Today’s post is a great follow-up to Tom Vowler on crowdfunding his collection Dazzling the Gods. I’m amazed how difficult it is to get any book published but there are certain types of fiction which face additional hurdles due to preconceptions about what readers want. This can lead to questionable assumptions and self-fulfilling prophesies. Is everyone’s attention span really so fatally truncated that we can’t choose to filter out distractions and engage with narratives that demand and reward thought and attention? Does the reader/viewer need to have everything laboriously explained? Is it reasonable to claim there’s no market for material that is under-represented/promoted to begin with?
Today’s guest Lochlan Bloom has succeeded in bringing his work to readers by means of a collaborative project I hadn’t heard of before. Here he shares his experience with Publishing the Underground and Dead Ink (my review of his novel The Wave follows):
As an author of speculative literary fiction, the challenge of getting a book published is never easy. Mainstream publishers increasingly don’t seem interested in taking even the slightest financial risk and the more adventurous literary imprints barely have enough money to pay their heating bills.
This is one reason it has been so gratifying to be part of an initiative called Publishing The Underground from UK small press Dead Ink. Not only is the project all about publishing challenging literary fiction but it is also exploring new means of funding and ways to connect with readers.
Thanks to a small amount of seed-funding from Arts Council England, Dead Ink were able to setup a pre-order crowd-funding campaign in December last year and following its successful completion have already published the first of their new limited edition hardbacks.
This approach meant that my forthcoming novel – The Wave – along with the other two debut novels in the project have been able to build on the strong reader support that Dead Ink have developed through their past New Voices series. Past nominations for book sin the series have included the reader’s choice in The Guardian’s First Book Award, listings for the Not The Booker Prize and shortlisting for The Saboteur Awards.
Although The Wave is different from the other New Voices titles this year it feels as if we all share a certain ‘non-commercial’ approach to literary fiction that rarely seems to be championed by mainstream presses these days.
From an author perspective being a part of the campaign was great, not only for the financial support the pre-orders provided, but because it allowed a direct connection with a wide range of prospective readers, months before release. What is more, readers have also been able to become members of Dead Ink, helping to support next year’s crop of New Voices as well.
This community approach feels not only more human but has also helped to magnify the impact of the campaign by cross-pollinating potential readers of The Wave with those interested in reading the other New Voices novels, When Lights Are Bright by Wes Brown and The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes by Harry Gallon.
As a debut novelist this sort of support and connection feels vital if literary publishing is to avoid slipping into irrelevance and as the launch date approaches it is reassuring to know that there is a readership out there for literary fiction that isn’t afraid of inventing new rules.
Thank you to Lochlan Bloom for appearing on the Literary Sofa – I found it really interesting to hear about a crowdfunding initiative to support several works at once. Lochlan is the author of several pieces of short fiction including the novella Trade and The Open Cage. He has written for BBC Radio, Litro Magazine, Porcelain Film, IronBox Films, EIU, H+ Magazine and Calliope, the official publication of the Writers’ Special Interest Group (SIG) of American Mensa, amongst others.
The Wave blends metafiction, historical fiction and screenplay via three intertwined narratives. The stories of μ, an isolated loner, DOWN, a depressed publisher, and David Bohm, a real-life quantum theoretician in post-war São Paulo, slowly become entangled as reality disintegrates and each of the characters is dragged into an absurd, labyrinthine world of seemingly infinite regress.
IN BRIEF: My View of The Wave
I have included a description of the novel above because it gives a useful indication of what to expect – although only in the broadest sense, as intrigue and unpredictability are fundamental to this ‘story – if you call it that’. Since any confusion I felt about what was going on and how (if?) it all pieced together mirrored that of the characters, this was not to its detriment – if anything it threw the big questions raised into sharper relief. For me, having to keep pausing to think about the ideas is the sign of a book worth reading. The writing is taut and stylish, the effect immersive and atmospheric: the whole work had something of a Kafka meets David Lynch vibe whilst retaining a distinctive personality of its own. Not sure I totally got it, or if it matters, but I certainly enjoyed it.
Next week I will be joined by another of ‘my’ Hot Picks 2016 authors, Laura Powell, with a fantastic and very personal Writers on Location piece about Cornwall, setting of her debut novel The Unforgotten.