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Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Patterson Factor Redux

 The following post was sent in my writer Chap O'Keefe AKA Keith Chapman in response to the Archive's James Patterson article HERE. It was of too big a length to go in the comments section of the blog and so I am posting it here.

The Patterson case is a sad commentary on the state of a book world where success is based as much on hype and brand-name as content. New writers are driven to desperate ploys to make a mark in this rat-race environment.

Today, I received an email from a debut novelist. Here it is with names and titles deleted "to protect the (I hope) innocent":

Hey folks!

This is a mass email I'm sending out to a whole bunch of you. Forgive the lack of "personal touch" ... it would take too long.

As most of you know, earlier this year my first novel was published: [TITLE DELETED]. It's received very good reviews and I've been contracted to write two more. One's already done, and will be published in the UK and US in March, the other is currently being written.

Despite what most people think, novelists don't get rich. In fact, they hardly make any money at all. Those who do, do so because they are good self-publicists and they do as much as possible to raise awareness of their book.

So that's what I must do, and I would be HUGELY appreciative if you could take 3 or 4 minutes to help me by going to this website - http://awards2011.sfx.co.uk/ - and voting for me.

Basically, you will have to vote on a few pages; things like BEST SCI-FI FILM 2010 and BEST ACTOR 2010. Each page has a drop down menu in which you can just click something at random if you're not interested in what you vote for.

HOWEVER, when you come to BEST BOOK, if you don't see "[Title Deleted] by [Author Deleted]" in the drop down, please write it in the field and vote. Then finish the survey ... and THANK YOU for helping me to achieve my greatest ambition!

Me am novelist, yay!

[END OF QUOTED EMAIL]

I responded as follows:

"Thank you for your email, and congratulations on publication of a first novel. Frankly, as a professional fiction writer for more than 40 years, I am appalled by, though not unaware of, modern methods of becoming a success in the digital age. Social networking and self-publicity are all very well, but I don't feel I can stoop to participation in an attempt to rig an 'awards' system. Indeed, if the objective can be achieved by soliciting votes from all and sundry, it only undermines the worth of receiving the award! Please forgive me if that sounds pompous.

"As you seem to suggest yourself, there will be people voting in all categories who'll 'just click something at random if [they]'re not interested in what [they] vote for'. Won't the SFX followers know this? How long will the awards continue to be coveted? Perhaps readers (i.e. intelligent people?) can be fooled for a while, but I'd prefer not to have to accept that.

"I don't ordinarily read sci-fi and fantasy these days, but my hope is many sci-fi people will become aware of your book by more conventional means, will read it, enjoy it, watch for the next (and the next), and tell their friends. I like to think it's still possible to build a lasting career in genre fiction, though I believe this has never been credible in less than ten years and without a hardworking publisher who knows his business and can predict its trends and potential.

"You and your publisher have done well so far to gather a clutch of enthusiastic reviews."

I feel that both Patterson and my new-entrant correspondent make a mockery of the profession.



Best, Keith

1 comment:

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Keith - I agree fully with your response to the email. The other day I was listening to the excellent Litopia After Dark and they were saying that awards don't really mean anything in this digital age. I know of a case where (no names mentioned) this writer sold a couple of hundred self published books and won an author of the year award.