This is the working title of my new novel and so far I am about half way through the first draft. Some how the summer has not been conducive to writing – who wants to be stuck in front of a computer when the sun is shining outside. I think too, I am rather daunted by the task I have set myself. I didn’t think about it with Crucial Evidence. I’d started that as part of my dissertation for my MA and I just kept going until I’d finished. Then I drafted and redrafted without thinking, each time telling myself that this time it would work and when I sent it to agents someone would love. They didn’t and I began to realize that it wasn’t my writing that was the real problem but the type of book I wanted to write. Also talking to agents at places like Winchester Writers’ Conference and at The London Book Fair I knew any publisher would want a series of novels and I didn’t want to be tied to writing a book a year. In the end I decided to publish the book myself. In the process I’ve learnt at lot about writing and publishing, but that makes the mountain I have to climb much higher and harder than the first. I know how long it takes and how difficult it can be.
But you have to begin somewhere so this is the first page of my second novel. It follows the career of barrister Cassie Hardman as she gets her first leading brief in a murder case.
‘As Cassie hurried along the driveway from Snaresbrook Crown Court towards the tube station, she turned on her mobile phone. Amongst the emails from fashion houses, department stores and restaurants, there was a message showing the subject matter as Paul Sadler. He had been the defendant in a rape trial, who she had successfully defended at the Old Bailey the week before last. She didn’t recognise the name of the sender, Malcolm Delaney. Normally she was very careful about opening emails from unknown people but it was from someone who knew about her involvement in the Sadler case. She clicked the message open and read, ‘Miss Hardman, I wanted to congratulate you on your representation of Mr Sadler. Your cross examination was very effective and your closing remarks were obviously persuasive. Clearly they carried the jury along, as you know from the verdict. I would like the opportunity of congratulating you in person, and would like to invite you to have lunch or dinner with me. We can arrange a time and place later. I look forward to hearing from you. Malcolm’
The email gave no clue as to how Malcolm Delaney, knew she had represented Paul Sadler or what Delaney’s connection to the case was. Was he a police officer, a member of the court staff or just a spectator from the public gallery? She knew there were a number who came regularly to watch the proceedings at the Bailey; the staff described them as ‘groupies’ and she had been told by one of the ushers that some of them would ask which barristers were appearing in which court and make a point of watching their favourites’ cases. The wording of the message was a little old fashioned so perhaps it was one of them. The thought that one of the men from the gallery wanted to invite her to dinner amused her, but nothing more.
Back in Chambers, the senior clerk, Jack, summoned her into his room and closed the door behind her. On his desk were four lever arch files, tied with pink tape, the front sheet bore the title R v David Winston Montgomery. Jack beamed at her. ‘I’ve managed to get you a leading brief in a murder at the Bailey. I assume you’ll want to apply for silk in a couple of years. This is a good one; you’re ready for it, even though it’s a murder. None of the silks want this. Scared they’ll get tarred with a racist brush, I dare say. A woman won’t of course. Judge Crabtree is in a bit of a panic thinking the defendant might want to represent himself. I said, to Colin in the list office, my Miss Hardman can handle it. Spoke to Tim. Didn’t take long to persuade him you could do it. So there you are a leading brief in a murder.’
Any comments to make about that so important first page.
That is the question? I have spent the last week researching the various companies who offer self-publishing. Some of them are the offspring of mainstream publishers, which is an interesting development. One has been trying a very hard sell, constant telephone calls to try and persuade me to take up a package with them. Others are more laid back, and simply give the details of the services they offer and then leave you to make your own mind up.
Of course like any writer I would love to have some publisher say they wanted to buy my book, but if I self publish does that mean my book is not worth any space on someone’s bookshelf or Kindle. There is a lot of snobbery about self publishing, that only books published by the big publishing houses are properly edited and marketed and therefore are ‘proper’ books. When I look at the diet of books in the bookshops I do wonder if that is correct, there is a mixture of chefs and celebrities everywhere. Some very good books get little or no marketing when they are published. I can think of two books I have read recently that I had trouble finding in a large branch of Waterstones.
It seems to me that one of the advantages of publishing ones own book is the time factor. Even of you get an agent it may take time for them to sell the book to a publisher and then the publisher will take some months to actually put your book into the shops.
Then there is question of the amount you can expect to earn from selling the book. I don’t know what writers earn, but not everyone is going to be a best seller and earn millions. Only three years ago we were told that the average earning for a writer were £6000. So stick to the day job seemed to be the message.
The problem is the cost of self publishing to the same standard as the publishing houses, my research reveals it could be around £5000, which I is rather a lot. That would include editing, copy editing, cover design, printing usually a limited number of copies, preparing an e-book and marketing. Still most people can’t afford that amount.
The first stage of self publishing is getting the book professionally edited and I have taken that course today. The first step on what I hope will lead to me having a copy of the book, Crucial Evidence, in my hands in due course.
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.