Monthly Archives: May 2012

When you are a famous author…

Blott on the landscape and Granchester GrindPhil: While tidying a pile of books the other day I notice a couple of Tom Sharpes and realised there are lessons to be learned. Between publication of “Blott on the Landscape” in 1975 and “Granchester Grind” in 1995, things changed as Mr Sharpe became better known.

First, he got to write more. Blott is 238 pages, Grind weigh in at 490. Could the later book have been exposed to less editing ? Reading it, I think so. I bet had it been the first book, we’d have lost about a third. Not that this would have been a good thing, when you are in Sharpeland you want to wallow around a bit and enjoy yourself, but it isn’t as tight a story. New authors don’t get that much leeway and publishers don’t have a large audience waiting for the latest edition who will delight in a high page count.*

Which brings me on to the second point. By the 1990’s people would buy a Tom Sharpe book. They didn’t care much what it was about, they just knew they would enjoy it. Hence, the name of the author is considerably larger than the title of the book. On the spine, the font is so scrawly, you can barely read it. The placing on the cover is interesting too; Blot has title followed by author and then a quote from the Observer review telling the reader the book will be funny. Grind demotes the title to the bottom of the page with the author name filling the top quarter. The only extra text is “A Porterhouse Chronicle”, information that is only any use to the existing fan base who will already have read “Porterhouse Blue”

As an unpublished author, what I take from this is that our book has to be tight rather than long. No lovely, but unimportant expositionary paragraphs. If it doesn’t add something, take it away. Also, it would help to become famous. If a name in big print sells books then it would help if that name belonged to the nice man off the telly or the pretty lady in the newspaper, not some ned who you’ve never heard of.


*Younger readers will have experienced the same effect with the Harry Potter series. Book 1 could have been squeezed into a Tweet: speccy kid goes to magic school beats baddies with spells and meets friends who will look good in the movie. Book 7 on the other hand used more paper than every edition of the bible combined.

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Stratford Literary Festival Part 2

Candice: Phil has given his thoughts on the Stratford Literary Festival so I though I’d give mine.  As always, I am as much interested in what people are saying as what they are wearing.

As we sat down, my first thought was “someone’s got my coat on”.  Sat in the next row was a lady in a cobalt blue coat not my exact coat but a similar colour – so I took mine off rapide, as we can’t have that.

I sometimes judge a book by its cover, this is one of the reasons clothes are important to me.  As our three authors lined up, plus chair, my first thoughts were.   Author one was channelling the cool university professor vibe, with turned up jeans, funky specs and jacket, our second was more of a mystery as she was clad in all black with her hair up (but in a slightly messy cool way), and our third was more wafty hippy, with maroon tights and boots.  Well in two cases the book matched its cover, with author one (SJ Watson) being a NHS boss gone author and exclaiming he’d had a mid life crisis to get there, Rachel Joyce being the more intellectual writer type (having already written Radio 4 plays) and very slow and deliberate (but posh) in her delivery.  And then there was Julia – who would be more suited to bright colours than black as she was sweet, depreciating and fun, and very much in awe of the fact she was on to her second published book.

And the Chair – well he had the funkiest snake print shoes on with a more sensible outfit, but I think it went well with his PR head but also intellectual book knowledge.

However, there were no good Mulberry handbags to be seen (other than my own).

The experience was interesting and informative, as Phil has said, backing up some of the things that we already know and adding some other juicy insights that might help.  Though Gareth, the chair, pointed out afterwards that the three authors seemed to have had a charmed life compared to other authors he dealt with as far as being picked up and their deals with agents and publishers.  Oh, to have that experience.

I think the biggest shame of the evening was that they didn’t not tell you anywhere how long the event would be, so we didn’t know we could have gone to the Sue Townsend event afterwards.  Though it did give Phil and I time to cogitate in the very nice One Elm Pub over the way, and for him to down enough strong local brew to have a sore head the next day (I stayed on the water!).

Hum, where to now?


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