Despite the mounting administration and backstage jiggery-pokery associated with my teaching job, work continues with getting Deja Vu into local bookshops. This week I have been mostly in Waterstone’s and W H Smith. Imagine my surprise at finding a science fiction author (Stephen Palmer) working in my local Waterstone’s. Unusual? Ask David Mitchell. Stephen’s a friendly chap and reassured me that, though Deja Vu languishes somewhat as a POD book, it isn’t impossible for a POD book to get onto a Waterstone’s shelf: exhibit A, Stephen’s own POD novels staring back at me. It turns out that Stephen has a good following in America, where his books are brought out through a major publisher, but not yet in England, where POD is the order of the day. He thinks there is a possibility that two or three copies of my book could find its way into the Exeter Waterstone’s as long as I keep up my local publicity. Willdo – Radios Cornwall and Devon have expressed an interest, and this week I was interviewed by books editor of that stalwart student newspaper, Exepose.
The local manager of Smith’s was also friendly and upbeat. No promises, of course, but my book should get a fair crack of the whip. I have noted elsewhere that to have the opportunity for your work to be considered on its merit (not its source, i.e. solicited versus unsolicited, urban versus rural, genre versus nongenre; and certainly not based on five per cent of the manuscript) is virtually all a writer asks. A writer never expects his or her work to be overvalued or, worse, undervalued; a simple settling into the literature at its warranted level would be sufficient.
Today I’ve got two reasons to thank the science fiction author Ken MacLeod, who kindly read my book after receiving my cold-calling email. I pasted his flattering comment (look under the graphic to the right if you want to read it) onto the Advanced Book Information (ABI) sheet that a bookseller reads to pick up information about the distributor, etc. Since I print these ABIs myself (my publisher lacking the funds to do so), I made sure Ken’s words were prominent on the ABI. Both Stephen in Waterstone’s and Ben in Smith’s said, “Ooh, Ken MacLeod, eh?” and their faces brightened.
The second reason to thank Ken is for his observation that my novel’s genre is really ‘technothriller’ (a la Michael Crichton). Ken is obviously more expert in dealing with bookseller and audience expectations, and I’ve found that people are much more receptive when I explain that Deja Vu is a technothriller. For the reader, this improvement probably stems from specifity: ‘science fiction’ could mean anything, whereas ‘technothriller’ is very much a known quantity. For the bookseller, this means both specificity and crime. Yes, crime fiction is a hot ticket these days. While I agree that Deja Vu contains a bit of crime and police procedure, I confess that I hold a small prejudice against crime fiction: I’ve read only one or two books in this genre and they were, unfortunately, awful. Anyone recommend a good crime novel to show me the error of my ways?
Meanwhile, another book needs to be written. Anon.