WHY I HATE AN AUTHOR CALLED ALEXANDER COLE

Let’s get one thing straight about my feelings around Alexander Cole.

It’s nothing personal.

I’m sure he’s a very nice bloke deep down. At least I hope so.

He’s me.

CB Valencia cropped

the irritating Alexander Cole

But boy, he drives me nuts. Because I don’t want to be him. I was basically forced into being Alexander Cole.

Why?

Because the modern bookselling industry has become the slave of a marketing tool.

It’s called BookScan.

If you are about to be print published for the first time, you might want to look away now. This could get ugly. But if you insist on reading on – well, I prefer you heard this first from a friend.

Colin Falconer, bestseller, historical fiction

Colin Falconer. Spot the difference.

I have a three book contract in the UK. Just before the first book was about to be published in London, everyone I knew left; the publisher who bought it, the publishing director who championed it, the publicity director who loved it, and the two editors who fought to get it on their list.

It was all part of an internal power play. But who cares? Fact was, they were all gone in the month leading up to publication. Guess what happened to the book?

Yep. It flat lined.

To illustrate just how bad things were: a friend, who lives in the UK, emailed me and said they had tried to buy a copy but couldn’t find it anywhere. In desperation he rang my publishers direct and the receptionist told him she had never heard of Colin Falconer or of a book called SILK ROAD.

Even after so long in the publishing industry, I felt embarrassed. Humiliated. Appalled. Bewildered.

(And SILK ROAD was a good book. Rave reviews. I published it recently in the US with the fabulous COOLGUS and it’s selling brilliantly with over 50 reviews at a 4.6 star average. Not too shabby. What does that say about BookScan?)

My second book subsequently sank without trace in UK bookstores, (if you can sink any lower than invisibility), because SILK ROAD hadn’t sold.

So when I handed over COLOSSUS, I held out little hope.

But suddenly everyone inside the company started raving about it, then my agent sold it to one of the big 6 in New York – as well as translation rights in Spain and Italy – before it had finished the proof edit. This is one great book, they all said.

But you can’t do it as Colin Falconer, because SILK ROAD didn’t sell very well. The booksellers will see the figures on BookScan and only order a handful of copies.

But, I said. But, but, but …

But SILK ROAD wasn’t my fault. You didn’t do what you said you were going to do. You told me there would be a 50k print run. You promised me all this marketing, then almost the entire company walked out at the critical stage. I was orphaned. Your bad, not mine.

Sorry about that, they said. But booksellers really don’t care. They only care about BookScan.

But what about my huge backlist?

Sorry, they said. You’ve been out of the game for a while now. You’re only as good as your last game.

So but me not buts: there was no choice. In the UK I have just published COLOSSUS as Alexander Cole. To please the booksellers. To please BookScan.

This scenario happens every day. I am not Robinson Crusoe, there’s a lot of other authors who have suffered this same fate.

If booksellers and traditional publishers are struggling with their sales, can I suggest it’s perhaps not the fault of Amazon, or Netflix, or Facebook, or Grand Theft Auto V.

Could it possibly be the fault of an inappropriate and inflexible system invented by bean counters with no understanding of the industry they are trying to calibrate?

Could there be an inherent flaw in this system in that it does not allow that authors improve while only measuring the tastes of returning customers – not the countless customers who have turned away from brick and mortar bookstores, perhaps because of the very systems they use to count them?

Tell me if I’m wrong. Please tell me if I’m wrong. Because I’m perplexed.

As Bob Mayer says: the reader is God. We must listen to readers. But if we use systems like BookScan to do it, then print publishing could get in big trouble.

Oh wait a minute – it already is.

So if you live in the UK or Australia and you have ever read and liked a Colin Falconer book – please give Alexander Cole’s COLOSSUS a quick … scan. It looks like this.

colossus

Meanwhile I must stop saying nasty things about Alexander Cole. He’s probably okay once you get to know him, and I don’t want him to sue me.

I just hope for his sake that Book Scan likes him more than they do me.

 

 

 

 

 

About Colin Falconer

Colin Falconer is the bestselling author of thirty novels, translated into over twenty languages worldwide.
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21 Responses to WHY I HATE AN AUTHOR CALLED ALEXANDER COLE

  1. loulocke says:

    Just wow. I can’t believe this is still happening. Well, all the best for Alex Cole, and his new book, may he sell so well that he can change his name to Colin Falconer if he ever wants to!

    Mary Louisa

  2. Jayne says:

    It must have been so frustrating for you, but for someone who loves your style of writting and the story you tell, I don’t mind what name you use. Silk Road was a great read, and now being half way theough Collossus, I don’t want to put it down! Well done.

  3. Lots of food for thought, Colin. I’ve been considering a pen name, but the implications stagger me: twice as much work as before! I promise to never bad-mouth Alex Cole — he can really write! Have you ever read any… but of course you have.

    • colin_falconer_author@hotmail.com says:

      I think pen names had their place back in the days of legacy publishing but I’m not sure they’re relevant anymore, Richard. It’s worth giving it some serious thought before you do it, my opinion.

  4. Great post. I can’t imagine the frustration and disappointment when the deal fell apart. Writing and publishing is hard enough without that kink of sting.

    • colin_falconer_author@hotmail.com says:

      Thanks Darlene. It was frustrating but it is part of the business. I’ll get over it – but my point is, these business practices are hurting writers, readers, booksellers and publishers. They just aren’t working.

  5. Julia Robb says:

    I am so sorry. Stories like yours are why even writers previously published by companies are now doing it themselves, curtesy of Amazon and a few others. And when the agents are gone, when the publishing companies have crumbled, they will have done it to themselves.
    Good luck Mr. Cole.

    • colin_falconer_author@hotmail.com says:

      I suspect I won’t be Mr Cole for very long, Julia. Please don’t feel sorry for me – worst things happen every day. But I really wanted to start a conversation about these insane business practices that everyone accepts as an industry standard. They are not working and hurting everyone.

  6. Alex, my friend, who I didn’t know until now was my friend.I think we all need, in honor of your fiasco, to stop and sing one chorus of Stop the World I want to get off.

    • colin_falconer_author@hotmail.com says:

      I reckon the world will keep turning, Christina. But how many good books and how many bookstores will spin off in the meantime? The current system in print publishing just isn’t working for anyone, including readers, who are voting with their feet.

  7. Bob Mayer says:

    It really sucks because we’re seeing your Colin Falconer titles really gain traction here in the States. Isabella: Braveheart of France hit #11 on Amazon Kindle Paid. The trend of looking backward at previous sales is archaic– and as you note, the poor sales are often the fault of something having nothing to do with the book at all, but rather inside the publishing house.

    • It was only an illustration of something you’ve been telling the industry for a long time, Bob. But it was the last of a three book deal – a deal that made a lot more sense back in 2010. But if I launched COLOSSUS with CoolGus I’m sure we could have got it to #11 on Amazon Paid as well – instead of it disappearing into oblivion.

  8. Okay Colin, or should I say Alexander, whoops, I meant Colin. Iy, yi, yi. I just sit back and watch all the horrible stuff that happens to traditional published authors and shake my head. I am hoping that by the time my book is ready (hopefully) to be greeted into the world, this crap will be straightened out. I’m so sorry that you’re having to put up with this Colin. As if you need something else to deal with. Glad to hear that things are going well in the U.S. Oh, but then, you’re working with Bob. Right on! :)

    • Thanks Karen but really I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me, this stuff happens all the time in trad publishing. Any trad pub author would have a similar story. It’s just the way it works – and I’m afraid I really doubt it will be sorted out by the time your book’s finished – or by the time your children’s books are finished, or your children’s children’s!! I’m just happy I live at a time when there is finally an alternative to this archaic system. Bob (Mayer) has been talking about these things for the last 3 or 4 years.

  9. Julie Glover says:

    Wow, I hadn’t thought about how they could demand such a thing. I understand their reasoning, but geez! our society has the attention span of a knat on Red Bull. How could they expect your name to be a major issue? Regardless, it’s all you. You could call whatever, but at the end of the day, you’re still Colin Faloner writing as… It’s still YOUR stories, YOUR writing, YOUR royalty checks. :)

    Best wishes with the release!

    • Thanks Julie. I suspect that Alexander Cole will have a short and unhappy life. It’s not released in the US until Spring next year and by then Mr Cole may be a distant memory and I’ll be back being Colin Falconer – which, weirdly, seems realer to me than my real name!

  10. Sheez! Just when I think traditional publishers can’t get any more ridiculous, they do! Best of luck with the new book, Colin, I mean Alex, uh, Colin…

  11. violafury says:

    Gee Colex! This reminds of of the time Harlan Ellison had a similar brawl (with Harlan, it always IS a brawl!) and ended up writing short stories in a store-front window under the pseudonym “Cordwainer Bird” although his particular beefs (beeves?) were with the way his content was treated by Hollywood producers and screen writers. Never the less, he has little good to say about publishing houses and it is truly understandable. E-Gad!

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