2 will never, never upset your Focus.

Reb MacRath said...

It's always nice to start the day with an ear-to-ear grin...at the same time I discover a terrific new voice. Thanks, Nick.

Jan Needle said...

good on yer nick. fine piece.

madwippitt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madwippitt said...

Fun post! Car driving tip: Be (or dress as) a woman and get behind the wheel of a Volvo. Then watch everyone else rush to get out of your way. Especially when reversing ... The only way I can think of tying this in to e-books though is that this image is a scurrilous typecasting myth: some female Volvo drivers can not only drive well, but write good books ... (Although lay Jeremy Clarkson in the road in front of me and watch how fast I can accidentally go back and forth over him)

Chris Longmuir said...

This put a smile on my face. Now where did I put that diamond?

Bill Kirton said...

Great stuff, Nick. As homer Simpson might put it - 'You're thinking exactly what I'm saying'.