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Thoughts On 2009

Twelve months ago, I was practically unknown online, and I had this weird little novel that no one could pronounce properly. Now, people still can’t pronounce it right, but at least I’ve got a bit of a name for myself. This blog has gone from having a several hundred hits a month, to nearly ten thousand this month, although a little controversy has helped skew things recently. I’ve posed awkwardly (clothes on) for a double-page spread for SFX magazine, written little snippets for Sci Fi Now magazine, had my book reviewed in national newspapers, been drunk in front of celebrity-types at the Pan Macmillan party, and had a meal with my favourite author. What you need to understand is this: I’m a genre fan – just like most of you lot out there are fans – and I can’t quite believe that I’m now a part of the industry I once looked in on, tapping at the window. It could happen to any of you, too.

There have been some lovely reviews, notably from Aidan, James, Gav, Liviu, Adam, The Guardian, The Times, and SFF World.

But here are a few points of interest.

Things I’ve learned #1 – The Internet Works. I got hyped – a bit of a holy grail in publishing terms. This was a very unusual experience. You can’t really make hype online (a lesson many publishers should take on board, rather than sounding like desperate ex-lovers in their marketing material). Hype just happens. And having spoken to my editor, who was armed with sales figures, the majority of my hardcover sales were online – which is actually quite rare. Being an old man trapped in a young man’s body, I was ever sceptical of the impact of the blogosphere on the industry – but this went to prove that online reviews actually make a difference. That’s a fact. So thank you to all those above reviewers, and remember to use your powers wisely in future.

Things I’ve learned #2 – The Public Eye. The internet runs away with things and Google allows the author to follow it all. But some people really don’t like other novels getting hyped – I’ve had a couple of very unsavoury emails from brave anonymous people saying Nasty Things simply because the novel got talked about a lot. I really can see how authors would tire very quickly of being in the public eye, because the internet allows Very Bitter People to have a public persona, where in a previous culture they’d probably be locked away safely. It’s almost as if they were angry about hype itself – which I find bizarre, because it means they’re not actually engaging with the book.

Things I’ve learned #3 – The View From The Skyscraper Window. Random House bought Nights of Villjamur for the US, and it’ll be published by Bantam Spectra (with the same editor, but not Del Rey – it’s a sister imprint, in the same building). There is nothing cooler than chatting to your American editor (Chris Schluep) as an innocent little Brit, staring out of the publisher’s skyscraper window across Central Park, thinking – How the hell did I even get here? I can’t wait to see how the book is received in the US.

Things I’ve learned #4 – People Love Pictures. I want apologise to the interwebs for there being so many versions of my cover art, but I’ve been astounded by just how many people love talking about artwork – whether or not they hate it, they love to give an opinion. I’ve had three covers for various editions of Nights of Villjamur. Tip to any new writers – make the most of your artwork.

Things I’ve learned #5 – Behind The Scenes none of this would be possible without help/guidance/slaps from the people at Pan Macmillan, especially Tor UK’s very own Boudica, Julie Crisp.

Things you should know for 2010 – In my opinion, City of Ruin is far darker, better written, more intense, more weird, more properly political than Nights of Villjamur. I’ve said before that this book is the one I wanted to write more so than Nights, on account that it’s more naturally me, but I’ll admit I was more conservative not to put off editors. In the same week, I have the US debut in hardcover, the UK paperback of Nights, and the hardcover of City. It’s going to be a busy summer.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

13 replies on “Thoughts On 2009”

Congratulations on a remarkable year! 😀

I didn’t realize you weren’t published in the US yet – I do hope you’ll be able to maintain your engaging, friendly attitude towards us online folk when your popularity explodes and you become even more (in)famous. 😉

Neverwhere – thanks. And should I be immensely famous, I will of course be on here saying, Who are you again? A joke! Engaging with people online is all part of the fun.

Cara – this highlights a very important question – who to get one from. Are you in touch with publicity dept at Bantam Spectra? Because I’m not, at the moment. I shall email my editor in the New Year, once his Christmas mail has faded, and find out where I should direct people.

I think you can make hype online. I’m pretty convinced of it, though there are a lot of ‘buts’. Ran a very successful website (no, not my blog) for 10 years (I’m talking as much as 15 million server hits daily) and I think the most I ever spent on publicity was on 2 stamps. The rest was done by generating and managing hype. Of course, when it comes to writing the quality of the product is going to play a VERY large part. But look at Gaiman. Seriously, the amount of people I know who read him BECAUSE of his blog is staggering.

It is nice to see that the online reviews have a role, my ego should get a boost because of thing #1. Just kidding 🙂
I am glad that you had a good year and I am hoping you’ll have an even better one, without the nasty e-mails of course. Also it is nice to see that the things are moving around cover artwork, because I really hope that someday we’ll benefit from masterworks on each cover of the published novels. Santa do you hear me?
And since we had here some very weird (or werid?) presidential elections I am looking forward to the political schemes of “City of Ruin” next year 🙂

Hi Adrian – I guess the thing to remember about Gaiman is he’s not a novelist, but also a screenwriter, and a comic writer, and was also one of the first major bloggers, so has built a healthy following over the years.

But I’d be intrigued if you had any tips on World Domination. 🙂

Hi Mihai – you’re certainly one of the ones to help, so thanks. And yes, the politics is subtle (as it is in reality) but more realistic – my take on the kind of things Reagan and Thatcher got up to, undermining union power etc.

Hype means nothing if there isn’t a good product at the heart of it- that’s what gets us excited and talking about it.

Here’s to 2010 being even bigger (and maybe a mention too..) and crammed full of good stuff.

[…] Here’s what I was saying a year ago and, looking at that post again, I can honestly say I’ve mellowed a lot. I’ve spent far too much time following debate, which is something I hope not to do in 2011. But I think the sheer quantity of opinion kind of numbs a writer in a mellowing way: don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate any review posted anywhere, but I’m marginally desensitised at the edges: bad reviews don’t quite hurt as much, as a consequence. Everything becomes an experience. […]

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