Getting to BackThere's a novel. It's called Going Back. At least, it will be…

off Let’s Talk About Bad Sex, Baby…

Richard to Writing  

(I know, I’m probably the four hundredth person to use that as a title for a blog post.  It’s early in the morning.)

One of the most encouraging responses I have had about Going Back related to the sex in it.  To get a positive reaction to a scene I had agonised over was a relief, and perhaps will allow me to write sex scenes in future without looking over my shoulder, wondering if those prigs from the Bad Sex Awards are waiting to pounce.

For it must be Bad Sex Awards time again; I have seen several references to brie in my Twitter feed in the last 24 hours.  Encouragingly, however, I have also read one response which suggests that there may, at last, be some kind of backlash starting.  If there is to be a popular revolt against this oddly British prudishness, count me in.  I have read extracts from this years nominees (warning; extracts do contain, you know, rude words and that) and I have drawn two conclusions:  firstly, there are at least two books on that list which I had not previously heard of which I now will buy and read, because the prose is enticing and I want to know more; secondly, that I had no idea there was a novel by Woody Guthrie out there, and even if it is as rough and ready as that excerpt suggests, I’d like to read it.

Which, of course, slightly undermines my position, since the existence of the literary world’s most Victorian prize has actually publicised and sold books to me.  Nevertheless, I shall remain steadfast in my opposition to it, because it is a Bad Thing.

Why?  Well, for all the reasons Laurie Penny gives in that New Statesman article I linked to up there, but also, and fundamentally for me, it is because it judges bleeding chunks of text ripped from the still-warm bodies of their context by people with such a tin ear for language that I wonder if they had read the whole book in question at all.  For example, in 2004, Tom Wolfe won for a passage from ‘I Am Charlotte Simmons’.  The winning paragraphs are unerotic, deeply unsettling and can cause actual queasiness in the unwary.  Which is exactly the effect Wolfe was aiming at – the sex he depicts is meant to engender revulsion in the reader, and it is related in the voice of Charlotte; in exactly the same voice she uses to narrate the rest of the book.  If you’ve read the whole thing, you might not like it, but you can’t possibly call Charlotte’s gruesome deflowering ‘redundant’ or ‘egregious” or any of those other words the Literary Review likes to spray around.

Leave the descriptions and depictions of sex in context, and the winners of any Bad Sex award should only go to those writers who, perhaps made nervous by the mere existence of the award, leave their poor reader unsure if their characters have slept together or merely held hands on a clifftop while waves pounded the rocks below as the 8.15 from Penzance disappeared into a tunnel behind them.

Which is not to say that we should be witness to every twitch and thrust of every character in fiction.  The guiding principle remains “What do I lose if I replace this intimate description of glistening limbs and heaving bosoms with the words ‘they had sex’?”  If the answer is “not much”, then leave it out.  There are three sex scenes in Going Back – one is essential to the plot; the reader needs to know not only that it happened, but exactly what happened and how; the second takes place more or less off-screen, we are only privy to the aftermath, and the third, lovingly described in detail I instantly regretted, now takes place after the novel is finished; it didn’t need to be there, so it now only exists in a file on my hard drive, and there it will stay, thank you very much.  Had I left it in, I would probably have been eligible for a Bad Sex Award, and I’d have deserved it.

But passages like that don’t win Bad Sex Awards; passages which cause uptight judges to blush or involve soft French cheese win awards.  Passages which make perfect sense in the context of the whole novel win awards.  The best and only way to respond to this priggishness is to go out and buy many copies of the winning book.  We shall not be shamed by those who’d rather we closed the bedroom door and stayed on the outside.  And if you need to see my characters having sex, see it you shall.

off The Art of Asking

Richard to Writing  

So, it’s about time for an update, I think.

Overall, things are going well – the book is out there, well publicised, there are a number of positive reviews and just this morning I had a call from Books and Company asking me to restock them, because they had sold out.

But I’ve been thinking, and most of my thinking has been driven by my new favourite TED talk and a conversation I had with Conor late last night. First, the talk:

It’s called The Art of Asking, and while it relates most strongly to music, I think it has a relevance for other arts as well. I haven’t been able to shake its message off since I first saw it, because it is a powerful one.  Powerful, and hard for us shy, retiring creative types to accept.  I think, for me, it boils down to this – I know I have written something worthwhile.  I know this because complete strangers have told me so.  Now it’s time to take a deep breath and ask people to pay money for it.

I believe Going Back is reasonably priced; I know it’s good value for that price.  If I could (and someone’s going to show me how, I’m sure), I’d even take the plunge and ask people to pay me what they thought it was worth – maybe that’s the next step along this road…

I showed the video to Conor late last night – we have an ongoing conversation about TED talks going on this summer – and we talked about how this new way of doing things will seem normal to him; it’s just the world he grew up in, where artists can reach out to their public and ask them for feedback, ask them for inspiration, and ask them for help.  And, of course, as we were talking, it occurred to me that it’s not really new at all – it’s the way things were always done until the corporations got involved.  Well, the days of the corporations coming between the artist and their audience are numbered, and I for one think that’s a good thing.

So here’s my question: I know I have an audience out there in blog-, Facebook-, Twitter-land.  Won’t you buy my book?  It’s a small investment for hours of entertainment, and if you like it (or even if you don’t), you can tell me all about it.  And I’ll talk back to you.  And if we do that; have that conversation, the next book will be better.  It’s not that I think I can get rich doing this – I can’t.  But we can have an exchange which will result in you getting something you’ll like, and I will be inspired – and able – to make more.

That has to be worth the risk.

off Day 1 of the new world

Richard to Writing  

Day 1 as a properly published author, and…

Well, it feels like most other days, to be fair.  But, yes, things are happening – I have a few sales now on almost all of the currently available distribution channels, and a green light from Smashwords, meaning that the rest should follow in their own sweet time, some quicker than others.  I’ve been quite good at keeping away from the various dashboards and so on – I know I’m not going to be selling hundreds of copies every day, so there’s no point in obsessively refreshing the page every few hours.  Mainly I need to keep busy with all the other things I should be doing.  There’s the mystery of how to get Shelfari working properly, for example – it seems to treat the Kindle and paperback versions as two completely separate objects, written by two different people, only one of whom is me.  This needs more head-scratching.

And reviews.  Reviews are the key to this whole enterprise, I’m told.  And it’s no good soliciting them from people who share my last name or IP address – that’s kind of obvious.  So, there is much behind-the-scenes work going on to deliver my book to people who will not only read it, but give it an honest review.  That takes time, though – you have to let them read it, and then formulate a review.

Patience.  The word of the day is patience.

off The moment of truth

Richard to Writing  

No going back, I said – apparently without irony.

I pressed the button marked ‘Publish’, and suddenly Going Back is a real thing, available in electronic bookstores all over the world (including Japan, but not Australia as yet.  I know there’s an Australian option out there; that’s next on the list)

The temptation to sit back and wait while the royalties roll in is quite strong, but I know that this is just the start of the hard work…

Click here to buy your very own personal copy!

Amazon and Kobo are live; a few others are still stuck in the Smashwords pipeline, including the iBookstore.  More news as I get it.

off Goodreads promotion

Richard to Writing  

If you’re a Goodreads kind of person, this may be of interest:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Going Back by Richard  Watt

Going Back

by Richard Watt

Giveaway ends July 11, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


off The postman always brings books…

Richard to Writing  

Well, in my dream life, he does.

This morning, almost making us late for school, the nice Purolator man did indeed bring books.  My books:

I need some copies to hawk around, and – I think – to give away as freebies on Goodreads.

Receiving the proof copy somehow felt more momentous, but this is actually what all this work has been leading to – holding a copy of my own book in my hand.  It’s very exciting, but there’s no time to stop and think about it…

off Approaching the end of the beginning

Richard to Writing  

In a little over a week from now, you’ll be able to go to your favourite online bookstore and buy a copy of Going Back.  There is a part of me which wants to think back to the very beginning of this process; to think about how I got here from there, but honestly, I don’t really have time.  For example, while I’m updating my online presence in every way I can think of today, I’m also trying to think of ways to improve my press release, and generally coming up with nothing.  Now, that may be a good thing; it’s possible that it really does say everything I want to say about the book, but I can’t shake the nagging feeling that there;s something else I want to put in there.

There’s a reason I chose this particular post title, though – getting it in stores, and therefore potentially in the hands of readers isn’t the end of this process; far from it.  Getting this far is just the beginning.  It’s written, it’s as good as I can make it; now somehow to spread the word and get people to read it.  I have some thoughts on that process:

  • Don’t give it away.  I am a firm believer that people attach a value to things.  If you give it away, however professional and polished it looks, your readers will value it less than if they had to pay for it.  I don’t mind it being shared or lent (and of course, sold second-hand when that day comes) but I don’t think I should be saying “here, have a free copy”; I don’t think that’s the message I’m trying to get across.
  • Make people want to buy it.  I don’t really know how that’s going to work.  I know it’s a good book; it looks like a good book; I’m happy with the blurb and the publicity package, but still….  This must be what everyone goes through, I suppose.  It’s just that, with no experience of doing this, I don’t know if it’s going to work.  I do know that publicising through Facebook has caused many hundreds of complete strangers to click on the ‘Like’ button, but that’s easy – not the same thing as buying a copy at all.
  • Be shameless.  At least, be shameless without being egregiously shameless.  I post infrequently on a handful of sites around the web.  Some of them I feel comfortable blowing my own trumpet on; others I’m happy to drop subtle hints and leave it just this side of polite.  Otherwise, I’m all over every social media site I can think of, hoping that my tiny brass sound can at least be detected by others out there somewhere.  I think I’m doing it right; time will tell.

There’s more to come this week, but for now, I’d like to leave you all with some buttons – click on them and see where they take you; it might be fun…



off Flurries of activity

Great outbursts of activity as publication date approaches…

  • The Cover Reveal will happen on the Facebook page on Sunday night / Monday morning depending on where in the world you are.  Go ahead and like the page if you haven’t already done so; I’m now utterly shameless about plugging myself!
  • Publicists now on board, agreement signed, questionnaire completed, money handed over (gulp) – I had been wavering about it, but the success of my Facebook campaign (see below) has swayed me – people who have never heard of me are at least interested and intrigued enough to investigate and hit the like button – I think this might work…
  • I am an author.  Yes, I know it’s not news, but for the last week and a half I have been (only slightly ostentatiously) carrying around an actual printed copy of my book, and now – after all the toil and tears, I feel like I’m an actual, proper author.  I can put the book on my shelf next to the hundreds I have up there, and it doesn’t look out of place.  I can show it to people and read it in public and generally behave as if it is a real thing, and it feels right; it feels like it’s an actual, you know, book.
  • I finished proof-reading it again this morning, and I was taken aback by how I felt as I turned the last page.  I was gripped by the story; reading it as if I hadn’t seen it before (which, given the surgery I performed on the third part just before I sent it off to be printed, I hadn’t, not properly) and I felt a little like a proud parent – there they were; my characters, beyond my influence now, ready to go off into the world on their own terms.  I feel a little emotional, to be honest.  It’ll pass
  • It’ll pass, because I need to get on with the hard work of getting the book in people’s hands.  My strategy has wavered more times than a particularly wavery thing, but I’m broadly sticking to my plan – ebook version first, which takes the brunt of the publicity effort, then print later, as appropriate.  The thing is, I think I’m going to have to make the print copy available more or less from day 1 as well – it’ll be really interesting to see what happens there, when I’m not pushing it particularly hard.

One more key thing needs to be done before I can start selling online, though – I need an EIN from the US Revenue Service – this is so I don’t pay US tax on anything I sell there.  It’s apparently easy, but I spent half an hour on hold this morning before I gave up, and I don’t feel particularly inclined to try again today.  Maybe in the morning…

Oh, and I keep having ideas for the next book, but no time to write them down in.  Ah, well; time enough for that, I suppose.

off Re: cover

Richard to Writing  

I have a cover!  Thanks to Scarlett RugersGoing Back now has a cover.

No, you can’t see it yet.  Well, a sneak preview:


off The checklist

I can’t figure out if the checklist is getting longer or shorter; let’s see:

  • Cover design – latest revisions done, back cover copy sent …
  • Blurb – version 4,972 (approximately) done, and – I’m actually happy with it!
  • Publicity – chase the publicist, read the latest proposal: done
  • Another call with the publicist – next week, I hope.
  • Wrestle with CreateSpace to produce a proof copy – nope; maybe tomorrow, depending on work.
  • Author bio – done; including the 25-30 word version.  Think it works…
  • Find out if I need to set up another company to do the publishing: question asked; we’ll see.
  • Figure out a name for this company – I’m toying with Ridgeview Press; what do we think?  (I just checked; I can find one reference to a company called Ridgeview Press.  Hmmm…)

And those are only the things I can remember which need to be done.

Also, I’d quite like to do some writing some time soon…