Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Review of Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

As abysmal as Sister was readable. For a start, the protagonists are bloody angels or spirits or something, telling the story (too dull to precis here, but it's about who was responsible for burning a public school down - good riddance to it, I say) whilst their corporeal selves lie comatose in hospital, having been injured in the blaze. I thought this madness would resolve itself in something satisfyingly realistic, but no, it appears Ms Lupton was happy for her 'spirits' to communicate with each other, follow the police around, go home, do anything really, without apologising for her feeble conceit.

And then there was the teeth-grinding, middle-class smugness of it all. The protagonist's family were all incredible, clever, wonderful, generous, perfect; their saccharine-sweet love for each other deeper than the the deepest ocean, higher than the highest mountain. Yuck. And for a professional scriptwriter, Ms Lupton's dialogue was unforgivably dismal.

It gets worse. For reasons I have yet to fathom, Ms Lupton sees fit to italicise words, phrases, even whole sentences, lest we, her stupid readers, can't work out where to place the emphasis ourselves. More infuriatingly, most of the italicised words didn't merit emphasising.

Sister good, Afterwards appalling. Second book blues. She's blown it with me."

Thursday, 4 August 2011

And which is more - you'll be a writer, my son.

I'm sitting in Starbucks prior to appearing at the rather wonderful Krater Comedy Club at the Komedia here in drizzly Brighton. I wouldn't normally think this blog-worthy - and it probably isn't - but I thought a few words about the rising fear and tension a performer endures before going on stage would be interesting from the perspective of someone actually living through it.

Problem is, I'm not. I mean, I am living through the period directly prior to a gig, but tension? Not really. I love Brighton, but I think getting here at 2.30 for a gig starting at 8 (stage time, around 9.10) was patently absurd. I had a hearty lunch at Bill's (why would anyone go anywhere else?) and then whiled away an hour viewing a house (we're thinking of moving here one day) but really, it's only an hour from London and I could've left at 6.

I've got into the habit of arriving insanely early for things like voiceovers, the rationale being that I usually cycle so need to cool down first over a nice cup of tea. Nothing worse than leaving a foetid patch of sweat on a studio chair, is there? Yet, although I cycled to London Bridge Station to catch the Brighton train today, I think a five and a half hour cooling off period is a bit over the top.

So, here I am just around the corner from the Komedia, knocking out this blog and about to be turfed out at 7. I have a very respectable and weighty bag of sweets from the hip little pick 'n' mix shop in the North Laines which I'm thinking of raiding on a bench somewhere to while away some more dead time, but I'll be scraping damp sugar from the bottom by 7.05 and be feeling bloated, nauseous and only marginally closer to kick off. You need a bit of tension to get up there and do your stuff, but right now I'd be happy if they locked me in and left me here overnight.
Well, there we are. An ill-considered, stream-of-consciousness, unedited blog. Was it all worth it given the paucity of insight and wit? Don't answer that.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Great Book...How Many Have You Sold?

It's a question I've been asked a few times.

Not many's the answer.

Here's a salutary tale. Several years ago, I approached some piddly literary agency with my debut novel, Losing It. They were Little, if memory serves. Oh, you mean J K Rowling's billionaire (ex)agents? Yes, that's them. Less than three weeks after receiving my hopeful little package, they were all over me. Loved the book, said it was a potential best-seller, that I'd be great at promoting it given my performing pedigree. Oh, could I just make a few minor changes? Here we go. All right, go on then, if you insist. So I did. They wanted more. Grudgingly, I re-drafted. What, more changes? This time I told them to stuff it lest they destroy my artistic vision.


Absolute, 100%, 24 carat cretin.

If they'd insisted I re-cast my female protagonist as a Taliban warthog with acne, I should have got on with it. They were Christopher bloody Little, J K Rowling's...who cares about artistic effing vision?

But you see, I (the aforementioned cretin) figured, if they loved the book, so would everyone else. But I made no progress with the handful of other agents I approached and, in a fit of pique - tarring all agents with the same brush - I published it myself. That'd show them. I eventually sold 400, which isn't bad, I'm told, but only after nagging libraries, appearing on radio stations so local only God was listening in, chivvying local book shops and wasting a smallish fortune on useless PR. Net financial loss? Let's not go there.

And that's when I gave up writing novels for a few years until inspiration struck and I rattled out A Song For Europe, an edgy romantic comedy more in keeping with my day/night job as a comedian and scriptwriter. I gave it to a few trusted folk to read and received rave reviews. Which is when I approached another handful of agents. This time, one came back on the same day I emailed them a sample, champing at the bit. Not quite in the Christopher Little league, but long established and respected nonetheless. Sadly, they weren't particularly set up to promote an edgy romcom and although there was a ripple of interest from publishers, nothing happened.

But I believed in the book and, rather than suffer the misery and financial flagellation of self-publishing, decided to stick it on Amazon as a digital download. Kindles everywhere would be loaded up with my David Nicholls-stylee novel within days.

Except that didn't happen. The problem is, if no-one knows it's there, it might as well not be. What to do? I've had my head buried in websites claiming to know the secrets of promoting digital books. I've started a Facebook fan page ( - 95 fans and counting - none of them have bought the book). I've started tweeting for all I'm worth (@SimonLipson). Still nothing. I'm sure I can do more, but I'm beginning to think I need to commit A Song For Europe to good, old-fashioned paper.Then... ring up libraries, contact local book shops, appear on Radio know the rest. Somehow, I have to get the 'word-of'mouth' thing going, but there are only so many hours in the day. And if I shift 400 copies, so what?

I'd love to hear from anyone who's been through the self-publishing maze and/or stuck something on Amazon Kindle. Maybe we can knock heads and work out a strategy for getting our works of genius into the hands of a deserving public. As an avid reader, I know a hell of a lot of inferior crap gets published. There's no rhyme or reason. So - sisters, brothers! Let's do it for ourselves! (ahem - sorry, quite forgot I'm British for a moment).