Monday, 23 September 2013

How to become a best-seller without selling your soul*

I have come up with a thoroughly naive and counter-intuitive three-point plan to sell novels and live off the proceeds without having to sell your soul or spend any serious money to do it. There is of course a catch.

  1. Write and self-publish a novel in one year. Doesn’t really matter all that much how good it is.
  2. Don’t promote it beyond the odd blog post and sending it to your family and friends for Christmas.
  3. Repeat.
That’s pretty much it. 

But there is a catch. You have to be prepared to do this for 20 years. Oh, and you have to be able to learn from your mistakes. But that really is it.

I have no evidence that this works, mind you, as I’m just on year two, ahem, but here’s why I’m sticking to the programme:

To be good at anything takes practice. So, it figures that your first novel (or two) is going to suck, therefore you really don’t want to promote the hell out of it because you are just advertising your inadequacies. But, you shouldn’t allow being wet behind the ears stop you from allowing the world to see your faults. You can only dry the backs of your ears by getting them wet in the first place. Or something. And you never know, maybe you have written a masterpiece, so it would be a shame to keep it in the sock drawer. But more likely the writing’s not quite there yet, or there’s no market for what you’ve written. Or your cover is just repulsive. So you try something different for the next novel. 

But the thing is, there is a next novel. You keep writing and you keep publishing and you keep improving. Also, you keep everything under your own name.

Plenty of folk will say you should go for an agent or a proper publisher or that you should not sell
your stuff until its been expensively polished to within an inch of its life, but I reckon that’s beeswax turd. Sure, always put your best stuff out there, but if you wait for the perfect work, the perfect moment, the perfect connection, you’ll be twiddling your thumbs when you could be publishing and learning from your mistakes. Hint: You can only learn from your mistakes by making them. So get making them.

Anyway, at some point you’ll have learnt enough that one of your novels doesn’t suck. The cover doesn’t repulse readers and there is a market for what you’ve written because you’ve been paying attention or your readers have. And then, you start selling and because everything is in your name—you didn’t sell your rights to any legacy pimps, remember?—you have a back catalogue for folk to buy. Or to sell to a legacy publisher, if there are any of them left in a few years’ time, for a healthy price.

But it might take 20 years. 

And let’s be honest, it might not happen until you’re dead. But hey, you’ll have 20 novels that you can be proud your grandchildren and great-grandchildren can read. You weren’t really in this for the money, were you? Especially now you’re dead. 

More along the same lines here.

*Actually, I have no idea.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


That was the executive summary. Now I’d recommend cutting two holes in your tinfoil hat* and reading the full speech to the Europeanistas here. It’s an eye-opener, and for the record, I don’t think he’s loopy at all.

*OK, that doesn’t work because how could you read the instructions here if you hadn’t already cut eye holes in your tinfoil hat. Also, it’s a hat not a blindfold, so the whole thing doesn’t work -- Ed.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Time For Games

The Olympics are coming to Tokyo.

It’s reasonable to take the view that this is a wonderful thing, it revitalises the Japanese nation after the tough time it has had since the tsunami and that nuclear mishap in Fukushima (Don’t say the F-word, it’s bad for business-- Ed.) It’s reasonable to point to the enormous costs and pointless public works that will pour billions into corporations’ hands at the expense of the taxpayers as Tokyo gets another 10 stadiums to squeeze into it’s already asphalted footprint. You could take the reasonable view that the Olympics are largely a waste of time and effort but if anyone can absorb the waste, Tokyo can.

But to Hell with reasonable.

It’s shameful.

It’s been two and half years since the tsunami, and still thousands of people are living in worn out   temporary prefab houses in shanty towns. Many children don’t have access to playing fields, let alone neighbourhood schools. And that’s to say nothing of the continuing cock-up in Fukushima that proves day in and day out that 3/11 is not over.

But Tokyo can find an extra five billion bucks to bring the circus to town, get to wallow in the wholly unmerited symbolism of a nation that has overcome adversity, when in fact all it has done is overcome its guilt, happy to consign Tohoku to annual TV specials and to get on with selling Japan Inc. with added Olympic Spirit.

Oh, but Our Man, don’t be unreasonable. The tsunami was hardly Tokyo’s fault and it has to move on. The people of Tohoku will all be uplifted by the Olympics. It’s not either/or. We can have our Olympic cake and eat it!

Maybe Our Man is just being a Grumpy Old Man, but…

As long as the Tokyo higher-ups cash in on the tsunami victims for sympathy but do nothing to ease their plight, as long as the Tokyo Electric Power Company continues to botch the cleanup of Fukushima and evade all responsibility, there’s no time for games just yet.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Talk of the town: A review of Japantown

Japantown works.

It works as hard as San Franciscan Jim Brodie does dealing Japanese antiques to make ends meet for his six-year-old daughter.

But of course he’s more than your average single dad/Japan-hand, he also has a 50-percent share in his old man’s PI business in Shibuya. So when a family of Japanese tourists is gunned down in SF’s Japantown, naturally he’s called in to offer his advice. And naturally, he gets to grips with something the local boys in blue couldn’t fathom: a mysterious kanji left at the scene of the crime. Oh, the same one left at the scene of a fire that killed his Japanese wife. By the way, he’s an expert in various martial arts. Oh and his movements are being watched. There are bad guys out there and he has a cute-as-a-button daughter and who has no mother to look after her.

Get the picture?

Of course you do. This is a thriller. Japantown plays by the rules, even if the protagonist can’t (that’s in the rules too, right?) To say it’s a fast-paced, high-body-count formulaic thriller does not do justice to the formula, or to the book. Look, it’s a thriller. It says so right on the cover. You didn’t come here to read about the lost decades of the Japanese economy, the Fukushima cleanup, Japan greying faster than the hairs on a prime minister’s head.

Of course not.

You came here to read about deadly ninja, international conspiracies and to count the bodies as right defeats might. And Barry Lancet delivers on all of that. And then some. The novel comes into its own in the middle section as our hero relocates to Japan in the hunt for the bad guys. This is the locale where the conflicts play out best -- east versus west, old loyalties versus new realities. What comes before in San Francisco feels flat in comparison. The ending works well enough, leaving no strands untied. But I found myself more intrigued about what Noda, the monosyllabic hard man would get up to once his part was played out. Hopefully, he’ll play a big part in the sequel.

My only problem after having read the book is that it embodies, like all good thrillers, a fundamental cocky conservatism: the hero knows right, the rest of the world doesn’t, so blam blam blam. The hero rights all wrongs with 9mm of morality. But that’s a problem for the genre, Japantown is not the place to fight that battle.

But you want to know the bottom line? I was hooked and pulling for Jim as he overcame each obstacle in defence of the only cause we could all die for: love of family.  It’s an expertly paced page-turner and I heartily recommend it to any thriller reader.

The intrigue now is where Brodie and his crew can take us next.

Read an interview I did with Barry Lancet for the Abiko Free Press right here. Japantown is on sale from today. Check out Lancet’s website for purchasing details.