Not Everything Works: Winning and Losing Novels


Here’s an honest round-up of my recent hits and misses – a snapshot of where I am at the moment, writing-wise.

‘Bryant & May and the Invisible Code’ won the eDunnit Award, which I was thrilled about. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing lately.

The sad news is that ‘The Casebook of Bryant & May’ won’t become a mass market comic or a series because of slow sales.

There are several reasons for this. PS Publishing didn’t make the book readily available on Amazon, preferring to sell it through their website, and it was not for sale in bookshops. It might be because, as a special edition, they preferred it keep it exclusive, but if you don’t get a mass-market edition you’re pretty much doomed.

Equally, comics have become a difficult market – only superheroes really sell well. Crime fans don’t read comics and comics fans don’t like crime that much, so Keith and I were caught in the middle with our comics/crime crossover. But my job is to try to create as many different ideas as I can in as many different formats, and I’m glad we did it. Oddly, this now means that the Casebook is set to become highly collectable!

My biggest disappointment remains ‘Hellion: The Curse Of Snakes’, my YA novel – mainly because the promised promotions for it never materialised. I thought that despite undergoing a difficult editing process, four covers and a change of title the book survived and worked pretty well, but it failed to reach the right audience. It didn’t help that two Medusa films came out at the same tome and both flopped.


My next novel will be ‘Plastic’, the blackly comic thriller from Solaris, which very nearly never saw the light of day and finally arrives on August 1st. On July 18th Joanne Harris will interview me about the strange genesis of the book at Foyles in Charing Cross Road. After the success of ‘Hell Train’, I’m really looking forward to working with Solaris again.

In December ‘Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart’ arrives. I’m incredibly excited about this one, as it really feels like the series is moving up a gear in terms of both content and release date. The US will finally get back into gear with releasing American editions of the books.

Next year there’ll be my haunted house chiller ‘Nyctophobia’ from Solaris and ‘Bryant & May and the Burning Man’ from Transworld. Hopefully I’l find a buyer for my reworked thriller by then; as it stands, we had a lot of interest in the book but it was generally felt that the format – a police Q&A session – might prove too distancing for some readers.

Meanwhile, my Hammer play ‘The Devil In Darkness’ will soon be available on CD, and there’ll be other surprises in store over the coming months.

I also hope to get some short stories out with a major publishing company at some point, as they’re starting to pile up! Of course, it may simply be that I write too much and should take a few years off…

19 comments on “Not Everything Works: Winning and Losing Novels”

  1. Henry Ricardo says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I just ordered a copy of the signed slipcased Casebook. I’m looking forward to reading some of the other works you mentioned.

  2. snowy says:

    Funny old game publishing, doing a short run of a deluxe edition might make sense in tandem with a MM edition. But on its own with a single source of supply seems all sorts of wrong.

    Anyway suddenly changing topic, B&M Cocktail?*

    London Fog
    6 parts Gin
    1 part Absinthe
    Over ice in a tall glass

    (*Xpost from Twitter)

  3. agatha hamilton says:


  4. BangBang!! says:

    A few years off?! Don’t make me do a ‘Misery’ on you admin!

  5. Helen Martin says:

    I’m sorry The Curse of Snakes didn’t do better. I enjoyed it and would have bought copies for my school library if I were still working, expecting the 10 to 12 year olds to like it and would have recommended it to the high school librarians for their juniors. I thought it would have done well with some of the students with simpler vocabularies (for whatever reason) because it was fairly easy to figure out unfamiliar words from context as long as you were familiar with city life. Not much point in saying it now, though, is it? I could see a series building out of it as well. Wait for their option to die or whatever you do about this things and try it with someone else with a sketch or whatever for later volumes.
    Publishing isn’t a funny old game, it’s a crap shoot.

  6. Steve says:

    “The US will finally get back into gear with releasing American editions of the books.”

    Huzzah! It’s about time!

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    Placing a book is not the fun part. It’s rather like having a large ring of keyes to chose from and trying to find the exact one that will open a door.
    It also isn’t writing, not the same at all.

  8. John H says:

    I suppose this shows that success as an author still requires lots of luck, as Mr Fowler writes books that are well worked out, quirky and appealing in a popular genre, but still hasn’t enjoyed the mass market success that some less talented writers have had. If only the BBC would give us a Bryant and May TV series…

  9. Diogenes says:

    I’m going to be in London on holiday on the 18th July. Hope I can make it to Foyles.

  10. stephen groves says:

    Hi Chris,

    Just so you know, sales weren’t slow in my house,Don’t tell Mrs STALKY !

    All best

  11. Reuben says:

    So there isn’t going to be another B&M comic? Sad news indeed.

  12. Reuben says:

    By the way the B&M Casebook is available from at a slightly cheaper price than the PS website (P&P costs are about the same from both).

  13. snowy says:

    *wipes hands, puts down oily rag*

    Slow sales? perhaps somebody will take pity on me an explain what this is a euphemism for. Once costs have been covered, every further sale is almost all profit.

    [I suppose in the modern world the origination costs for graphics have stayed high while that for text have fallen.]

    Not convinced by crime/comic distinction, the Bat creature has no special powers but fights crime.

    Right I’m going to stop being a picky pain.

    Is the unnamed thriller just a two or three-hander? Is it played out on a single set?
    If it is it might work well as a play in a small theatre.

    If it has a few exterior scenes then could it be reworked for t’wireless?

  14. Reuben says:

    “Slow sales?”
    This puzzled me too. Especially as not so long ago we were told sales were good enough for there to be a second volume (unless I totally misunderstood this).

  15. admin says:

    The unnamed thriller was entitled ‘There’s Something I Haven’t Told You’ but I made change that. It hinges on a very unusual device that may have been too ‘original’ for some pub readers. But that’s what happened to ‘Plastic’ too, and it’s eventually surfacing…

  16. snowy says:

    Good gibbons, you went ‘original’! are you insane?? Even I know that bandying that sort of thing about willy-nilly scares the snot out of publishers.

    They usually have to retreat to a darkened room and fan themselves with a copy of the TLS for half an hour.

    I think what struck me was the idea of a stage set with a glass cube [miked up] on one side and a observation suite on the other. And how infomation flows can be manipulated.

    Then I just got carried away with myself, and worked out the structure of the first act. Thankfully I got bored and went of to see if Ch4’s adaptation of ‘The Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ was floating about anywhere. Believed deleted, bah…. bum-biscuits!

  17. J. Folgard says:

    Ah well- at least, as I said earlier, there’s more to come from Solaris and you: one of my long-time favorite writers with a publisher whose output I’m enjoying more & more. And I’m all set to devour my paperback copy of ‘the Invisible Code’ in several days, so here’s to more successes. I’m convinced there will be more. Cheers-!

  18. C Falconer says:

    ‘Slow sales’ could be that the warehousing costs were more than sales profit over a given period.
    And actually repro costs are quite (comparatively) low and have been stable for sometime. Paper costs have been high though

  19. Mike Cane says:

    >>>The sad news is that ‘The Casebook of Bryant & May’ won’t become a mass market comic or a series because of slow sales.

    But what about a digital edition of it?

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