A plea for reviewers – can we open up a dialogue about self-published books?

Nail Your Novel

So I find a lovely-looking review blog. The posts are thoughtful, fair and seriously considered. I look up the review policy and … it says ‘no self-published books’.

Today I want to open a dialogue with reviewers. If you have that policy, might you be persuaded to change it? Or to approach the problem in a different way?

I used the word ‘problem’. Because I appreciate – very well – that in making this policy you are trying to tackle a major problem. Your time as a reviewer is precious – and let me say your efforts are enormously appreciated by readers and authors alike. You get pitches for many more books than you can read and you need a way to fillet out the ones that are seriously worth your reading hours. A blanket ban is a way to fend off a lot of substandard material and save you…

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Chilling Tale

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields   

The book opens with a body being burnt on a remote Highland mountain so that all that remains are the victim’s teeth and a fragment of silk. The body is believed to be that of a successful Edinburgh female lawyer. The murder is the first investigation lead by DI Luc Callanach who has just joined Police Scotland from Interpol. When a second woman is abducted, this time a cleric in the Church of Scotland, the investigation is hampered by a criminal profiler who insists they are searching for a sex offender

The identity of the killer and his motives are known throughout the book. It is the question of whether he can be identified and caught before he kills anyone else that creates the suspense.

The character of Callanach is well developed as we learn about his background, half Scottish, half French and the reason for his leaving France and Interpol. His relationship with his fellow officers is explored with real insight, particularly that with his fellow DI Ava Turner.

It is difficult to say more about the book without giving away the turning points in the story line. I certainly enjoyed reading it.

The Cost of Reading

I have always read a lot of books, even when I was working full time at the Bar, but Libraryunless you have time to spend at a library and want to wait for that particular book you want to read to be available they do cost quite a lot of money. Amazon has done a lot to make my addiction to books affordable, but it looks to me as if there is a shift in the cost of reading.

I have been puzzled for some time as to why the Paula Hawkins’s novel was for sale as a hard back at £7.99 when it was first published. I thought about it again when I received and email from Amazon about a book by John Fairfax called Summary Justice. I was interested in reading the novel as it is set in England and within the Criminal Justice System. I looked at the price of the book and to my surprise, the hardback was £11.89, the paperback £8.99 and for Kindle £8.99 as well. That seemed high to me so I decided to do a bit of research using the Amazon charts for best sellers in crime. This is what I found.

War Cry by Wilbur Smith

Hardcover £13.00 Paperback £7.99 Kindle £12.99

The Fix by David Baldacci

Hardcover £11.89 Paperback £6.40 Kindle £9.44

The Black book by James Patterson

Hardcover £13.60 Paperback £7.99 Kindle £9.99

The Girl Before by J P Delaney

Hardcover £4.99 Paperback 7.99 Kindle 6.49

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Hardcover £10.00 Kindle £9.99

So what is going on? Well, that second Paula Hawkins novel is not available in paperback yet and the price difference between the hardcover and the ebook is 1p. Which is the reader going to buy? Is the publisher trying to push the reader into buying the hardcover because the number of sales to reach the bestseller list is fewer than for a paperback? Why are these popular authors books being priced at either the same or more for the ebook than for the paperback? Are traditional publishers trying to push sales of ebooks down? I assume as there is no printing cost, no paper to buy ebooks should be cheaper. Am I wrong? Or are publishers prepared to take the reading public for a ride and screw them for as much money as possible? Any thoughts?

PS I didn’t have time to look at literary fiction in the same way but Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan shows the same difference in pricing policy.

The value of Literature Festivals

Originally posted on Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer:
This month has been all about the Huddersfield Literature Festival – bringing words to life between 4th-19th March. With over fifty events it’s been bigger than ever and I feel privileged to even say I play a small part in the organisation of such,…

Book Review

The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing
I can’t remember where I heard about this novel, but the review of it was sufficiently enthusiatic for me to read it. It was originally published in 1947 but it hasn’t dated at all. It’s a master class in creating tension in an other wise simple story. I won’t say more as it will give the game away. If you like a good thriller read it.
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<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/9043559-margaret-barnes”>View all my reviews</a>

Life at the Bar – The Drop Room

Custody disputes are distressing. There are no winners and the children are usually the ones who suffer most. Today courts do their best to ensure that no child is upset by the proceedings and very few attend court, their views being placed before the Judge by a social worker. But, at the start of my career, contested custody cases were heard by the High Court Judge when he came on circuit. lancaster-castle

My client, Sarah, was disputing the custody of her two children, a boy of ten and a girl of eight. Since the divorce, they had been living with their father. He worked and they spent a great deal of time with their grandparents, neither of whom enjoyed the best of health. That was the basis for Sarah’s claim for custody of her children.

She was a strange character. A tall blond who always wore dark glasses because, she claimed, of some medical condition. This was her second divorce, although to be fair to her, her first marriage had not lasted very long and there were no children. She had left her first husband for the man who she then married and who was the father of the two children. This marriage had lasted twelve years, but then she had found another man, left her husband and the children. The new relationship was over very quickly and now she wanted her children back. I, rather cynically, thought she was more interested in the maintenance than their welfare.

When the court’s children’s officer spoke to the children they said they wanted to tell the judge they wished to stay with their Dad. I advised Sarah that she should withdraw her application for custody as I believed the Judge would not go against their wishes. The lapse of time – they had been with their father for over a year – was against her as well. She insisted the hearing should go ahead as she thought the children were being pressurised by their father.

The hearing was at Lancaster Assizes. The High Court Judge was on circuit and was sitting in the courtroom inside the Castle. This case would not be heard in that room but in the judge’s chambers.  We waited outside the room in a narrow corridor, all of us crushed together. The children had been brought by the social worker. They ignored their mother’s smiles.

The door was opened by a very tall slender young man with lank fair hair dressed in a morning suit. He stood to one side and waved us into the room. He introduced the case in a rather high pitched voice. I had to suppress a smile at the thought that his voice hadn’t broken. The judge was sitting at his desk in the centre of the room. His robes lay over a chair and his wig on the desk. The room was quite large with windows that overlooked the Priory Church and a small square. One of those windows was the size of a door with a small step in front of it.

‘Come and stand here,’ the Judge said to the two children. They inched forward, eyes wide open.

‘Now, do you know what this room is called?’

They shook their heads, their eyes fixed on the Judge.

‘It’s called the Drop Room. And can you guess why it’s called that?’  drop-room-lancaster

Again they shook their heads. ‘Oh no.’ I thought. I knew what he was about to say.

‘You see that window there?’

This time they nodded but their eyes were even wider and they stared at the window.

‘You see it’s got a step up?’

Their faces were rigid and they only tipped their heads down.

‘They used to hang people from there. Pushed them out of the window with a rope round their necks.’

The children’s faces were white.

‘Well that’s not going to happen to you. Now, I understand you want to tell me about where you want to live.’

The little boy stuttered, ‘With Dad.’

The Judge looked at the girl. ‘And you?’

She took her brother’s hand and nodded, but couldn’t speak.

Not surprisingly the Judge awarded custody of the two traumatised children to the father.

http://www.lancastercastle.com/