Reading manuscripts today. Sshhh.
There was a great piece in The Guardian yesterday by Jane Rogers. Her latest book, The Testament of Jessie Lamb has been longlisted for The Man Booker. She has written many books for established ‘London’ houses , as they like to call themselves but her recent sales have not been heading in the right direction on the sales graph. So they didn’t offer her a new contract. She went to an independent called Sandstone Press based in Inverness. They loved the story and guess what? So did The Man Booker judges and now her sales are going through the proverbial.
I bet there is one keeper of the sales graph at a very famous ‘London’ publishing house who is crying into his spreadsheet. And so he should. As Jane said, people want stories to read. Simple really, just a shame the suits get in the way sometimes.
Team Moose off to Leeds Waterstone’s this morning for a book signing by Leonora Rustamova. She will be talking to the book buying public about her book ‘STOP DON’T READ THIS – THE STORY’.
Yesterday we received THORN by Michael Dean from the printers and it looks fantastic. THORN is a Rabelasian tour round Amsterdam in the middle of the Great Dutch Golden era of the mid 17th Centruy. Spinoza and Rembrandt are exiled, one for his philosophical treatise and the other for his pictoral depiction of the great and the good. A great read and very funny. David Nobbs, who created Reggie Perrin says, ‘An astonishing and powerful novel.’ Top man.
It is published on September 1st.
I’m off to Londinium to see the queen this morning. Let us hope she has bathed and scrubbed up in preparation to meet the Moose.
The talk at the society of young authors went really well. I spoke on how independent publishers are taking up the creative slack in publishing today. The big six are merely trying to replicate the successes they have already had, to keep the schekels coming in to satisfy their shareholders. This of course means they are publishing very little that is different to what you see on the 3 for 2 tables in our high street stores. Cast your weary eye, dear reader across the bookshelves and the covers of the books look remarkably similar. It is called genre publishing. Here at Moose towers we like to offer the reader something different to read. Not your average supermarket fare, there is no Scandawegian crime here, more like a delicatessan has to offer the discerning literary palette. Original fiction at its best.
Now if I can get Mrs Windsor to read a couple of Bluemoose Books as she wiles away the hours playing backgammon with the corgis, the future will indeed be bright.
I am speaking at the Society of Young Publishers tonight in Leeds. They have never left London before and they might be a little trepidatious of our northern manners and customs. I’ll be gentle. I will be talking about independent publishing and Bluemoose Books. It may be the first and last time I will be able to give a valedictory address to bright young things who have come to listen to pearls of wisdom. Well, that might be pushing it a bit. I won’t be thanking my mum, or crying.
The audience may by the end of the night after a thirty minute tirade against the evils of Amazon and Google. But these are great times for indie publishers. The big houses are too big to move to the constant changes within publishing and we’re filling the creative gaps with great stories that engage and inspire the reader. We have come a great distance since we started five years ago. Hollywood directors are reading our books. Penguin in the States is also reading a couple of our titles and the Russians can’t get enough of Bluemoose. All is well and long may that continue in the good ship Moose.
Heaven forefend! KING CROW did get onto the short list for THE NOT THE BOOKER. The prize, a Guardian mug. Nothing to write home about, but the most important aspect of the whole process is that it gives a national platform to small and independent publishers to promote their books and authors to a group of people who wouldn’t normally view such titles.
Why is that you ask? Well, reviewers don’t on the whole review books sent to then from indie publishers. Why not? You’ll have to ask them I suppose, but my conjecture is that they deem books by those not already signed to the mainstream publishers not really worthy. Publishing is very conservative you see and run on very upper middle class sensibilities. I’ve worked in publishing for 25 years and my first job was as a rep for a new publishing house run by the son of an Earl. You get the drift. Eton. Oxford. Publishing house. Natch.
And publishing is run via a very old model. Agent signs up new wunderkind, sells first new book to commissioning editor for zillions, publisher has to get buzz going so gets Camilla from in house PR to take reviewers out for lunch or the opera and over dinner, chats about new wunderkind and three weeks later wunderkind is all over the books sections like a priapic Oxford poetry lecturer is over a nubile undergraduate. Simple really. Access is denied to the likes of Bluemoose as we can only run to an avocado and radish sandwich.
For 5 years I have tried to get one of our titles reviewed. Nothing. That is until this year when The Guardian ran their New First book Award and asked bloggers what titles did they think they had missed. Irate Moosers around the country told them about KING CROW. The books editor in her wisdom bowed to the presure, asked for a copy, read it , and loved it. Job Done. Then a week later a review in the newspaper itself. I doffed my antlers to her, now that she had seen the light, and hopefully new Bluemoose titles won’t find their first port of call, a bin. Let us hope , dear readers, that all the harrumphing will stop, reviewers will realise that mainstream is replicating the same old, same old and its the bright new buttons in the sticks that are pubishling great new books.
Toodelpip, off to Waterstone’s Bradford to see one of our finest writers, Leonora Rustamova, sign copies of her book STOP DON’T READ THIS. I’ve sent a copy to the shadow education secretary Andy Burnham. The great hope of newish labour. If he reads it, they may have a chance, if not, bunker down because the toffs will be running the asylum.
Looks like KING CROW made it onto The Guardian’s NOT THE BOOKER LIST. About time those scribes in Londinium realised what talent lay outside the gates of the Metropolis. We’ve got Hollywood excited about KC, and Penguin USA, so, its not before time that they realised we can read and write and publish great stories up here in the wilderness under Ted Hughes’ eyebrows in Hebden Bridge. Having said that, they did give it a marvelous review a couple of weeks ago. Mustn’t let my inverted snobbery get in the way of a good old rant. Well, its taken four years. So why not?
I received the last re-write of PIG IRON by Ben Myers yesterday and handed it over to one of editors. It’s a brilliant story and beautifully written. It should win every prize on planet letters. Ben tells a story that beguiles and illuminates, is lyrical yet visceral, sharp and thoroughly entertaining. It is published next May 2012. Get your orders in now. And we have a jacket image that will blow the beejesus off you.
The Guardian’s NOT THE BOOKER LIST is in its final hours of voting. KING CROW by Michael Stewart, which we published in January of this year, is in the running to be one of the 6 titles they choose to review and discuss over the next 6 weeks. As 83% of all books are sold on recommendations, getting a book seen and reviewed by the press is essential to get the book seen by as many people as possible. To get a reviewer to open the first page and jump in is the trick.
For the bigger metropolitan houses this is far easier than small indies in the beautiful north. There is still an institutionslised bias against small presses. Small is not beautiful in the reviewers eyes. Small means not being part of the established more successful publishing industry. HOW WRONG THEY ARE. Look at the Man Booker long list. Of the 13 on the list, 9 are from independents and 3 from very small presses. What does that say about the huge houses? Same old same old.
For a long time, which started in the mid 80s, publishing got obsessed with literary theory. You know all the post domesticated modernism and the story, where a book has a start a middle and an end, revolutionary I know, became old hat. It became all tricks and whistles and plot and structure went out the window. In my experience, most people want a damned good story, and a great plot that is beautifully written. Period. Now the great unwashed are fighting againtst those books that are only concerned about what happens between each full stop. Most of us don’t care about isms. Isms are self generated ivory tower building exercises by professors of long words who are trying to create their own legacy. Stories have been with us for ever, and they always will. From the oral to the written we all need stories and KING CROW is one of the best you will read. I guarantee it.