Simon Denman's Blog

Author of CONNECTED, a mystery thriller with a touch of speculative science & philosophy.

September 1st, 2012

Is Eastwooding a selfish meme?

No Comments, General, by Simon.

Yesterday evening, as I browsed Facebook and Twitter, I became aware of, and then part of, something strange. I had already heard something about Clint Eastwood’s debate with an empty chair at the US Republican convention on Thursday, which struck me as an odd thing to do, but living on the other side of the Atlantic, had not yet had a chance to watch it. When I did, I was initially saddened to see that one of my all-time favourite Hollywood tough guys might have overestimated his talent for comic oratory, although if better informed (or scripted) and perhaps twenty years younger, I’d like to think he might still have pulled it off.

Then I received a tweet asking, Is Eastwooding the Next Planking Internet Meme? linking to a number of photos of people apparently conversing with empty chairs. At this point a number of thoughts went through my mind:

More

Photo by Westcott Phillip, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Like many début authors, I didn’t really think too hard about the genre of my first book until I’d finished writing it. And looking back, with large parts of the story seemingly writing themselves, I’m not sure I could have moulded it to fit a predefined literary pigeon-hole even if I’d wanted to.

So it was only when I started the laborious and disheartening process of seeking representation that I began to realise the importance, at least to the traditional publishing world, of fitting neatly within a recognised genre. Of course, you only need to consider browsing the aisles of a traditional bricks-and-mortar book store to understand why this is – they need to know in which aisle and on which shelf to put your book.

Publishing genre fiction also removes some of the risk since publishers already understand how the overall market is subdivided into groups loyal to each of the categories such as crime, murder-mystery, science-fiction, fantasy etc. and roughly how many they can sell into each. Consequently, agents and publishers tend to shy away from novels which fall between genres. Of course, there are the so-called cross-over novels, but the very small number of these which actually get published rarely come from new authors.

This is when I realised that my novel, CONNECTED, didn’t fit so neatly into any existing recognised genre. More

photo by Adrien Séné on Flickr
http://it.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-3237897294

In the first part of this article, I shared a little of my own limited experience in the world of Indie-publishing and explained how, no matter how good your book may be, like any product, its success (unless you are exceptionally lucky) will depend on how effectively you market and promote it.

With this in mind, two weeks ago I published via twitter, Facebook and a few other on-line forums, the link to a quick anonymous Author Survey. Since then, I have had responses from 33 authors, 26 of whom are self-published.
12 of the 33 respondents have sold over 5000 books, 5 have sold over 10,000, 2 over 50,000 and just 1 over 100,000.

Statisticians among you will no doubt point out that this may not necessarily be a representative sample and of course there are many different ways in which the following data could be interpreted, but I feel it provides some useful insights nonetheless. More

Photo by Bernd Meiseberg
http://www.fotocommunity.com/pc/pc/display/16357188

This is the first of a 2-part article.
In part 2 I will share the results of my Author Survey, posted 2 weeks ago.

So, for many months if not years, you pour your heart and soul into a book, edit it to the point where you feel you have a winner, and then what?

The Old Way.
Unless you have connections in the publishing industry, you soon realise that finding a publisher willing even to look at the first page is about as likely as winning the Euro-millions lottery. So you borrow or purchase a recent copy of the Writers & Artists Yearbook and begin the laborious process of targeting literary agents. Having exhausted the relatively small fraction of these modern enough to accept email submissions, you reluctantly move on to the laggards. From these you try to select those representing authors of a similar genre to yourself and begin posting off printed samples (with strict adherence to each one’s specific submission guidelines). And then you wait… And you wait… More

Photo by Adam N.Ward
http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamneilward/

The origin of artistic inspiration has been a subject of fascination since the ancient Greeks, who wrote of nine goddesses or muses without whose benevolent gifts of insight, aspiring writers and other artists would presumably have been left creatively bereft.

Before I started writing my first novel, I’d heard authors talk of how their books sometimes seemed to write themselves, but I never really believed it. Instead I assumed it was just a false show of modesty following the laboured completion of what must actually have been a far more complex and arduous process of creation. This made the experience, when it first occurred to me, all the more remarkable. More

August 8th, 2012

Author Survey

2 Comments, Announcement, by Simon.

 

Question mark

photo by Colin_K on Flickr

Since publishing my first book in June this year, I’m interested to learn how my fellow authors are finding this strange world of indie publishing into which I am now thrust.

If you’re an author and as curious as I on this topic, please answer the 8 brief questions found in this anonymous on-line survey.

It takes less than a minute.

If you’re just interested to see the results, subscribe to my blog, Facebook, or twitter feed using the buttons on the right-hand side of this page, or check back here in a week or so.

Thanks for visiting!

Gwen Stefani and baby Zuma

Gwen Stefani and baby Zuma

In the first part of this essay, I briefly introduced the idea of an empathy continuum, before diving straight into what might have seemed like a totally unrelated topic – our stress response system. In this post, I will try to explain how these two things are crucially connected and what this means for us all.

So what is Empathy?
The word “empathy” is thrown about a lot these days, often in vague and imprecise ways to cover to a variety of things from sympathy to compassion, but true empathy refers specifically to a natural capacity found in humans and known to exist in other mammals, allowing us to literally feel for others. To empathise is to place oneself in another’s shoes, see things from the other’s perspective, and to some extent, to actually feel what that person is feeling. Before we look at how this works, perhaps the first question should be why.

Why did humans evolve empathy? More

Lee Evans, during his UK stand-up tour, BIG.

Profiling the central characters for my next novel has directed research into the fascinating subject of empathy and the hugely varied personality traits / disorders which can arise from our relative positions on what I’m now seeing as an empathy continuum. Not only is this providing useful material for the book, it has also sparked some introspection, illuminating and perhaps connecting a number of physiological peculiarities from which I’ve suffered over the years.

So at the risk of revealing a little more about myself than I might otherwise, I thought I’d share with you a little of the arm-chair self-diagnosis in which I’ve been indulging recently. While none of the following symptoms have ever led me to seek medical attention, they have nonetheless caused varying degrees of irritation, embarrassment and curiosity: More

July 20th, 2012

What is it about mountains?

2 Comments, General, by Simon Denman.

One of the brief moments last week when it stopped raining long enough to take a photo.

On a recent road trip through the breathtakingly beautiful (and relentlessly cold, rainy and misty) Snowdonia national park, I was once again, like so many times before, struck by the awesome majesty of mountain ranges.
I’ve always been intrigued as to the origins of aesthetic beauty, whether manmade (music, dance, sculpture, fine art etc.) or the abundant natural beauty of this Universe we inhabit. Although any expanse of verdant countryside might be considered beautiful, why is it that when such land is extruded thousands of feet into the air to form mountains, we are filled with such powerful emotions of wonder and awe? After all, except for the fact that it’s inclined at 45 degrees or so, it’s really not so very different to the rest of the countryside.
There are different approaches to answering such questions depending on whether one is inclined to romantic, poetic, religious, or scientific explanations. More

July 20th, 2012

Welcome!

No Comments, Announcement, by Simon Denman.

I published my first novel, Connected, in June 2012 on Amazon. As a launch promotion, I offered it free for the first five days, during which, to my great surprise, over 4500 copies (Kindle version) were downloaded. This sent it straight to Number 1 in the Amazon UK rankings for both Thrillers and Science Fiction. I was even more astonished when, following the free promotion, people continued to purchase the book in surprisingly high numbers! Encouraged by this unexpected success, I am now busy planning my second novel.

Synopsis of Connected      What others are saying       Where the idea came from

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