In this week’s Reaper Report, Thriller Guy is sad to note the passing of Leighton Gage, whodied a couple of days ago. Leighton wrote a series of crime thrillers about a Brazilian cop, Chief Inspector Maria Silva. The books were/are tough, Silva’s ethics elastic, and the Brazilian setting is absolutely original. TG blogged about the covers of his books a while ago, declaring them the best covers of a crime series in the business. He was an excellent writer and a very nice guy. RIP, Leighton Gage.
Back to business: In the last month the popular press has pumped out breathless articles about J. K. Rowling and the fact that she had written a crime novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and published it under a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. Whenever this happens – Stephen King did it famously years ago – normal people get all excited and offer speculation as to why a famous author would do such a thing. TG is not going to go over that ground because it’s stupid: she did it because she’s rich enough to do anything she damn well wants to do as a writer. The point was and is, when the book came out Robert Galbraith received fabulous reviews and sold jack shit in the UK and in the US. And by jack shit (please don’t send TG angry comments about not capitalizing the J in Jack. It’s a close call.) TG means 1,500 copies in the UK and 4,800 copies in the US. Pitiful. Even TG’s alter ego Allen Appel’s novels sell better than that. But when it was discovered that the novel was actually by Rowling, the book shot to the top of the bestseller lists and is selling in the gazillians.
So what does this mean, Thriller Guy?
Mostly it means that much of the reading public is made up of morons who buy books for reasons that have little or no relation having to do with intelligence. Most of them don’t buy books because they might be good, they buy them because the author is famous or infamous or has some other exciting non-publishing attraction. But we already knew that, didn’t we?
The thing that struck TG, and the real point of this blog, was the quote way down the page in one of the stories where some publisher who turned down the book when it was submitted to her, said something like (as always, TG is too lazy to look up the actual quote) “Yes, the book was well written, and yes it was exciting, and yes it was a good mystery, but sometimes a book has to be more than that.” What the lady means is that publishers don’t give a rat’s ass about a book being well written, exciting and a good example of the genre, they just want a hook to hang it on so the fickle public will have a reason to buy it. This is known in the business as “Having a platform.” And the author being famous is the platform they know and love best. If they could only get Britney Spears to write a crime thriller they’d be in heaven.
TG is aware that you, gentle reader, have heard him rant about this before.
Seriously, 4,800 copies sold. TG supposes that sales might have been particularly small because Galbraith, not being a real person and all, wasn’t Twittering or putting his info on Facebook. I’m sure Rowling didn’t want to carry the game that far, though it would have been a lot more interesting had she done so. One of the reasons she didn’t Twitter and Facebbok was that it is a huge pain in the ass to do the sort of social marketing that popular wisdom insists that authors now must do. There’s a funny/sad article on Salon titled Hell is Self Promotion where fiction novelist Sean Beaudoin recounts the pain and misery of having to continually self-promote himself and his books because his publishers aren’t going to spend any money doing so. (Allen Appel agrees with everything Sean has to say and has felt his pain.) All publishers have time to do these days is sit around and rend their garments and whine about how the business has gone to hell, which it has. And why has it gone to hell? Because they arrogantly missed the digital revolution while clinging to the tattered remnants of their 19th century models of doing business. And now they insist that it is the author’s responsibility to make up their lack of acuteness and foresight by doing all their work for them. Most of the big guys, anyway. There are now small independent publishers who are jumping in where the majors are too stupid to tread and selling books and making money. Good for them and the writers who self-publish and self-promote who are also making money.
So all you folks who are interested in literature or maybe just a good read, get out there and buy a book today, and buy it from a writer or an independent publisher. Do a good deed.
Now here’s a secret. God, TG really didn’t want to have to leak this, but here goes: All of Allen Appel’s books were actually written by James Patterson. Yup. Patterson used this subterfuge to see if readers would love his books if they didn’t have his name on them.
Sorry, Jim, it turns out that readers won’t buy your books without your name on them.
But don't worry, your secret is safe with Thriller Guy.