Pay authors, or make them pay?

That on-going discussion about authors being paid to come to book festivals? Well, I’ve come across a different way of looking at it. You could charge them to attend.

OK, so in the first place there is a difference between countries; how you do things. And a book festival is not the same as a book fair. It’s just that in Gothenburg the fair does look a lot like a festival, too, with events all over the place. So someone wishing to organise a smaller fair such as the one I’ve read about, is clearly identifying with the market stall idea, rather than the public performance.

Not to worry, in order to save the participating authors from having to fork out actual money – although it’s around £5 in advance if you want coffee on the day – they are being asked to give [at least] one book as a raffle prize. And they’ll get a table from which to sell or market their books.

Meanwhile, someone ‘neutral’ will do a couple of talks; mostly about the books available to buy.

Whether the venue will charge to enter, I have no idea. I believe they should, and that way no one who’s come to do actual work there would need to give anything but their time. The venue will presumably make money on the raffle tickets as well as any ice creams or coffees bought by the plentiful visitors.

What gets me more than the ‘give us a free book’ idea, is that the authors who probably are quite interesting people, with tales to tell, are doing the bookselling, while someone else who might as well keep shop, is going to talk… The least this person could do would be to talk to the authors, giving the audiences a better idea of who they are and why their books might be fun to read.

One more thing; the organisers would like the authors to publicise the event.

But as I said, we all do things our own way.

Advertisements

Rebel Voices

It’s depressing how relevant this book is today. Louise Kay Stewart and her illustrator Eve Lloyd Knight can’t have known this when they started on their Rebel Voices, a book about women’s right to vote. They refer to the 2016 US presidential race, but we’ve fast moved in the wrong direction since then. And no one could have guessed the #metoo movement.

In pictorial form the two show how the women’s suffrage movement was first successful in New Zealand in 1893, finally making it to Saudi Arabia in 2015.

As a child I took for granted that we were equal and that everyone should have the right to vote. I knew that it hadn’t happened simultaneously for the sexes, but somehow back then the first couple of decades seemed long enough ago that I felt it was all right. I didn’t know that Evita Perón had to fight for the vote, and that despite her powerful position, Argentina only got there shortly before her death.

Louise Kay Stewart and Eve Lloyd Knight, Rebel Voices

I was 15 when Swiss women finally could vote! Before Jordan, but after Yemen. Now I find myself living through this late Swiss start and its effect on life today. It can’t be a coincidence that women still fare badly in Switzerland. Many of the men who happily discriminate today, began life in a country where women had to ‘charm’ men into doing what was needed.

The early successes in the fight for equality make for inspiring reading. It’s only knowing how the fight is not yet over which makes me sad and furious.

‘Every time a modern woman votes – whatever and wherever the election – she has her suffragist sisters to thank.’ Yes. And every time a woman ‘forgets’ to vote..? Because it’s ‘not going to make a difference.’

(Out today. Please teach your young ones about voting.)

Minor experts, eh?

As a most cynical witch I still feel awestruck when I realise quite how much someone else believes. Which is sort of nice.

A few books ago I wrote here about David Lagercrantz, the man who is writing Stieg Larsson’s novels now that he is dead. That time it was based on an interview by one of David’s best friends, Johan Norberg, who usually writes [my favourite] columns in Vi magazine. They are often about music, because that’s Johan’s day job.

This time Johan had a hand in helping David with some music advice for book five, where he needed a piece of jazz, and got both the suggested Django Reinhardt track and all the necessary musical terms from Johan. The latter were important as part of the plot hinges around stuff like minor 6. (No, I don’t know what that is, but I get that it matters.)

When it was time for the English translation Johan offered to proof-read, but David ‘knew’ that he and his book were in safe hands with this major publisher, who would use experts for those parts.

And then Johan met the translator at the launch party and chatted about this, learning that the translator had asked his neighbour for help. ‘A musician?’ asked Johan. No, it seemed she had done music studies at university. Johan smelled a rat, and quite rightly. The minor 6 had become seven, and chords and stuff had not been translated, and other things invented in their place…

I gather that in the next edition, all is well, translated and proofed by Johan.

Places in the Darkness

This is pure Heinlein Noir. Do those two words not fill you with happy (-ish) expectations?

When I heard that Chris Brookmyre’s latest novel was crime in a science fiction setting, I thought it sounded like a wonderful marriage of two great genres. It is. I was also indiscreet enough to say so out loud, and before I knew it Daughter had magicked us a copy to arrive practically overnight.

I never find myself awake at night, sifting through all I’ve read in a crime novel, looking for clues, remembering almost everything, trying to work out who did it, and how, and maybe why. With Places in the Darkness I simply had to. I did suspect who was behind things, and maybe one other fact, the spoiler-ish aspect of which, means I can’t elaborate. But the rest, no. Quite good, really, because I wanted to be surprised.

Chris Brookmyre, Places in the Darkness

Towards the end of this American style noir, set in a man-made world up in space, some time in the future, I couldn’t see how there was going to be time to end it properly, let alone in a good way. But I was ready for a bad ending if that’s what it took.

There is no serious crime on Ciudad de Cielo. At least no murders. But when Dr Alice Blake arrives on CdC, one has just happened, and Alice just happens to be the next head of ‘police’ up there. And when she starts looking into things, Alice chooses to work with Sergeant Nikki Freeman of the Seguridad (I love all the Spanish words up in this cielo).

Nikki refers to the place as Seedee, and it certainly is. And no one knows the seedier side of her place in life better than she does. Nikki runs protection rackets, drinks too much, has lots of lovers, but no friends. You get the picture.

After the first gruesome murder, there are plenty more. The question is whether Alice and Nikki can stay alive to solve them. There’s also the question of AI. How can you be sure you’re not talking to a robot?

Chris has clearly spent a lot of effort on building his City in the Sky, and it is so interesting, and anyone who loves Heinlein will feel right at home. It’s not the same, but it feels right. If you love noir, there is more to enjoy. And as a girl I approve of there being so many important women characters; strong women, whether a Goody Two Shoes or a bent cop.

I could return to CdC.

Who will sell a book?

I have been a bit naïve. After all these years I still don’t know ‘everything’ there is to know about bookshops, and the politics between publishers and shops, or chains. I’d know more had I realised that there was stuff to learn and find out about, rather than me believing in common sense in the book trade.

For all the mutterings I’ve done over the years about ‘the buyer from Waterstones’ and how they might not like a cover, say, so the publisher bends over backwards and makes a cover that will please ‘the buyer from Waterstones,’ I hadn’t understood that not all books get ‘accepted’ by – shall we say – Waterstones.

In fact, I still don’t know whether the non-acceptance of a new book by ‘John Smith’ means that you can’t even go into the shop and ask them to order it for you. I should try and find out.

If you can’t, then it seems that there is only Amazon and other similar online shops. If you want ‘John Smith’s’ book, that is. 999 Nuances of Grey and books by comedians are obviously always an option.

I used to think the hurdles you had to overcome were a) write book b) have book accepted by agent c) agent sells book to publisher d) publisher publishes book and sends it out into the world, where e) you hope someone will buy it. Perhaps f) read it. I just had no concept of the gap between publishing a book and it being available for buyers to find.

It appears that if you have a Land’s End novel and a John O’Groats novel, you shouldn’t – necessarily – expect bookshops at the opposite end of the country to stock it. This is just so weird. It’s sort of the continuation of the situation where if you are a white Londoner you must only write a novel about white Londoners, and now you should only expect to see it for sale in a London bookshop.

I can see the reasoning happening. I just don’t understand it.

Most bookshops in the UK probably stock Jo Nesbø’s novels. They were written by a man in a country with five million inhabitants. The population of Scotland is the same, but it seems Scottish books don’t necessarily make it to bookshops outside Scotland. (Because it can’t be that smaller publishers are discriminated against, I hope?)

Many shops are also likely to stock the crime novels by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, who hails from a small country with a population less than Cornwall. I actually have no idea if Cornish novels are treated differently, but if they aren’t, I wonder about the Scottish apartness. The referendum (the first one, about going it alone) was full of people saying we are the same and belong together. If so, what’s happening with books?

Bengt Ohlsson?

Some years ago in a comment on someone’s [Swedish] blog I said I didn’t know who Bengt Ohlsson was. Another blog reader told me that since he’s a really great literary author and columnist, this was impossible. I [hope I] replied that I had no cause to lie. In the end I was allowed to not know Bengt because I was living abroad.

Anyway, yesterday I read a short story by Bengt. Vi magazine is celebrating their 20th Literature Boat (where authors and readers take to the high seas for book events and food) and have asked some of their former performers to write a short story for the magazine. The theme is literature at sea. The first story, last month, was about stalking an author.

The second one, by Bengt, was – seemingly – about boarding the Literature Boat for one more trip. It started in a fairly pedestrian way, but by the end it actually became something quite different.

It was interesting, and entertaining, but it didn’t necessarily make me want to join one of the sailings.

What I really appreciated, however, was the almost supernatural coincidence Vi provided me with. You see, there are more authors of some repute that I don’t know; not only poor Bengt. His story was in the December issue, and I’d saved it for ‘reading later.’

Yesterday morning, before reading the short story, I had glanced through the January edition of Vi. It very conveniently had an article about three shortlisted authors for the Vi book award; none of whom I’d heard of.

Within an hour, one of the three turned up as a character in Bengt’s story. And I wouldn’t have realised!

Threats and promises

Surely the least you should be able to expect is that someone will die?

If the blurb on the cover of a book says that people will die, then that’s what will happen. If ‘not everyone will be alive,’ I expect this to cover the good guys in the book. If it was only the case that a bad character snuffs it, then we are hard-hearted enough not to mind too much.

I mean, it’s obviously great if none of your beloved regular characters die in the course of the book, because you prefer them alive and kicking. And a little threat on the cover is not necessarily a bad thing; it makes you definitely* want to read the book, and you will be a little afraid, and then you will heave a sigh of relief when it turned out that they twisted the truth.

But should they lie?

You can write things in such an ambiguous way that the reader can’t be certain. They will think it’ll be all right, and they will hope. But they won’t know. When I write reviews I try and hint that you can’t be totally sure all will be well. But I work on staying truthful, and on there being no spoilers.

The thing is, if it’s a book not intended purely for adults, then most likely the characters you care about will live. There are unspoken rules.**

*I remember when the Retired Children’s Librarian told me she stopped watching NCIS halfway through season three. In fact, she switched off partway through an episode, because when the knives came out, she simply grew too frightened. To be helpful, I pointed out that they were unlikely to kill a main character just like that. The knives were a threat intended to worry you a little, and make you wonder how they were going to get out of this situation. Not if.

** I know. What about Lupin and Dumbledore, Fred Weasley, Dobby, or even Snape?