The blog page for the books and screenplays of John Matthews and what's going on in the world of publishing and film.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Opening Blog...

The first blog is the hardest (hums to the tune of Cat Steven's 'First Cut is the Deepest' as he ruminates). How to start? Too current a comment and it risks being like a pair of old socks in a week's time. Too old and it appears like a pair of old socks straightaway. So maybe best to start with what made me start a blog page to begin with.

When I first started writing, back in the days of steam-driven typewriters (I lie, it was an IBM golf-ball, but with the last typewriter factory having recently closed, it feels like eons ago), the internet hadn't even been heard of, let alone blogs. Then a few years back my publishers suggested it, and I thought: 'What's the point, they're doing a good job with all their marketing and promotion, I'll just be that smiling face eager to turn up at book signings' (and finish off all the canapes swiftly at book launches and press meetings).

Then a short while back I heard about an author called John Locke, a self-published scribe who boasted shifting 1 million e-books online, mainly through blogging, twittering and targeted email campaigns. Mmmm, I thought: I've got that impressive list of back-titles which have yet to be seen by a mass audience in the USA. Maybe I can sell another million that way.

Another million?? Yep, like John Locke, I've already sold over a million of my books, except that it's taken over a decade rather than six months. Though as another writer commented: 'Do you know how hard it is to shift a million books purely outside of the USA?' He has a point. So the only thing I can go nah-nah-nah-nah-nah to John Locke is that: I've got my books in all those languages, oh, and they were sold at the full price (except for the usual discounts, bogof's, etc).

But doing the same again in just six months, or even a year or two, would be neat - though it appears that other authors such as Joe Konrath, Stephen Leather, Lawrence Block and Barry Eisler have had the same idea and already turned their e-book direct sales into an art-form: sell 'em cheap and sell 'em often appears to be the key, and they're blogging and twittering like mad to support that. John Locke even has a 'how-to' book on the subject, popular enough to have been parodied by another author, Russell Blake, in 'Da Vinci Cod' style in his book:  'How to sell a gazillion copies of your book while drunk, high or incarcerated.'

So here I am following all that good advice, twittering and blogging. Mention some famous people in your blog, JL advises, that always helps. Well, I almost met Bill Clinton once while book-signing at a London Waterstones (surely I'm not famous enough to warrant all this security, I thought). Another occasion I almost met Annie Lennox, also Mayor Rudi Guliani. The list of people I 'almost' met is endless.

Give a hint of your writing style, he advises. Well, that's easily achieved. Plenty of material, quotes and anecdotes. If you're funny, show them. No problem there either. Am I funnier than John Locke? Is Karl Marx - he's one of the Marx brothers, by the way - funnier than the Pope? I would hope too that my writing's stronger, if nothing else based on JL's boast of churning out some books in only six weeks. I'm still sharpening my pencils and pondering at that stage (or reading Groucho Marx's Communist Manifesto). Can I write a better book than JL in only six weeks? Probably not. Not my style (that's a play on his 'not my audience' to anyone who doesn't like his books. Do catch up!).

How far I can get towards selling another million books directly remains to be seen, but I'll try to make it fun 'following' how I get on (see, I'm picking up the twitter lingo already). Lot of stories and anecdotes about publishing in general, other authors (not just me and my books -- always find that boooooring after a while), oh, and the film world too. Since getting involved with screenplay writing a few years back, I regularly speak with my agent in LA on Skype. Let me check who he might have had lunch with this week: Leonardo de Caprio, George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Robert Downey Jnr? There, that got a few more famous names squeezed in the blog :)

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