I generally resist the temptation to sound off about personal issues on my blog, but I just want to extend solidarity to any parent of a University student who has the misfortune to have applied to Student Finance England for funding.
It’s system, and I use that word advisedly, of receiving (make sure that you send the registered post) applications in Darlington, scanning them onto the system, the only way to apply if you are self-employed, and then waiting six weeks to see if they appear on the screen in Glasgow, is fatally flawed. There is no, I repeat no communication between Darlington and Glasgow. I am now being asked to start my application again for the third, yes the third time and my son is being threatened with withdrawal from University for the non payment of fees, he is also flat broke. Trapped in a Groundhog Day cycle of incompetence and maladministration I am now resorting to writing to my M.P. as I was forced to do when my daughter was at University, if this is happening to you I suggest that you do the likewise. The intervention of my local Member of Parliament ensured the funds were forthcoming in just ten days.
Now as promised, bungs, bribes or what it takes for your novel to make its promotional debut.
For years I had little or no idea just how a novel appeared on the three for two table, or Richard and Judy’s book club, blithely assuming that merit was key in deciding whose novel gained the most in the promotion stakes. In issue 50 of Mslexia Liz Thompson reports on this topic in her article The Price of Fame. The fact is publishers pay substantial sums to push their titles. Liz explains that for Book of the Week at WH Smith the publisher pays around £25,000. Richard and Judy, was originally free when it was tied into the television show, but its Spring Book Club charges publishers around £20,000 per title. As a promotional tool some titles are given away in the first instance to create a buzz and according to Liz, the publisher Quercus planted copies of the The Girl With The Dragaon Tattoo in the back of taxi’s and on tube trains. This reminded me of an earlier Internet movement, whose name escapes me, that left copies of books on park benches, in hotel lobbies and on all forms of transport, the idea being that you read the book then wrote in it asking the next person to pass it on in a similar fashion. Books were set free all over the world and a friend of mine liberated a copy of my novel Gene Genie at the technical Bafta’s in Los Angeles, quite where it went from there I never knew, although many titles turned up as far away as Australia and Africa. With so many authors turning to self publishing or small independent presses, giving thought to how you are going to distribute and promote your work should be at the forefront of authors’ minds. Gene Genie with its themes of identity and the rights of children born by sperm or egg donation was a natural for reading groups and to that end promotion focused on getting it read by as many groups as possible and then the all important word of mouth began. Since then publishing has undergone something of a revolution with the Internet and availability of e-readers. With sites such as www.authonomy.com www.youwriteon.com www.theNextBigauthor.com and now that any author to add their book to Amazon Kindle, opportunities have emerged as vital and liberating tools for the aspiring unknown. So if you don’t have a spare £20,000 then think outside of the box, think taxis, trains, coffee shops, theatres and cinemas, free your book.