Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Behind the scenes in the Pundy House

I've never had malaria but I can't imagine it's much different from the state I was in following the launch of my attempt on this blog to lure someone - anyone - to review my self-published novel A Half Life Of One.

Nevertheless, despite the fog in my brain, by Thursday 17th - the day after I published the post titled "Squeaky Bottom Time" - I knew that I had at least one firm offer of a book review. That was the good news. The bad news was that the offer came from Maxine Clark, a professional editor in real life and a prodigious reviewer in the literary blogosphere. Ms Clark possesses an intellect of adamantine hardness. Formidably well-read, incisive, honest and totally unafraid to call a spade a shovel I only had to picture her leafing through the pages of my book to feel my insides turning to ice. Swallowing hard, I posted her off a review copy.

By the time Friday came I was wishing I had never written the damned thing. There was no way Ms Clark could fail to see through my amateurish efforts. I was about to be exposed to the world as the literary dilettante I so obviously was. My nascent writing career would be strangled at birth. And rightly so. In publishing the book myself I had been guilty of terrible hubris. My jokey approach on this blog had only made matters worse. I had played the fool too long and only succeeded in fooling myself. She would be doing me - and the reading world - a favour when she put me out of my misery with her withering review.

For the next forty-eight hours as the weekend dragged by I felt like I was on Death Row, waiting for the fateful call. At seventeen twenty-eight on Sunday night it came. I was staring listlessly at my computer as I prepared to write my valedictory farewell to the blogosphere. Suddenly my inbox flashed. I had a new message. From Maxine Clark. My heart sank. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, possibly my last. Farewell dear world, farewell to all my dreams and aspirations. Reluctantly I opened my eyes and clicked the Read button on my inbox.

"I read it and I liked it..."

I wanted to cry. Then I wanted to laugh as I read the rest of the e-mail. Most of all I wanted to get down on my knees and kiss her feet. She liked it. She was going to give it a good review. I had done it. She had written my reprieve and I had survived.

And that's when the trouble really started.

I was so elated that night that I couldn't sleep. My head was spinning so fast I couldn't think straight. All I knew was that I had one good review in the bag. I began to plan the next stage in my marketing campaign. The next big challenge was to interest some booksellers in stocking the book. I started to compose another blog post that I could use as a hook in my bid for bestsellerdom. The result was a post on this blog titled: " ***Press Release*** Onanist publisher announces... "

How I wish I hadn't written that post.

Even at the time I didn't think it was very funny, which is always a bad sign. Its main failing though was that it sent out completely the wrong message. You simply can't promote a book by announcing to the world how few copies you are selling, no matter how witty you are. Not only that, the novel itself is completely devoid of humour. There is simply no synergy whatsoever between the book and the jokey message I was putting out. Just how stupid can a person be? Think about it - I'd just garnered a brilliant review that could have helped me launch the book with a flourish and I had discarded that precious gift from the literary Gods in favour of another dose of my own puerile sense of humour. Somebody should take me out and shoot me. It would be a kindness.

Nevertheless, being the idiot I am, I went ahead and composed the post and published it on the blog the following morning. To deafening silence. Not one single soul was out there laughing at my brilliant wit. The lines to Amazon were not buzzing with orders for the book. By lunchtime I had sunk into a deep depression. I knew I had made a mistake publishing that post. What I should have done was taken Maxine's review and used it as the basis for an information sheet which I could send out to independent publishers.

It wasn't too late. I could delete the ill-conceived post and no-one would know.

Instead I started scanning the web for the e-mail addresses of independent booksellers. Another, this time disastrous, e-mail campaign was about to begin.


  1. This is a fascinating mirror into each other's lives -- you reading a review of your book through my eyes, me reading my review through your (the author's) eyes -- are we in an unbreakable loop? We need someone else to break into the comments! (But glad you think my review is OK ;-).)

  2. Oh, hold yer horses - I'm still reading.

  3. Oh, Pundy, I will get the cheque in the post today ... it'll be in euros, a French cheque ... will that work? Do you have offshore accounts you can put it into?

  4. Hi Pundy,
    Won't know how to contact you about the book except if you get in touch with me on abrahamsusan2003@yahoo.co.uk.
    Thanks, Pundy.

  5. Pundy - can you send me your address please?

    It will be a while 'til I manage to read the book - but I can say that having checked the first page (as much as any potential agent or publisher would do before deciding whether or not to read on) my inescapable conclusion is ...


  6. Debi, that's very kind of you. A compliment from a professional is always highly valued.

  7. Pundy, your words are always eloquent, witty and wise, I can't imagine that you would possibly write anything that amounted to dross. The fact that Maxine liked it, well there you go, proof and pudding. Now you just need to create your marketing strategy (and like the Virgin man it may be on the corner of a fringe of a postage stamp) and get out there and get networking! Good luck and may the force be with you! ;-)

  8. And I've just read John Baker's review. Impressive, eh?

  9. i will get hold of the book first. then i'll take my time to read it again. it wasn't easy reading it online through my lappie.