Midwinter Reckonings

Winter came to Scarborough and it was beautiful, if treacherously icy in places. Midwinter day in some traditions is a moment for inner reflection. It is also another point in the turning of the seasons, a new year if you like, a moment to look back perhaps.

Photo by Mark Vesey

When I consider our human world, it seems to me to be in a mess and it is rapidly messing up the rest of the earth for every thing else. Once in a while, I see, hear or read about people who are trying to do the right thing within their communities with generosity and commitment. However, this same attitude is not reflected by the leaders of most countries and most big business who appear determined to follow the same old discredited path. I hear on the TV ‘experts’ say we have the answers, we still have time to turn round the juggernaut of destruction and despair. I wish I had their faith.

However, if I speak personally, this year has been an exciting one in many ways. A Wake of Crows came out in paperback and Drowning Not Waving in hardback. I delivered No Justice at the beginning of December. This completes the three books I was contracted to produce for Constable/Little Brown. I now have an agent, Anne Williams of the Kate Horden Agency, and together we have been looking to the future. Finger crossed, further Donna Morris books with Constable/Little Brown and maybe other writing opportunities.

I have had a couple of good reviews in national publications. I was on panels for Bloody Scotland in September, for an online discussion of psychology in writing and for Newcastle Noir in December. I had a signing at a local inde bookshop. I have had coverage in the local media and events in Scarborough and York. I have done my best on social media (still not my forte).

Me at Newcastle Noir with Frances Walker & Glenda Young. Photo by Mark Vesey

When I first got my book deal, I thought whoopee, someone else will be responsible for publicity. I thought (naively as it turns out) that if a publisher brings out a book, it will want to promote the title in order to maximise sales. Unfortunately, I was very wrong. Most of the publicity I have garnered has been through my own efforts. And though I love doing events and having (good) reviews, I find the work required to get them and the knock backs along the way dispiriting and exhausting.

An author who I am coming to know who is a lot more experienced than me said publishers spend 90% of their publicity budget on 10% of their authors and we are in the 90% who get what’s left. How true. Need I mention Richard Osman? The three books in his Thursday Murder Club series have sold over three million copies. The most recent is the fastest-selling adult hardback from a British author since BookScan records began. Why? Because he is known AND still gets the 90% of the publicity budget spent on him. Mslexia (Dec/Jan/Feb 2022/23) mentioned him three times in three different articles and it is supposed to be a journal for women who write.

I am not alone in being exasperated by this aspect of book promotion. Katya Balen won the Carnegie prize in 2022 for her book October, October. She said on the BBC Today programme (15th December 2022): ‘Publishers dedicate a huge amount of publicity and marketing to those big names, to their celebrity authors, getting books out into the public consciousness on train adverts, tube adverts, all the kind of places where people are not expecting to find books, where they kind of seep into people’s lives without them noticing. They dedicate budgets to those authors and other authors aren’t getting it. …brilliant books are being let down by publishers. … Let’s put diverse authors on national radio and national TV and let people make up their own minds about what they want to buy.’

I always thought reviewers would like to find something which no-one else has yet discovered. Apparently not. Most of them want to review what everyone else is talking about. And readers can only read what they know about. Our local Waterstones, after much prompting from me, got in a couple of copies of A Wake of Crows which were hidden somewhere on a shelf not even the assistant could find. Whereas Richard Osman had a table inside the shop and window display. Love them or hate them, my novels are based in this very town and written by a local author.

Looking forward, if I care about my books, which I do, I know I have to gird my loins and be more proactive. I am talking to a social media mentor in January to come up with some new directions on that front. I am talking with other authors in the crime genre to see if we can do things jointly. But if you, dear reader, have any ideas, please don’t be afraid to slip them my way. I would particularly like to do more events, podcasts and have more reviews.

In ‘The Crayon Cure’ by Nicola Masters (Mslexia Dec/Jan/Feb 2022/23) she says that, after finding an agent and getting a book deal: ‘The thing I was not prepared for was how my relationship with writing would change when other people were interested in what I was doing. Suddenly, this thing I did for the sheer fun and love of it, that allowed me to ignore my responsibilities, became, well, my biggest responsibility.’

She suggests doing something creative which does not have the same pressure as producing a novel. For her it is art. For me it is collage, yoga and sea swimming. I can enjoy these activities without worrying about getting any better at them; or whether my sales are going up or down; or I am making a splash on social media.

However, writing consistently saves my sanity and is something I can lose myself in with pure joy. This is as true now as it has ever been. I love creating my characters, my stories and my worlds. I have to hold this in mind when the vagaries of sales and marketing gets me down. My books are out there, a few people know about them, a few people connect with them. This in itself is my midwinter gift.

To end this rather rambling post, let me wish everyone a splash of peace and kindness; the space to nourish their creativity; and pleasure in the small things. Onwards to 2023!

Photo by Mark Vesey

3 thoughts on “Midwinter Reckonings

  1. janetlees2001

    I am sick of the sight of Richard Osman’s name! I really sympathise, it’s annoying and frustrating as a reader to have this kind of thing thrust upon me, and must be 100 more so as a writer when you are missing out because of it.

    Like

    Reply
      1. janetlees2001

        It’s so disappointing that Waterstones in Scarborough do not have a display with your books. It’s crazy, actually!

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.