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Linda Gillard

More background on HOUSE OF SILENCE (if you can bear it)... Two publishers in particular deliberated long and kept me waiting many months for their final decision. In one case it was a straightforward No from their marketing dept. (Editors go head-to-head with marketing people at acquisitions meetings, trying to persuade them that risks should be taken occasionally.) The marketers' No was because my sales track record isn't dazzling, merely respectable.

The other near miss was also a marketing No but the editors asked to see my next novel before deciding. UNTYING THE KNOT was very different and the editor turned me down (very nicely) because she'd been hoping HOUSE OF SILENCE would be the first in a series of "Gothic Chick Lit". (I hasten to add, HoS is not Gothic chick lit, but publishing loves a label.

You might have come across the term "rave rejection". This is when an editor writes to your agent to say - sometimes in detail - how much they loved your book, what a brilliant writer you are, how original/moving/witty etc, but, no, we don't wish to publish it. They then use a polite euphemism which means "because we don't think it will make us a lot of money."

I have sheaves of those. ;-)

I just had one from an editor who raved about UTK, which is about a marriage and a man traumatised by his work in an army bomb squad. "What could be more timely?" you might think. "And look how THE HURT LOCKER cleaned up at the Oscars last year." But there is apparently no marketing hook to hang my novel on.

Of course if I were married to such a man, or were his mother, or if I'd been blown up by a bomb myself, things might be different. (And this is not cynicism on my part. Increasingly I'm told, readers like their fiction to be "true".)

Sandy

I'm very happy to have downloaded this book - I loved the last one I read by you Linda and it's just waiting for me to finish off 'Greenmantle'.

Good luck with this form of publishing. I have been surprised how natural the Kindle has been to use and my only reservation has been that compared to iTunes, it seems harder to browse and sample what is available online. Maybe some lucky entrepreneur will make a fortune with the perfect solution.

For me, this blog has been a great portal to fantastic experiences, but have the blogs enough of a following to let a writer make a living? But maybe 'Approved by Cornflower' could be a marketing hook on its own!

Linda Gillard

I definitely think it could, Sandy! I don't know about making a living - print publishing doesn't enable many authors to make a living - but my e-book sales have gone mad in the last 24 hours and I suspect Cornflower's blogging is responsible. HoS is currently hovering outside the top 100 e-books (at 103).

So who needs a marketing dept? ;-)

(Thanks btw for your kind words about my books!)

Linda Gillard

HoS just entered Top 100 at #98. Thank you, Cornflower. :-)

The Reading Ape

"Pigeon-holing" in more generous terms might be thought of as "branding." It's difficult to market a sequence of unrelated products....no reservoir of familiarity develops.

A consistent experience builds trust from a consumer. As a reader, it's quite difficult to build trust in an author: it requires multiple reading experiences. A consistent product (Coke for example) can leverage all previous advertising into the product that exists. To advertise a book that is radically different than the one before, very little residual experience remains.

Correct me if I am wrong, but this story required readers to have an initial positive experience with the author through traditional publishing? Once the backlist became unavailable, then DIY publishing filled in the gaps. This might be a model for trad/self publishing that people aren't thinking about. Let traditional publishers do what they do well. Maybe then surrender what they don't do well to DIY options/

Linda Gillard

I've discussed this a lot with readers and they say they're looking for a distinctive voice not a brand and I think you could be looking for that after one book. My readers were. (My first novel, EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY, print-published in 2005 is still being reviewed on blogs, though it's now out of print.)

Readers repeatedly tell me - and with some exasperation - that they don't want books to be similar, just similarly written. The consistency they will trust is not the content, but the quality of the writing.

Look at authors like Nick Hornby or Margaret Forster. No one bought their books because they were similar. They bought the excellent writing.

I asked the editor who published STAR GAZING what genre I wrote in. (This has always been a mystery to me.) She thought for a while, then said, "Linda Gillard genre."

And that has been my problem.

Cornflower

That's a very interesting point. I think - and I'm generalising here - that authors could be likened to winemakers in terms of the consistency of what they produce and the following that attracts.
A vigneron whose wine is well-regarded will produce something different every vintage, though one year's will have recognisable similarities to others'. This year's wine may use the same grape variety, grown in the same terroir, as last year's, and the maker will employ his usual skill, and allowing for seasonal variation, come up with something that is both familiar and interestingly different. He has earned your trust through past vintages, so you will be keen to sample future ones to see what 'new product' he has made from the same ingredients as before.

Linda Gillard

I think this analogy is quite brilliant. And this is how a writer works! Stories have to grow in fertile soil and that soil has to be kept in good heart. (Gin & chocolate help.) Stories and characters must be tended and weeded (and sometimes they have to be hacked right back.) Seedling stories spring up in surprising places and sometimes cross-fertilise. The whole business, from germination to harvest, is fraught with doubts about quality until the story is finally "tasted".

Cornflower

That's a nice idea, Sandy! Thankyou.

Cornflower

I'm very glad to help in spreading the word, Linda.

Harriet Smart

This is all so very interesting. Thanks firstly for the mention and the link above.

I too love this analogy with wine, the idea that each book comes from the same terroir but tastes different and yet is identifiably from the same place.

I am been trying to remember (since it's always a bit traumatic) the reasons which I was given for rejection. I think it was to do with the genre problem. I started off writing in a genre - family saga, rather in the way Galsworthy would have defined it, but as I went on that was not what family saga had become in the trade. It had become almost exclusively clogs and shawls, in fact. Having outlined a historical novel to them which I thought a good project, I was instead given the straight choice: could I do clogs and shawls or aga saga? I chose the latter (The Wild Garden) and after that was published and failed to break through I was dropped. On another occasion my agent said that I should avoid characters with a university background, possibly for the same reason. The broadest market share had to be addressed. I simply wasn't commercial enough for that genre.

My recent historical crime novel which did the rounds and found no takers was designed to be commercially appealing but failed to hit the mark, again not having "broad enough market appeal" I don't know what I am doing wrong exactly - perhaps the marketing hook of the book is just not sexy enough. If I had made my detective an early Victorian prostitute instead of first generation Chief constable perhpas it would have done the trick. (I copyright that idea by the way!) Certainly everyone who reads it loves it, but maybe my readership is never going to be big enough to justify the overhead of modern conglomerate publishing. In which case I am happy to roll up my sleeves and DIY. It may mean less conventional glory but it also gives me far more artistic freedom and that is something you cannot put a price on.

Lyn

I agree with Linda that it's the style of writing rather than similarity of content that's important to readers. To me, all of Linda's books have a similar style & some themes are consistent - emotional reality, family relationships, romance - but each book has a different theme & plot, of course. I didn't want or expect another Star Gazing or Emotional Geology when I picked up HOS. I expected another well-written involving story from a writer whose books I'd loved in the past & that's what I got. I'm so pleased that Linda has defied the publishing (& marketing) sceptics & got HOS to her readers. Thank you Cornflower for the link to my blog in your post.

The Reading Ape

I think the wine analogy is good for another reason: wines are also very difficult to advertise well. There are a few "brands" but by and large it is a case by case buying process that requires a fair amount of a priori knowledge. Also very little in the way in mass market advertising, save for the lowest common denominator brands.

sandpiper

Blimey. I started House of Silence this morning. What an absolute stonker of a book! Wonderful characters, and there was no question I had to finish it today. Linda, I wasn't aware of your books before Cornflower's blog post. Congratulations on a gripping story, and thank you to Cornflower for the recommendation. I don't think I've received better value for £1.90 in a long time.

linda gillard

Thank you sandpiper. You've warmed the cockles of my withered author's heart. ;-) To be honest I just love the story myself. Perhaps because it's derived from one told to me by my mother. She is one of 4 daughters and my grandmother was pregnant with a 5th.... You get the picture?...

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