I wish it were easy to add illustrations to my books

When I read old novels, I enjoy the engravers’ work. Sometimes the illustrations begin new chapters or appear in line with the text to add weight to a description. Whether or not one believes an illustration is worth a thousand words, the graphics, in my opinion, helped convey the novel’s places and characters and events to the readers.

I’m always happy when the publishers of modern-day novels take the trouble to add a reoccurring graphic at the book’s chapter beginnings, or better yet, graphics that fit the text here and there throughout the book.

Unless an author is an artist, the first roadblock today comes from having to hire an illustrator, and that might just be an expense that’s higher than what the book is projected to earn. Yes, there are stock agencies where one can find illustrations, but their use is typically limited to cover artwork.

The second issue is copyright. Sorting that out might be a nightmare to just determine who owns it; and then, if anyone does own it, getting permission and paying a fee to use it (sometimes waved for educational books).

In my case, I mention real products in my novels, partly to set the scene, partly to give the reader a sense of the times, and partly just to show what I’m talking about. For example, if I were writing a novel set in Montana in the 1800s, I would probably mention (or have the characters attend) one of the presentations of the traveling Shakespeare companies. Showing a handbill would be wonderful. Or, I would have one of my characters who likes chewing tobacco get swept up in the craze of related products. I love the artwork from the Juliet tobacco pouch.

If I could draw (ha ha), I might create a black-and-white illustration of the downtown of one of my made-up towns, showing what such a place might have looked like during the time when the novel is set. No, I don’t want a graphic novel. Just a few drawings to convey the ambiance of the stories.

Malcolm

My contemporary fantasy novel “The Sun Singer” is currently free on Kindle.

If you read too much, you’ll pay for stuff you’ve already read

One of the problems of reading a lot of throw-away novels in between the high-quality novels you talk about on Facebook and Goodreads is discovering the book you’re reading suddenly looks familiar.

This seems to be a problem with thrillers (where there’s a lot of violence) and romances (where there’s a lot of sex) where everything is the same until you come to a pivotal scene where the author opted for a blast of creativity and did something unique with the action.

It’s a bit disconcerting to be 100 pages into a book when suddenly you realize, “Crikey, I’ve read this book already.” Not only did I not recognize the title, but for 99 pages everything seemed new. I guess that means that either nothing memorable happened or that I skimmed through a lot of words.

Women’s fiction seems to be a problem in this regard because novels are often re-issued with new titles and new author pseudonyms, so there’s no way to know the book you just bought is already in a box in the attic or garage.

At least Amazon tells you that you already bought the book, but this doesn’t help if you buy some books from Powell’s, B&N, Indies Unlimted, and at bricks and mortar stores. Apparently, the quantity of words obscures the fact that a reader has seen all this before. As an author, I wonder how another author can write so many pages in so many books that I don’t recognize the plot and characters before I get to the weird scene where the deja vu occurs.

I wonder how often this happens. I hope it happens often because otherwise, it’s just me.

Malcolm