Tuesday 21 February 2012

To Change or Not To Change

I need your help. I’ve been ego-googling, or rather, naval gazing à la internet; checking out what happens when I enter my name in Google, or that of my novel, Glass Houses. This shameful pursuit, talked only of in hushed voices, is in truth, generally accepted as a necessary tool to assessing a writer’s ‘profile’. If I am to persuade a publisher of my potential to move from dedicated writer to published author, I have to show that I have the profile and the ability to help promote and ultimately sell my books. After all, it doesn’t matter how big the book could be, if nobody knows it’s available to buy.
Jackie Buxton is doing OK, thank you. I can’t claim the swimming prowess of JB from the South Axholme Sharks nor the brain of Professor JB specialising in Post-modernism but Jackie Buxton - the writer is out there vying for the Google top spot.
Not so, Glass Houses, however. My completed manuscript is buried, it would appear, in the deepest inner core of planet Google. It’s way behind independent companies offering our plants a lifeline and boasting generous discounts, as well as a primary school with only 67 pupils. I can’t tell you exactly where my Glass Houses appears, having called a halt to the search after the 26th page of results.
It didn’t fare any better when I searched for Glass Houses, the book. Although the time wasn’t entirely wasted as I felt compelled to buy Glass Houses by Rachel Caine after clicking through so many recommendations and promotions - even though it’s really a book for teenagers and I can’t attest to being one of those, and I’m not knowingly a fan of vampire stories either.
There is no need to panic. Why would my book be a top response when it isn’t even available to purchase yet? We’re also advised not to be too precious about our manuscript’s title as it’s bound to be changed by the publisher under the advice of their marketing arm. But the publishing world is undoubtedly tough and part of me can’t help thinking that a title which would intrigue in the book shops, and which wasn’t a potentially tired repeat of a name already used, might keep a publisher’s interest a moment longer – and who knows, perhaps that’s the moment when the publisher decides that this book isn’t going in the rejection pile.
Changing the name of my book does have its drawbacks.  Glass Houses has enjoyed small success in competitions and would be recognisable to some loyal souls from Authonomy and Litopia, some of the writer’s sites in which I’ve been involved, as well as my reader friends in real life and on Twitter. I wouldn’t suggest it has a fan base but Glass Houses is certainly known to some.
Perhaps it’s foolish to essentially start again.  But if there already is a very successful Glass Houses out there, we’re going to have to start again at some point anyway, so why not now?
My original title for Glass Houses was ‘Knock for Knock’. I felt that Glass Houses was catchier and although only superficially giving an idea of the theme of the book, the theme was definitely less obvious in the name, Knock for Knock. Familiarity can breed contempt however, and I’m left wondering if Knock for Knock has more clout.
How many other books called Knock for Knock appear in a Google search? None.
I’m desperate to tell you why I chose Knock for Knock as a title but that wouldn’t be fair. Searching on-line or in a book shop, you wouldn’t be privy to this information and this is where I’d like to ask you to mentally put yourselves now. You’ve been given a book voucher for your birthday. The deal is: you have to buy a book from a new author. Glass Houses and Knock for Knock are side by side on display. Fixing only on the title, which would you pick up first? Perhaps you wouldn’t pick up either? I’d love to know why not.
Regardless of the choices on offer, you may feel it would be too risky to change a book title at this stage.
Whatever your reaction, I’d love to know. It will help me make my decision and I’ll report back next time.
Thank you!    

Friday 3 February 2012

Bridget Stan Laurel Jones

Last week my fairy godmother fluttered in my direction, preened her wings and winked before tapping my typing fingers with the wand brought out especially for Dream Jobs. Would I like my own double page spread of book reviews? Now, we’re not talking a glossy national here, more a regional bi-monthly, but it’s already very professional and is undergoing a re-vamp so who says we can’t persuade it to punch above its weight?
Would I like a double page spread?
Reviews ready to go, I set about writing the requested 300 word biography. I looked through a couple of previous ‘About Me’ pieces with a squint and a squirm.
I needed to start from scratch and when the page still remained blank after ten minutes I did what any dedicated home-worker does, I put on my trainers and went for a run. It was cold. Excellent! It meant I could choose the ‘boggy route’ and trot over the peaks of frozen mud. Not so. The whole of Yorkshire was in the grip of ice and thick frost, it would appear, except for this particular path which I can only assume was in its own ozone-destroyed, micro-climate. I slid from edge to edge, sometimes gliding like a cross country skier, three times falling flat on my face. But I was quite happy, doubly so because I was also thinking about my piece: just what am I like?
Splattered in mud by this point, I came across a five-barred gate wedged into a bank of sludge and, rather than try to prise the gate open, decided it would be easier to go over the top.  My foot slipped on a rung, however, and sent me somersaulting over the highest bar. Thankfully the other foot got caught on the way over and stopped me nose-diving into the bog below. Hanging vertically from the top, staring down at the mud, I knew that whatever happened, I was not falling into that. Knowing me, the mud would probably be masking a six foot bunker and I’d die a most embarrassing death, with the added disappointment of never being able to recount my story.
Eventually extricated from the gate, having winched myself hand by hand back up to the top, much to the bemusement of a seemingly enormous herd of cows, I dusted myself down and thanked my fairy godmother for staying around long enough to ensure I emerged from another little scrape relatively unscathed.
That’s when I had my answer. What am I like? I am cross between Bridget Jones and Stan Laurel (the little half who was away with the fairies). Other people seem to manage to leave the house and come back looking remarkably similar to when they left. Not me! If I’m not sporting blood or mud, it’s an embarrassed hue.
Only a few days previously, there was the parking ticket incident. I saw the yellow sticker in disbelief and peered through the windscreen to find my parking disk lying in the footwell, the victim of an over-zealous door slamming.
‘Hello,’ I cried, ‘please can you help?’ The parking inspector wandered over, a small man with an engaging smile wearing a black uniform which was slightly more relaxed than I’d have expected, but still with the familiar peaked cap. I told him I was aware that everyone must say this kind of thing but asked if I could just point out the parking disk on the floor and demonstrate that the door was still locked. I showed him my key by way of authentication.
 ‘That’s most unfortunate,’ the man concurred with an Eastern European lilt to his accent, ‘I wish I could help you ma’am,’ he added, notably pointing his electronic gismo in the direction of the parking ticket, and staring intently at the orange package affixed to my windscreen as if he was trying to read it.
‘But I’m just the delivery man’.
So there you have it. That’s me. Bridget Stan Laurel Jones, happy to be alive and grateful to fairy godmothers for all sorts of reasons.
Have a great week – be careful out there…