Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On CDs and Adding Stuff to Books

This week, I took delivery of my share of the CDs that will go into The Unquiet. There were rather a lot of them in the end, and the courier certainly earned his money helping me to load them into my garage, but it was nice to see them piled up against the wall after all the work that went into clearing the rights. In a couple of weeks, I'll post the full track listing on my website, along with some notes about the individual tracks and why they were chosen, but in the meantime there are some clues on my myspace page.

Quite a number of years ago now, shortly after my first book came out in paperback, a colleague in The Irish Times, the newspaper for which I still occasionally write, stopped me when I was paying a flying visit to the offices and said: "I hear they're giving away free Mars bars with your books", accompanied by the kind of cackle usually associated with witches going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. He was referring to a competition that my publishers were running in association with the book, which involved giving away a vintage car. Frankly, I think I'd nix a similar effort at this stage of my writing career, but then it probably wouldn't be necessary now, or at least not to the same degree. At the time, I was just grateful that they were being so supportive, and that someone was trying to think up novel ways in which to promote the book.

I wonder what that same individual would make of the CDs. I suppose he'd simply cackle again, and feel that his earlier remark was justified, but the purpose of this CD is very different. After all, I don't think we're going to sell very many more books simply because it's included - although it would be great if we did - and certainly not enough to cover the cost of the project. It is, instead, an attempt to combine two different media so that one complements and expands upon the other, as well as an exploration of the possibilities available to authors to broaden the experience of reading a novel.

We did - and are doing - something similar with The Book of Lost Things. A great deal of additional material was collected and written for the book's microsite, and now revised versions of that material, as well as some new stuff, will be included in the paperback of the book, to be published in the UK and elsewhere next month. There will be those who will have no interest in reading it, and that's absolutely fine, but for others who want to explore further the themes dealt with in the book, or who would like to find out a little more about the folk tales and fairy tales used to create it, then that option is now available to them. It also offers book groups a structure for their discussions, which is why I'm taking some time during the tour for The Unquiet to talk specifically about TBOLT to at least one book group. The Book of Lost Things is also the choice of the London Times Book Club for April, and it will be interesting to see how its members respond to the material.

There might be those who would view these additions as signs of a lack of faith in the text itself, but I don't see it that way. The book remains the book, but there's no reason why writers and publishers shouldn't look for ways to widen the experience of reading it. Every book worth its salt raises questions in the mind of the reader, or inspires him or her to investigate further the subjects discussed in it. It seems like a natural progression to me for a book about, say, the Napoleonic wars to have a website created in association with it that would allow readers to view the weapons and uniforms of the period, explore the ships involved in the naval encounters, or engage interactively the battlefields upon which the great armies fought. Given the cost of inserting colour plates into books, this represents a more affordable option for all concerned, as well as providing an element of additional interest for a generation of readers brought up with the Internet in their households.

For the moment, though, let's just see how readers respond to what I've already done. After that, maybe I'll consider tackling battlefields and battleships.

Or maybe not . . .

This week John read

The Colour of Blood by Declan Hughes
Boffo by Peter Bart

and listened to

The Book of Lighting by The Waterboys
These Friends of Mine by Rosie Thomas


The Home Office said...

I love the idea of supporting web sites. Maps, supporting information, pictures of real locations used in the book, links to relevant historical information, all can provide an interested reader with context to increase enjoyment of the book. John's web site has information and links to the ossuary at Sedleck, which plays an important role in The Black Angel, and greatly added to the atmosphere of the story.

It's also good to see Declan Hughes has a new book out. The Wrong Kind of Blood was excellent.

Tom Hyland said...

I also think 'supporting sites' add to the enjoyment of the novel; and especially in regard to areas or items that speak to the tone and texture of the piece. Tracks from the previous CD added much to the experience of reading The Black Angel.

And I'm always amazed by envy. It would seem that success breeds an odd combination of admiration and contempt.

John Schramm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Schramm said...

As someone who loves books and music, I love the idea of including a CD of songs that go along with the story.

And as someone who knows the author, I see this as a gift, more than as an unneeded gimmick.

Thanks, John! I hope to see you soon, my friend!

alldewater said...

I would buy the book anyway, but I'm ordering it from the UK so I can get the cd, too, because the cd that came with the Black Angel was so good. The Black Angel was the first JC book I bought, and I was impressed with the generosity of including music and, as it happened, the author's signature. Thanks, John!

hrhg said...

Oh hurrah, extra stuff! Far from disliking that (Stephen King's forewords are pretty interesting) I love it. Only wish they'd included that cool article on fairy tales that you did as well.

Or did they????

Declan Burke said...

John -

My name is Declan Burke, I'm putting together an Irish crime fiction blog ... ... news snippets, upcoming releases, etc. ... Just wondering if you could let me know a couple of tracks on the CD coming with The Unquiet, to give the post a hook (I think associated media is an excellent idea - the 'Mars Bars' joker must have been a pain in the face) ... By the way, I reviewed Nocturnes for the Irish Times ... really enjoyed it. I've got a novel of my own just out, The Big O, if you want a copy, just let me know ... obviously, this comment isn't intended for publication ...