In between telling the various authorities, banks etc where I now live, I have finished the first set of amendments to the Printers Proof copy of Crucial Evidence. The next stage is to write a blurb for the back cover. Trying to condense a 90,000 word novel into 120 is really difficult. Which bit to include, which to leave out. Are the bits I think important the true turning points in the story? This is my first attempt;
Lenny Barker pleads not guilty to a charge of murdering prostitute Shelley Paulson. Cassie Hardman, junior barrister for the defence, believes he is just another defendant trying to avoid responsibility for his crime. Then, just before the trial begins, she discovers he has an alibi. Cassie is determined he will have a fair trial and risks her career to locate the crucial witness.
Will he be found before the jury retire to consider their verdict and will his evidence establish Barker’s innocence? If Barker is not the killer then who is? Can Cassie help Detective Constable Alexis Seymour in her efforts to solve the crime?
Is this enough? I don’t say where the novel is set or that the story follows Barker’s trial at the Old Bailey, which is an important part of the book. I could do to look at the blurb on other books, but all mine are in store at the moment until we get some bookshelves built.
I recently heard from the major publisher who have been considering my novel Crucial Evidence that they are not going to publish it because they don’t think it will be a bestseller! Just a reasonable seller would be good enough for me. So it looks like its self publishing.
In furtherance of that route I had already send the book for a full edit and I have also received the editor’s comments on it. Her view is that in places the book lacks pace, and she suggests that I remove quite large sections which give my main character, a barrister called Cassie Hardman, a context. One aspect is her background, which I feel is quite important as she comes from a ‘working class’ family (hate these
descriptions but in the UK they still apply), state schools, red-brick university, whilst the Bar tends to be ‘upper middle class,’ private school and Oxbridge. She feels an outsider in her chosen profession and that is reflected in some of her decisions and attitudes. The other is a sub-plot about her Chambers’ politics, which again shows her reactions away from the courtroom, but still with her colleagues. Without those changes she thinks it is unlikely I will find an agent.
The publishing business uses agents as gatekeepers to monitor the manuscripts they receive and ensure only the best get through to the publishers for their consideration. When it comes to genre fiction, the formats are so fixed that anyone writing something that doesn’t fit precisely within the stereotype is not considered.
Another way of putting it is that for commercial fiction the author must write what the publisher wants, or rather what an agent thinks the publisher wants, and not what the writer wants to write.
So to amend that well known saying Self-publish and be damned.
Cathi Unsworth writes about her novels which are described as noir. Unlike many crime novels she does not write series. In this article in The Guardian she writes about the difficulty of getting published and says her first manuscript was rejected by many editors who wanted her to turn it into a series. In the end she did get a publisher who told her she might have done better if she had used a man’s name as a pseudonym. Really that’s too much. She also says that to get published you must write what the agents say, ‘fit into the Christie corset’ are her words, and accept the compromise or do your own thing and take a chance with e-books. It seems to me she is saying what I said in my last post about making your novel fit an agent’s view of what you should write or you write what you want and self-publish. To use an overworked phrase, publish and be damned.