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?


Filed under Books, Phil

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Candice

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

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….


Filed under Candice, Writing

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 ?

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing

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 ?

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Publishing

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Good writing is overrated

Phil: This week we sat down and came up with a new mantra. “Stop messing around and get on with it.”

Progress has stalled while we fiddle with the book text then hum and haw over the query letter. Simply beating the first paragraph of the later into shape took 2 cakes, a pint and half of beer, 2 cups of tea and a glass of over-chlorinated water. I leave it to you to work out who consumed what but the point is we aren’t going to get anywhere until we start pushing this book out to some agents and publishers.

Those who aspire to bookdom know that the standard advice is to keep polishing your manuscript until it is perfect. I suppose this is because there are people out there who send off a first draft without bothering to see if it reads well and which professionals would rather not see bloating the slush pile. On the other hand it might just be a way of saying, “We’ve got enough books now. Would you all stop sending them to us.”, but I don’t think so. After all, publishers need new books. If the gems were never sent because the authors were busy agonising over odd words and commas then they would pretty quickly go bust.

It’s not like the manuscript is going to be untouched once a publisher has it either. At some point an editor will get their mitts on it and tell the poor author that the style stinks or the story needs more shape or that chapter 2 is b*****s and should be re-written before home time tonight or you won’t get any tea.

No, while polishing is all very well, we have concluded that there is something more important.

Tell a rollocking good story.

Look at it this way, has anyone ever read a book just because it was well written ? Yes ? Well they probably don’t get out much. No one, and by this I mean no-one who matters, goes on holiday with a whopper picked up from the airport bookshop and comes back saying that they enjoyed the punctuation or that the use of the past participant was excellent.

On the other hand, they do buy books that literary types consider very badly written. And they buy them in spades. I give you Dan Brown as an example. Even on the Writers & Artists day there were comments from the front about the quality of the prose, but no moans about the sales. When you buy a book you want to be transported to another world. As long as the writing style doesn’t get in the way and you are enjoying the plot, then you keep turning pages until the end.

Which is what we think we have written. There are some scene setting bits, some funny bits and some parts where we just move things along. You want to know about these people, you wonder if Kate will get it together with her old flame, find out why things are happening and see a few people get their just deserts – and by that I don’t mean trifle.

Neither of us is Lynne Truss, we want to be Dan Brown. Not only do we dream of seeing well-thumbed piles of our books in charity shops, we aspire to film deals, long lunches at The Ivy and book tours. All of this requires healthy sales and people desperate to know what happens in books 2 to 7.

Oh, and there is a discussion on the importance of “correct” English taking place on the Ceefax Letters pages. Someone has suggested that Shakespeare wouldn’t have been succesful if he hadn’t used the “correct” language. I’d suggest that using a man who couldn’t spell his own surname consistently and operated at a time when most of the population couldn’t read anyway as an example, might not be the best plan. Anyway, only masochists and actors read his plays. The rest of us go and see them on stage, where they usually are a rollocking good story.


1 Comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

What makes a good book intro?

Candice: Have just returned from another one of my mini breaks, Phil says I get a lot of holidays but I just view them as a quick tan and life top up.  As Naomi Campbell once said, she has to take a holiday every six weeks to feel human. I think that was said while swiping a minion and telling them to keep kissing her feet, but I know the feeling.  So a girls break was required, three nights in Spain for sun and sangria, though there was more of the later than the former due to two days being cloudy.

Anyway, to the point of this rambling.  Two of the three people I went away with have ‘the book’ to read, one hadn’t seen it.  But she jumped in and grabbed a copy to see what it was all about.  24 hours later she put it down and went “finished”.  Obviously, I hadn’t tied her to a chair and told her to do this, there was sleep involved in this period.    Now for the feedback.

“I liked it, but I dont think the end reflects the start and the start’s abit weak.”  Ok, straight to the point there.

But its fair comment, because, when we started writing the book without any real timeline or action plan then we may have been thinking one way.  But as the story flowed and we came up with a stronger plot ideas, then it became more chicklit and less blot.  So, I started to think, does the start not work with the end, and then in general, what makes a good intro?

I’ve read a few books in my time and I like to think I know what hooks people in.  For example I’m reading a Dan Brown style book called Angelology at the moment.  Its caught me from day one as I am dying to know what happens.  I’ve found that alot with these style of books but they are often quick reads which mean  you can’t put them down, but they do leave you rather unsatisfied at the end.    Or you can go the other way. Has any one read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?  It’s the first book in what they call the Millennium Trilogy.  OMG the first 100 pages are hard work, you have no idea what is going on as there seem to be two totally separate stories going on.  Then, the protagonist moves to another place and it all falls into place.  From then on it’s a cracking read.  But patience is a virtue with those books.  I’ve read book 2 and have book 3 waiting in the wings for when I’ve finished the current read.

So Phil and I going to sit down next Monday and have another look at the intro and see if we can spot what my friend means.  I am hoping my other proof readers will have come back by then and have given me their feedback but even if they havent we need to get this right as we are now at the point of sending of the first three chapters to agents.  And if the first three chapters don’t wow them we might as well forget it!

Oh yes, and there will be cakes!

1 Comment

Filed under Candice, Writing