Monday, 23 June 2014

The trouble with my Kindle library

Piles and piles of books
I don't have a Kindle, but I've been downloading e-books to the app at a much faster rate than I can read
them. I still buy the occasional hard copy—ill-advised since I ran out of shelf space years ago and the bookcase I bought last year filled up instantly with the piles that were sitting on bed, chairs and desk—but most of my book purchases over the last five years have been of the digital variety.

Since I plan to put a dent in my TBR backlog this summer, I decided to 'get organized' (always a dangerous undertaking for me) by dividing the Kindle titles into categories. The result was as follows:

1: Books by writers I know. (scores, maybe hundreds)
2: Classics to be read or re-read. (scores)
3: Books on eating, cooking and generally living more healthfully. (a handful)
4: Books on e-publishing (a few)
5: Novels, biographies and memoirs NOT by authors I know. (a few)
6: Miscellaneous titles, like the experimental baby books for my granddaughter. (a few)

The problem with my Kindle library became clear: apparently, I own scores, possibly hundreds, of books that I bought or downloaded free simply to support authors I know. I have little or no interest in reading maybe 95% of these books, so what do I do with them? I have to wade through these to get to those that I actually plan to read. I'd like to delete the unwanted books but feel guilty about this although I know I'll never get around to reading, for example, love stories that pair humans with vampires, dragons, tigers or wolves, those that are gruesome, weird and humorless (I can read gruesome and weird if there's humor involved), and those by authors I've sampled whose writing doesn't grab me for one reason or another.

The other categories are fine: I'm picking my way through the Fanons, Alighieris, and Flauberts that I've been wanting to read, like, forever; I've started on the books by authors I know that I do want to read, such as Jamaica Dreaming by Eugenia O'Neal that I read in its entirety yesterday, and William Doonan's Mediterranean Grave; don't plan on reading any more books on e-publishing for a while; and I'll schedule the 'healthful living' books for maybe every other month. But that first category is headache-inducing.

Do you buy/download lots of books you don't plan to read just to support authors you know? What on earth do you do with them?

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Shortlist oasis

I sometimes describe my writing career (I use the term loosely here) as a desert with the occasional oasis that makes it all worthwhile. What is the desert comprised of? Years of toiling in the dark, the laborious search for agents and publishers, the chimerical nature of the publishing industry that follows neither the rules of logic nor of commerce, the clogging up of online bookstores with the slush pile (there, I've said it, and I'm by no means referring to the worthwhile, well-written and edited indie books out there)...

...The shrinkage and near-disappearance of the author advance.
...The social media time-suck requirement that does little unless the writer is already established.
...The fact that some publishers are still robbing writers blind.

Sand, sand, lots of dry sand.

But every now and then something thrilling happens that makes it all worthwhile. Signing with my agent back in 2006 was one; she was the first industry professional to validate my writing, and one of my first fans. The first sale to a publisher, the first release, the first sighting of a book with your name on it in a bookstore, the first (and every single) fan letter, the good and great reviews, the writing network built up over years, the kindness of strangers...

My latest oasis experience has been the shortlisting of one of my stories for the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I'm not ashamed to say it made me delirious with joy, partly because I'm well aware that genre writers, especially those who dabble in romance, are not taken seriously by the literary establishment. But that aside, it just feels good to have one's work recognised in this way. For the rest of the month, drinks are on me!