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Comment from the book world in August 2011

August 2011

'The biggest thrill of my life'

29 August 2011

'The biggest thrill of my life was selling my first novelette. It was a Western for Argosy magazine in 1951, called "Trail of the Apaches". I'd done a lot of research about the Apache Indians in the 1880s and they seemed like ruthless individuals out to raise hell, which fascinated me. I got paid $1,000 for it and thought, wow, I'm going to quit my job in advertising, which I did...

If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. I don't want my books to sound like I'm the one who's talking or somehow there behind the scenes, so I always reread what I wrote the day before; it has to sound like these people are feeling and thinking these things, so I'll take words out if it looks like the character is talking too much; after 60 years I've gotten pretty adept at it.'

Elmore Leonard in the Independent on Sunday

'Something for nothing'

15 August 2011

'By encouraging and effectively subsidising the creation and distribution of so many free apps by providing free distribution, Apple has given rise to a situation where anything that's not free has to work incredibly hard to prove its value, and in which consumers feel a tremendous sense of entitlement to be amused and pandered to for basically next to nothing...

In a commercial environment where the default expectation is to receive something for nothing, it seems that we are discovering just how difficult that is. In the case of apps, unless the consumer mindset shifts significantly, it may be that the publishers who consider creating apps without rock-solid evidence of consumer demand or revenue streams that don't depend on the spoiled consumers will be the ones who need their heads read,'

Simon Appleby, Digital Projects Manager for Octopus Publishing in the Bookseller's Futurebook.

'Characters they care about'

8 August 2011

'I write full-time, it's my job, I have nothing else to do. I've got no excuse for not writing a book a year... I have no truck at all with this supposed link between quality and quantity, tell that to Mozart...

I understand that it's not everybody's cup of tea, but because I come from a performance background, I'm not shy when in comes to standing up at festivals or in bookshops. I do enjoy that interaction with readers, if anything it's far more enjoyable than the actual process of writing...

It's terribly easy to shock and disgust a reader. It's much harder to make a reader care about characters; what I think I've learned is that there are all these tricks that crime writers talk about, reveals and cliff-hangers and blood and gore, but if you really genuinely want to create suspense what you have to do is give readers characters they care about.'

Mark Billingham, author of Good as Dead, interviewed by Alice O'Keeffe in the Bookseller

'The audacity of hope'

1 August 2011

'It could be that subjective factors may favour the survival of a culture of the written word, whatever happens on the ever-stormy seas of technological innovation and consumer economics. So far as we can see, e-books will mean smaller rewards for many authors. The "winner takes all" and "long tail" forces of the hi-tech cultural industries generally mean feast for the few, and famine for the many - but also new markets, and new audiences, for "niche" literature old and new.

Yet writing, and reading, have in this literary climate strong social foundations that it will take more than the odd upheaval in gadgetry and finance to shake. Even in an era of austerity - especially in such an era - authorship implies authority, and authenticity. Leathery rock idol, tanned former PM, fresh-faced family-friendly comic: the famous of all species must cement every new step in their career in place with a book, ghosted or otherwise. Whatever you think of the standard of these tomes, they all pay homage to the magic of print...

As long as taste-makers in education, the press, broadcasting and other public institutions keep their faith in new books and their begetters, those precious assets of voice and visibility will not be squandered. Whether the sums will add up for much professional literature remains another matter. The age of multi-platform publishing promises no easy fix for the plight W B Yeats called "that old perplexity, an empty purse" - nor to its corollary for authors with silver tongues and shallow pockets: "the day's vanity, the night's remorse". Still, for as long as a highly cerebral memoir by a foreign politician can grow into a barnstorming bestseller for an indie publisher, the book world should be allowed the audacity of hope.'

Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor, in the Independent