Thursday, 28 June 2012

W.H. Smith does not stock my books

My good friend Juliet Archer, fellow writer and Chair of the Romantic Novelists' Association (North London chapter) remarks in one of her pithy observations upon these blogs that there are similarities between Romance and Crime fiction.

 Not sure. At least, there may be some similarities occasionally in content (as in: ''She was struck by a piercing glance from his dark brown eyes...'' etc). But we are totally different animals in the writing room. Yes, indeedy. Writers of Romantic fiction compose with a red rose tucked behind their left ear, and a big box of Black Magic on the desk beside them. Bluebirds sing outside their window, and small fauns gambol on the green lawns. Sometimes a white horse ridden by a dashing male figure in breeches gallops by in the lane below.

By contrast, writers of crime fiction crouch menacingly over their keyboards, a kitchen knife gripped  between their clenched teeth, ready to stab at any dark hidden depths that might float to the surface during the writing process. They write at night, furtively glancing over their shoulders every now and then, their ears peeled for footsteps coming slowly up the creaky wooden stairs. I know this, gentle blog reader, for I am such a writer. That is also why the highest award for a crime novel is in the shape of a dagger, while the equivalent prize for the best Romantic book ... isn't.

I hope we've got that sorted, though I doubt it! And so to the title of this blog. WH Smith, bastion of likey-likey fiction, do not stock Spy Girl. Waterstones nearly didn't either. The story, told to me by one of the publicity department at Usborne, was that they showed the first cover to the buyers of WH Smith and Waterstones. It was originally pink. Both buyers said if it remained pink, they would not take the book, as it was too 'gendered'. Usborne duly changed the colour. The second book, Out of the Shadows, however, they decided to give a pink cover to. Guess which book has the highest sales figures and has been reprinted the most?

WH Smith however, decided that as the first book is based loosely on Milton's Paradise Lost, it was clearly 'religious', which is a BAD THING in a teenage book (Sex, drugs, drink etc are not) and turned it down. So now you know. I thought you might like to have a taste of Out of the Shadows, so here once again, is the opening:

''The shiny big Mercedes sped down the Avenue des Champs Elysees. It turned into the Place de La Concorde. The small black ATV followed it, maintaining a discreet three-car distance. Autumn sunlight danced on the river Seine as the two cars crossed over the Pont de la Concorde.
            'He's heading for St-Germain-des-Pres,' Field Agent Stash McGregor said excitedly. His partner Suki Smith gripped the wheel of the ATV. Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the road ahead.
             'Stay with him!' Stash ordered.
             Suki edged the ATV out, weaving it skilfully through the traffic.
            'Watch out  - he's making a left turn,' Stash warned, as the Mercedes suddenly swerved off the busy main road and into a quiet side street.
             At the edge of the pavement, an old man stood waiting. He wiped his coffee-stained moustache on the sleeve of his soft check shirt. Under one arm he carried a wooden box of chess pieces. He was just about to cross over when the Mercedes shot into view.
           The old guy stepped back, muttering angrily. The car sped by. For a few seconds however, he had locked eyes with the man sitting in the back seat. He stared down the street at the rapidly receeding car. The colour drained from his face, leaving it as grey as the locks of hair that straggled limply over his collar. Slowly, as if in a daze, he stepped off the kerb, just as the ATV slammed round the corner. There was a cry, a squeal of brakes, followed by a dull thud. Then silence.
           The Mercedes sped on towards the Luxembourg quarter. The driver checked his rear-view mirror, then half-turned in his seat. He spoke in Russian to the rear passenger, 'On ot nas ushol, boss.'
            'Yes, we have lost them,' the man agreed. His eyes glittered. 'But it looks as if we have just found someone else,'  he added softly. And he smiled, showing two rows of gleaming white teeth ''


  1. Interesting about WH Smith and the covers!

    Love the excerpt, Carol.

    1. Of such is literary life made up! Sigh. BTW, love your news, Talli!

  2. Well, Carol, you obviously haven't seen me at work! The second image is far more accurate than the first.

    Do covers matter as much for e-books? Or does social media influence the buying decision more? Discuss.

    Great excerpt, as always. Even a bit of Russian dialogue!

  3. Don't know about ebooks. Certainly matters for 'ordinary' books, and teen fic in particular. It was noticeable that when Usborne decided to 'primark' my covers by removing the lovely silver foiling, it was reflected in sales. You gotta have a bit of bling to sell!!!!


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