30 September 2009
Generally speaking, I recommend publishing free chapters of books online. Readers can thumb through the real book in a shop to get a flavour of what it's like, but to stimulate sales online, a free sample is essential.
However, this only applies if the book is good. If, say, you're a former Eastenders actress who has got a book deal purely on your name; and every paragraph you write makes readers wince; and your publisher thought it would be funnier to deny you the services of a decent copyeditor; then the following advice applies: on no account publish the first chapter online.
I cannot describe how awful Martine McCutcheon's first chapter is in a way that will make you appreciate the horror. It's repetitive, has weak characterisation, banal dialogue, awful description, terrible brand placement, lots of irrelevant chit-chat and filler. Nothing happens. It's like a case study in how not to write a story.
This is the first of three novels she is threatening to unleash. I'm certain she's not working with a ghost-writer (she could afford a good one, if she were). I've got nothing against her personally and it's great that she's exploring her creativity and learning to write novels. Everyone has their story to tell, and is entitled to their creativity.
But, Pan MacMillan, really? Shouldn't you have passed this one by? Waited until she had more finely tuned her craft before unleashing it on the nation? Offered her coaching maybe so that she met the basic standards for publication before going ahead with it? Given her an editor, perhaps? Celebrities get signed because they're guaranteed to shift units, but this book is so bad I can't even see it doing that.