Damn it, I’m a day late with my progress report, but then I’m having some trouble remembering what month it is lately, let alone what day of the month. Strange times, it hardly needs to be said. The strangest I’ve ever lived through. On one level it puts one’s worries in previous times in perspective, on another the petty realities of the everyday still strangely continue as one day blurs into the next. I’m acutely aware of how lucky I am to be in a business that’s still able to carry on, at least in some form, and to do a job I can not only do from home but indeed always have done from home. So in many ways my daily routine hasn’t changed that much – indeed in an effort to give some structure to the kids we imposed a much more rigid timetable than usual on everyone and the result was my productivity went up considerably to begin with. Must admit the wheels are coming off the wagon a little bit now, mind you. The challenges of home-schooling (major respect to all the teachers out there), constant bickering among the kids, intermittent waves of lethargy etc.
BUT the work continues. I’ve said this about six times before, but Book 2 of the Age of Madness, The Trouble With Peace, is now FINISHED. The copy edit has gone back, the covers are pretty much done in the UK and US. I’ve written a little short story to go in a Waterstones special edition like the one we did for A Little Hatred. I’ve even written a “previously in…” to refresh the memories of readers. The final detail will be the proof-read, which will probably happen over the next month, and then it’ll be totally finished, honest, in good time for the scheduled publication in mid September.
Plainly this is a challenging time for every trade and the book trade is no exception. You might think everything’s going great guns because we’re all locked down and looking to be entertained, but I’m told it’s a very mixed picture. E-book and audio still continue to sell, though some books and genres are doing much better than others: kids better than adult, fiction better than non-fiction. But as far as physical books go clearly all the bookstores are shut for the foreseeable future and amazon are, understandably, focussed elsewhere. In particular they’re not tending to take preorders, and with the loss of a lot of the traditional routes of marketing and promotion that means a lot of publishers’ plans for forthcoming books are a little bit shot to shit. That means many of them are delaying some bigger releases in the hope that things will settle down and those books will have a better chance. But that means there’s a backlog of big titles waiting to drop that might suck the oxygen out of the market when things do relax.
As far as this affects my forthcoming releases: hopefully it doesn’t. I and my publishers have worked hard to get the books ready and publish them reliably a year apart so we’d be gutted if that was derailed. Printing and distribution still seems to be working so we’ll be doing everything possible to stick to the schedule, and the UK mass market paperback of A Little Hatred is going to be out in May as originally planned. The Trouble With Peace is still firmly slated for September 15th-17th, depending which side of the Atlantic but, just to warn you, nothing’s absolutely certain right now. I will of course keep everyone as informed as possible…
The third and final book is getting very close to done now, too. Finished the character pass, which is where I go through with an eye on characterisation – mostly the voices of the lead characters, and trying to get as much personality into the dialogue and behaviour of the secondary characters as possible – so where there’s a generic shrug or sigh or eyebrow raise, can it become something that’s unique to the character or sheds a little light on their personality. Honestly, by a third book in a series, the characters should be pretty well established and writing from the main points of view becomes instinctive, so there’s not that much to do in this phase. Next will be a pass for setting, then it’ll be off for the detailed line edit, and it’ll probably be copy edited soon after, so I fully expect it’ll be close to completely finished by the time The Trouble With Peace comes out, though the proofs won’t happen till nearer the publication date next year, so the door remains open to a change or two if something comes to me, probably spurred by reaction to the second book.
There’s been some ongoing thought over the title. I’d been working with The Beautiful Machine, but I’d never been totally sure, and now I’m starting to edge towards The Wisdom of Crowds, which was the title of one of the chapters, and has just come to suit the nature of the book better and better as things have come along.
Hard to imagine that in my last progress report I’d just come back from a visit to Spain. One can scarcely imagine a less socially-distanced behaviour than serial shaking hands, posing for pictures and sharing breath with dozens of strangers queueing in small spaces, so who knows when book events, festivals and conventions will start happening again, if they ever do in the form to which we have been accustomed. A trip to Portugal scheduled for March and another to France which was due in May have already been cancelled, and it seems very unlikely that physical events will be going on by the time The Trouble With Peace comes out. I daresay bookshops and publishers will make an effort to organise on-line alternatives, but exactly how that might work remains to be seen. Also looks like I’m going to be signing more tip-in sheets than ever for the US and UK to try and make up for the lack of in-person signings – the figure of 10,000 has been mentioned. My hand hurts just thinking about it.
Stay safe, everyone…