Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Amazon is my shepherd. I shall not want.

Those nice people at Amazon emailed me this morning to say there was a book they were sure would be of great interest to me. And they were right. The only problem was that I’d not only read it, I’d written it. The book in question was the fourth in the series I’d written for Pearson, Brilliant Workplace Skills, and, to try to penetrate and benefit from their marketing strategy, I asked myself why they decided that that was the book for me.

First, why Workplace Skills rather than the others? I’m well past retirement age and, in fact, I took early retirement to concentrate on my writing, so I only share my office with me. Which means I have little need for the book’s insights into topics such as promotion prospects and how to enhance them, interpersonal relationships, office politics and protocols, and (God forbid) romance in the workplace. So they couldn’t have thought the content would be of interest.

Which leaves style. Maybe they thought ‘Ah, he’s a writer. He’ll appreciate the finely rounded phrases here, the prose rhythms and cadences, the immaculate structuring of arguments, the inspired organisation of the material and the impeccable choice of words’. But no, style and content can’t be separated so arbitrarily. And anyway, all of you, the sophisticated literates who read these blogs, will already have curled a scornful lip at the heavy-handed irony of those stylistic claims and judged that this paragraph is merely a filler, a spurious pretence that this posting has a theme, a direction, a purpose.

So what else? Maybe they’ve looked at my novels and decided that the fiction writer in me needs to be mentored by his non-fiction counterpart. After all, I’m clearly rubbish at writing crime novels. My detective makes jokes, doesn’t have a drink or drug problem, isn’t particularly scruffy and lives with a funny, attractive woman to whom he’s happily married. He cares about people, too, and he’s more interested in truth than in justice, so he’s obviously not cut out to be between the covers of a modern crime novel. And even when I try history, the crime bit gets overtaken or at least muddied up by romance. As for The Sparrow Conundrum, what self-respecting auteur would admit to committing such rubbish to paper (or screen)?

Or maybe there’s something else, something unthinkable really. Maybe, in their desire to dominate the world and take the place of oxygen, Amazon has lost the plot. Could it be that they … I hesitate to articulate it, but … do they perhaps not know much about books? Surely they don’t think Brilliant Workplace Skills is a … a product, something electronic maybe, an executive toy, an object you put on your desk and … well, play with until it’s time to go home. No, that can’t be it. Amazon is the pinnacle of evolution, the ne plus ultra of refinement and civilisation. Amazon is the reason the Big Bang happened. No, the fault must lie in me (and, no doubt, many other writers). Amazon can’t have made a mistake.

(The car, by the way, is a 1956 Volvo Amazon. I got the picture from Phil Seed’s Virtual Car Museum

P.S. OMG, as some people say, as if to demonstrate the truth of Amazon's omnipotence, as I was posting this, news came through that The Sparrow Conundrum, whose quality I so cheaply dismissed above, had been awarded first place for 'Humor' in the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards. I don't know what it means, but I'm bloody impressed.

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  1. I dunno. I find a certain comfort in the fact that they so fully validate *me* by assuring me that my works haven't fallen off my personal radar in favor of some less worthy tome... Or perhaps it's that they grow frustrated by the lack of sales and with a gentle prod remind me that there is indeed one sale that's a gimme, my own. With that single purchase I could well bump my dismal ranking from beyond-the-pale to simply embarrassing.
    As they say ... hope springs.

  2. This is the first time it's happened to me, though, so does that mean I've only just been validated? Validated by Amazon - oh bliss.

  3. I have been getting recommendations for a variety of Pfoxchase books, but nothing I've written.

  4. I bet they start trying to flog you the award-winning Wizards now, though. (Wizards, by John Booth, folks - story-teller extraordinaire.)

  5. Well, I've just heard mine have been added to Amazon's lending library. Oh joy, oh Huzzah. Hmmm. I'm beginning to think I should stick to photography.

  6. But surely, Greta, that means sales suggest to them that it'll be a popular 'borrow'. I hope so, anyway. I still don't understand how that's all going to work and I'll be interested to hear your take on it all when you get any results. As for the photography, keep doing it - lots of people get lots of pleasure from your shots.

  7. Hi Bill! To celebrate your fabulous literary award for 'Sparrow' I've awarded you The Liebster Award. Congrats! Just pop over to my blog to collect it.

    Janice x

  8. Thank you Janice. I've got the logo and I'll paste it (with appropriate text) with my next blog. And the new photos are terrific.