Archive for March, 2018

Review: Sell Your Book Like Wildfire – The Writer’s Guide to Marketing & Publicity

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Rob Eagar’s book is actually a very good introduction to the subject of book marketing for authors. Though lacking in specifics on some things (like how to get speaking gigs), his emphasis is on practical steps like building an author’s website, getting media interviews, and so on. He’s acutely aware of the fact that in today’s market, publishers expect authors to do much more to generate sales of their books, and the days are long gone when an author’s work was done when the manuscript was submitted.

Review: The Girl With All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Having recently read a dystopian novel ruined by a poor ending (The Power), this book works all the way through, from the unforgettable opening scene to an ending that seems, in retrospect, inevitable.

The story is set in a world destroyed by a fungus which takes over brains and turns humans into flesh-eating zombies.

The main character is Melanie, a young girl who is — well, that issue is the subject of the whole story.

The characters in the book are three dimensional for the most part, and one’s attitude to one or the other character changes as the story progresses.

The only consistent feeling is one of sympathy for Melanie, the young girl at the centre of the story.

The question of why dystopian fiction is so appealing to our cultures today is an interesting one, but it was not addressed in the author interview that features at the end.

I was glad to have discovered M.R. Carey and look forward to reading more of his work.

Review: Your First 100 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book, by Tim Grahl

Friday, March 9th, 2018

It’s an appealing title, and the book was cited in a rather good article I read recently, so I thought I’d give it a chance. Tim Grahl has some good ideas, and some opinions which I share. For example, he’s convinced that email is a far more effective way of reaching people that social networks like Facebook, and I think he’s right. That’s been my experience as an Internet campaigner. But this short book offers little practical advice — even something as simple as “should I buy ads on Facebook or Twitter” is not mentioned, not even once. And while there are some examples in the book of authors Grahl knows (and has had as clients) their stories are not particularly inspiring. It might have been useful to find examples of authors he didn’t necessarily advise, authors who have made real contributions to marketing their own books. For those of us who write books, learning about marketing them is important. Unfortunately, this book contributes very little to that.

Review: Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

The central plot idea for this book is terrific.

I won’t be giving much away as this appears in the first few pages. A CIA analyst specialising in tracking down Russian sleeper agents in the US stumbles upon a file with photos of some of these. One of them turns out to be her husband. When she confronts him with the question ‘how long have you been spying for Russia?’ instead of denying it, he immediately replies, ’22 years.’

But after this brilliant opening, most of the novel revolves around the heroine struggling to figure out what to do, reminiscing about her relationship with her husband and looking back at decades of deceit and manipulation by him. It is abundantly clear that the husband has been using his wife on behalf of the Russian intelligence services from day one, and yet she is convinced that deep down he really, really loves her and their children. To call this implausible would be an understatement.

For much of the book, not much actually happens. When it finally does, some reviewers have expressed real surprise at the ‘shocking twist’. But if you’ve ever read a thriller, you can see this one coming from a mile away. Need to Know could have been a much better book — it had real promise.

Review: Through Bolshevik Russia, by Mrs. Philip Snowden

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

I first learned of this book because Ethel Snowden was one of the European socialist and labour leaders who visited independent Georgia in 1920. Georgia was at that time ruled by the Mensheviks, democratic socialists who rejected the dictatorial rule of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. In her account of that visit, she contrasted the happy, well-fed Georgians with the people she’d met during her earlier visit to Russia, which is the subject of this book.

Published in September 1920 while she was in Georgia, this book offers a surprisingly balanced and nuanced view of the Bolsheviks in power. Snowden was no fan of the Bolsheviks, and is furious at the “Extraordinary Commission”, the organisation that later became famous as the Cheka, the GPU, NKVD, KGB, and so on. But she meets many decent Bolsheviks, committed to making the revolution work. She is a strong opponent of the British blockade and British support for the White armies of Denikin and Kolchak.

Oddly, she doesn’t mention Georgia even once, though she encounters Russian Mensheviks. By this time, the Mensheviks, who enjoy a kind of semi-legality before the Bolsheviks finally outlaw them, are winning election after election in the local Soviets. But it is not to last.

The book is very clearly written, and Snowden fully understands the unfolding tragedy in Russia. A forgotten gem.