Orlando Crowcroft is a British journalist, foreign editor for IBTimes – and primarily, my oldest half-brother – who is currently writing his first entirely self-written book. He has previously been featured in Lonely Planet Guide to Israel and the Palestinian Territories (2015), specifically chapters on the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and is now working on his non-fiction book ‘Rock in a Hard Place: Music & Mayhem in the Middle East’ which is due for paperback release in June, 2017.
‘Rock in a Hard Place: Music & Mayhem in the Middle East’ is based on the heavy metal scene of countries that are often focused on in the news when enveloped in conflict and political issues. This may be significant as to why Crowcroft was now able to get the book successfully published, since the subject of heavy metal music is so different from what the UK usually learns about from Middle Eastern regions. The idea is fresh and interesting, and the combination of music and travel genres brings a much broader audience to the book.
Zed Books is not the only publisher that Crowcroft approached – his initial idea for the book came to him in about 2013, whilst he was living and working in Dubai.
‘I tried a few publishers back in 2013 and 2014 – had one knock back but mostly no reply – but this time around I only contacted Zed as I knew someone there. Believe me, this is the way it works in publishing. If you don’t have a friend who knows a publisher, you are not getting a book deal in London’, (Crowcroft)¹.
With a good knowledge both of the musical genre and the region, as well as an experienced skill for writing, he had a good idea of the tone and style of the book. He approached Zed with a proposal of his intentions for the book, ‘this is very unusual. Most publishers want at least two or three chapters’¹.
Crowcroft did the process himself without the help of an agent, which may have slowed down the process, though he explained ‘getting an agent in London is often as hard as getting a publisher’¹. This was surprising to me initially; however, with surely a huge number of aspiring writers in London it must be difficult to find an agent who equally has not too many clients, so can be fully invested in your work, as well as those with high success rates who must be difficult to collaborate with without an existing personal connection.
Connections are crucial – Crowcroft has the editing help of: his wife and Lonely Planet editor, Helen Elfer; his brother and Yale graduate who is currently writing his PhD led book for 2018 release, Simon Barnaby Crowcroft; as well as other friends within the journalism and writing community. They will be thanked in the acknowledgements of the book. After the set timeframe to write the 90,000 word book, ‘They gave me a little under six months’¹, Zed will go through their editing process; ‘Zed will edit and proof read it at least three time, it is quite a long process’¹.
I was intrigued to hear about the decisions for the book cover design and possible artwork/photographs to go alongside text, especially as Crowcroft is a talented photographer. For photographs of the musicians in the book, he ‘sourced them all from the artists’¹. In terms of the book cover he was able to suggest a particular photograph, but the main decision is Zed’s to make which he reflected on,
‘It isn’t up to me: it’s up to them. That is how it should be in my opinion. I am a writer, not a salesman: they understand what people will pick up in the shop, what will sell’, (Crowcroft)¹.
Crowcroft received a fixed fee followed by additional royalties from book sales, but it comes across that the intentions for writing were much greater than a money-making venture. I personally remember Crowcroft musing about the possibilities of his ‘dream’ book years ago, and it is fantastic to see what hard work and perseverance can achieve. Currently, Crowcroft is busily finishing the draft for his deadline in the next couple of weeks, and I eagerly await Rock in a Hard Place‘s publication next year to see the fruits of his labour of this year.
The book is being published by London-based Zed Books, whose other published titles approach topics surrounding political, cultural and social issues. Though they already have a large number of released texts since being founded in 1972, they seem keen to welcome new authors to inquire into publishing for them. This is the first time I have come across a publishing house which is so open to submissions from anyone, and even include a detailed guide on the steps to getting your own work published.