The error of my ways

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.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

2 thoughts on “The error of my ways”

  1. Hi,

    Have a look at these crime nov­els:

    Los Alamos by Joseph Kanon
    Fatherland by Robert Harris
    Anything by Robert Crais
    Anything by Lee Child
    Anything by Ken Bruen
    Mucho Mojo by Joe Landsdale

    And if you read only one crime nov­el read some­thing by Dennis Lehane. I recom­mend “Prayers for Rain” or “Darkness Take My Hand” to get you star­ted.



  2. Thanks, Darren. Actually I have read Kanon, sev­er­al Lee Childs, all the Harrises, and a far bit of Elmore Leonard — I agree these are all good authors. The didn’t spring to mind when I wrote the above entry, unfor­tu­nately! Still, your point stands — there are some good crime authors out there.

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