Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Maggie Dana e-mailed me about a UK-based company called The Book Depository. They claim to provide free shipping anywhere in the world, and provide a modest discount on the cover price as well. Maggie says they are estimating a 7-10 day delivery time to the US on her forthcoming novel, which, given the 10-90 day delivery I've had from Amazon UK, looks very good indeed.
If this service works, it knocks the socks off Amazon. And Book Depository seems smugly aware of this fact--on the order page it lists the Amazon.co.uk price including shipping, and even offers you a button to click through and buy it from Amazon UK instead. In the case of the paperback edition of Shock and Awe, they will deliver it for $9.26, as compared to an Amazon UK price of $20.56 after shipping is included.
Of course, Amazon US offers the book for $8.95 plus shipping, so the savings aren't huge relative to ordering from Amazon US; and are slightly higher than ordering it from your local bookseller. But it's nice to have another route.
I plan to order the next few MNW titles from Book Depository and see how it works. I'll keep you posted. And thanks, Mags!
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Monday, 27 April 2009
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
There are also plenty of links to buy Bleed A River Deep. Only modesty prevents Brian from including himself on the list, but if you've yet to encounter Inspector Devlin you have a treat in store.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Thank you all.
A good article in today's Times 2 about Margaret Drabble, in which she says that writing is an 'incurable disease'. I've been saying that for years. Furthermore, I wish someone would find a cure, and then I could get on with the rest of my life. Addiction to horses is similar (if a lot more expensive). I'm sure Mags would agree...?
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Monday, 13 April 2009
How authentic is this?
Today I learned that Amazon.com has a new policy that excludes books withgay/lesbian content from bestseller lists, rankings, category-sharing, somesearches, and other features.
My book has been affected, along with more than 22,000 others, includingtitles by James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, MichelFoucault, Cokie Roberts (!), Jeanette Winterson, Susan Griffin, and manymany more.
Here's a fuller explanation of how Amazon has created second-class statusfor our books, as well as information on how to take action:
I've included information about how to contact customer service, sign anonline petition, etc. Amazon seems to be changing things rapidly in responseto a massive email/twitter firestorm, so I'll try to keep the blog updatedwith new developments.If you're curious about whether a particular book has been targeted, here'show to tell as of 4/12/09:-Search for the page for the book on Amazon.com-Scroll down to "Product Details" and look for the "Amazon.com Sales Rank"number. If you know that the book has sold at least one copy on Amazon.combut you can't find a sales rank, it has been de-ranked.
If you are involved with a group that cares about books, rights, etc.,please encourage your organization to take a public stand on this issue.
Please also feel free to forward the links and spread the word about thisnoxious policy. I am saddened and angered by the fact that, in 2009, such anobviously discriminatory action can be taken by the largest bookseller inthe United States.
I am pretty astonished.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Thursday, 9 April 2009
It seems churlish to interupt all the recent (and well-deserved) celebrations with a really mundane post, but I have a problem. My second novel came out in August, Macmillan ran out of copies several months ago, Waterstones no longer have any on mail order, Amazon seem to be pretty well out of copies (with no ressuring 'more on the way'), and the paperback doestn't come out until November. I am asked - as are we all - to give talks at libraries, reading clubs etc, but have no copies to dispense (and people can't get hold of them themselves). I gather there are copies 'out there' in warehouses, but I don't have access to them. Has this happened to anyone else? Is it a common problem? It is as though my novel has died, to be resurrected in seven months' time. And yet it's supposed to be in print!
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Motivated by an amalgam of mischief, outraged vanity and lunchtime ennui, I sent Mr McCrum an open letter today.
The recent announcement of the longlist for the Orange Prize, and the shortlist for the Orange Award for New Writers, caused me to turn back to your 2005 article "Publishers Swap Taste for New Tricks", in which you denounced Macmillan New Writing in the strongest terms. Both Orange lists include Ann Weisgarber's debut The Personal History of Rachel DuPree; many other MNW writers have enjoyed critical and commercial success, including Eliza Graham, Brian McGilloway and L.C. Tyler. While hindsight can make fools of us all, I am sure you recognise now that your judgement was both premature and misconceived.
In the light of the rising reputation of Macmillan New Writing, I wondered if you felt the time was right for a reappraisal of your earlier sentiments, possibly in the same newspaper in which you published them.
In truth my interest in his opinion is limited, but it is only right that we should all be accountable for our opinions, particularly when we are paid for them!
I really should get back to writing novels; I clearly have far too much time on my hands...
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Fingers crossed that she brings home the bacon on 3 June when the winner is announced. I'm sure Doug will be able to advise on barbecuing said pig.
Friday, 3 April 2009
Will took time out of his schedule to answer the questions of two other MNW writers, David Isaak (author of the political thriller Shock and Awe) and Tim Stretton, whose fantasy The Dog of the North was published last year.
When MNW was launched three years it was seen as highly controversial--famously dubbed "the Ryanair of publishing", there was a perception that in some way it ripped writers off. With several writers graduating from the imprint to to multi-book deals on the main PanMacmillan list, do you feel that slur has now been laid to rest?
I don’t think most readers, or even most reviewers, are very interested in what royalty the author’s on, or indeed the logo on the spine (‘shagging seagulls’, as the distinguished Macmillan colophon is known here). And readers, after all, are the folk we ultimately want to appeal to – not industry pundits. Our priority hasn’t really been to lay misconceptions to rest but to publish good books by talented authors, and create a strong and sustainable list that we’re proud of. What is gratifying, though, is that there remains a measure of goodwill towards the imprint amongst its authors. (I’m touching wood with one hand as I write this.)
One of the interesting things about MNW is the sheer range of the list - everything from literary fiction through genres like historical, crime and even fantasy. Is there any common quality which makes a "MNW novel"?
Yes, you are a diverse group! Actually that’s part of the joy of the list from an editor’s point of view. Good books are good books. What else do they have in common? Well, not all that much, I suspect, apart from a certain something that appeals to some unexplored niche of their editor's psyche. I think it’s true that some of the novels we publish can be said to evade categorisation to some extent; but that’s often just a matter of marketing. I think a novel needs a distinctive, plausible, sympathetic voice that readers will want to spend time with, whatever the genre; actually, that’s it: voices that ring loud and clear and resonant. How's that for a corporate motto?
The imprint has evolved over its three years. The MNW volumes are now more indivualised in their presentation and you're looking to publish some titles as paperback originals. Can you outline the strategy for MNW over the next three years?
Yes, and I think it’s fair to say that the imprint will continue to evolve. What won’t change is what’s at the heart of the imprint: our policy of welcoming unsolicited submissions and a belief in nurturing writers; I also hope that this blog – and the sense of shared interest and mutual support it represents – continues to thrive.
Some of the MNW titles are starting to get real critical acclaim, and only last month Ann Weisgarber was longlisted for the Orange Prize, one of the biggest in British fiction. What does that sort of attention mean for MNW?
Well, each plaudit heightens the imprint’s profile and prestige, which in turn means more attention for the titles that follow and for the imprint itself. The chief benefit of prizes, in my view, is that they highlight good books that might otherwise struggle for readers’ attention (i.e.: most good books). It's also plain gratifying, obviously, and in Ann’s case extremely well deserved.
Many of the books published by MNW are from outside the UK, with American authors strongly represented. Is that a deliberate strategy or does it simply reflect the fact that it's even harder to get published overseas than in the UK?
I’ve not done any analysis on this, but I reckon it’s a simple matter of proportions: we accept submissions from all over the world, and there are, I assume, more novelists in the States than anywhere else. Perhaps there’s a lesson for humanity there somewhere . . . Of course, email also means that the geographical distance of an author is no impediment to successful publication. That said, we're yet to publish anything from Australia . . .
Distribution of MNW titles in the US has always been limited; although Amazon has stocked them to some extent, they haven't made much effort to ensure they restock once the initial stack has sold. Is there any possibility that a format like the Kindle could allow MNW to penetrate overseas markets more easily, without the need to ship physical copies?
Ah yes. Our policy is to restrict distribution of our titles in the US for six months after UK publication while our rights team continues to seek a US rights deal, if one hasn't already been struck. But we also work with one of the biggest independent distributors in the US (IPG), which stocks all MNW titles that have not found an American publisher during this time (the US is a highly competitive rights market). In principle, therefore (and I’m aware that this doesn’t always hold), titles more than six months old should be available from Amazon.com, assuming stock exists. That said, imports will never have the same kind of profile that domestic editions enjoy (compare the visibility of US-originated editions in the UK, for instance). E-books are a slightly separate kettle of fish: I don’t see digital publishing chiefly as an alternative to conventional distribution so much as an adjunct. Still, it’s unquestionably quicker to download wirelessly via your Kindle than order from Amazon or a bricks-and-mortar store.
You're the acquiring editor for all MNW titles, and your authors will also have worked closely with MNW's tireless publicist Sophie Portas. Is MNW really just a two-man band or is there a lot going on behind the scenes? How much autonomy do you have on the final selection of books?
Picture me on the squeezebox and Sophie on the ukulele. Actually it’s not the two-person band it once was, by any means; originally MNW was a kind of feudal autocracy ruling from a broom cupboard in Basingstoke, and farming much of the specialist work (design, copyediting, typesetting, etc) out to freelancers, and printing at a premium in the Far East. It was system that worked very well, I think, but as the imprint evolved, we decided that a more sustainable solution was to bring it fully into the Pan Macmillan ‘fold’, and to exploit the various departments’ substantial expertise in sales, marketing, design, production, rights, and so on. This strategy increased overheads but has, I think, made the imprint more sustainable in the long-term: we all felt that, once MNW was running under its own steam, it was vital that it not be seen as in any sense detached from, or even marginal to, Macmillan’s ‘mainstream’ publishing.
I continue to be every book’s cheerleader and advocate within the company; a big part of my job is persuading my colleagues that a novel I personally love deserves to see the light of day. I don’t always succeed. Ideally everything we publish will enjoy the enthusiastic support of all departments.
As for other bandsmen, apart from our friends in marketing, sales, export, rights, design and production, one unsung but vital member (piccolo?) is wonderful Mary Chamberlain, our staggeringly efficient and astute reader.
If you remain as the editor for the authors you discover and develop--which is the classic author-editor relationship from the Golden Age of publishing--won't there come a day when your stable will be so large you can't keep up with all of those authors plus the stream of manuscripts coming to MNW?
That bridge remains to be crossed but, yes, you’re right, and the time may come when others become involved in the imprint’s day-to-day operation. It’s also true that both ends of the process are important – in order to publish well, we need to be confident that the submissions we receive are being effectively and reliably assessed, which is where Mary comes in. Those submissions are our bread and butter, after all.
The recession is hitting all sectors of the economy and publishing won't be immune from that. How do you think it will affect MNW? Are new authors likely to be squeezed out of the marketplace, or does the "no advance, net royalty" business model make MNW a relatively low-risk proposition?
Publishing is inherently risky, and actually that’s part of the fun of it. The MNW business model reduces exposure but by no means eliminates it: so yes, I think we can, still, publish excellent novels that wouldn't necessarily find a home elsewhere -- but the basic overhead on an MNW title is the same as on any other Pan Macmillan title – i.e. thousands of pounds. That said, risk is a matter of perception, isn’t it? Good writers don’t stop writing in a recession (still touching wood), and it’s important that we hold on to the view that a good author will, in the end, find his or her reader. If publishers lose that optimism, then we’re sunk, I think. New authors are, needless to say, the lifeblood of every publishing house, however they might have entered the bloodstream.