4 out of 5 stars
Written Off by Paul Carroll is a very interesting, complex novel and I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn't planning on loving this book as much as I did, just because it is different from books that I typically read. However, even the first few pages intrigued me, I was addicted to reading more. I am so glad I read this book, it had so many different perspectives which I loved. Having the book come from multiple point of views, really enriched the reading experience. I would definitely recommend this book to family and friends, especially avid book lovers!
by Katie Arnold
5 out of 5 stars
It was a pleasure to read this lighthearted novel ‘Written Off’ and to find myself having a chuckle at its scintillating dialogue between individuals within and without groupings. There are four obsessively keen writers attempting to get their work published, plus their long suffering partners and colleagues, plus various agents, publishers etc. Paul Carroll’s characters are carefully crafted and introduced slowly with nuances presented to readers, and he skilfully develops his plot to bring them all together.
This coming together is brought about by a company offering support to aspiring authors via an annual conference with a variety of presentations and one-to-one meetings between amateur delegates and professionals from the publishing world. As the would-be contingent seek to sell themselves and look upwards, there is also a previously successful writer on the way down, and he is to give the main speech at the conferences gala dinner. Everyone’s perspective seems to change as the conference progresses, and along with its humour ‘Written Off’ becomes a textbook on pitfalls for wordsmiths with guidance on how to become established. It recognises difficulties with traditional publishing and it takes the opportunity to take a satirical look at self-proclaimed experts and at alternative self-publishing.
Readers may ponder over what are Paul Carroll’s experiences of frustration and despair from any rejections of his own works, but ‘Written Off’ is a winner. It well deserves a 5-star rating for its lighthearted entertainment value, but also for enlightenment to all those aspiring writers seeking to penetrate the closed shop nature of the publishing world.
by D. Elliott
5 out of 5 stars
This is a story about a number of new authors trying to get their book published and the publishers and agents involved, although it is written tongue in cheek with humour I suppose there might be a element of truth here. I found it entertaining and fairly light to read, Also, there is a lovely use of words at times which I found entertaining.. This is the kind of book that would be ideal as a holiday read, The story is never quite straight forward, a bit like the authors some with their own problems. I got the feeling rightly or wrongly that if based on fact, anyone trying to get a book published has one heck of a job. They also when finished have to find the correct publisher, not an easy task. The main theme leads us to a weekend meeting of authors, publishers, agents all under one roof to try and find a deal and each other, needless to say the number of authors far out weighs the publishers and agents. It culminates in one lovely series of calamities to a good conclusion.
A light entertaining read.
by R. Gardner
5 out of 5 stars
I find I don’t have a lot to say about the book itself while I’ve got lots of thoughts on agents (bad), traditional publishing (mostly bad except for the top writers like Stephen King who get heavily promoted), self-publishing (a commercial dead-end for most but better than real publishers); and the characters and their ambitions. I’m not going to bore you with my take on the various characters. It generally comes down to finding most of them to range from unlikable to utterly hateful, although some start unlikable and redeem themselves to a certain extent. There’s too much delusion, arrogance and hyper-sensitivity to anything but gushing praise. The characters with more realistic expectations were a lot more likable. I was rooting for most of them to fail and have their egos heavily dented. I’m guessing the author expected this sort of reaction to some of his characters, although I think I hated them more than he intended.
What comes across most from the story is that writing books is a very bad idea. It’s much better to be a reader than it is to be a writer. The book provides a lot of fodder to think about. I’m very glad I’m not a writer trying to get published through the old legacy publishing system. I don’t mourn the reduced power of the incredibly arrogant gatekeepers. It’s nice that authors can now publish their work despite how bad or uncommercial it is. It’s now up to the public, if they ever stumble across it, to decide if they want to read it or not.
The novel is fairly short, well-written and mildly comical. The ending was a little abrupt. It could have done with a few extra chapters to clear up all the plot strands. It’s a generous 4 out of 5 stars. It reminded me of another book about aspiring novelists called Grub by Elise Blackwell. There was also an interesting memoir about working at a self-satisfied New York agency called My Salinger Year by Joanna Smith Rakoff. Also there’s an okay movie called Authors Anonymous (2014) that covers the same subject matter. If you know of similar works please add a note in the comments.
I thought I saw the direction the story was going but it didn’t go in the very obvious direction I expected. QUASI-SPOILER: I thought Dylan was going to present the intern’s book as his own novel to the agents at the one-on-one sessions. He would get a deal or a lot of genuine interest on the spot. He would then reveal to a very annoyed Eric that his own intern was a better and more successful writer than he was. I should note I did not expect him to keep pretending it was his own book as he wasn’t stealing it for his own glorification.
by BS on parade
4 out of 5 stars
Overall this is quite an entertaining novel. It takes a fictional and rather comic glimpse into the changing nature of the publishing business, particularly the rise of self-publishing and ebooks.
Whether a solid contender for possible publication or in “la-la land” as regards writing ability, Paul Carroll has created a potpourri of aspirational writers that keep the reader’s interest throughout the book.
Con the Irishman is uptight but “super-intense and scary”, whilst Bronte on the other hand is rather ditsy with her head totally in the clouds, full of ideas but written not a single word. Eric regards himself as something of a sophisticate and rather precious with his writing talent, and of course there is Alyson the best seller of hard-core erotica. Alyson’s character works particularly well as she seems to be the only grounded person with a refreshing sense of humility. This provides a welcome balance to the narrative, her attitude in variance to the ego-stroking which dominates these other author-wannabes.
There is of course a serious backdrop to this tale that any aspirational author will identify with. This is the sheer hard work, dedication and relentless determination to get even a smell of possible publication. It has some enjoyably comic moments, particularly the farcical events towards the dénouement. It also explores something of the snobbish world of literary pretension that can be the realm of some agents and editors. It is fairly short as novels go, the writing style making it easily quaffable. Not quite enough for a 5 star rating, but a good read nevertheless.
5 out of 5 stars
In some ways, this book shouldn't work. The writing feels less polished than a lot of published fare and some of the plot turns are amateurish.
But I hugely enjoyed it, and raced through. As a wannabe author myself, I was apprehensive at the start of the book. And there were one or two moments that felt too close to the bone. But mostly, I grinned and chuckled in solidarity with characters on both sides of the publishing fence (ie those that want to get published, and those with the power to publish them). The book is very funny, with plenty of cheeky turns of phrase, irreverent pokes at the publishing world, and caricatures of writers that really aren't that far from the truth, if the many anecdotes I've heard firsthand from agents at events are anything to go on. The irascible declining author character was an extra bonus, reminding me of Crispin Hershey from David Mitchell's "The Bone Clocks". The one character that didn't feel genuine was Julia the intern - when another character reads her manuscript and gushingly offers to show it to an actor friend of his, she turns him down, saying that she wants to sit on the book a little longer before working on it more. I can't think of any aspiring author who'd do that!
It's harder to say if this book will have wide appeal. I hope it does, but I question how interested anyone without a desire to be published will be. Then again, it seems like legions of people these days want to be published, so it might have an enormous readership.
by Chantal Lyons
Overall I liked this book. It was witty, well written and the storyline drew me in. The story is set around a backdrop of a literary conference. This allows for a veritable host of awkward situations and angst ridden emotions. The author has used them to good effect. Occasionally it can be a little wordy, but I actually feel this is more to do with the subject matter which lends itself to a loquacious turn of phrase. The characters are extremely well drawn and I could picture them perfectly. Each had their own eccentricities and whether I loved them or hated them, they were certainly real. The story is good which kept me reading. So why four stars. There were a couple of areas I thought were slightly weaker than the rest. In all fairness this could just have been me. Otherwise an excellent book which I would highly recommend.
by Wendy Jones
Publishing has undergone major changes in the last few years and this witty, perceptive novel, takes a satirical look at the industry through the eyes of those involved – whether agent, publisher or would be authors. The characters encompass a previously successful author dropped by his cost cutting publisher, who is unwilling to embrace social media or creative writing courses, an editorial director who is pushed into looking for new talent without agents, a celebrated agent who dislikes the way the industry is changing, plus a group of wannabe authors who range from the fairly successful to a young and naïve young woman who has not yet even started putting pen to paper (or keyboard)…
At the heart of this novel is a conference for unpublished authors called, “The Write Stuff.” The organiser of this successful event is Chapman Hall and his besotted PA, Suzie Q. Hall is convinced that selling “fear” works – informing those interested that they will never be published if they do not attend and selling the chance to meet up with professionals from the publishing world. This is a humorous, often cruelly observant, novel which covers everything from writing your great work (then editing it and sending it out and receiving endless, soul destroying rejections) to the desire to be published ‘properly,’ compared to the perceived failure of self publishing. Although wickedly funny, this is often also moving and has a good cast of characters.
Will any of those attending the conference actually find a publishing deal? Desperation, unrequited love, ambition and delusion, humiliating advice sessions, jealousy, literary snobbery and odd allegiances all combine to make this an entertaining and brilliant novel for book lovers – as well as showing the real meaning of success. I look forward to reading more by this extremely talented author and feel sure that every book lover will find this an enjoyable and amusing read.
by S Riaz
There is always an attraction to books about books and this one is about authors, which is even more intriguing. The blurb has a realistic edge to it which implies it might be non-fiction but don't be under any illusion, this is a novel!
The plot is based around several people who have written novels and are desperate to get them published. A conference at which authors have the opportunity to meet agents is advertised and they all jump at the chance.
This is Paul Carroll's second book and I would love to think that he has met some of the characters and been in some of the situations described in his early days of writing. It gently teases and criticises those involved in the literary world at many different levels. It's a world of which many of us are unaware and part of me would love to think it might be true.
Parodying your own industry is very tough and I think this was a brave novel to write. The idea is great but the novel itself does not live up to the strength of the idea. The actual characters are all rather stereotyped and the conference organiser was faintly ridiculous - I didn't really care whether or not any of the authors got published in the end - which I think is a huge part to the enjoyment. The start of the book is strong but I think it loses it's way as it progresses.
It's not a weak book but any means - I loved the language and the style of writing was good but it just didn't engage me as much as it should have.
by Janie U
The old cliché that ‘there is a book in everyone’ might find life is quite different when you/they actually put pen to paper or indeed nowadays, finger to keypad or key board to put those magical first words down in whatever font pleases the writer's eye, but at least you can change the font and the style but it’s the content that is the overriding key to perhaps a successful writer. I found this book to be a little too near to the truth in many ways, although perhaps written in a tongue in cheek way, with the insights into the publishing world that makes the legal professional look like a pussycat in comparison in assorted dealings – merely an observation you understand. The assorted characters in this book trying to get their book into print viewed from their own angle and in each case, their expectations and their struggles are conveyed in a matter of fact way through their separate perspectives and for that, this is quite entertaining and educational. Having seen first hand the assorted herd that are the supposed publishing profession and their antics up front, a lot of this book with regard to them rings true and is possibly underplayed as their mock patronising is not fully brought out, but this is merely my own opinion based on experience or as one bod who had had first hand experience pointed out: ‘They love nothing more than boosting the ego of a writer with gushing’s of patronising and then once there, pull the rug out and this is perhaps how they get their jollies’ and he could well be right.. If anything this book certainly covers most of the angles for the would be writer setting out into the minefield that is the publishing world as writing their book is a minor point as the battle really begins once finished and taking it to the ‘enemy’ and seeing how it’s repelled or on the off chance, accepted. As I started off by saying ‘there is a book in everybody’ but in my case, the x-rays say differently although it could be that shadowy bit behind the rib cage if it’s written in shorthand, but regardless I am at the time of writing this review about three quarters through my own effort and I took time off to read this sort of Haynes workshop manual for the writer. I would say it’s a recommended read as its witty, very near if not the truth about the publishing world and if nothing else, gives me the incentive to carry on although I think my effort will end up an e-book otherwise I will be ‘in me box’ before being received by anybody although I am looking into having my eyes tinted another colour on the off chance of being an help in being ‘accepted’ into the fold but only time will tell. As Shakespeare said: ‘Unless we try and use all means that we are allowed, then we shall never know the outcome, be it to our liking or not’ – that’s Ronnie Shakespeare, who used to be our milkman and his response on being told he was to amalgamate with another milk round as Harry the other milkman was retiring at the time and it was thought that putting the rounds together would be a saving. Harry went off and retired to the South coast of England (not on the coast itself of course but to a house there as the wind would play his back up, as all that bending down in the job over the years had not done him any good) but still sends a Christmas card every year to Ronnie and vice versa. Bottom line time then: very recommended.
by Tin Tactoo
There is, of course, an inherent irony in the fact that a book about the doubtful benefits of being a published author is available for 39p only four months after publication, and is at 684,120 in the sales list. Imagine sweating blood for years over your creation, being pretty much unanimously positively reviewed, and then your pride and joy sinking immediately into obscurity. But as the author points out, that's the fate of most novels, 'properly' published or otherwise, and that likelihood still doesn't seem to be stopping anyone - apparently more people are trying to get published than ever.
The plot of this very funny book revolves around a scam organisation called The Write Stuff, a sort of media-era version of the old vanity-publishing racket, which holds seminars promising to tell authors how to get published: A quartet of novelists at various stages of their careers and a number of publishers juggling with the new demands of the new era are drawn into it's annual conference.
It's quite an old-school middle class farce in it's way, reminiscent (perhaps purposely?) of the sort of one-book-a-year humorous writers who had a loyal market in the 1970s like David Nobbs and Guy Bellamy who made enough out of it to retire to Spain. they don't read 'em like that any more, though.
by A. Miles
Aspiring writers in particular will find much of interest here. Eric Blair longs to be published; established author Reardon Boyle is now considered old hat; erotic novel writer Alyson Hummer yearns to move from "filth" (her word) to main stream; Con Buckley tries desperately to place his "A Refugee from Seraphim". Their hopes are high for "The Write Stuff" Weekend Literary Conference in Lancaster, unaware it is run by one determined to exploit the gullible, despondent and desperate....
Some may feel the novel a well sugared pill - among all the laughs, valuable hints about how to increase chances of success. Especially pinpointed are glib tactics used by those who prey on the hopes of writing wannabes. Observation is sharp - vividly portrayed are certain characters deserving a boost, others long overdue for comeuppance. Chuckles abound, especially at the Conference itself.
Entertaining and wry. Those so accustomed to rejection slips may well be tempted to try again, with increased confidence.
by Mr D. L. Rees
The process of writing, and Paul Carroll has of being published, or trying self-publishing, has never been easier than at this time now.
This is a witty book which looks at the life of a writer, and it will have you all chuckling - guaranteed.
Effortlessly entertaining and insightful.
I found parts of this novel entertaining and engaging but I could not engage with the novel entirely. I find it hard to say why.
Perhaps the characters are all just a bit too writerly middle class and totally obsessed in their world of publishing.
These are the aspiring authors trying to get published without resorting to self publishing (though that has been very successful for some now well known authors).
There are the agents, all aspiring authors need one, and then there is at the centre of the novel an upcoming conference “The Write Stuff”. A weekend in Lancaster where the authors, who pay of course, can have one to one meetings with agents and also meet established authors.
This book is quite possibly based around real people and situations the author has experienced.
In some ways I felt it almost might have worked as a humorous memoir except for one thing.
Never say writing a book never killed anyone! Pinched from the back cover blurb, the reason why this is fiction.
In the novel there is an enormous plug for Stephen King’s non fiction book “On Writing” I am now going to buy a copy in case I ever decide to write something longer than a review.
Then just think how awful to read other people picking apart your precious novel. Perhaps leaving it in a drawer is a better idea.
BTW I have never written a novel but I can imagine writing one. One day ;-)
by Elsie Purdon
I think we all have a book in us and particulary as it's so easy to self publish it seems everyday a self published writer is making millions. (I know that 99% of self published stuff is self published as it'd never be published as it's poor or badly written.)
There's often the idea that it's easy to publish your own books, magazines, music and many companies promote this idea...
It follows wannabe writers attending a writing conference. Some are after the BIG publishing deal, some are desparate, delusional, ambitious...
An entertaining read particularly if you're a book lover.
by the lambanana
This is a very enjoyable satire on writers, their agents and publishers, people who want to be writers, writers who want to be published, and there are so many writers (et al) out there this novel is sure to find a ready audience. Anyone who has ever written a book - especially authors who have self-published; any author who has found themselves dropped by an agent or publisher; anyone who has ever attended a writer’s conference will find something to smile or wince about here. I enjoyed all the characters, they’re all well done. It is full of little in-jokes - I especially enjoyed curmudgeonly writer Reardon - but these can only sustain as a joke for a short time. I rattled through it in two days and while it it didn’t have me rolling in the aisles, I did smile a lot. but it. - it’s a familiar world to me; we all love to see our house on the telly. I do wonder how well it will fare with the non-writers (are there any left?). A fun, quick read; enjoyable fluff.
by Book Critic
Paul Carroll has been drawn to ink and the written word since launching a rock fanzine in his late teens.
Born and raised in Leeds, Paul crossed the Pennines in the mid-70s to study English Language and English Literature at the University of Manchester.
Chasing a job in journalism he stumbled into the world of PR and ten years after starting his career set up his own PR consultancy, Communique PR, in Manchester.
These days, Paul concentrates on his writing.
Paul's books are full of dark humour and satirical takes. His writing has been compared to that of Ben Elton, Nick Hornby and Jonathan Coe in tackling serious contemporary issues in a highly engaging and entertaining way.
Don't Ask (Matador 2021) is Paul Carroll's fourth novel, following A Matter of Life and Death (Matador, 2012), Written Off (Matador, 2016), and Trouble Brewing (Matador, 2017).