An Open Letter To New And Would-Be Writers

[This was first published a few years ago. I’ve since migrated my website to do something new with it, and lost a lot of old content. This was, I think, worth bringing over with me. It’s probably the most popular thing I’ve ever written, and still, I hope, makes some people feel a bit better about the publishing situation that they’re in.]

Dear all,

Re: expected sales of your debut novel (and probably most novels after that)

So, a few days ago, Robert Galbraith – author of The Cuckoo’s Callling, seller of 470ish copies of that novel in hardback – was exposed as being JK Rowling, who obviously has sold a lot more copies of books than Mr. Galbraith did. And then people began discussing why this happened; why the pseudonym that Rowling had created was exposed, and so quickly. It must have been, seemed the collective response, because of Galbraith’s sales. 470 copies was a dreadful number, sales so low that the book was a failure. It must have been, so the publishers and editors and writer and shops and everybody thought it better to leak the news and bolster those sales figures.

Thing is, that’s rubbish. Continue reading

On Broadchurch.


[It should go without saying that there are spoilers ahead.]

Broadchurch seemed rather inauspicious when it was announced. I assumed – and correctly – that it would be ITV’s attempt to recreate some of the tension found in The Killing. A town, a murder, a family torn apart: it all looked fairly rote, on paper. And you know what? It was. But that’s not a criticism. It was pretty well written, well acted, well made. I saw some people mocking the slow-motion shots used, but I loved them. It made excellent use of the stunning scenery, and had some quite incredible use of light in it. Incredibly well made. No idea what the budget was, but it looked expensive, and what was there was put to good use. I really enjoyed it.

There is a however. There’s always a however. Continue reading

On Skyrim.

Here’s a story.

Myself and Uthgerd – she’s my assistant, who I met in a pub when she challenged me to a fist fight which I won – are chasing down a dragon, climbing some very high mountains and going through some pretty precarious conditions. Halfway up the mountain we meet some wolves, and we fight them. Well, I say We. I mean, she runs up to them and forces herself on them. ‘Hiyaaa!’ she yells, and she swipes her sword. I have to save her, because she’s not much of a fighter. She’s eager, but… Well, you know. So, I save her skin, and then we carry on. Only thirty seconds later, I see it. She doesn’t.

A bear. A ruddy great bear. I jump backwards – because those buggers are nastier than dragons – and shout at Uthgerd – real world, at the screen – to do the same. She doesn’t. She swipes, and she fails miserably. I watch her stumble backwards and fall off the edge of the mountain. It’s pretty vertical. R.I.P. Uthgerd. You were a good – mediocre – assistant. You weren’t great with a sword, but you were full of effort. So, thanks, but I’ve got a bear to fight. Continue reading