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  • Writer's pictureMichael Parker

Inquest of the Vanities

A friend of mine asked me to comment on a publishing contract he had been offered with a Vanity publisher. I don’t like using the word “Vanity”, because there are a lot of wannabe writers who have no idea how to self-publish a book using Amazon, or other on-line companies such as, and perhaps feel compelled to go down the vanity route. I prefer to call it “Assisted” publishing. Anyway, my friend was asked to pay £2300 to get his book into print. I warned him against it, but agreed to put the question to my author groups on Facebook. I was overwhelmed with the response — well over 200 comments, all advising against the deal. There were a few cheeky comments offering their services, but I suppose that was to be expected.

When I had my first book published by Macmillan almost forty years ago, I was a complete novice and also very naïve about the book business. In fact I didn’t have a clue, and I think it was my naïveté that prevented me from making a career out of writing. I did contact a Vanity publisher a couple of years after my book had been published, and it was obvious I was going nowhere. I was asked to pay $5000 for the privilege (American company). Of course, the company offered to finance the deal for me at very generous terms. It was a non-starter anyway, but I had my curiosity satisfied and that was the end of my attempts at making it in the book world. But if I could replay that scenario over again in the present climate, I know there would be a whole host of experts out there willing to help me, at a price, to make a success of my work. It wouldn’t be too difficult to cough up £2300 and still not find success though. So I don’t blame people for seeking out vanity publishers, although, like my friend, it is sensible to seek advice first and save yourself a lot of heartache.

I pressed on with my Conor Lenihan ‘revival’ during the week. I’m still trying to come up with a plot line that will give me the impact I achieved with Conor’s first escapade in The Eagle’s Covenant. I need to achieve a dramatic arc that will lift the reader’s expectations to a high level, but it seems too distant at the moment. I often find myself looking for inspiration when reading the newspaper, or watching dramas on TV. I have to say, though, that the scripts produced in a lot of TV and Film crime dramas I’ve seen recently would never find room in one of my books because they are so thin. My wife and I have just finished watching Pride & Prejudice: the six-part BBC TV production of Jane Austen’s book. The script was written by Andrew Davies. I found myself wishing I could write as cleverly as Mr. Davies. But those kinds of productions are put together by some very clever people, and I guess I’m no match for those, so its back to the ‘smash and grab’ production line of my thriller journey.

Networking is an essential part of business, in whatever form. Mine is through connecting up with other writers and finding publicity (free) on their respective websites. The latest is on Jessie Cahalin’s website: Books in my handbag ( I put A Dangerous Game in my wife’s backpack (I don’t have a handbag!), and Jessie has included it for me. I have also agreed to take part in a box-set deal with Mike Stop. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, and this week I received confirmation from Mike that the planned box-set deal should be available on line in October. It’s an unusual promotion in that it is for stand-alone novels only. It makes sense for me to participate because, as you all probably know, I am a stand-alone writer. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by BookBub and published earlier this week, it seems that over 70% of ebook readers go for the series books as opposed to just over 20% who go for the stand-alone books. It’s food for thought.

Our Chindi authors are getting ready for the Arundel Festival which starts August 19th. in the historic town of Arundel in West Sussex. We will be supporting the Cancer UK charity and donating a percentage of our book sales. It was a tremendous success for us last year, not that we all sold a ton of books, but collectively we were able to give the charity a decent gift for their invaluable work.

On the domestic front, there’s a social evening tonight down at the village hall: bingo and fish & chips. I don’t like bingo but have little choice. It’s the fish & chips that sell it though. Now there’s a thought — prizes for buying my books. Can you get a fish & chip voucher for Amazon? You never know. Wish me luck!

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