Friday, December 02, 2005

Where I'm At

It's now six months since my third novel, Ghost Portrait, was published. The paperback edition will - with any luck - be in the shops in January. Sceptre has decided against the 'period' look, so the cover has a model, pouting prettily, to lure the browsing shopper. Whether this will improve on the hardback's fortunes remains to be seen. The Guardian was the only newspaper to print a review in May.

Getting reviews for fiction is becoming increasingly difficult. Newspapers, particularly the weekend editions, seem to be growing by the week yet there's less and less room, between the travel section and features on how to spoil your garden with decking, for reviews of any kind. Things are no better for distribution: the market dominance of a few, highly centralised, book chains means that diversity is constantly being squeezed. Publishers must pay to get their titles on the 3-for-2 tables; the rest go, literally, to the wall, where only the shopper with intent will find them. Now that Ottakars (which, in Scotland at least, still caters to regional tastes) is about to be snapped up by Waterstone's, the troubles faced by lesser known authors can only be expected to increase.

While waiting for the paperback of Ghost Portrait, I am starting work on a fourth novel. To be precise, I'm starting work again on a fourth novel, having decided to abandon a work in progress - a satire of university life in the American Midwest - which was lacklustre and directionless. A year of writing, then, with only a short story salvaged from the wreckage. Failure, though it doesn't pay the bills, can be an effective tutor. I've learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Whether I can put those lessons to good use remains to be seen.

Since returning from the tropics (the subject of a future post) I have written a number of short stories. The struggle now is to get them published. Increasingly, short stories are where my enthusiasm lies, both as reader and writer. Kipling did his best work in the form; so did Chekhov and Pritchett. It ought to be the form of choice for our rushed and spasmodic age; yet in Britain there is simply no market for short stories. Magazines like Prospect do their valiant best but the general situation is not a friendly one.

Still, moaning, we plug on...


Blogger chimera said...

Best of luck for your next novel.

2:42 PM  

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