I finished my novel, again! This time, I think it really is finished - I sent it off to my agents and publishers, so let’s hope they agree with me. At Serpent’s Tail they’ve started to work on the cover - I’ve tried to upload the image here but wordpress won’t let me for the time being. I will have one more opportunity to read it, and make changes, when I get the proofs sometime this spring, but the book is pretty much done and dusted now. I started working on it in 1995, which is 14 years ago now. Getting it right, or, at least, getting it to work as a readable text, has taken me… some time. The fact that it took me so long to write isn’t a virtue, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either - for the book itself, of course, not my bank balance. I lost all objectivity and sense of proportion over it years ago; I alternate between thinking it’s sad that someone could spend so long on something that’s so crap, and thinking that it’s a work of genius that will win prizes and sell mountains of copies.
So the next phase with this book, ‘The Mistress of Nothing’, involves a lot of waiting. Waiting for the cover, waiting for the proofs, waiting to hear what my publishers want me to do to help publicise it, trying to come up with publicity ideas myself, waiting to find out if I’ll be giving readings from it… Publication dates are July in the UK, October in Canada; haven’t made any other territorial sales yet, so we’ll see. Publishing a book is such a weird anti-climatic but nail-biting thing to do - so much time and hope invested in those pages. I’m very glad I have such a huge juicy pile other stuff on my plate, especially the on-going digital projects which are, in a fundamental way, so much more immediately rewarding in terms of reader-writer interaction, so much less loaded with literary expectation. It still surprises me to find that most aspiring writers focus entirely on the book and don’t look toward the digital or the electronic in any meaningful way. Our literary book culture is horribly complex and, in many ways, debased now. But many many people - and I meet them on writing courses all over the country, in many countries in fact - still feel that having a book published represents a solid, unassailable achievement.
Still, I was cheered up yesterday by reading in the paper Clay Shirkey’s simple maxim for the future of publishing - print on demand, with one ‘browsing copy’ of a book available in the bookshop, for those among us who still like to browse an actual shelf. Bring it on, soon please.