Thursday, March 09, 2006

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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