As we draw towards the end of 2007, I find myself more and more able to understand what it takes to actually 'make it', commercially speaking, as an author. Popularity, let's be honest, is judged by quantity of sales, not the quality of e-mails you receive through your website, or the complimentary letters received via your publishing company. The latter is great, and really the most rewarding aspect of writing, but the former is the 'goal' that most aspiring authors desire. To have them both is perfect, and a rare thing indeed. Apparently only 5% of published authors make sufficient income from their work to support themselves without extra-curricular work.
This weekend I am attending the Birmingham Book Festival, and one afternoon is dedicated to authors meeting authors and talking about some of the difficulties they run into, some of the ways in which they feel their work could be better disseminated to a potential readership. I haven't yet attended that afternoon, so I have no idea what will be said, but I can't believe it will be anything other than interesting.
A couple of days ago I spoke to my editor while he was at the Frankfurt Book Fair. He took my next book (the CIA epic - 89 chapters and close on 700 pages!) to Germany with him. He read it, thoroughly enjoyed it, and now there is work to do on tightening up certain aspects of the narrative and plot, as is always the case. Better in my mind, to have written too much and have the task of paring away the unwanted, than to have written too little. Anyway, while he had the book (for about a month or so) I got to work on another script in the event that he felt the CIA novel wasn't suitable to follow A Quiet Belief In Angels. I wrote the better part of 90,000 words, thoroughly enjoying what I was doing, but I have to say that when he told me we would in fact be doing the CIA book next I was very pleased. Not only was I happy to be able to relax for a little while, stepping away from Book Number 7 and not having the tremendous pressure of completing an entirely new script within a fortnight or so, but because I am actually very proud of the CIA book. (As you can tell, it still doesn't have a title!) It is a big book, yes. It is big in the same way as All The President's Men, The Good Shepherd, Syriana et al. It takes on the subject of war, corruption, vested interest, political manipulation, drug-smuggling, assassination etc etc - the routine actions of pretty much any current government, you know? I think it will upset a few people. I hope so. And the simple fact of being pleased about upsetting some people reminded me of why I started into this. The truth is out there (very X-Files, right?), and too often we just close ourselves up, distance ourselves from what we know we should be confronting, because there is routine, and there is self-preservation, and there is family and occupation, the expectations of the society within which we live...and these things are more important than putting yourself in personal danger to express your disagreement with the way the world is headed. That is truth as well. But if in writing a book like this I can answer some questions, perhaps raise some new ones, upset a few people who deserve to be upset, and generally shake some cobwebs out of the rafters, then fine, job done. This is not supposed to be a trenchant lecture. This is not supposed to be a soapbox accusation about government corruption, but what can I say? The truth is out there. I hope that the new book sheds a little light on some of the things that have happened over the last twenty or twenty-five years, and names a few names, and shines a light into some of the darker corners of what we humans are not only capable of doing, but also what we seem unable to prevent others from doing.
On a lighter note, I trust you are well. I am working now to get the second draft complete and ready for copy-editing. Title suggestions are always welcome, because whatever title I choose almost invariably changes!
Take care my friends, and we'll speak soon.