Isabel Ashdown’s secrets and lies

We had the fantastic thriller writer Isabel Ashdownon the Bestseller Experiment podcast this week. Isabel is the author of bestselling thrillers Little Sister and Beautiful Liars, and she walked away from a successful career to focus on her writing and it all stepped up a gear when she entered a competition in a newspaper. I was also joined by stand-in co-host Sam Eades who is always good fun and does a mean jigsaw… You can listen to the podcast here.

Like many science fiction and fantasy authors out there, I found myself sighing in despair at this comment from Liz Thomson in the Bookseller. I am beyond proud to have been published by Gollancz, and I realise that this kind snobbery exists, but you expect better from Liz (who’s always been very chatty and friendly whenever I’ve met her) and the Bookseller, a publication that should celebrate all publishing regarding of genre. Sigh…

And a quick update on my fantasy novel The End of Magicit’s now 80% funded over at Unbound, so it’s not too late to pledge to join the adventure and get your name in the book along with some other cool extras. Click here for more info.

Till next time, happy writing!

Mark

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A ghostwriter, an archaeologist and a wizard walk into a bar…

On this week’s Bestseller Experiment podcast I spoke to Ghostwriter Roz Morris, who gives a very thorough breakdown of how a ghostwriter works, and also describes a fun way of developing story ideas that involves scraps of paper and a box.

Mark Desvaux has had to bow out of the podcast for a few episodes due to a family illness, so I was ably assisted by Jenn McMenemy who, as well being on the podcast as a guest previously, has also launched her own podcast Ancient History Fangirl, which is huge fun and proves once again that history is a great resource for writers.

This week’s Deep Dive podcast is a cracker, looking into audiobooks, the fastest growing sector of publishing. We talk to Orion Audio’s Paul Stark about mainstream audiobook publishing, and we also get contributions from indie authors Jo Ho and Michael R Miller. It’s choc full of ready detailed info, so if you’re not a Patreon supporter pop over to our Patreon page and get on board!

And finally, at the time of writing I’m 59% funded on my book The End of Magic. A thousand thanks to everyone who’s pledged so far, and if you haven’t joined the adventure yet, why not be the hero who nudges me over to 60%? Click here and hit the blue pledge button.

Till next time, happy writing!

 

Mark

“Therefore, but…” with Cass Green

We had the amazing Cass Green on the podcast this week and one of the things we touched on was the “Therefore, but…” rule for writers as explained by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone in this vid.

We also discussed a recent blog by Mark Chadbourn on how writers should be looking for not one, but multiple streams of income to pay the rent. It’s a fascinating piece, and could well change your life!

And we were delighted to see the podcast featured on Buzzfeed as one of the podcast you NEED to start listening to in 2018. Buzzfeed! My kids were actually impressed for about 30 seconds…

And stay tuned for some big news on an exciting new project!

Mark

PS.

Oh, and my first book Robot Overlords is in the UK Kindle half-term sale. Thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy so far. If you haven’t you can grab a copy for only 99p now!

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We had one of those Youtube live show thingies on the podcast this week…

I’m often stopped in the street and asked, “Hey, Mark. How do those Youtube live show thingies work on the podcast? They look so much fun. How can I get involved, man?”

And I say, “Dude, it’s an exclusive for our Patreon thingy supporters. They get first dibs on all sorts of cool stuff, like the Youtube live shows where they can ask me and Mr. D questions about writing and publishing and stuff, and interact with us via the miracle medium of the Youtubes. We talked about how long your project should be, how to find other writers who will give you feedback, the kinds of deals a debut author can expect from a publishers and tips on building your mailing list, and there’s a whole long debate about swearing. It’s a fuckin’ gas, baby.”

“But can’t I just download the edited highlights a week later on the podcast?”

“Yeah, and that’s a stone groove, but nothing beats actually being there, and you get live pictures on the Youtube and sometimes people get naked.”

“Really?”

“No. Tell you what just check out the highlights of the last show here, and then sign up to our Patreon. It’ll totally wang your doodle.”

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PS. We wrote a book. You might like it. Others do…

SHANNON MAYER

Lara Dearman on the Bestseller Experiment

We had the brilliant and all round lovely author Lara Dearman on the podcast this week. Lara is a debut novelist who has gone from community college courses to a major publishing deal with her book The Devil’s Claw. It’s an inspirational listen and I know Lara will go on to great things. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW

Also have a listen to this week’s Deep Dive, where Mr. D and I discuss the topics brought up by our chat with Lara, and I reveal my true feelings about Enid Blyton. CLICK HERE for a wee snippet.

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If you liked that episode and want some more, we’ve started having post-podcast deep dive discussions for our Patreon supporters. You can support us and get the extra content here.

And if you’re looking for something new to read in 2018, then grab a copy of our novel Back to Reality on Kindle now!

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My First Agents – My Writing Diary, Ten Years On: Sunday 14th May & Monday 15th May, 2006

I had not one but two agents at this very early stage of my writing career (that word still makes me look over my shoulder to check that no one’s sniggering at me). I met my first literary agent at a networking event at Waterstone’s Piccadilly called ‘The Film World Meets The Book World’ (I think). I can’t remember how I heard about it, but I knew that I had to go as there would be agents and film producers and people who would surely see my colossal writing genius for what it was and insist on flying me out to Hollywood to introduce me to Mr. Spielberg that very weekend… I’m nothing if not optimistic.

Like many British people I can find it difficult just introducing myself to strangers for no reason other than personal gain (or “networking” as it’s known) and like many aspiring writers I found it borderline fraudulent to introduce myself as a writer at a time when I’d only written and staged a handful of plays. But one of the most important lessons I had learned from my failed career as an actor is that no one will knock on your front door and ask if you fancy a role in the Royal Shakespeare Company… You have to go to them and let them know that you’re good and what you do could be of value to them.

And so I walked into a crowded room where everyone seemed to know each other and I knew no one.

Eventually, and I have no real recollection how, I found myself talking to a very nice lady who ran a well-established literary agency, primarily for children’s books. I had no real desire to be a children’s author (at the time), but happily chatted with her and pitched my first play to her, which had a teen protagonist. She thought it would make an excellent children’s book and asked to read it. She was also intrigued that I worked in publishing and we discovered that we had a few mutual friends. I made it very clear that I wanted to be a screenwriter first and foremost and she said that was fine and that she would hook me up with a film agent, too.

Which is how I ended up with two agents. This all came together in the autumn of 2003, so I had been with them both for a couple of years at this point and had been trying, unsuccessfully, to pursue the children’s author career. I had written a couple of books that got some very nice rejections from publishers, and the pleasant lady who ran the agency had since passed me on to one of her junior associates. To be honest, the junior associate and I did not get on. She pulled strange faces when talking about my work, and seemed to treat me like a nuisance if I ever got in touch.

The film agent, however, was terrific. She was very encouraging and wanted to get me work and I was kicking myself for faffing about with the books for so long, and so in 2006 I made sure I would have a spec script for her to show around town. Few spec scripts sell, so I was determined not to worry about budget or anything that might seem small or too kitchen-sink-British. I wanted to write a commercial Hollywood movie that would get me noticed by commercial Hollywood people, and I came up with an idea called The Last Time Machine, which was epic stuff with time travel, dinosaurs, Roman Legions, the Luftwaffe and the end of the known universe  (I write more about this project and how it was doomed here).

By May 2006 I had finished a polished draft (written in Microsoft Word, hence my note that it needed formatting!), my script agent had read it, and we were set to meet for lunch on the Monday, and here are my diary entries for that time:

Sunday 14th May, 2006

Had a quick read-through of The Last Time Machine script in prep for tomorrow’s meeting. Made a few minor notations. I’m proud of it, just a shame it’ll never get made.

Monday 15th May, 2006

Had lunch with my agent today. She loved ‘The Last Time Machine’ and has a whole list of people she’s going to send it to. I just need to format it finally and she’ll send it off. She said a very nice thing: she’d wondered if she’d been having too good a day when she read LTM because she had so few notes. She really couldn’t find anything wrong with it. I explained that this was my first truly original script without the baggage of having previously been a play. We talked about other movies I could write – she’d love to see me write a horror movie – and my career. I asked about the teams that write for the likes of Spooks and Hustle. She’d rather establish me as a feature film writer first (her words – there’s something a little bit unreal about all this… at least until I earn some money from it or see my name on the big screen).

I wasn’t so aware of it back then, but she was doing the things that a good agent should aways do: she was encouraging, she was critical, but in a positive way, and she was talking about my future and the direction of my career. The horror movie thing is interesting, as horror features are often the best way for a commercial writer to get a film made: they can be produced for a low budget and can be very profitable, thus giving your career a great start. The very next thing I wrote was a horror film and it very nearly got made, introduced me to some very influential folk, and definitely took me up a notch.

The junior associate literary agent also had some ideas about my career, but they didn’t tally with the direction I wanted to go in and so it was an uncomfortable relationship. Like dating someone you know isn’t right for you, but you’re so desperate to cling on to a girlfriend/boyfriend that you’ll put up with the unhappiness, but we all know that can never end well. If you’re dreading an email or a phone call from your agent then something is seriously wrong.

I stayed with the literary agent until they eventually dropped me in 2010, but it became an increasingly distant relationship. I wanted to make films, and 2006 would be the year where this once-fantastic dream very nearly became a reality…

 

 

Ten Years On: My writing diary – Saturday 15th April 2006

I started keeping a diary ten years ago this month! It was partly to help me sleep at nights (I had a theory that putting the day’s events on paper would help… which it does… a bit) and partly to keep track of writing projects I’d submitted.

I mention two projects. A play called BAN THIS FILTH! which I had staged at my local theatre and thought I could adapt for radio, and a children’s book called MORRIS MINOR AND THE ABOMINABLE CHALET OF DOOM.

This was at an exciting but uncertain time for me. I had two agents – one for books, one for scripts – but was still struggling to figure out what kind of writer I was (something I’m still trying to work out, to be honest), hence the identity crisis.

There’s some light editing here, and some names have been changed or redacted to protect the innocent.

SATURDAY 15th APRIL, 2006

Two – count ’em – two! rejection letters in the post this morning. The first was for a pitch I sent to BBC radio for ‘Ban This Filth’. Fair enough. I only have the fuzziest memory of sending the pitch, so I’m not too fussed about that one (although… the shite they have on the radio sometimes…).

The second one was the real gutter. <A MAJOR PUBLISHER> said no to ‘Morris’. It was a pleasant enough rejection (‘We liked it… however…’ – I’m going to put those words on my bloody gravestone) but my agent is comparing me to Jeremy Strong (too young!) so anyone reading it is prepped for a completely different kind of book. Mind you, the rejecting editor did use words like ‘crazy’ and ‘zanier’ (is that even a word?), so I reckon I’ve had a lucky escape.

I’m not entirely sure my agent likes me, either… the rejection letter was forwarded with a blank compliment slip… No ‘Chin up… there’s plenty more fish in the sea!’ Nothing. It’s almost like an ‘I told you so’ from them. Someone needs to work on their people skills.

Ah, rejection. I like to think I cope with it a little better these days. For me, there are four stages to rejection: furious anger, blind denial, dismal depression, then a calm acceptance. I try to skip straight to the final stage if possible.

Needless to say, I’m no longer with that agent (stay tuned for the diary entry when they drop me!). And, despite my bitter accusatory tone, it’s not a fault of theirs that it wasn’t working. We were just wrong for each other. They had a fixed idea of what kind of writer I was, and I didn’t have the first clue. No wonder there was a clash. Finding your voice is one of the most important things for a writer. I clearly had some way to go…