This time it is one of my novels that’s reviewed, by Maria Victoria Beltran for Readers’ Favorite.
She gives it a 5 for Appearance, 5 for Plot, 4 for Development, 5 for Formatting, 4 for Marketability, and 5 for Overall Opinion.
She goes on to say: “Granduncle Bertie by William Peace is an inspirational novel about one man’s quest for a peaceful death. The story unravels when Albert Smithson asks his grandniece Sarah to help him write his memoir. In the last seven years, the two have been partners in writing popular children’s picture books, with Granduncle Bertie as the writer and Sarah as the illustrator. As the story unravels, Sarah finds out that Bertie is traumatized by the excruciating death of his father and suffers from thanatophobia or fear of death. He has lived a good life and has overcome many difficulties, and now he wants his memoir to reflect his inner struggles. It will chronicle events in his life that make him realize that to die in a peaceful state, he has to accomplish three conditions. William Peace’s Granduncle Bertie is a thought-provoking read. All human beings begin life, and all human beings die. This is undoubtedly a theme relevant to all of us. William Peace’s literary style engages his readers quickly in considering essential questions not only about how we want to die but also about how we want to live. Narrated from the point of view of Sarah, a woman in her late twenties, the tone is chatty and informal. Most of us can relate to Granduncle Bertie as a familiar family story. What makes it unique is that it attempts to explore a sensitive theme. This book suggests that exploring one’s fear of death may allow us to live more fully.
Below are some of Harry Bingham’s thoughts on the state of book publishing today. Harry is the founder of Jericho Writers. It’s a good time to be a writer!
Ten years ago, self-pub wasn’t really a thing. Now it certainly is. These days, there’s no longer any good public data for the scale of the self-pub market, but very roughly you should assume that self-published titles sell as many copies as all Big 5 titles on Amazon combined – in other words, one heck of a lot. Indeed, there are corners of the reading globe (romance and erotica especially) where self-publishing utterly dominates.
What’s more, indie authors make money. Again, public data is no longer available, but when it was, it was clear that at every single income level you care to name, there were more indie authors earning at that level than trad-published ones. More million-dollar indies. More $100K indies. And so on down. I’m certain that that basic picture hasn’t changed.
A friend of mine is currently selling a book, via a top British agent at a top British agency. The list of editors who are receiving that book include (of course) all the Big 5. It may surprise you to learn that the book doesn’t go to just one editor per publisher. It goes to as many editors, at as many imprints, as may be right for the book. From memory, the book is therefore going to two editors in different bits of HarperCollins, the same at PRH, and so on.
If an auction arises, those two HarperCollins editors, let’s say, might find themselves bidding against each other. A PRH / S&S merger wouldn’t necessarily reduce the number of editors that an agent pitched to. It would just change the email addresses of one recipient.
The long tail
Good publishing simply does not stop at the big firms.
My friend had as many small- to mid-sized publishers on that submissions list as Big 5 editors. And honestly? I think it’s simply 50/50 whether the book ends with a large house or a small one. The right publisher for that book will be one where the editorial, design and marketing visions align the best … along with a dollop of good chemistry between author and editor. A real passion from a Faber or a Bloomsbury or a Granta would (to my mind) be a better deal than a more lukewarm offer from a larger firm. (Those are British firms, but there are similar firms in the US and elsewhere too.)
The quality in some of these smaller houses is incredible. You often get more daring publishing, greater willingness to take risks, and generally bolder decisions at every level of the firm. You also, as an author, actually feel important to the firm, which is not something that’s easy to feel when you’re in the grip of one of the big machines. I once rejected an offer from a top, top quality British independent and I’ve always wonder if I did the right thing. If I had to guess, I’d say probably not.
Most authors I know don’t ultimately care about money anyway. Yes, they want to be paid properly for their work, and they want that side of things to be handled with proper justice and professionalism, but the real payoff is more intangible. It’s the passion of a publisher, the respect of a community of peers, the book in the bookshop, the reviews and comments. All those things are every bit as likely – perhaps likelier – for authors working with strong indie presses as for those working with the Big 5.
The Big 5 firms are great. The indie publishers are better than they’ve ever been. Self-publishing creates a tremendously inspiring and effective route for countless authors.
Author-led marketing tools are the best they’ve ever been.
Barnes & Noble and Waterstones (respectively the flagship bookchains in the US and UK) are both in better shape than ever.
The independent bookstore sector has lost a lot of poor-quality stores, but the strong ones remain strong.
Books (thanks, especially to low cost ebook pricing) are insanely affordable – and you can read in any format you choose much more easily than before.
The simple fact is that it’s better to be an author today than at any point in the last two decades. Indeed, that’s probably underselling it. I think it’s easy to argue that this is the best ever time to be an author.”
Mt latest novel, Nebrodi Mountains: The Billionaire and the Mafia, recently reached the stage where the front cover design had to be finalised. I suggested to the publisher’s art department that it could be a picture of the real Nebrodi Mountains modified to make them mysterious, and I attached the following as a sample:
The art department came back to me with the following. “I am attaching two cover design samples for your review. I thought that, rather than just have a lovely mountain landscape on the cover, that we shoot for something a bit more dramatic. I keyed off of the subtitle: “The Billionaire and the Mafia,” and selected a figure that might represent the mafia and a figure that could represent the American billionaire. I purposely made the “mafia” figure darker and more malevolent. Please let me know if either of these cover designs will work for you.”
To this, I responded, “I like the first one better that the second. The brown colouring in the second looks unexciting, and the billionaire is too young. The first one has possibilities, if the man is a handsome, black billionaire, early 50’s. His slightly superior attitude is good. Could his suit be a blue blazer, his shirt be whiter, his tie dark red, and can you fit in a gold watch? The mountains need to be largely green – no snow cover – and I think they should look real and take up more of the picture.
The artist responded with: “I am attaching a new jpg proof for your review.”
My comment on this was: ” We’re getting there! I think the man is too young, and I don’t think he would have a scar on his cheek. Attached are some photos that fit my picture of the billionaire. I think all of them are copyright, but I can tell you who the copyright owner is, if you’re interested. The mountains in the background need to have more character (visible details) and look more like mountains than hills. (I sent him three sample pictures if black men.)
The artist responded: “Here’s a revised cover proof…
My comment was, “I understand that the orange colour scheme is thematic, but it doesn’t work for me. Could you do the mountains in natural green and the sky in natural shades of grey/white with threatening storm clouds and perhaps a stroke of lightening? With this change, the subtitle, The Billionaire and the Mafia, should probably be in black, same font as ‘Nebrodi Mountains’.
He responded: “Here’s the latest incarnation…”
And I said, “It’s excellent! I assume you’ll eliminate the watermark across the man’s face.”
When I saw the press release of this book by Yale historian Paul Kennedy, I knew, as an ex-US Navy officer, that I had to get a copy. It makes for fascinating reading, particularly in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Paul Kennedy the author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, a New York Times bestseller. He has also written Grand Strategies in War and Peace, and Engineers of Victory: The Problem SolversWho Turned the Tide in the Second World War. He s J Richardson Dilworth Professor of History and Director of International Security Studies at Yale University.
This history book includes a remarkable series of fifty-five paintings of warships by Ian Marshall who was a fellow and past president of the American Society of Marine Artists. The paintings are a valuable addition, bringing the text alive.
Written in five parts and three appendices, it begins with stage-setting background of the development of the six navies involved in WW II: USA, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Japan. There is also a discussion of sea power in the sweep of history, and an overview of geographic and economic considerations. Kennedy argues, persuasively, that geography and economics favoured the United States, while both factors worked against the Axis alliance.
The next four parts cover the periods 1939-42 (the early years, which favoured the Axis); 1943 (the critical year); 1944-45 (triumph of the Allies); and Aftermath and Reflections. In these sections, Kennedy does not describe the sea battles in detail. Rather, he describes the situation, the strategies, the combatants, and the results materially and psychologically. Even without the real time detail, one has a feeling for what the battle was like.
The principle point which Kennedy is making in this book is that one the US decided to enter the war, the conclusion was inevitable principally because of the economic potential of the country. It had access to all the natural resources it needed; at the end of a major recession, the human resources were available; and the financial resources were made available by wealthy, patriotic individuals. Geography also favoured the US in the sense that none of the conflict came within its borders.
In the appendices, there are examples of American production of weapons. In 1945, the US had a cumulative total of eleven an a a half million tons of warships, and increase of nine million tons since 1941. In 1945, the US had considerably more warships than the rest of the world, combined. Similar gains were achieved in aircraft and tank production. Kennedy argues that this increase in productivity resulted in the US becoming the world leader with about 50% of the world’s GDP.
This book makes clear that, given the right resources and motivation, major changes in the world order are possible in a short time period. And it leaves me with a question: If NATO really wants to defeat Russia in Ukraine, if it gathers the necessary military hardware and if the West keeps its sanctions in place, will Russia become anything other than a weak, failed state?