News room: Giving the Gaiman away

Giving the Gaiman away by Kat Matfield

As one of our best rated authors, it’s clear a lot of CompletelyNovellers already know about Neil Gaiman and his dark, funny, intelligent modern fairytales. Gaiman’s oeuvre has won an astonishing array of awards and includes novels, short stories, comics, films, television episodes, drama, poetry, song lyrics, reviews, essays and companion booklets for musicians’ albums and tours. There is even a collection of fragrances based on his work – albeit not made by him, but created and sold to raise funds for one of the author’s favoured causes, the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund.

Giving work away
A great deal of Gaiman’s work can be found, at various times, for free on the internet. While he hasn’t gone as far as Cory Doctorow (all of whose books can be downloaded free from his site ) Gaiman recently persuaded his publisher to make one of his novels available to read online, in its entirety, for free, for a month.
What Gaiman and his publisher discovered, along with the other writers and publishers watching eagerly from the sidelines, was surprising. During the month the novel (his longest prose work to date, American Gods ) was available and the month after that, sales of all of Gaiman’s published works went up by 300%. A more detailed breakdown, concentrating on sales by independent bookshops, can be found at Gaiman’s blog.

The best promotional tool
In a recent speech to the Open Rights Group, Gaiman asserted that the internet is ‘the best promotional tool that new authors have ever had’. All writers, according to Gaiman, are threatened much less by piracy than by obscurity, which is what makes the new tools that allow writers to get their work into the hands and onto the screens of readers so very valuable. Readers never find their favourite author – the one whose every published work theyll buy – through walking into a shop and buying one of their books; favourite authors are found through being lent or recommended a book, or picking one up in a library, or finding one on something like CompletelyNovel. Find a recording of the speech, along with some text quotes and a handy reference of what Gaiman talks about here

In the spirit of battling obscurity, you can find the first issue of Sandman, the monumental comic book series that first brought Gaiman to prominence, at the publisher’s site, or you can read short stories at the author’s own site, or listen to Gaiman reading the entirety of his new, bestselling novel, the Graveyard Book. As Gaiman can read as well as he can write, there’s no better or more gripping introduction to his work than listening to a story that begins

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

Just as Gaiman is currently ahead of the pack in his use of the internet to disseminate his work, he was one of the first authors to have a significant online presence. His blog, which is updated a couple of times a week on average, began as a way of revealing the behind the scenes work that happens in the time between a work being finished and its final appearance on bookstore shelves. For anyone who’s ever wondered, the entries are an education and still available in the American Gods archive..

While the details of Gaiman’s everyday life and the progress of ongoing and upcoming works delight fans, the blog continues to be a great resource for writers. As well as spontaneous digressions into on all sorts of writing-related matters, the author’s generosity in answering questions from readers (which partly explains the blog’s enduring popularity) results in, for example, a passage on the function of second drafts that’s useful to anyone gradually overcoming the euphoria of finishing their first and wondering ‘what next?’

The second draft is where the fun is. In a first draft, you get to explode. The objective (at least for me) is to get it down on paper, somehow. Battle thorough the laziness and the not-enough-time and the this-is-rubbish and everything else and just get it written. The second draft is where you go and gather together the fragments of the explosion and figure out what it is you did, and make it look like that was what you always meant to do.

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Written by
Kat Matfield
Published on
Neil gaiman, Authors, Piracy, and Promotion