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Category Archives: Reading

Cover of Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng. Purple cover with Queen Mab central. There’s been a bit of a theme in the books I’ve been reading recently. All have been set in or around the Victorian era.

Jeanette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun is an absorbing Gothic Fantasy, capturing the feel of Stoker and Bronte. Highly recommended, and you can find the rest of my review on SFFWorld.

Cover of One Cog Turning by Anthony Laken. Main colour deep blue with golden/copper cogs featured in each corner.Anthony Laken’s One Cog Turning is a fab, true to form Steampunk adventure with all the lovable rogues you’d want to find, yet with a delicious twist. Click to read my review on SFFWORLD.

Cover of The Space Between the Stars.

An engaging novel, The Space Between The Stars is something I would happily recomend to my non-SFF friends. Those who regularly read the genre I think would find the science fiction of this novel too removed.

You can read the full review here. SFF World Review, Anne Corelett’s The Space Between The Stars

When I’m working on my own writing I find it difficult to read within my preferred genre. For me one of the biggest advantages of SFF is, while there’s a good dose of imagination and future thought in it, the genre still has a healthy dose of day to day life. People still have relationships, crimes are still committed, mysteries still happen, so I’m able to read other stuff too.

On the search for something outside Fantasy and Science Fiction I pottered across town to catch Nick Quantrill launching his latest crime novel, The Dead Can’t Talk. It wasn’t so much as it being a local author which drew me to the novel, more that one of Hull’s most iconical buildings featured in it. The Lord Line Building not only means something to the thousands of people involved in the fishing and shipping industries, but just like the Humber Bridge, a child knows the landmark. Everyone knows they’re home when they pass Lord Line just off the A63. The people of Hull have adopted it as their own.

An Event to Remember.

Nick gave his book a proper send off into the big wide world, yes the expected gathering of chairs were there, and right comfy ones they were too. More were brought in to accommodate the crowd. York band, Bull brought the music. Helen Cadbury prompted questions relevant to the genre they both share. Much like Hull, the launch blended all the things Hull folk hold dear, friendship and fun, to create a great festival feel.

For a book.

Not too many days later. In the university library I attended a more composed launch of Daphne Glazer’s The Hendersons. A quite room, the white walls prepared for the next art display. Tea and coffee as well as finger foods awaited the guests, perfect for a composed book rich in characterisation. While I knew nothing of the Sheffield locale nor its history in which her book was set, it still transported listeners from the modern austere surrounds. Elegance and the unique mix of art and books found in Hull University’s Brymor Library merged with Daphne’s ability to inspire and enthuse. Her audience was entirely different from Nick’s, but just as engaged and curious about the novel, the author’s writing processes and inspirations. An extravagant launch and minimum expense in a city known for its grit, but I’m still waiting for the butler to offer Ferrero Roche to everyone.

Is It Worth All That Hassle?

Both launches saw book sales, of course. That’s the point of it, isn’t it? Marketing?

Or.  Is it a celebration of work, hours of effort and editing, wrangling with submission processes and book cover choices? Why shouldn’t it be a party that reflects the author’s individuality as much as the product?

Alcohol often flows at these events, but both authors were keeping a clear head – for the readings at least. Slurring your paragraphs doesn’t sound all that professional after all! Neither launch appeared to take the authors outside their comfort zones. I believe it added to the atmosphere, which in turn made their events successful. The authors enjoyed the experience on the whole.

Going Beyond The Fear.

Through the fear of no one turning up or the nightmare of standing in front of lots of people book launches are often a side thought or organised because of expectation. It might require a little bit of money too. Generally speaking book launches involve people staring at a writer, posing questions the author might not want to answer, as well as the author reading from the book in question. For those reasons many authors preferring a quiet life dislike promotion and the public process. Something I do understand.

Seeing readers gathered to support you as an author however can be a huge encouragement. Online book launches offer a shield from some of face to face engagement, but for me I’m more likely to remember a commitment to attend in person.

Being Different Isn’t A Bad Thing.

If anything, the last few weeks have shown me that a book launch is no different than a story. An author’s talent and creativity can be found in the pages just as much as it can in a launch.

Like a story, a book launch can be anything you want it to be. By being different in your approach a book can stand out from the crowd and last in a reader’s memory.

It’s not a wedding, there’s no need go beyond your budget. A little bit of planning can win you a fan or convert an undecided reader. It will give you a celebration you deserve as opposed to many sleepless nights.


Words are everywhere. We don’t realise just how much we use them, even when there aren’t any actively visible. We need them to communicate, to talk and of course, to insult one-another on Facebook. They are the hidden force behind your favourite TV Drama and the real menace in the mobile contract.

And the writers of these words? It’s common knowledge to those who work with words that it doesn’t pay much, bestseller or not. Anyone can string a sentence together, right? Not everyone can do it with finesse needed to make a business stand out from the crowd or make you believe in the character setting out to save the world from impending doom. It’s a talent. Grammar and punctuation is only one part of the tale. Creating awesome fiction is a skill which cannot be taught. It doesn’t much help when those who are published vie over whose publication format, or words on the pages are best.

Novel, script, play, game or story – the authors will tell you there’s no money in it. Regardless of book deals, acceptances, and best sellers, the financial aspect is a massive factor in a writer’s self-worth and therefore lifestyle and mental health.

A Reader’s Measure of Success?

Perhaps we should stop valuing the stories we read by the money it brings, and the format it’s presented in. Yes, I know it’s an utterly idealistic thought.

Sure, a good review won’t buy a can of beans any more than an “I loved your story” will pay for the heating, but what if your story stopped a person from committing a crime? How does that measure on the scale of worth? There are plenty of novelists out there who point to readers who have claimed their book has changed their life for the better, provided support through the loss of a loved one or simply made them feel less alone in the world. Wouldn’t it be great to pay the mortgage with ‘amount of laughter caused’?

All right, it’s a tricky currency to measure, but can’t we value it? Why isn’t there a national award for “Most Read Book in the Library”? A celebration of the work inside the cover not selected by an award panel, voting system or committee, but purely on the number of times it has been read?  Would winning such an award make a difference to how a book is received? Sheffield’s certainly trying to acknowledge the effort! There’s the Reader’s Choice Award, but this award is based on voting from a nominated list. The National Television Awards uses viewer numbers to propagate the longlist for a public vote.

Less numbers, more words!

While we as writers continue to measure our success by the money we earn, we will continue to come up short in system not designed to value the creative individual. Amazon’s system is designed around numbers, not words.  Words don’t fit into databases and percentages particularly well, they don’t follow the same rules as numbers. Bookshops offer more of a personal buying experience by engaging with readers on behalf of the publishers and authors, but these outlets still have to sell to cover costs. If you write for the love of a story, tailoring your words to fit sales predictions and best seller charts lists isn’t likely to produce you any sense of achievement. I know it doesn’t work for me. Writing for the reader and valuing their praise is still hard to measure because goodwill is no longer a bankable asset. A satisfied readership is something money can’t buy. Their genuine, passionate word of mouth recommendation is irreplaceable and outstrips any marketing budget.

If reaching ‘bestseller’ accreditation causes the stress and anxiety that it appears to, I’ll take the feedback from my readers, thank you very much. I’ll repay that loyalty the way they want-more adventures with words. For those books I read and love, I’ll let others know about it. Loudly.

I’ll also research rice and potato meal plans, I hear they’re a good cheap store cupboard staple.

For a while now I’ve been interviewing authors. Some of these have come about because of the York Pub Meets, (thank you Alex) others at the Sheffield SFF Social (thank you Steven and pals). These British Fantasy Society and British Science Fiction Association events and others have allowed me to get to know the authors behind the words in a book and boost the signal. It grew from there.

Yesterday someone asked me if I was part of the marketing department of Tickety Boo Press.

No I am not. Let’s make this clear. I have no affiliation with Tickety Boo Press. I cannot help you be published by them, I can’t help you get on the right side of their acquisition editors. I do know a few of the publishing house’s authors, some of them in person and others through forums. Like many others writing reviews and interviews, I was approached by either the author or the press.

However, I have a bit of advice to help any author,be they indie, small press, and yes even those who have the Holy Grail of publishers in their corner.

Authors – If you don’t ask, YOU DON’T GET. With that in mind if you want to raise the profile of your book, here are a few places which may help:

Twitter and Facebook. I regularly see calls for book bloggers and reviewers here.

Good Reads. Giveaways are a great way to increase your readership and collect reviews.

NETGALLEY: Go here, but be prepared to pay :

SFFWORLD Review/Interview request form:

Fantasy Faction They don’t have a direct submission page, but you might want to check out their forums. Perhaps a hint can be found on the about us section of the site?

SFF Signal Fill out a form:

Don’t be afraid to put your book out there, but do be willing to part with your book for nothing. That is to say a lot of reviewers, bloggers and vloggers do this thing for free, they don’t earn anything from it, so don’t expect them to buy your book and do you a favour by shouting about it.

Limit the number of books you send out into the world in exchange for publicity. Put a value on the coverage it will bring. Also be aware that you can have too much of a good thing. If your name and book cover is on every site for a month, there are some readers who will actively avoid it; there’s praise and then there’s hype.  Others will be sick of hearing about it… you know a bit like that Christmas Number One from 1993?