So you think you have a novel in you and maybe you do – but how do you get it published without selling your soul. Let’s get real, it’s not going to happen. The business has changed much in favour of the ‘giants’, who might offer you a publishing deal. All you have to do is give away seventy percent of your projected novel and be happy with thirty percent return – if it sells! Reality bites hard and if you are planning to make any headway as a writer you had better get used to the idea that publishers’ rejection slips alone are not your only impediment to success. It’s like starting out as an actor – you have to be happy to be a waiter most of the time. My guest is a waiter first and a budding writer second.
I sit across a coffee table to a charming Spanish writer, who has just published his first novel with Amazon. He beams as he offers me the book- it cost him ten Euros to buy so I politely decline the gift. He completed a long distance university course a couple of years ago and his interest in writing grew from the results he obtained. The course was for movie screen writers and his distance tutor was excited for him. His name is Karlos Martinez and he hails from Asturias, Spain. His novel is titled ‘240 Dias Laborables’ (240 working days) a strange title to an even stranger novelistic theme.
It is based on the true story of an unemployed man looking for a job, who was caught out inadvertently money laundering (albeit on a very small scale) thus falling foul of the laws in Spain. 240 days was the sentence imposed by a judge and he would have to work for the state for free. The sentence seems harsh as the sum involved in the failed intent to defraud the state was just over two thousand Euros. “In the same year that this man was sentenced, disgraced singing icon Isabel Pantoja was taken to court over huge money laundering charges and given the large sums involved in her dossier, if the same sentencing criteria had been used she would have spent more than a lifetime in jail!”
The reality is much different – I tell Karlos and one can’t help but feel for that humble first time offender, who was only trying to find a job in a country then crippled by high unemployment. It’s about how much can you afford to spend on your defence and not about justice at all. A clear case of Justice being for the rich and the full force of the law is there to keep the poor in check. We carry on our conversation and I tell him that we don’t review Spanish language books in Globe Magazine but that I am interested in hearing about the difficulties faced by new writers trying to get published in Spain.
He names a large publishing house in Spain and proceeds to tell me how they operate. “They have a large team of skilled readers, who speed-read the hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts sent in for their famous annual writers’ competition. The speed readers report on their analysis of the best storylines, which are then ‘adapted’ to new books without infringing on any copyright. “After all, you can’t copyright an idea for a novel and the publishers are under no obligation to those, who enter the competition. The manuscripts have been sucked dry of their plots and in-house writers are contracted to ‘develop’ new stories.”
The future of publishing in Spain still looks secure and the unsuspecting readers are never going to know just how many good writers have been pushed to the wayside in these huge nationwide trawls for new writing talent. Karlos also points out that the national top writer’s prize from this same publisher is also almost guaranteed to have been pre-selected by paid influencers rather than by competition results. Almost in the same breath he says… “Having said all this, if I were to be offered a contract to write for this publishing house, I would not hesitate to sign on the dotted line and get paid to write.”
Karlos is now into his fourth novel and he says, as does his Columbian wife, that the third one is his best. I immediately ask why and he explains. “Along the way I have learnt how to develop my characters in a better way. My characters now have a much fuller profile and a life of their own. In fact, they speak to me about the way my story will unfold. I recognize that at the beginning I did not know how to develop my characters in a way that readers could easily identify with them. That is the essence of a successful writer- the readers can all see something of themselves in the characters of the story and they will want to read about them because of that.”
As we speak (early May) Karlos Martinez remained hopeful and optimistic that he wanted to remain a part of the writing fraternity notwithstanding that the odds for success were highly stacked against new writers. Over the next few months, he is taking a break and going to Colombia with his wife as they have not been able to travel there for over two years because of covid.
During the holiday, he will put the finishing touches to his third novel and start again the process of trying to get a publishing deal. Whether he succeeds remains to be seen but I would like to think that we might see him back in this little corner of the Med before the year is out. His novel ‘240 Dias Laborables’ is available from Amazon.
Text By Joe Adambery