CLEVER BLOGGER TWENTY MAJOR appeared on the shelves of our Limerick book seller last week so we picked up a copy for a quick read--not because of the anticipation of the extended story behind Stinking Pete but because our Silicon Valley correspondent had dismissed the book out of hand. We plan to weave Twenty's story into a first year creative multimedia module next academic term. In today's Sunday Times, Colin Coyle gives a few more inches of coverage to The Order of Phoenix Park, while pointing out that bloggers have a ready-made readership if their work is picked up for publication. The Sunday Tribune gives Twenty a catchy photo and a platform for witting commentary. Our own printed story needs another decade of breathing room before we can safely write the preamble to the Bourne series with copy flowing from truly anonymised late night flights, high-speed car chases, dalliances in the cockpit, and a few other vignettes that made life in the 80s a story more engaging than big hair and loud music.
In The Sunday Times today, Colin Coyle writes, "It had the makings of a publishing revolution. A blogger known only as Twenty Major had written a novel featuring characters from his blog--one visited by 1,500 people every day. Such a ready-made audience of adoring fans would be itching to buy the book, wouldn't they?
"Alas, The Order of the Phoenix Park, the first book spawned from an Irish blog, has sold only 536 copies so far, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 of book sales.
"Launched on February 18, the novel sold only 22 copies in its first week, 219 the next, then 167 and 128 in subsequent weeks. In the UK, it has sold 28 copies and is already available at a discount price.
"The first month of a book is considered crucial by publishers, with sales of at least 1,000 a week required to break into the fiction bestsellers chart. Last week, The Order of the Phoenix Park was at No 26 on the Hodges Figgis bestsellers list.
"Twenty Major, whose inspirations are said to include authors such as Douglas Adams, Tom Sharpe and Flann O'Brien, won the top prize at the Irish Blog Awards for the third year running this month, as well as the prize for the most humourous blog post.
"In the novel, characters such as Jimmy the Bollix, Stinking Pete and Dirty Dave try to foil a plot to take over Ireland by brainwashing the population with twee folk music.
"The book's disappointing sales have not been helped by mixed reviews for the 'blook'--a book based on a blog. The Irish Times described the prose as 'resolutely clunky and self-indulgent' and called the structure of the novel 'sloppy'. In The Sunday Times, the 'damp-squib novel' was dismissed as 'a tepid, flimsily plotted satire filled with half-cocked gags.'
"The Dubliner magazine was kinder, praising the novel's humour as 'the exuberant anarchism of the truly sully' before advising that the book is 'inordinately, even repellently, male.'
"Ciara Doorley, Twenty Major's editor at Hatchette Books Ireland, insisted, 'He's a funny writer and will be around for a long time to come. We're happy with sales and it's early days.'
"She said the author's anonymity had not affected sales and she was open to the idea of signing deals with other bloggers. 'Obviously he doesn't do publicity in person but he's very open to being interviewed by phone or e-mail. The blog's existing success means there is already huge awareness of Twenty Major and his humour.
"'We're always on the look-out for talent and there is some fantastic talent among Irish bloggers.'
"Twenty Major's second book is due out next spring. He is understood to have been paid a four-figure sum for his debut.
"Other bloggers are to publish books in the coming months. Trying to Conceive by Fiona McPhillips, who writes a blog called The Waiting Game, is out at the end of the month (Liberties Press), while Mercier Press has signed up Richard O'Connor, a grandfather who blogs at Head Rambles, to write a novel.
"Eoin Purcell, a commissioning editor at Mercier, said good bloggers were 'a publisher's dream' because they had a ready-made audience, but their books needed 'added value' to sell.
Colin Coyle -- "Blogger fails to click as novelist: Twenty Major has minor sales" in The Sunday Times, 23 March 2008.
Fiona McPhillips talks about the waiting game. "After almost three years, six miscarriages, two chemical pregnancies, three rounds of Clomid, three IUIs, two IVFs and an FSH of 17, we are counting the days until we get to meet our daughter."
Twenty Major -- The Order of the Phoenix Park ISBN: 978-0340952870