Monday, 20 January 2014

A Tom Cruise Doodle and a Rant about E-Publishing


In case you can’t tell, my attempt at drawing a caricature last night was meant to be Tom Cruise. Cruise has always been a challenge and I occasionally come back to give it another try. There’s something about certain (usually handsome) faces which make caricaturing them so damn difficult. I look at how other people capture Cruise’s likeness and I sit there humbled by their skill. This is better than any of my previous efforts but still not right. I think it’s the teeth…

This is the second blog post of the day which perhaps gives a hint that this is also the second day I’ve remembered to turn on my SAD lamp. I’m basking in its intense light as I hammer away at this keyboard with more focus and energy than I’ve felt in a very long time.

Yesterday I mentioned that I’d turned my attention to a book I’d written a year ago. Today, I’m actively working on it and finding myself surprised at the effort I’d previously expended. I also mentioned yesterday that there were thirty illustrations in the book but counting them last night I discovered that I’d actually drawn more than eighty. I’m a fool to myself. I should never have stopped working on it, though something must have happened to distract me. Perhaps it was just the grind of writing and drawing and feeling like it would be for nothing. It’s hard not to be disillusioned when the work you produce seems to amuse only yourself. An article I read somewhere over the weekend said that most writers (I think the percentage was somewhere in the high nineties) earn less than £600 a year from their writing. It’s a depressing thought, though I blame Amazon partly for that.

Perhaps I’m no better than the rest but e-publishing has opened the market to every illiterate hack able to hammer away at a keyboard for 30,000 words and then brazen enough to call it a novel. It has done to publishing what successive governments have done to teaching: removing the element of highly-trained professionalism in favour of cheapness and ubiquity. The market is vastly dominated by badly written erotica and fifth-rate romances whilst Amazon continues to encourage e-book writers to sell their books for pennies whilst the big companies charge the same price as their paper editions. I’ve spoken before about the long tail syndrome where Amazon make huge profits on the meagre dreams of millions of authors but I don’t see how that liberates us. It puts writers in thrall to their ambitions and the only people other than Amazon making money are the charlatans standing in the middle, acting as ‘editors’ and offering professional publishing services for which naïve writers pay believing it will make a difference. There is only one truth I’ve learned about publishing and this is it: only the marketing matters. As is proved year upon year, the most incomprehensible jibberish can be a publishing sensation so long as they get the marketing right and in order to get the marketing right, you really need the money only real publishers can offer. In other words: the technology has changed but the game is pretty much the same.

I’ll end my rant there before it develops into the full fever. My book might definitely be classed in the category of light humour but I hope it’s not toilet literature. I won’t know that until I get some feedback and I’ve yet to find somebody to read it. I’m not sure who my ideal reader would be. I need somebody intelligent enough to see the seriousness beyond the craziness yet with enough humour to realise that none of it should be taken too seriously. If anybody is reading this and if you know anybody like that then please forward their details. The alternative will be to e-publish this sucker and dump it onto Amazon just so I can forget about it. I hate doing that. It’s the ultimate waste of hard work.


  1. I must try one of these SAD lamps. My usual technique for dealing with miserable winter weather is to crack open another bottle of whisky. It works, it's like sunshine from the inside, but it has the side-effect of ramping up the typo rate until it hits 100% and then writing has to stop for the night.

    As a major bonus though, it does cause some horrific dream sequences, which I then write down and try to sell. Some of the stories out there in print were entirely made of whisky-dreams.

    But I did have to correct a lot of typos...

    I'm still working on a zombie novel I dreamed in its entirety one night in full Technicolour. That was back when I could still afford good malt whiskies though. The blends just give formulaic Hollywood crap.

  2. I guess whisky could work but I do know that I'd become a slave to it. My SAD lamp is easier to control and though I don't normally buy into any of this mystical New Age alternative therapy baloney, I do buy into the lamp. It takes a little while getting used to the very bright light it produces and you have to sit inches from it to get the effect but after about 15 minutes, it’s like the heavy cobwebs at the centre of your brain begin to melt away. Ideas come easier than they did before and I get a feeling of being a little bit more here than I otherwise do. The only danger is using it late at night. You can’t unless you want to feel wide awake until dawn.

    I tried my hand at a zombie book once but it didn’t get beyond 10,000 words. However, it was far from formulaic. Just downright bad.

  3. When I worked at Yahoo! years ago, Tom Cruise came to the campus and spoke to the employees in a late-night TV show setting with our CEO at the time.

    Anyway, two things will strike you about him in person. First, he's very short. Second, he has INCREDIBLE star power. When you see someone like him, his magnetism is so strong that you can't help but stare to see what he's up to. His now ex-wife, Katie Holmes, was there also. She had star power, but to much smaller degree, as you might expect.

  4. That's actually a great little anecdote. If only there was somewhere you could write that up so others could read it...

    Actually, I'm extremely impressed, not least by the fact that you once worked for Yahoo. In my eyes, that actually gives you some star power. Not at Cruise levels but at least equal with Katie Holmes. ;)