A Woman from Cairo

For a while now, I’ve been fol­low­ing the blog of Val Landi, an American author, where Val charts the pro­gress of his book, A Woman from Cairo. No sur­prise there; all we writers bang on about our books. But Val is in an inter­est­ing pos­i­tion (and I use the word ‘inter­est­ing’ in the sense that means ‘bloody irrit­at­ing’). Or at least he was.

Let me explain. Val sub­mit­ted his manu­script — like you do — to a top-flight New York agent and, hus­sah, she loved the book. But while pub­lish­ers the length of the United States also loved the book, they were uncom­fort­able with its ter­ror­ist theme. Hello? How can a mod­ern thrill­er, pub­lished in post-9/11 America, not have a ter­ror­ist theme? Beats me.

I must have missed some­thing on Val’s blog, because it appears that A Woman from Cairo has been pub­lished. A quick look at the pub­lish­er reveals it to be BookSurge Publishing, a ser­vice for authors to self-pub­lish. Before you spit your tea (in Britain) or cof­fee (in America) over your com­puter and fumble for the van­ity alarm on the under­side of your desk, remem­ber that Val got rave rejec­tions from top agents and pub­lish­ers. Yes, this is self-pub­lish­ing, but what else is Val going to do? He prob­ably spent years writ­ing the book and doesn’t want it to fester in draw­er because of pub­lish­ing timid­ity.

His Amazon page rank right now is 31,000, ten thou­sand up from yes­ter­day, so this looks like a good decision. Val is unlikely to be in this game for the money — no writer is — but a good rank­ing, plus the expos­ure and reviews that come with it, will not harm his chances of pla­cing the book with a lar­ger pub­lish­er (if he chooses to do so) or land­ing a con­tract for the fol­low up. Val, incid­ent­ally, is a pro­ponent of an indie mod­el of book dis­tri­bu­tion, some­thing I’m also doing with the pod­cast of Déjà Vu.

A final note: There are plenty of good reviews for his book, but I couldn’t avoid the impres­sion from his first few pages (avail­able here) that the book might have bene­fit­ted from more strin­gent edit­ing. There are so many unne­ces­sary adject­ives and — gasp! — adverbs that, for me, the prose bor­ders on unread­able. But this might be a per­son­al thing; my own prose is some­what hard-boiled. And how can I talk, giv­en my pen­chant for the dreaded semi-colon? Best of luck to him.

And by the way: If ever there was example to counter the pre­vail­ing notion that good books invari­ably find a home with tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­ers, this is it. Publishers are not, and nev­er have been, in the busi­ness of pub­lish­ing well-craf­ted stor­ies. They aim to pub­lish books that they think will sell in volume. Sometimes the two prop­er­ties are found in the same manu­script. But only some­times.

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Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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