Book Reviews

October 29, 2012

There are hundreds of books published each month so it is impossible for all of them to be reviewed by a reputable critic.  All authors like their book reviewed but only extracts from the favourable ones get used on the jacket.  There is no doubt that good reviews are good for publicity but it is questionable whether the reader takes much notice of them.

Peatmore Press took great trouble to find reviewers for its first published book, Cogrill’s Mill but it was considered doubtful whether buyers took any notice of these when extracts were printed on the jacket or its website as the reviewers were hardly recognised household names.

http://peatmore.com/cogrills.htm

Most reviewers at that time expected payment especially if it was required by a specific publication date.  So when successive books were published the Company went ahead and launched them without any glowing tributes to accompany them preferring to rely on word of mouth to help.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/business/book-reviewers-for-hire-meet-a-demand-for-online-raves.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

After all, it is not what is printed on the jacket or even the beginning of the story or the ending written specifically to grab the readers’ attention that matters; it is the bit in the middle which counts.


The Blurb on the Back

October 25, 2012

The most blatant piece of advertising connected with a book is the blurb.  With the traditional hardcover and paperback formats it is on the back of the jacket with sometimes the addition of a catchy one liner on the front.  With the ebook and audiobook, where to put it is not so clear but to gain the most benefit it must be placed on the website and all flyers, posters etc. where information about the book is displayed.

The blurb should entice the reader into wanting to read the story. It should never give away the ending.  It differs markedly in this respect from a summary sent to a prospective literary agent or publisher who should always be given more including the ending.

Great tips for writing blurbs can be found at http://www.prarts.com/news_view.aspx?articleid=15&LessonID=2

A good account of the history of blurb writing can be found at http://www.themillions.com/2012/02/i-greet-you-in-the-middle-of-a-great-career-a-brief-history-of-blurbs.html

Examples of what some consider to be the best blurbs can be viewed at http://www.rtbookreviews.com/content/writing-stars-vote-best-back-cover-blurb


Book Jackets

October 22, 2012

A good book jacket should reflect its contents but can be a piece of art in itself.  In this way it is very similar to the music album cover in the way that some, such as the Beatles Sergeant Pepper, have become as famous as the album itself.  http://wellmedicated.com/lists/45-beautifully-designed-book-covers/

The cover is probably of secondary importance to writers and recording artists.  Their paramount concern is that of the content that the cover encases which is as it should be.  However, put a pretty girl on the jacket of a book and it may sell more copies than a representation of an inanimate object in much the same way as a sexy female model draped across the bonnet of a motor vehicle is used to sell cars.

The choice of a book cover can be an agonising one for the author and publisher who has to pick something to convince prospective buyers that there is something worth reading inside.  With its first published book Peatmore Press chose a deliberately badly hand drawn picture for its first publication, Cogrill’s Mill, in the hope that it conveyed the light hearted nature of the novel.  However, there is a danger that it might show a lack of quality which would be off putting to a potential reader.

A high vantage photograph of Woking, used to represent the fictitious location of Wellstone where most of the action takes place, was used on the jacket for Victim of Compromise.  The thinking was that local readers would recognise the town and thus be tempted to buy.

A collage to represent the story was used for Gifford’s Games with the added advantage that the inclusion of a partial photograph of an attractive woman in the design might also tempt prospects to buy.

Time will tell whether these strategies will pay off.  However, in the event they do not the publisher still has the option of changing the cover because unlike the jacket only very minor changes, such as corrections to spelling and punctuation, can be made to the content.


Last Words

October 18, 2012

A best selling writer of fiction will often strive to end a narrative with some memorable sentences in an attempt to entice the reader to come back to his or her work for more.  But the ending of a novel very often does not stick in the readers’ mind.  They might reflect that the story turned out well or there was a sad conclusion.  However, it is not unusual for a story to be inconclusive and in that way it may reflect life itself.

I know one reader who likes to read the last page of a book before buying it.  But like many people I hate it if the ending is given away.  Fortunately it is often impossible to understand the full significance of last sentences.  Some examples can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8181000/8181968.stm

I was planning to cite some examples from the published works of Peatmore Press but for the reasons given above thought it may be counter productive to give too much away.

Perhaps the best way to understand whether the last words of a narrative should have any bearing on a story is to look at the final utterances of real people.  Often they are banal and even humorous but it is questionable if they truly reflect a person’s life.  To find examples click on http://listverse.com/2007/08/22/20-famous-last-words

No one novel can give everyone a satisfying reading experience so finally to fully understand the frustration that can result from a story not having a proper ending click on the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5WIBZBSbAQ


Opening sentences

October 15, 2012

Opening sentences are important they must grab the reader’s attention.  They litter the great works of fiction.  To see a list of some excellent examples go to http://www.openingsentences.com

Peatmore Press has done its best to make these stand out well in its published novels.  Whether they work or not will only be born out if the reader carries on reading and then comes back for more.  Only time will tell.

Corgrill’s Mill:
George Cogrill was uneasy.

Victim of Compromise:
The naked body of a young woman lay face down on the double bed like a discarded doll, a towelling cord wrapped tightly around her neck.

Gifford’s Games:
Guy sat back from the computer screen, folded his hands behind his head and sighed with satisfaction.

However, the first sentence may not be enough.  The real proof may be in the first paragraph.  It is the words at the beginning which must hold the reader’s attension.

Corgrill’s Mill:
George Cogrill was uneasy.  It was a bright sunny day in June and it was his birthday, but he had received a summons from his aunt.  No matter what the weather, or the occasion, his aunt always made him feel uneasy and a summons from her could not be ignored.

Victim of Compromise:
The naked body of a young woman lay face down on the double bed like a discarded doll, a towelling cord wrapped tightly around her neck.
“Dressing gown cord,” explained Donovan.  “The ‘otel supplies gowns for their guests.  The room’s been checked and photographed.  Mr Wallace said everything should be left as it was found till you arrived.  The doctor’s been and gone, and Forensic are waiting to move in when you’ve finished.”

Gifford’s Games

Guy sat back from the computer screen, folded his hands behind his head and sighed with satisfaction.  “Great, I’ve just withdrawn five billion from the Bank of England.”


Titles

October 11, 2012

Book titles are important but the ones voted the best are not necessarily a feature of the great works of literature.  To see a list go to http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/276.Best_Book_Titles

Peatmore Press struggled to think up names for its novels, Corgrill’s Mill, Victim of Compromise and Gifford’s Games.  The titles were chosen to reflect the story and interest the reader.  It is doubtful whether these on there own will encourage the reader to buy.

The current runaway best seller Fifty Shades of Grey has a very dull title.  It is the hype and interest in its content which has made it memorable.


Book Review– Sandy Denny by Philip Ward

October 8, 2012

Sandy Denny is one of my all time favourite female singers.  I said is rather than was even though she died in 1978 as I own many of her recordings and listen to them often so that her voice is an ever present background in my life.  I spotted this book amongst the catalogue of the publishing company, Matador, decided to buy and read it with a view to discover more about the personality that lay behind her music.  I was not disappointed.

In the early 1970s as a member of the band Fairport Convention Denny established folk rock as a new genre in popular music.  Ward’s book recounts her biography and sets it in its time.  Her early life on the 1960s folk club circuit to solo career in the late 70s, through a troubled personal life to an almost slapstick but tragic death from a fall down the stairs at her parents’ home, is well narrated along with attempts to explain the reasons behind the events which marked her life.

Denny has a golden voice and Ward describes it well.  He tells how she attempted to take her music in a new direction in an effort to establish herself as one of Briton’s leading singer song writers.  She showed early promise with the song “Who knows where the time goes”. The songs that followed are less memorable.  Ward’s attempts to find meaning behind the lyrics are understandable but are largely unnecessary as it is the sound of her words with the music which counts and not the meaning.  To be fair Ward points this out even though he devotes a whole chapter to understanding her songs.

There are other books that may better recount Denny’s biography which I have not read and Ward lists them amongst his references along with crediting the recollections of those who knew her.  This book must make a valuable addition but also stands up well on its own.

Sandy Denny (reflections on her music – subtitle) by Philip Ward is published by Matador.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press