In at the deep end, surrounded by sharks, wearing raw-meat trousers.

People keep acting like I'm mad when I mention how Green I am. Why deny it? I'm a newbie, a n00b, a wannabe, a tryhard. My first novel is published next month - by a decent-sized and perfectly respectable publisher, no less – so I'm permitted, I think, a little quiet smuggery. Fine. But I try to temper that, always, by inserting a thick vein of cynicism into conversations, and people just Don't Like It.

"Yes," I'll say, nodding politely. "I know it's exciting... but, look: there's really no guarantee the book will sell well... In fact, statistically, it'll bomb..."

Cue looks of utter disappointment and mild disgust. It's like there's some unspoken agreement amongst people of a publishing ilk – and indeed friends, family and other excited acquaintances – that One Does Not Mention the bitter reality. You simply aren't supposed to acknowledge that the odds are stacked against you, that the retailers appear to be actively discouraging new authors from bothering, and that the chances of vast financial success are slightly lower than those of Elvis showing-up in Loch Ness.

No: instead it's champagne and "oh, of COURSE it'll do well!" and “oh, you’re so humble” and “well done for keeping your feet on the ground” and rich food and blah blah blah. Naturally, secretly, everyone knows the risks; the gloomy probablities. Why, then, is it so frowned-upon to remark upon them?

The same applies to Greenness. When chatting to those same ubiquitous Industry Types I invariably find myself inserting the caveat: "Well, I'm pretty new to all this..." I find a certain comfort in it, if I'm honest, as if it's okay for me to be drunk on free champagne, breaking wine glasses, smoking in the wrong places at publishing parties and generally Not Schmoozing Right, because: "Well, I'm pretty new to all this..."

But even so, there's a look of horror. Not because of the newness itself, I think, but because of the sense of confession. I get the impression that Correct Publishing Etiquette requires everyone - everyone - to maintain the facade that they've been involved in the novel trade for centuries, have won countless literary prizes, lunched with Shakespeare, drank with Cervantes and enjoyed a brief fling with Wilde. Fessing-up to being utterly in the dark about anything and everything will, apparently, bring the whole thing crashing down.

Well not me. I'm new, and proud – to publishing, to writing crime novels, and to this here Crimespace thing. I'm probably making all sorts of ridiculous mistakes, but I'm enjoying myself immensely, am under absolutely no illusions that I'm on the verge of fame and fortune, and all I'm interested in doing is introducing you to my curious alter-ego, Michael. He's not green, he's not pessimisstic about the future, he doesn't get drunk on champagne and he doesn't smoke in the wrong places. He kills people for a living, but don't let that put you off. You can find him, or at least the links to his favourite places, here:

It's All About The Money.

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Comment by Charles Kelly on April 27, 2007 at 9:06am
Frankly, I appreciate your honesty and your realism. Those qualities probably serve you very well in your writing.
Comment by Newt Love on April 17, 2007 at 11:45am
Simon, We may have a mutual friend, Delphine Cingal, yes? No matter... to the point.

My first novel hit the streets on 16 March. I enjoyed a good opening round of sales on the Internet announcement, and am having my first book signing this Sunday, 22 April.

I wish you well. You enthusiasm will carry you through the abrasions that are to come. For me, they have already been here. Most folks I have met in "the publishing business" have been nice, but some have been down-right nasty.

One fellow, a noted reviewer, proclaimed me to be the worst writer in history without ever having read any of my writings, other than my internet posts. As Andrea Campbell noted above "many folks are trying to carve out a living doing this wordsmithing thing."

Some in "the business" perceive the market pie as fixed in size, and they feel the need to keep others out, so they can keep their slice of the pie a nice and big. They are too short sighted to realize that sales figures for their decades-long list of novels will probably not be impacted by a fresh writer like you who uses words like "groovetastic." Writers like you are likely to woo the younger generations -- famous for not reading -- into a bookstore to plonk down a few bob for you novel. You are likely to make the pie grow!

I happen to be a mathematician, with a specialty in probability and statistics. Those who say "statistically, your novel will bomb" are misapplying the mathematics. If every novel were the same, and the socio-economic environment were the same, and the population of readers never changing, then averaging the sales across books would be valid and predictive of present and future markets. In as much as your book is just like all the rest, that would be true.

In fact, you and your books are different from the rest, so the predictive power of the statistics they reference is dimensihed, and has no credence in predicting the outcome of your entry into the market.

The average book will suffer the average fate, but inasmuch as your novel is not average, those bets are meaningless. If you were "normal" the normal rules would apply. My good friend Bill White said in 1982 "Normal is a setting on a clothes dryer; it is no way to live."

Forget the prognosticators who "know" your future. How many MENSA members are fabulously rich? How many people know all the reasons you will fail, but none of the reasons you will succeed? Haven't you proven a lot of people wrong by getting published?

Your future is more defined by who you are and what you write than by the success or failure of the 75,000 other people who are trying to debut this year. You have your life path and destiny, and they have theirs.

I plan on persevering. I believe in my books and stories. I believe in my mastery of the craft. I know I will find my audience, and they will find me. I just hope they are legion, and not a ecclectic few.

Blessings on your path,
Comment by Simon Spurrier on April 16, 2007 at 10:30pm
Yeah, thanks for the comments folks. I guess the way forwards is to let the paranoias and uncertainties drop and max-up the confidence.
Comment by Andrea Campbell on April 16, 2007 at 5:41pm
Okay, I'm not standing next to you so I don't know how you come off, but I do have some thoughts (don't we all?)

First, people want to be successful, generally. And they want to be around successful people and emulate successful people and all of that. I mean, you can't say folks want to hang out with losers.

Also, many folks are trying to carve out a living doing this wordsmithing thing. So image, promotion and positive messages are part of their program. If they don't cultivate relationships, readers and network, they very well may have to mortgage the house—AGAIN.

So, I don't think they are aghast at what you say about being new, (again, I'm not the fly on the wall) but everyone was new at one time and it only lasts a short while as Sandra alluded to.

But I also think that writers like to mingle and exchange valuable information and that conversation that you are not being privy to (whilst you are "not acknowledging your breakthrough") may be the next deal to take you where you want to go. Networking is interwoven into this business and after a while, you may get to like it.
Comment by Steven Torres on April 16, 2007 at 6:40am
Yes, but....Do remember that the people in the business are IN THE BUSINESS. That is, when a bookseller, editor, publisher, even, to an extent, a reviewer or other author speaks with you at a party, they are speaking with you as a fellow business person in a business enterprise that happens to be books. You don't want to sound like the new real estate agent (I forget what they're called in GB - estate sales?) who says "I have lovely new houses for sale - of course, statistically speaking one is bound to burn down before the end of the year and one is probably sharing the neighborhood with some pedophile or serial killer..."

Maintain your enthusiasm, your sense of fun, and present the positives -they're there too - as you say, the book is being published, a respected publisher, inhouse interest in pushing your book in new and exciting ways.

Let others point out the negatives. Believe, they will... My 2 cents.
Comment by Sandra Ruttan on April 15, 2007 at 4:45pm
Well, I hate to tell you this...

But the odds are against you and statistically speaking, the book will likely bomb.

And you're so green someone asked me if you'd been given too much fertilizer.

Truth is, being a debut author only comes once, and then it's gone. Savour the experience and forget the etiquette. Until someone publishes The Complete Idiot's Guide To Being A Debut Author you can plead ignorance.

Besides, arrogance I can do without. But genuine enthusiasm is wonderful, and even in the midst of a few blunders we can forgive much when people are just honestly excited. And why shouldn't you be? You're getting published.

Congrats. And I'm just kidding. Mostly.

Maybe. ;)

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