Tag Archives: dan brown

Second hand bookshops – a bad thing for authors?

Jurby Junk - BooksChristian asked on Tuesday: You often mention buying second-hand books in charity shops – do you see any ethical issues with this considering you’re hoping to become a published author?

Phil: Interesting point and one I’d not really thought of before. I buy books from second-hand shops. I love buying books from second-hand shops more than from proper bookshops selling new volumes as there is always the chance of being surprised with the discovery of a new author.

But when I buy books this way, am I reducing the potential sales for anyone trying to break into the book selling market?

Hmmm. I suppose I’ve only ever bought a Dan Brown book second-hand. But I’m not sure he’s sitting in an unheated hovel contemplating Aldi beans on toast for the 23rd night running and waving his fist at the computer shouting, “Curse you Parker…”

He’s not normal though. Normal is and author being excited by sales of 5000 copies. Maybe if I bought less from the pre-owned shelf they would shift 5001.

I think I’d argue that second-hand bookshops show how much people value books. Most of the stuff we own will be thrown away once we’ve finished with it. Books though, we keep them on shelves carefully and eventually take them to a shop so someone else can enjoy them. Prizing books is prizing ideas and I think this is A Good Thing. On that basis, I have to say that second-hand shops are probably good for authors. Just like libraries, they make books available to a wide range of readers and the more readers there are, the bigger the market for writers.

Second hand shops offer authors immortality too. Unless you are very famous, Waterstones won’t have you on sale unless you are current and preferably out there selling copy at festivals and in the media. The pre-loved market doesn’t care if you are in a box 6 feet under the ground, they will offer readers the chance to discover your work posthumously. I’m sure that there are plenty of writers who see their book as a baby to live on after them.

Finally, can we as authors, make use of this market? Candice and I have had our book made up by Lulu.com into a proper, printed work. There’s nothing to stop me donating some of these copies to a local charity bookshop. Who knows who might buy them?

OK, it’s an expensive way to publicise yourself but not unheard of. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was a sales flop until the publisher started leaving copies in public places – these were picked up and read generating the word of mouth that turned the book into a success. Leaving books lying around sounds like a pretty risky strategy to me, I think they printed around 2000 copies to make this work, but bookshops are full of reasonably serious readers looking for something to read. If your book appeals to that demographic, is this a potential plank for your marketing?

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The first apostle by James Becker

Candice: I’ve been rather busy recently with work and house moves, so haven’t had chance to get down to a good read. I was working my way through Pip a few weeks ago, but gave up on it cause I knew what was coming.

Since then I have been reading the Sunday times magazine and that’s about all I have managed between reading homebuyers reports and solicitors letters.

So last week I popped in to the old faithful charity shop in Stratford and picked up three options. The first was ‘The First Apostle’ which sounded very Dan Brown esq in style and therefore my cup of tea.

Well I have to say it was a very good choice. Unlike Dan’s novels you didn’t have to suspend your disbelief too much to understand how these characters got themselves and in out of scrapes.

The story is of a British woman getting accidentally killed in her holiday home in Italy. Her husband’s best friend is rebellious police officer who gets roped in to find out why this has happened.

It relates to a carving found in the house walls that the Mafia and the Vatican both want to get hold of. The carving holds the key to the beginnings of Christianity, a story that no one wants to get out.

The main character gets his wife involved, helpfully she’s a historian, and off they go on their merry way.

The pace keeps things flowing, and tension mounts but there are not so many of the silly parts where they manage to escape by the skin of their teeth, hard to believe when it happens too many times.

I really enjoyed the book, it kept me distracted from the wood panelling in the lounge for a few more days ! Hopefully the other two I’ve picked up will be just as good.

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Has everyone got the same idea?

World War Z poster.jpg

Candice: I went to the cinema the other week to see the new Brad Pitt movie, World War Z.  Now I’m not really a Brad fan, I’m more into George Clooney myself, and when Brad has long hair – forget it!  But my cinema buddy suggested a trip, so I thought I’d give it ago. However, Zombies in 3D was not part of my Friday night viewing plan!

Anyway, I’m not writing a review of the film, just the plot.  It seems there are common threads running around the psyche of writers at the moment, both novelists and screen writers: the idea of over population.  I can see why, we have been talking about global warming for years, we no longer have a real nuclear threat or cold war, so what do we make the bad guy these days?  Well, actually its us, the human race, as we are killing the world we live on by filling it with too many people.

Inferno, the Dan Brown book, was all about a mad man who thought that letting a virus into the world that would sterilise us all would help with this issue.  A few would be exempt and they would be able to continue the world’s population.

World War Z also has a virus but the suggestion is mother nature is generating it to get rid of the majority of us and start again.

It’s not just in 2013, if you go back to 2006 there was a rather good film called ‘Children of Men’ about women being infertile and the first pregnant woman being protected. And of course, WWZ is based on a 2006 book.

I watched episodes of two different TV programs last week – ‘Body of Proof‘ and ‘Bones‘ where in both cases, a virus had infected a member of the team and if the team didn’t identify it they would die.

I suppose we all get our ideas from what is going on in the news.  I when I say we, us lowly unpublished writers as well as those getting paid big bucks.  So these common ideas are bound to come out.  But is this why different ideas struggle to break through?  There are two White House disaster movies out this year, plus lots of sequels coming out.  If you go to the book shop or even Amazon, it’s all about ‘If you like this, you might also like.’  Recommendations are great, but we would never have had the Beatles if someone hadn’t picked up on their style and said I’ll go with that.

So people, please be a bit more receptive to other ideas and not just the run of the mill.  Else, we will be just churning out the same stuff over and over again!

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The Dan Brown effect

Candice: I read a very interesting (and amusing) interview in the Sunday Times this week with Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code.  Dan has been a few things in his life, before becoming a block buster writer, failed musician is one.  Apparently you can find his tunes on You tube…

Anyway, the article is written as a pastiche on Dan’s style, all cliff hangers and plot twists.  I think the writer is taking the P.I.S.S. some what, as we all know the writing style of these books leaves some things to be desired.  (A bit like Fifty shades, perhaps?)  But us masses just love them.

I remember reading the Da Vinci code first, and then working my way through Deception Point, Angels and Demons and Digital Fortress in quick succession, whilst on holiday in Sorrento seven years ago.  They don’t explain in this article why but it seems that it took a while for the world to pick up on Dan’s style, hence why I had a glut of books to go through in one hit.

Dan been has picked up on for messing with the truth, as a number of people read his stories, take them as gospel (literally) and then go off to Rome or the Louvre to see if what he has said is real.  I have to say, I remember reading them and thinking this all does sound quite plausible.  And, in doing so, thinking I want to visit these places to see where he is describing and if it rings true.

Seven years on I’ve been to the Vatican, but have kinda been past the whole exploring Angel and Demon’s phase. But these books have sparked tours and whole tourism trade for the places they are based.

Out today is his new block buster – Inferno.  All I know is it is based on Dante but the premise is a closely guarded secret.  Florence, where some of the book is based is hoping for an uplift on tourism numbers alone, dependent on this launch.  I don’t think they really care about the story being fact of fiction.

So another Dan Brown juggernaut rolls off the shelves and into the general psyche. They are predicting big things for this one, and I might just be swept a lot for the ride.  Why?  Well I like a good puzzle and I’ve got some time to fill over the next week so it seems like a good idea.  Time for a download on to the iPad me thinks ( I don’t do hardback, too unwieldy).

Review, coming to a blog you know soon….

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Read your own filth

CENSOREDPhil: Like most aspiring authors, the moment I read on the BBC that Catlin Moran was recording an audiobook from her book “How to be a Woman” and described how she actually read the book through for the first time and was “absolutely amazed” at what she found, I inadvertently shouted at the computer screen. How could she now know ?

Is this “her book” in the sense that she warbled some generalities to a ghost writer who then went off to do all the real work ? Argghhhhhhh !

Taking a deep breath and wiping the volley of tea from my screen I pondered if there was an element of this at our current stage of writing. Not a load of being published just ‘cos you are famous and it’s easier to sell than talented newcomers bit, but reading your manuscript and being surprised at what you find.

I’ve been noodling around with the idea of a hook for the start of Kate vs the Dirtboffins for a while but other work has meant a bit of a break from the subject. This has one benefit, I’m re-reading passages with a fresh eye.

The good news is it’s still brilliant. I’m still very proud of what I find. Since it’s a 2 person project, a fun game is to try to work out which bits I wrote and which bits are Nolan. Not always easy and there are some I’m simply not sure about any more. Perhaps this is the key to good writing – don’t rush it. Leave it and come back a few times and you see things you don’t otherwise spot when submerged in the story. I know the first time I read our tale properly in (Lulu) book form I spotted a few continuity errors. A couple of hours later these were fixed to the benefit of the text.

What I don’t understand though is how you get a book with your name on it on the shelves and not know that it’s full of filth. I might not remember every single word in ours but I have a pretty good idea where the debauchery is and which bits I won’t be reading out in front of an audience if my Mum is sitting there (Candice can do those ones, she probably wrote them anyway as I’m far too well brought up).  Surely you’d look in the bookshop window and think “That lady looks like me on the cover. And she has the same name. What larks, I’ll get a copy.”

On the other hand, do you think Dan Brown knows everything in his massive novels ?

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A tiny bit of reading

Phil: As I’ve mentioned in the past, in my spare time I build models of stuff. This weekend a boat I built is being exhibited at the International Model Boats Show and so I thought I’d better dust it off and make sure everything was ship-shape for the audience.

What I’d forgotten was that before putting it in store, I’d painted up a figure lounging around on the stern deck (back-end of the boat for you landlubbers) apparently reading. I’d just forgotten, or more likely not got around to, making up something for her to read. The solution was obvious – she should be reading Our Book.

A few minutes with a printer, some cardboard, glue and a sharp knife resulted in a 1/12th scale copy. Just the thing to read on a trip down a river.

Now, what I’m hoping, is that someone will be wandering around the exhibition, probably wearing an ensemble from the Marks & Spencer “Fashion that time forgot” range comprising a blazer with gold buttons, Commodore’s hat and deck shoes. They will spy the book and say “Avast there. That looks like a cracking good read your deck hand is engrossed in. I’m a big cheese in the publishing world yet I don’t recognise it. Could you point me and my cheque book in the direction of the authors.”.

Well it’s no more preposterous than a Dan Brown plot is it ?

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Cup Cake week day 2 – Custard and Apple Turnover

Phil: I know what you are thinking, “That’s not a cupcake”.

And you know what ? You’re absolutely right. However, today’s lesson is about thinking outside of the box. Doing the unexpected.

Now I like catering custard. Some people think it’s horrible slimy stuff but they are wrong. It’s delicious, and so as soon as I saw this cake in the shop, I knew it was going to be mine. It’s even got apple in it making this a healthy cake !

The choice of cake isn’t the only off the wall choice today though, the shop I bought if from was. It was a butcher’s shop. You can see a hole in the top crust of the puff pastry where the meat-wrangler poked his thumb through not realising that puff-pastry has to be treated with rather more reverence than a side of beef.

The problem with this cake is its size. You really can have too much of a good thing. In this respect it’s like a Dan Brown novel. By the last page you feel you’ve enjoyed yourself but slightly bloated at the same time and a little bit guilty.

But – look at the cake – it’s got a big smile on its face ! And that dear reader, is what anyone who reads out book has.

So the moral of this blog post is to try something new. Chomp on an unusual cake. Sign a couple of first time authors for a 6-figure publishing deal. You too could be grinning from ear to ear.

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