EMPIRE by André Jute “So bizarre, it’s probably all true.” — London Evening News.

On Christmas Eve 1968 Yuri Andropov, soon to be Chairman of the KGB, returns home unexpectedly to discover an orgiastic party thrown by his son. In his own bed Andropov finds Babe Bibikov and Nadia Kerensky. Andropov calls for the files of his son’s friends…http://www.coolmainpress.com/CWHPEmpire.html

EMPIRE
Book 6 of the 75-Year Saga
Cold War, Hot Passions
by André Jute

These grandchildren of revolutionary heroes are high-flying students at the prestigious Institute of International Relations. Piotr, an old-style hardliner who believes that the glorious aims of Lenin’s revolution justifies any means, however base, is sponsored by the KGB and, even more sinisterly, by Marshal Kurusov of the Politburo. But Babe and Vladimir, even as students, are starting to grasp that communism has failed Russia.

Babe, Vladimir and Piotr all join the KGB. Vladimir shortly becomes an aide to Andropov and marries Nina. Babe distinguishes himself in Egypt and meets the CIA agent Hubbell Adams, whom he does not report to his superiors. His marriage to the supremely beautiful but selfish Nadia is strained by his questioning attitude which threatens their good life. On a boar hunt with grandfather Nikolai and Brezhnev, Sergei Kurusov and Andropov recruit Babe and Vladimir for a mysterious plan to regenerate Russia. Meanwhile Piotr is rising through the ranks of the spetsnaz, the most thuggish and loyal of Russia’s special forces.

Babe betrays Soviet machinations in Egypt to the Americans and in July 1971 defects to the US. Nadia returns to Moscow and becomes a ‘swallow’, using her body to extract secrets from diplomats. In the US, Babe is incarcerated in solitary confinement by the brutal CIA man Conrad Drexler (one of Nadia’s lovers).

Get it here: iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N

http://www.coolmainpress.com/CWHPseries.html

Cold War, Hot Passions
the series
by André Jute

The epic saga
of ten intertwined families
who live and die by their love of
their Russian and American motherlands
and the searing passions they
arouse in each other

FROM THE STORMING OF THE WINTER PALACE…

In the beginning they were impassioned young revolutionaries risking only own their lives for justice. The prince, the soldier, the peasant and the baroness became the founders of three families, steadfast in love and war, whose generations are enfolded in the sweep of humans and inhumans, inquisitors and victims, the betrayals of friends and family, the show trials of colleagues, the psychiatric tortures of dissidents, that was Russia under the Communists, right up to glasnost, when the fourth generation must answer the question, Was the result worth three generations of tragic suffering and sacrifice?

And the Americans who opposed them for liberty, the patrician Adams family, the refugee Hirches, the redneck Remptons who became political powers in the land, the McQueens who did not count the price of rising from smalltown mid-America to the highest levels of the nation, the Drexlers who had always served their country, the implacable Southern Hubbells who could — and did — threaten Presidents, and the clever Talbots whose shy Joanne married the handsome Russian who was the cleverest traitor of them all.

In his first novel for two decades, a storyteller who has always had a knack with the true history of men and women will touch your heart and thrill your mind with the risks these men and women took with their lives and their families for the ideals they were born to — which some betrayed, and some paid too high a price for in love, even with their lives.

…TO THE BITTERSWEET END
75 YEAR LATER

COLD WAR, HOT PASSIONS
• around 2000 pages

• launched in eight volumes
• at the rate of one volume per month

Get it here: iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N

“Lovers and enemies alike have their price.” — FESTIVAL by Andre Jute

CoolMain Press Proudly Announces
publication of
FESTIVAL
the classic thriller of the performing arts
by André Jute

festival_cover-25x8-800pxh

“Lovers and enemies alike have their price.”

Special introductory price of $2.99.
Get a sample or buy from
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N

When the formidable Iron Curtain conductor Vlaklos decides to defect to the West at the Adelaide Festival of Arts, consequent events electrify an elite group related through their loves, their hatreds, their secrets and their ambitions. Lovers and enemies alike have their price.

The rising impresario Ransome is torn between his fear for the life of the great conductor and his duty to his friend O’Neal, whose re-election as Premier depends on the smooth running of the Festival. A complication is Ransome’s long friendship with Kerensky, the KGB’s cultural watchdog over Vlaklos: if the conductor defects, Kerensky will be shot. Ransome also has to cope with the shifting political pressures applied to him from every side. All this while trying to run the largest arts festival in the world, with nobody to turn to except Mellie, his fiancée. And even she, with the benefit of having “the great plots of the world explained to me over breakfast” by her communications-tycoon father, cannot detect all the currents before the last night of the Festival, when they converge explosively.

The New York Times hailed André Jute’s literary début, Reverse Negative, as “wild but exciting” and the London Evening News thought it “so bizarre, it’s probably all true”. In FESTIVAL he brings together his intimate experience of the high-powered performing arts world, his inside knowledge of the security apparats of the world and his abiding love of Adelaide with the terse narrative, pointed dialogue and sharp-focus characterization that elicited such high praise around the world for his writing.

The resulting novel lifts the lid off the world’s premier arts festival to show the deals that sustain it, the careers it makes and breaks, the men and women of the city itself and from all over the world whose lives are changed by it. FESTIVAL displays all the suspense mounting to a shattering crescendo — and the astounding twist-in-the-tail — that is the hallmark of this highly original writer of elegant, credible and truly memorable fiction.

AMERICAN RACER by Dakota Franklin coming before first Grand Prix; pre-orders open!

CoolMain Press Proudly Announces
FORTHCOMING Publication 
of the
Seventh
 Volume Appearing in
Dakota Franlin’s Grand Series
RUTHLESS TO WIN
on 28 February 2014
with PREORDERS NOW LIVE
at a Special Price* 

“A wonderful story full of action and remarkable detail
Boyd S Drew on Amazon

“The Queen of Racing Scribes”
John Houlton on Facebook

DAKOTA FRANKLIN: AMERICAN RACER

AMERICAN RACER
by Dakota Franklin

Bobby Solara, an Indycar champion new to Formula One, new to Armitage Grand Prix Racing, is determined to make his way to the top honorably. Honorably to his team leader Ugo Jenssens, honorably to his employer Jack Armitage, honorably to his wife Yvonne, who is leaving him, honorably to his new love Louisa, honorably to his new friends Ollie and Taki, honorably for the sake of his daughter Vicky.

But when the Japanese betting syndicate abducts his child and her mother to force Bobby to betray everyone so that he can be champion rather than Ugo, the real Bobby surfaces.

And the real Bobby is not a man you want to mess with. Ever.

“Yes, I know, I sneer at the psychopaths I compete against on tracks. But I just hide my own nature better under a veneer of cool intelligence and urbane good manners. Attack my child or my women, and I will kill you. Slowly. And my sleep will not be delayed one minute by your demise.”
— Bobby Solara in AMERICAN RACER by Dakota Franklin

You know Bobby already from Dakota’s QUEEN OF INDY.
Bookmark the AMERICAN RACER home page and return for fascinating chapter reveals in late February.

PREORDER your copy at the special price of $3.99*
Apple • Kobo • Barnes & Noble

*valid only until publication day
Kindle copy? Bookmark this Smashwords page

RACING JUSTICE (RUTHLESS TO WIN) — a courtroom drama by Dakota Franklin


In a year which will change Simon Aron’s life forever, his friendship and loyalty will be tested by every woman he ever knew, and one will betray him. 

Mallory, an old girlfriend with whom he raced a Cobra while they were at college, has been kidnapped by a brutal mobster in the pay of Fred Minster to keep her out of Le Mans, the top endurance race in the world. Minster has also stolen the winning designs of the Cartwright-Armitage car she is entered to drive. 

Armitage is vengeful. So is their sponsor, the immensely rich Lydia Simpresi. They want to destroy Minster for setting a monster to rape and kill their princess. They want Simon, a lawyer disillusioned with the law, to be in charge of punishing Minster. A spectacular court case follows.

‘I want to destroy Minster utterly.’ Mallory said. ‘He ordered me tied to a bed by criminals. He ordered a film made of my degradation for his pleasure. And no steel pipe job. I want Minster to suffer for the rest of a very long life.’

Her voice was low, not hysterical at all. She meant every word, and in a year will still mean it.

Mallory is the only woman Simon ever failed as a lover: he will not fail her again. For her he will return to the law.

Only by betraying the fragile Mallory or the equally victimized Constance can Simon win instantly and certainly.

Casting cutting sidelights on the law, intellectual rights, Hollywood, Broadway, auto racing, free speech, money, Wall Street, yacht racing, power and sex, Simon has to manipulate everyone to win without going to jail himself, without breaking the law, without breaking his own code of conduct, without betraying any of his women, not even the opposition lawyer, Constance O’Flynn.


JUST A FEW REVIEWS

*****
A wonderful story full of action and remarkable detail — Boyd S Drew

 

****
Very enjoyable read, in fact I started reading it again straight after I’d finished it. — L. Rumbold

 

****
Racer story for the racers at heart — Katherine Sterling

INTERVIEWS


BRAGBOX

RACING JUSTICE (RUTHLESS TO WIN)
• Dakota Franklin’s series RUTHLESS TO WIN
has already won awards and enthusiastic reviews
for fascinating characters and rivetting action.
• The five volumes previously published in the series
have all been international Amazon bestsellers.
• Now RACING JUSTICE joins them on the bestseller lists.

US
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Sports > Miscellaneous > Motor Sports
#20 in Kindle Store > Books > Nonfiction > Sport > Motor Sports
#23 in Books > Sports & Outdoors > Miscellaneous > Motor Sports
#72 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Sports > Miscellaneous > Motor Sport
#76 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense
#13 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Action & AdventureUK
#2 in Kindle Store > Books > Nonfiction > Sport > Motor Sports
#50 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Sports > Miscellaneous > Motor Sports
#37 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Thrillers > Suspense
#53 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Action & Adventure
#88 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Thrillers

Also in
FRANCE
DEUTSCHLAND
ESPANIA
ETC


A Professional Bloodsport


“This isn’t just a thousand to one shot.
This is a professional blood sport.
It can happen to you.
And then it can happen to you again.”
—from Harry Kleiner’s film Le Mans

DERRING-DO a true novel of what the founders of the CIA did in the war

DERRING-DO
a true novel of what the founders of the CIA did in the war
Book 3 of COLD WAR, HOT PASSIONS

STOP PRESS

“So well-written, with the combination of graceful, elegant prose and tough subject matter that makes Andre one of the best around.”
— Matt Posner on Facebook

REVIEW

VANGUARD ELITE was a real pleasure to read, the writing is rock solid and flawless – every word is the right word, in the right place. The only problem I had is that the first volume of this multi-volume saga is too short. The next volume is written and awaiting publication. Bring it on.”
— abrwrite/Librarything

REVIEW

*****
5.0 out of 5 stars
Gone With The Bolsheviks?
Review by Doug Glassford


How do I describe this book… it reads like a literary classic and as a screenplay for a historical documentary miniseries. The language is lush, vibrant even when describing the horrors associated with the Bolshevik Revolution… as with any great nation that suffers the chaos of change brought about by a sudden shift in government. This story follows the lives of three generations of strangers who became fast friends in a decidedly unfriendly environment. Idealists and realists intertwine as things that keep spinning out of balance are justified and vilified in this dense, tense telling of a true historical event; one that helped shape our world into what it is today.

— Doug Glassford/Amazon (extract only)

VANGUARD ELITE
Book 1
of
COLD WAR, 
HOT PASSIONS

the series
by André Jute
TERRORS
Book 2
of
COLD WAR,
HOT PASSIONS

the series
by André Jute
DERRING-DO
Book 3
of
COLD WAR, 
HOT PASSIONS

the series
by André Jute

CoolMain Press Proudly Announces
the epic saga
of ten intertwined families
who live and die by their love of
their Russian and American motherlands
and the searing passions they
arouse in each other

COLD WAR, HOT PASSIONS
the series
by André Jute
• around 2000 pages• at the rate of one volume per month
FROM THE STORMING OF THE WINTER PALACE…


In the beginning they were impassioned young revolutionaries risking only own their lives for justice. The prince, the soldier, the peasant and the baroness became the founders of three families, steadfast in love and war, whose generations are enfolded in the sweep of humans and inhumans, inquisitors and victims, the betrayals of friends and family, the show trials of colleagues, the psychiatric tortures of dissidents, that was Russia under the Communists, right up to glasnost, when the fourth generation must answer the question, Was the result worth three generations of tragic suffering and sacrifice?

And the Americans who opposed them for liberty, the patrician Adams family, the refugee Hirches, the redneck Remptons who became political powers in the land, the McQueens who did not count the price of rising from smalltown mid-America to the highest levels of the nation, the Drexlers who had always served their country, the implacable Southern Hubbells who could — and did — threaten Presidents, and the clever Talbots whose shy Joanne married the handsome Russian who was the cleverest traitor of them all.

In his first novel for two decades, a storyteller who has always had a knack with the true history of men and women will touch your heart and thrill your mind with the risks these men and women took with their lives and their families for the ideals they were born to — which some betrayed, and some paid too high a price for in love, even with their lives.

…TO THE BITTERSWEET END
75 YEAR LATER

 

Reviewers are people too. This one fell in love…

4.0 of 5 stars
Race out and buy this novel
by Sharon Tillotson

LE MANS a novel
(RUTHLESS TO WIN)
by Dakota Franklin

I knew I had to read this novel the moment I first saw the cover. I knew it was going to the top of my To Be Read pile when I read the description. I knew it would be good when I read the bio of the author.

And it did not disappoint.

The novel had it all. Adventure, suspense, and a woman race-car driver. Though set in the stratosphere of high finance and even higher social life, the characters are likeable and relatable. Mallory is an auto designer who has aspirations to, as she puts it, `get a ride’ in the heady company of race-car drivers. Getting a ride, we soon come to know, is the term for being hired as a driver of the car in a race.

The story begins with Mallory in hospital after a near-fatal crash where she got a ride from a less-than-honorable owner who hired an incompetent mechanic. Rather like honor in the Mafia, honor is a big thing in the world of auto racing. Lying in her hospital bed with tubes sticking out all over and multiple broken bones, Mallory does not think she will ever race again. But she soon gets a visit from Charlie Cartwright, a decent, honorable Englishman who can (and does) be as ferocious as a Mafioso. Charlie was behind her in the race and admired her driving skills. He also saw that her brakes failed thanks to the incompetent mechanic. He offers her a job and tells her to work hard on her recovery, which he has every confidence she will accomplish, and then call him. Five grueling months later when she takes him up on the offer, she is thrust into the glorified world of not only racing for a top team, but having a hand in the design of the cars she will ride. Little does she know cars are not the only ride she will have.

I had just read a novel which had a romance between a strong female lead and a wonderful, steadfast carpenter. I decided he was the perfect model for a mate. I was surprised at how fickle I could be when the love-interest Richard entered the picture. Richard is a famous cello player, and a brilliant choice for the author to make. He is the perfect, albeit offbeat, foil for Mallory. Smart, elegant, decisive, modest in all but his confidence in his art. Mallory swooned. I swooned. I now have a new perfect model.

The writing – in first person – was crisp, with the kinds of esoteric words and phrases often found in UK writing {a twee little hall; German portmanteau words which uniquely encompass an idea that English requires half a dozen words to describe}. There are several main characters and the author has a good eye for describing and integrating them into the story so that none are left begging. The suspense was just right, the description of the world of racing so detailed one can only imagine the author, Dakota Franklin (herself an auto engineer), has intimate knowledge of it. Ms Franklin states that the series was 15 years in the making. Extra Kudos to her for keeping it current (especially the techie stuff).

This is a story that should appeal to all: male, female, young, older. Though set in the world of a sport that is edgy and dangerous, the author skillfully sprinkles in only one or two coarse words – just enough to convey that such words would be used in such conversation but not enough to make it inappropriate for younger readers.

Ps. Regarding the cover – the beautiful woman depicted is none other than the author.

Read more reviews

• Much more about Dakota

Chat to Dakota on the Kindleboards

Like Dakota on Facebook to be included

Follow Dakota on Twitter to get mail

Dakota is at home to fans at the UK Amazon Kindle Forum

Dakota often calls in at ROBUST

• Review courtesy of Amazon

Pride & Recruitment

I’m proud of being the editor of Andrew McCoy’s THE MEYERSCO HELIX, and series editor of Dakota Franklin’s fortchcoming series, RUTHLESS TO WIN, which will surely be the most exciting indie launch of 2011.

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If you want to help with the editorial task of making the novels in RUTHLESS TO WIN ready for publication drop me a note at andrejute at coolmainpress with the commercial extension.

null

You don’t need any special education. The successful  beta readers on my earlier projects are constant readers who are irritated by misspellings and errors of grammar. You need a certain amount of time, and the patience, and a sense of humor to laugh when things go wrong.

Here’s the address again if you want to join this significant project: andrejute at coolmainpress with the commercial extension.

Slush pile 3: The slush pile is dead. Long live Direct Publishing. Long live Smashwords. Long live Darwin.

Slush pile 1: From vanity publishers to independents

Slush pile 2: Chance would be a fine thing

We have seen a few previously unpublished authors discovered in self-published e-books by traditional publishers. They amount to a tiny fraction of one per cent of all e-books published by hitherto unpublished authors, much, much less than the 7 in a thousand that might have emerged from a literary publisher’s slush pile a generation ago, even much less than the 1 in a 1ooo that emerged from the slush piles of big traditional publishers after the computer made composing and printing a manuscript easy even for the impulse-driven and untalented.

But is this a true reflection of the value of this resource, or have publishers and agents merely not caught on yet?

I had a bunch of manuscripts sent to me by professionals publishing their back lists on the Kindle, hoping for a review. It was a simple matter to download enough samples of other authors who caught my attention for some reason, plus some at random, to make up 100 books. Then I started reading them in the same way I used to read the slush piles for favourite editors (okay, when I ran out of excuses). I would read until the author lost me. Here’s a sample from an author who shall be nameless:

Chapter 1
The streets and gardens of Ranelagh were quiet. Only the distant hum of Dublin rush-hour traffic and the occasional twitter of a lone bird broke the silence.  The air was mild and damp after a recent shower. Maud stood at the gate and looked at the house which, in the gathering dusk of the March evening, had a lonely air, as if its occupants had been away for a long time.

As she stood there, she felt the usual comfort in the old bricks, the bay window, the faint glimmer of light through the stained glass of the hall door, and the tiled porch. Despite her intention

And that is as far as I read. I just stopped in the middle of a sentence, no longer caring about the woman’s intention; after only one paragraph of passive description I already wished she would commit hara-kiri to take her out of my misery. That’s not to say this author won’t find a readership and a publisher somewhere on the fringes, for the little I read has a certain polish, merely that none of the editors and publishers I know  have a longer attention span than mine (par and a few words!) for this sort of dull correctness.

One book I set aside to read because it is the sort of thing I read, and it was well done, publishable with only some serious copy-editing. Thus, when I met the author in a discussion forum, his name seemed familiar. I’ve since read all of and reviewed William Marantz’s Christmas Eve Can Kill You. I can understand why it isn’t published by a traditional publisher: he has only the one book. That is too much of a risk for a publisher, who is almost guaranteed not to get his investment back on a first novel. Bill needs four or five books in a series in hand before he even speaks to a publisher. He has a leading man and a leading lady already to carry a series and a background in radio, TV and films  that will give a publisher confidence that he will develop the series to maximum effect, if he wishes to.

Five further books I noted as publishable and then discovered that all of them were by professional writers republishing their backlists, or launching books from their bottom drawers that their publishers didn’t want because they didn’t fit established series.  They weren’t the sort of book I read (some of them were flash genre crap), but I would have recommended them to a suitable editor if I found them in a genuine slush pile that had, in John Blackwell’s brutal phrase, “washed in over the transom”.

One book by a previously unpublished writer I noted, after reading ten pages of it at the front and ten pages at the back, might be a possibility for an editor who wants to spend the necessary time developing it with the author. Where to find such an editor today is a different story. I just liked the writing and there was a beginning at a problem for the leading character and a definite ending, so the middle may or may not be okay, but if the author is not a jerk-up can always be knocked into shape.

Another twelve novels were well enough written to hold me past the third page for a bit but not enough to want to check the back of the book. Decent English by itself isn’t worth much. The dull extract above that I couldn’t bear to continue with is in perfectly serviceable English. To rise out of the slush pile, the author’s characters really need to bond with the reader by page 10 at the latest. With these books, though they weren’t objectionable on first sight, I could bear not to know what happened… I was amazed that there were so many at this level; these are authors who eventually might write a good book — but, depressingly, not one of them had a second book that I could see. That lack by itself is a barrier that stops a traditional publisher saying as much as hello to them.

I then checked each of the hundred books in my sample to see that I hadn’t missed any that were previously published, or any by established authors. This would act as a check on my judgments. I hadn’t missed any. No one has perfect judgment, of course, but ungrammatical or boring rubbish is easy to spot. The writer quoted above whom I found too dull to read more than a few lines of had actually found a minority press to take her on, so the total of professionals is six. I passed by one indie with a cult following: ungrammatical sentences, with misspelt words; perhaps in the market for vampire books it doesn’t matter that the writing grates.

If we subtract the six professional writers repurposing their back lists, and the indy with a cult following as a newly minted professional, we are left with one out a hundred novels that is publishable, Bill Marantz’s novel. As we have seen, that is a very good hit rate, higher by one-half than the best average in the last glory days of the traditional publishers, ten times as high as in more recent computerized slush piles. Statistically, however, it is likely I just got lucky (I’ve been lucky all my life, with cards and cars and women, even with publishers and readers), that if I read a thousand indie-published manuscripts at random, the hit rate would be lower than 1 in a 100.

The key conclusion is that the hit rate isn’t so high that I feel compelled to spend a month of my life reading part of each of a thousand indie manuscripts in an effort to determine precisely what fraction of one percent of all the indie manuscripts (excluding the professionals recycling their back lists and bottom drawers) is publishable in traditional publishing. Whether it is one-tenth of one per cent, or seven-tenths of one per cent, it is still too miniscule a fraction of the total to waste my time on — and I fear most editors will feel the same way, or, if they’re young and keen, their bosses will redirect their energies into more profitable channels.

What’s more, it doesn’t matter. The analogy between the slush pile of paper manuscripts a generation ago, or even the computer disks of more recent times, and the published e-books of the indies is far from exact. Editors don’t in fact need to cruise the e-book slush pile: they merely need to wait to see who attracts readers.

The paradigm has changed. Let’s mix a metaphor even more atrociously than some of the grimmer writers I’ve been reading: The slush pile isn’t dead wood, it is a living compost heap, from which will rise the tender shoot of new authors tended by Adam Smith’s hidden hand to be cropped by the quick and the richly rewarded among the dealmakers who now pass for editors.

The slush pile is dead. Long live Direct Publishing. Long live Smashwords.

Long live Darwin.

Slush pile 4: The executive summary

Slush pile 2: Chance would be a fine thing

Slush pile 1: From vanity publishers to independents

“Take that stack of manuscripts up to Cambridge with you for a shufti, and let me know if any of them are any good,” said John Blackwell on the third day after Christmas in 1977. He was editorial director of Martin Secker & Warburg , old-fashioned London literary publishers back in the days when such distinctions mattered; he, and Nick Austin of Sphere, who was to be my paperback editor, had come in to the city on a holiday to greet their new author when I flew in from Australia with my wife; that evening John and Pamela gave Rosalind and me dinner. When John died, the novelist David Lodge in his obituary of John in The Independent made a point of telling us that John Blackwell was the last London editor of note to do his own copy-editing for his authors. John also rode home on his bicycle every night with a stack of manuscripts that had “washed in over the transom” tied to the rack; he would read at least a few pages of each, more of any manuscript that caught his attention.

What I’m describing is an editor of immense goodwill, who actively searched for new writers. Though with all my other publishers I had introductions, with Secker & Warburg I was one of those authors who “washed in over the transom”, and had been in correspondence with John, long informative and entertaining letters crafted on his own typewriter, for several years. I didn’t know how privileged I was.

It is true, as recounted in WRITING A THRILLER, and quoted many times by others, that I sent my first novel out over forty times, including three times to John, before it was accepted. Naturally I wondered what were the odds I’d beaten.

Secker & Warburg might have taken on one new writer every year or two in John’s time — and, as I’ve described, not for lack of trying. Most of their writers came by what I call the “Bennett Cerf method” — introductions from people who know instinctively who can be an author, or think they do. I’m interested in the minutae of any profession I find myself in, so I looked into the efficiency of John’s method of discovering new authors. It came down to this: of each 440 manuscripts that “washed in over the transom” Secker & Warburg would publish — one. (In my previous role, as a troubleshooter in the communications industry, I would instantly have redirected John’s valuable energy and attention to the more profitable tasks at hand, working with Secker’s Nobel Prize winners and potential winners.)

All right, so Secker & Warburg were high quality literary publishers who maintained a very high standard even when they could have expanded with all that Heinemann money behind them, not to mention the authority of having become under Tom Rosenthal the most profitable Heinemann division. I saw absolutely no evidence of empire building at Secker, nor any desire to expand for the sake of expansion; instead the Secker publisher, Tom Rosenthal, was moved into the hot seat at Heinemann, in short, a reverse takeover.

Thus, in theory at least, some of those manuscripts of authors who didn’t meet Secker’s perhaps unreasonably high standards should and would  find a place on another publisher’s list. They kept decent records, so I picked the fifth year back, and checked every one of the declined manuscripts against records of books in print for all the intervening years. Two out of 441 (I’m giving this from memory) had made it into print elsewhere.

Now, most writers and aspirants are not self-delusional. Secker & Warburg were, with Faber & Faber and Jonathan Cape, the top literary publishers in London. One must assume that only aspirants who thought they were ready for the heights would send their manuscripts to this select company of publishers. Surely the rest would send their manuscripts where they might stand a better chance of being accepted. Thus there would be a large element of self-selection even in the 440 manuscripts that on average “washed in over the transom” at Secker in a year. In short, one would expect that the slush pile at any of these top literary publishers would hold some publishable examples that, given their size and quality expectations, they would have to pass on.

Yet out of 440 manuscripts by new writers who though they were ready for prime time, three in total were published.  Count them. Three. That’s 0.68 percent of the unsolicited manuscripts at one literary publisher in a year that eventually found publication. And, if my reasoning above holds, it is an exceptionally high fraction. In fact I know from information from other publishers that the reasoning holds and also, as a separate matter, that by itself the percentage is astoundingly high, but it would take too long to present the evidence. Anyway, I just checked one year, so it may have been a very good year. You should also consider that this was when a manuscript had to be typed and retyped, before computers made creating and submitting a manuscript appallingly easy. Today, largely because of cheap computers enabling the untalented, the percentage of manuscripts in circulation quoted as being publishable is about one tenth of one percent, that is, one in a thousand. This is the major reason publishers eventually stopped accepting unsolicited submissions.

So what should you say when your child announces that it wants to be a writer. First of all, don’t shout, “Over my dead body!” That could be an incentive. Instead smile brightly and say, “Chance would be a fine thing; first find your publisher. Now, if you wanted to become a professional gambler, your parents might see fit to pay for an education in mathematics, so that you can keep us in our old age in the style to which we would like to be accustomed.”

***

Now you may be wondering. Did I ever find a promising author in John’s slushpile, the few times I had no excuse for refusing to serve as an unpaid sieve?  Why, yes I did, and at a higher rate than he did. (Perhaps my taste wasn’t as good, perhaps my standards were lower… Actually, I was just more innocent and therefore keener.) I found, over a period of a decade or so, three promising writers, two of whom John hated for lack of “moral core” (which was pretty pointed language from a fellow out of whom his own authors had to drag “notes” with pulleys and a steam engine), and the third jerked himself up as beyond criticism when John wrote him a letter explaining why his novel wasn’t immediately publishable, thereby damning himself as permanently unpublishable. One of the other two was eventually published by Barley Alison, who had her own imprint under the Secker umbrella; Barley later told me with a downturned mouth that after two novels (of which I adored the first one, very funny, and hated the second one as superficial and condescending), this writer was posturing in pubs as an author, drinking, doping and not working. Another handful of years on, when I was packaging and editing a series of graphic design books I discovered precisely how difficult it is to find good, hardworking, consistent professionals who could also write, and I understood that downturned mouth and bitter tone of an editor who lost a writer after his second book, a very common experience in all grades of publishing. That experience, in turn, tends to make even the most enthusiastic editor look with a leery eye upon even the most talented new writer with only one or two books to show. That was the point of John’s several years of correspondence with me, that he wanted to be certain I was working, producing more books, not just sitting there feeling sorry for my unrecognized genius. It also explains why those who already have substantial and satisfying careers in a related field behind them often make the best writers (and publishers too — Barley Alison, mentioned above, was diplomat).

Okay, now we have two numbers we can work with. In the typewriter days, at a literary publisher at best 7 authors out a thousand manuscripts would rise from the slush pile to the glory of publication. In more recent times, the computer made it easier to present unworthy manuscripts and the number fell to approximately one in a thousand publishable novels emerging from the slush pile, driving publishers to refuse to accept unsolicited submissions.

Now, in the e-book age, anyone can publish their own book costlessly. Is the Kindle’s stack of erstwhile amateurs, vanity publishers, all now restyled indies, the new slush pile of a golden opportunity for young editors looking to discover the next big author?

Slush pile 3: The slush pile is dead. Long live Direct Publishing. Long live Smashwords. Long live Darwin.

Slush pile 1: From vanity publishers to independents

When there were only a few authors self-publishing the process was known as vanity-publishing. The assumption was that anyone good enough to be published would find a proper publisher. A proper publisher was defined as one who paid the author; a vanity publisher was one who expected the author to pay for the privilege of being published.

Along came Amazon and their Kindle e-tablet. Amazon are not particularly book lovers; they are merchants who’re in books because books are universal and easily shipped; Amazon could as easily have been primarily in recorded music. Amazon’s Kindle was proprietary, with a proprietary format. Amazon intended by any means possible to grab the major market for it, and part of this strategy was to provide lots of books very cheaply. From there it was only a small step to providing a channel for the huge numbers of unpublished authors who would gladly give their books away free if only they could get them published.

Quite incidentally, Amazon also provided a channel to costless self-publishing, and a burgeoning new market, for those professional authors of “proper” publishers who were dissatisfied with the arthritic practices of traditional publishing. The complaints were multitdinous and luxuriously variant, but three are of special importance here. They are that traditional publishers

  • consistently failed to market any but the thinnest layer of top sellers at all, never mind adequately
  • sat on the valuable back lists of authors without ever reissuing them
  • killed creativity by demanding series books, and refused to publish books outside the author’s established genre even from successful authors, resulting in a goodly number of unpublished but good novels in bottom drawers

Amazon’s DTP (now called “Kindle Direct Publishing” or KDP) offered a solution to each of these, and many other problems. Suddenly there were lots of professional authors with substantial New York and London tracks records self-publishing. They called themselves independents, or indies for short.

Amazon didn’t distinguish between the professionals and the erstwhile vanity publishers. They were all grist to the mill. The amateurs or vanity publishers too called themselves independents or indies. And why not? They were competing on an equal footing with the professionals who had the stamp of approval of Big Publishing on them. They would sink or swim in the same pond.

The question was: How many of these writers revealed to us by DTP had publishers unfairly turned away? How many nuggets of gold had the receptionist brushed off with a preprinted card while painting her fingernails over the slush pile? (I’m not making this up. I saw it, and more than once.)

But that’s too depressing. Let’s look at the old-fashioned practice of editors who actively searched for new talent in the slush pile, of which I came into the tail end.

Slush pile 2: Chance would be a fine thing

A quotation I can stand by

“Good novels are not written, they are rewritten. Great novels are diamonds mined from layered rewrites.” — André Jute/Writing a Thriller

This is the most quoted remark for writers on the net. It is so well known that

  • it has motivated a best-selling novel of authorial wish-fulfillment
  • it is now being attributed to everyone’s favorite writer — see Who else has stolen from me?
  • it has been ripped by Launchpoint for at least ten cashinquick books (they’re all mostly the same inside) for writers, which is quite a bit more than fair use.

I suppose I should be flattered. The words are  from my WRITING A THRILLER. They encapsulate the writer’s need to persevere to success, and a professional attitude and outlook, and the concept of writing not as a splurge of self-gratification but as a process aimed at communication with a defined audience.

One has to ask how Launchpoint defines its audience if the same material (including the quotation from me) serves for freelance journalists, autobiographers, novelists, those in search of their writing voice, non-fictionalists, short story writers, those planning a novel, and business writers.

I’ve heard of packaged books, and of one-size-fits-all clothes, but this is ridiculous!

Clearly, for some, the words no longer relate to the writer burning the midnight oil, sweating over every adjective and subsidiary clause. Instead the quotation has for them become a meaningless mantra.

It’s definitely a quotation I can stand by, but can Launchpoint and those authors who have appropriated my words, or permitted their fans to appropriate my words on their behalf, say the same?

Being first with the most for too long makes you old hat

A relevant and rather pointed pair of question were posted by Mrs B about the forthcoming 4th edition of WRITING A THRILLER. Mrs B demands to know: “Why does a successful textbook for writers need to be rewritten? Surely good writing is a timeless art.”

That’s a good point. Much that is in WRITING A THRILLER is timeless, applies to every novel and every creative profession. But the process of good writing is not “timeless”. It changes over time. And WRITING A THRILLER was the agent of that change in the last quarter of the 20th century. But now we’re in the 21st century…

I can give you an example, Mrs B. You go on to say, “I never saw the need for the second and third editions, which catered to ever more advanced writers. The first edition was a perfect eye-opener, and cheaper too because it was thinner.” We’re running the risk of conflating several matters here, so I’ll leave the desire of publishers for ever thicker editions for later. The phrase we want to focus on is “a perfect eye-opener.” From the mouths of babes… (No, I don’t know anything about Mrs B. I’m not referring to that sort of babe.)

On one of the Amazon sites there is a condescending review of WRITING A THRILLER, saying it is a useful book but there is little in it that the reviewer hasn’t found in other books. I laughed aloud when that review was drawn to my attention; I would bet money that whoever wrote that wasn’t born yet when the first edition of WRITING A THRILLER came out. Certainly, all the “other books” he refers to were written after WRITING A THRILLER.

When WRITING A THRILLER first appeared, it was a radical departure from the textbooks for writers then available. The preface explained why, and named the only other good book — in my opinion —  for writers then available, Writing a Novel by John Braine, author of Room at the Top. Writing a Novel was then out of print; it was eventually reprinted at my repeated suggestion.

Among other things, WRITING A THRILLER

  • Shifted the focus of the thriller from plotting to characterization.
  • Redefined the plot from a creaky mechanical contrivance operated by events to a structure driven by characters through the events they motivate.
  • Became the most quoted book for writers ever through its insistence on professional behavior for writers.

All of this is now commonplace because in the intervening quarter-century so many writers have followed where WRITING A THRILLER led. Your library shelves will demonstrate a big change in thrillers. All those villains, previously so many cardboard cutouts, now have proper motivation. In fact, I’ll probably burn in hell for being the impetus behind so many sympathetic serial killers!

So, Mrs B, a new, fully revised edition of WRITING A THRILLER is required because the first three editions caused a shift in the emphasis between the elements of good writing that now makes it seem a little old hat — because everyone else has caught up to where I stood a quarter-century ago. The new edition’s emphasis will shift to strengthen what has been made into general practice by the earlier editions, and address what is bad (a very great deal) about current practice. It will also have to address a vast new army of writers who unless they receive help will be empowered by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (new name of DTP) and Smashwords to publish before they are ready.

New challenges for a new century.

Glad hand

Hi. I’m André Jute. That’s my photograph in the banner above, kissing the Blarney Stone, which is about 40 minutes  up the road from where I live on the Carbery Coast of West Cork, in Ireland. There’s a longer biography and booklists and suchlike in the dropdown menus above.

I’m a writer. I write novels and non-fiction texts in subjects related to my various professions; my hobbies soon turn into professions or books or both. There are well over two hundred editions of my books in a dozen or so languages, and many thousands of reviews in the performing arts, my preferred form of journalism. It’s many years since I counted my books: the first editions take up five shelf-feet.

The occasion for this blog is the 25th anniversary release next year (2011) of the entirely revised 5th edition of WRITING A THRILLER, first published in 1986, and since reissued in three ever fatter revised and expanded editions, with a fourth enlarged edition currently being prepared for the Kindle. I’m preparing to create an entirely new 5th edition, and later this year that will for a while become the main subject of this blog. Meanwhile there are other books from my backlist to rewrite and launch onto the electronic seas, and several books by others that I’m helping with.

My schedule is pretty full, so I shan’t be sticking strictly to the writing of one text-book. I expect this blog to touch on any and all aspects of writing and books that occur to me. Though my hobbies and rants will be in other blogs my publishers are giving me space for, in this one I shall add notes about the music I listen to, the videos and films I see,  the books I read, and a few other things I do, simply because a writer doesn’t live and work in a vacuum. You may ask, What about newspapers and magazines? I don’t read any; if they contain anything I need to know about, someone is sure to give me the gist of it. I rarely watch the news on television either.

Readers are welcome to ask questions or make suggestions of topics I should cover.