Friday, 30 April 2010

Stoke Newington Literary Festival in June

Stoke Newington will host its first literary festival in June this year. The Stoke Newington Festival has been organised by Liz Vater, Jo Adams of Stoke Newington Books and Anne Beech of Pluto Press and will take place at venues in the North London district over the weekend of 4th-6th June.

The full programme of events is being finalised but events start on Friday the 4th of June and continue until Sunday the 6th June. Due to popular demand certain events will need to be booked in advance but for many others you can just turn up and enjoy.

Most of the speakers are London-based authors and comedians, including Phill Jupitus, Shappi Khorsandi, John Hegley, China Mieville, Mark Billingham, Edwyn Collins and Stewart Lee.

Liz Vater said it was a landmark festival for an area "rich in radical thinking and literature".

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Seven point checklist for writing the short crime story

I was recently invited to judge the Southern Area Young Crime Writers' Competition organised by the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain (of which I am a member) and which was supported by the Library service. It was a tough one to judge because the entries were so varied and interesting  and some superbly written by very talented young writers. So when it came to judging what was I looking for? What does a short crime story need in order to be successful? Here is my seven point checklist.

1. A well written story with a truly surprising ending, often called a 'twist in the tale.'

2. Clues planted throughout the story.

3. A piece of information, which is usually held back until just before the ending.

4. The best twist stories are those that have a theme and firmly based on character.

5. The main character is introduced immediately, so is the tone, setting and the problem.

6. The motivation and tension builds throughout the story until it reaches a climax before the surprising ending.

7. Unities of time, place and action through the main character’s eyes, which results in tight construction and successful short story.

Appointments in Publishing in the USA

In the USA

Marissa Walsh has joined FinePrint Literary Management as a literary agent, focusing on children's picture books, middle-grade and Young Adult, along with pop culture, humor, narrative non-fiction, and memoir. Most recently she was an editor at Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books for seven years.

Sarah Knight will join the Simon & Schuster adult trade imprint on May 24 as a senior editor, acquiring both fiction and nonfiction. She was most recently an editor at Shaye Areheart Books, will begin her new position on May 24th.

Dan Ehrenhaft has joined Harper Children's fiction team as director of intellectual property development, developing and commissioning original projects primarily for the teen and tween market in both print as well as emerging digital formats. He was a senior editor at Sourcebooks, where he launched their teen imprint Sourcebooks Fire and acquired for Jabberwocky.

Mary Anne Thompson Associates has been appointed the US literary scout for Croatian publisher Znanje.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A brief look at publishing options

Option one is to seek publication with one of the major publishing houses such as Random House, Pan MacMillan, Penguin etc. Over the years the number of major publishers has dwindled or rather merged until there are now fewer of them, so the chances of getting a contract is limited. In order to get to first base you will either need an agent or a name, or even both. You are likely to get a better advance than with smaller publishing houses, and if you are fortunate enough to get a substantial advance then you might even get a sales and marketing budget behind your book. This means your book is more likely to generate sales (though not always) and most importantly for the publisher generate rights income from the sale of translation and other rights. If your book doesn't generate enough sales though you will probably find it nigh on impossible to get another contract for subsequent books. 

Option two is getting published by an independent publisher.  These are smaller publishing houses, publishing fewer titles and with much smaller and sometimes non existent marketing budgets. Their prints runs will be considerably smaller than the big boys mentioned above but they do provide a foot in the door for many new authors and steady sales (and income) for established ones.  You will also find that they are more approachable and many will take unsolicited submissions direct, so it is not always necessary to have an agent. They also sell rights. In order to boost sales of your book you will need to undertake some marketing activity.  In fact the more you can market yourself the better.

The third option is  to go it alone and self-publish.  Advances in print technology, the development of digital printing and the Internet have made self-publishing a viable option.  This can provide you with a good opportunity to 'test' the market but you need to do your research beforehand. Make sure your product (the book) is of the best quality you can afford and that it can sit proudly on any book shop shelf.  Research the size, style, type of paper and price point for your book by comparing it with others in the same genre or category. Set aside a budget for producing your book and one for marketing it. An effective marketing plan is essential as is an ISBN.  Without an ISBN number your book will not be found by potential buyers. You can register with Amazon who will sell your book on line for you, but be prepared to give discounts to both on line booksellers, wholesalers and book shops, anything up to 55% is not unusual.

Another option is to produce your book as an ebook only.  The advatange here is low cost.  Nevertheless ensure it is professionally edited and the best you can produce. This is an emerging market and aside from offering your e book via your own web site, perhaps as a pdf, you can also offer it via Amazon through their Createspace programme. As with all the options mentioned above marketing your book is essential for generating sales.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Wholesaler's profits higher than expected and WH Smiths looks set to pay chief executive bumper bonus

Book wholesaler Bertrams profits ahead of expectations

Wholesaler Bertrams is in consultation with 140 staff at its library supply business in Leeds over its possible relocation to Norwich. Bertrams is owned by Smiths News who said the relocation of its library arm "would reduce costs, but just as importantly it would improve service by reducing the lead time for the processing of library books, one of the key measures of service identified by the library consortia".

Bertrams' revenues totalled £75.8m in the half year to 28th February. The wholesaler's operating profit of £2.4m was ahead of expectations and "significantly ahead" of the £0.7m achieved in the equivalent period last year, before it was bought by Smiths News.

Mark Cashmore, group chief executive, said: "Bertrams continues to perform ahead of our expectations and is now well placed to capitalise on growing its online, academic and international sales." Cashmore said the business had recently won a new two-year book contract with HMV.

Overall revenue at Smiths News rose 51% to £919.8m, with profit before tax £15.3m, up 43%.

Meanwhile at W H Smiths...

Kate Swann, chief executive of W H Smith, could bag a payday of more than £5m under a bumper management incentive plan being drawn up by the newsagent and stationery chain. It would keep her at the helm of the retailer for at least another three years.

Swann, 44, is regarded as one of the hottest properties in the retail sector after growing profits four-fold since taking the helm at W H Smith in 2003.

Perhaps this isn't surprising seeing how much the company charge publishers for putting one title into their stores! But then the retail chain can shift bucketloads of books particularly at airports, so some might say it is marketing money well spent.

Monday, 26 April 2010

How Publishing is Alienating Half the Population

This informative and interesting article by Jason Pinter writing in the Huffington Post, provides an insight into the publishing industry and shows just how difficult it is to get a publishing deal, (I think we already know that). Even if an editor loves your work, he or she has to persuade the rest of the team, and that clearly isn't always easy. I've edited the article but you can read  the complete version by clicking on the link below. I'd just like to add that many men read my books (thankfully) and that the great reviewer Kirkus, which the author mentions, also gave one of my novels a star rated and rave reveiw.  But enough blowing one's own trumpet - I hope you find the article below as interesting as I did.  

Jason Pinter: Why Men Don't Read: How Publishing is Alienating Half the Population: "

" Back in 2005, while I was still working as an editor, I had an opportunity to acquire a book that I was confident would be a bestseller. The author had a huge media platform, was one of the stars on a show watched by millions of people each week, hosted his own radio show, headlined his own band, he had a fascinating life story, thousands (if not millions) of fans worldwide, and even had a degree in journalisn. Unlike many celebrity memoirs, I knew this author was passionate about his story and had the writing chops to make it a great read. The author's agent wanted, in my opinion, a reasonable advance. I had confidence that this book was low risk, very high reward. However...

The author's name was Chris Jericho. Chris Jericho is a professional wrestler. Needless to say, pitching Jericho's book to my editorial board was like pitching iPads to the Amish. A whole lot of blank stares and a whole lot of people saying 'I don't get it'. Now, this is not the fault of the individuals, but it is the fault of a system in which in a room of 15-20 people, not one of them knew what I was talking about.

Like many boys, I grew up watching pro wrestling. I knew that Jericho was not only a huge star, but a genuinely smart, charismatic guy who had some incredible stories to tell. In an attempt to convince the editorial board, I brought in Chris's videos, action figures, CDs, anything I could think of to prove to a skeptical room that this guy was a big deal and his book would work. Nobody was buying my pitch. Nobody had heard of Jericho. So here's what happened--and I swear this is true.

One of our senior editors had a 15-year old nephew who was a wrestling fan. I was instructed to have a conference call with the editor's nephew, where I would ask him what he thought about Jericho. If the nephew agreed that Jericho was popular and the book had potential, I would be permitted to make an offer. If the kid disagreed, no dice. Naturally I was dumbstruck, infuriated, since I was essentially being told that a random 15-year with no publishing experience and questionable judgment was trusted more than I was. Thankfully, the kid agreed with me, and thought the book was a fantastic idea. The offer was greenlit, I acquired the book, and Chris Jericho's A Lion's Tale got rave reviews (Kirkus loved it. Kirkus!!!) and the
book became a New York Times bestseller. The sequel is scheduled to come out this Fall.

Why do I bring this up? Because if you've worked in publishing, you've heard the tired old maxim: Men Don't Read. Try to acquire or sell a book aimed predominantly at men, and odds are you'll be told Men Don't Read. This story is not an isolated incident, but merely a microcosm of a huge problem within the industry. If you keep telling yourself something, regardless of its validity, eventually you'll begin to believe it. So because publishers rarely publish for men and don't market towards men, somehow that equates to our entire gender having given up on the reading books. THIS MUST END.

This NPR piece three years ago came to the conclusion that women read more fiction than men by a 4-1 margin. Articles like this madden me because I think they miss the big picture, or perhaps are even ignoring it purposefully. It's like discussing global warming, while completely ignoring the fact that hey, maybe we have something to do with it.

In my opinion, this empty mantra has begotten a vicious cycle. I was hesitant to write this article, mainly because in no way do I want to be perceived as diminishing the talents of many, many brilliant women in publishing. That is not the aim of this piece, nor is it my opinion in any way. This is a critique of the system, not those who work within it.

Nobody can deny the fact that most editorial meetings tend to be dominated by women. Saying the ratio is 75/25 is not overstating things. So needless to say when a male editor pitches a book aimed at men, there are perilously few men to read it and give their opinions. Not to mention that, because there are so few men, the competition to buy books aimed at men is astronomical. I was once shot down in an effort to buy a sports humor book because I couldn't get the support of a senior editor. The reason? This editor had written a similar book proposal on submission and didn't want to hurt his chances of selling it.

Men read. Tons of them do. But they are not marketed to, not targeted, and often totally dismissed......."

"Publish more books for men and boys. Trust editors who try to buy these books, and work on the marketing campaigns to hit those audiences. The readers are there, waiting, eager just under the surface. And I promise, if publishing makes an effort to tap it, they'll come out in droves. It won't be easy. They've been alienated for a long time and might need to be roused from their slumber. But as I've always said the biggest problems facing the publishing industry are not ebooks, or returns, but the number of people reading. This is a way to bring back a lot of readers who have essentially been forgotten about.

So the next person who tells me that Men Don't Read, I'll simply respond by saying Then You Don't Know Men.

Print it, and they will come."

Friday, 23 April 2010

Digital Book Industry 5% of total book sales

Figures from the Publishers Association Statistics Yearbook released on 23rd April show UK publishers experienced a 27% increase in digital sales over the two years to 2009 taking just over £150m in revenue last year.

Of the £150m, £5m came from general consumer titles, with nearly half of that from e-book downloads, while the majority - £130m - was generated by the academic and professional sector.

Fiction, general non-fiction and children's books saw the biggest increase, up three-fold on 2008.

Academic/professional rose by 22% and consumer reference by 22%, while school/ELT declined by 18%.

The launch of new e-readers and platforms look set to boost this in future years.

The Publishers Association Statistics Yearbook is released on 23rd April.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Opportunities for authors of teen paranormal gothic novels

Simon & Schuster Children's Books is launching a new paranormal romance and urban fantasy imprint this summer called Simon Pulse.

The publisher said the paperback-only imprint will release "the best teen gothic literature, continuing to represent some of the biggest names in contemporary supernatural fiction but will also launch début authors with the potential to crossover and be stars of the future."

The new list will launch in June. Venetia Gosling, children's fiction editorial director at Simon & Schuster UK said: "We've had great success in the paranormal romance area in recent months and, given the way our list is expanding, it made sense to pull these bestselling titles under a single umbrella to give more coherence to our teen list and to provide a platform for future publishing in this area."

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

London Book Fair to examine impact of reduced attendance

The London Book Fair has said that it will begin exploring "a number of options in recognition of the knock-on effect of reduced attendance" after the fair closed today (21st April).

Publishers and agents spoken to by The Bookseller on the final day remained surprisingly upbeat about the show, with widespread relief that overseas exhibitors could at least have easier return journeys after UK airspace finally reopened overnight.

On the final day estimated overall attendance was down by a third. The LBF's advisory committee will meet tomorrow (22nd April) in order to assess this year’s fair, as well as discussing the 40th anniversary show next year. The show has been widely praised for its management of the crisis, with daily letters distributed to exhibitors updating them on the travel issues and subsequent disruption to events.

Carole Biss, m.d. of Book Guild Publishing, said: "It's been like the old days really, you actually had time to meet with people and the chance meetings have been very productive; we've done business with people we would never have talked to. And it's the first time we've never been approached by a foreign printer because none of them are here."

One less positive comment came from the US agent Robert Gottlieb, who travelled to the fair "via Ireland and then the ferry". In a comment left on Publishers Marketplace, Gottlieb wrote: "I will say that I and others are considering whether the London Book Fair is money well spent. So many of the buyers are coming over for the BEA and at the same time email and computers allow for fast and easy transatlantic communications."

LBF to assess impact of reduced attendance after show closes:

Publishers and Agents decide where next after failed London Book Fair?

The American book trade press is already writing off the London Book Fair, although it still has one day to run (today), but the third day is always the quietest with most of the business being completed on the Sunday before the fair actually opens and the first two days of the fair. Having been at the London Book Fair on Monday and Tuesday and witnessed how quiet it was I suspect that today it will be like a ghost town, except for the usual crop of media and creative writing students roaming the halls.

The question now for many publishers and agents is what next or rather where next?  The American publishers and agents are naturally focusing on the fair closest to home: BookExpo America (BEA). The Europeans however are already talking about Frankfurt in October. My European agents, who could not make London, have already indicated they hope to see me at the Frankfurt Book Fair, a major and huge International book fair where many rights deals are done.

Meanwhile Publishers Weekly reports that many American publishers will be sending a "larger than usual contingent to New York for BEA"  and that staff will also be in New York Monday through Friday of BookExpo America week (the show days are Wednesday and Thursday with a day of education Tuesday), to make appointments outside of show days.

BookExpo America, like the London Book Fair is owned by Reed Exhibitions. Event manager Steve Rosato of BookExpo America said he began receiving requests over the weekend from publishers and agents looking for more exhibit space or additional tables in the rights centre and requests have continued into the week. The exhibit floor will be open May 26-27.

Publishers Weekly reports that OverDrive will be taking more people to BEA that originally planned to make up for the 50 meetings it missed in London and Dr. Jan Yager, author and foreign rights representative, as well as director of rights for the independent publishing company Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc. is rebooking the 49 appointments she was forced to cancel for BookExpo as well as for Frankfurt. In addition to using phone calls and e-mail to make new appointments, Yager is using Skype over the next week to present titles and/or catalogues, that would have been shared in person at the fair. And that leads to the question that is already being muted around the industry - do we really need a book fair to do business these days when so many deals are made over the Internet?  Or perhaps the question should be do we really need three general Book Fairs: London, Frankfurt, America?

BEA Next Stop for LBF (Non) Attendees:

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A very quiet London Book Fair

I've just returned from the second day of a very quiet London Book Fair. On Monday more than a fifth of the seminars scheduled were cancelled and exhibitor numbers were also down by a fifth, as a result of the travel chaos, although judging by the quiet aisles and the number of publishers I spoke to they seemed to be down by more than that with many appointments cancelled.

An LBF spokesperson said "anecdotally" exhibitor numbers, including in the rights centre, were down 20-22%. The International Rights Centre was well down, with some estimates that as many as 50% of tables in the normally packed room were unoccupied, and I witnessed that!

Andrew Franklin, managing director of Profile, said: "It's looking really forlorn. It's been very hard to conduct business because there is no here to conduct it with."

Agent Carole Blake: "It's been surreal, but people are putting a huge effort in to get here. We had 12 South African authors scheduled to attend, and have got only three here. We'll do the business but it will take longer, and I don't know, but it may make people realise we don't need it. "

The problem will turn into 'OK, you've got here - now how do you get home?' a conversation I overheard in the Press Room by a publisher (not sure who) saying they are now having to foot hotel bills for the contacts who did make it over.

Digital Economy Bill to extend Public Lending Rights for authors

Authors opposed to the Digital Economy Bill, which was rushed through the Commons in advance of the general election, have expressed relief at the removal of Clause 43, which covered provisions for extended licensing as well as for orphan works, and welcome the extension of Public Lending Rights to e books and audio books.

Authors and agents had expressed concern that Clause 43 could authorise licensing bodies to grant copyright licences for works even where they did not own the copyright or act on the copyright holder’s behalf.

Gill Spraggs, of campaign group Action on Authors’ Rights, said it was “delighted” to see the clause fall by the wayside. She said: “The ‘orphan works’ provisions lacked the safeguards necessary to protect the rights of unlocated authors, and the government never did explain the intentions behind the proposals for extended licensing, which were troublingly broad and vague.”

In terms of extending Public Lending Rights (PLR) there is good news for authors with the extension of the PLR scheme to library loans of e-books and audiobooks. Work on redrafting legislation will begin after the election.

Public Lending Right registrar Jim Parker said, “The collection of data on e-books will be quite different with issues around ISBNs, and with audiobooks we will have two new groups of rightsholders—not just the authors, but also the narrators and producers.”

Monday, 19 April 2010

Agents interested in women's commercial, thrillers, horror YA, and a female World War memoir (this could be ghostwritten)

Literary Scouts, Cornerstones, are looking for sparkling manuscripts to submit to publishers and agents in women's commercial, thrillers, horror young adult, and specifically a female World War memoir (this could be ghostwritten). If you know of anyone, like a nurse or a spy, who hasn't yet told her story, then please contact

Good news for picture book writers!

Cornerstones have also met some agents recently who believe the demand for picture books is on the rise. If you would like to know how to perfect your story and how to place it with an agent or publisher, they are running an annual Picture Book Workshop on 18th June (closing date 18th May).

Savvy Author Workshop on 7th May will cover how to save money as a writer; how to handle the mid-section of your novel when the plot doesn't seem to be holding up; and how to attract an agent. It's £95 and there are some places left. Please contact Cornerstones for a programme.

Cornerstones Literary Consultancy
Milk Studios
34 Southern Row
London W10 5AN
Tel: 020 8968 0777
Listed by The Society of Authors.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Who will be able to make it to the London Book Fair as flights are grounded?

It seems that the unprecedented closure of airspace across Britain and large parts of Northern Europe is set to continue into the weekend, after the volcanic eruption of  the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland has sent a massive plume of ash into the atmosphere. News sites report that airlines are preparing to ground flights for at least four more days. So overseas visitors to the London Book Fair might be rather thin on the ground this year.

"The London Book Fair is monitoring all information relating to the announcement of temporary UK airport closures due to the volcanic ash in the atmosphere. So far the BBC are reporting temporary closures until 0100 BST on Saturday April 17th."

The UK National Air Traffic Service has safety as its priority and rightly so.  If they allowed one aeroplane to fly and it crashed what then?  Yes, a drastic and serious loss of life and a huge law suit. All UK airports have been shut down. Airports in Ireland, Norway, Sweden, France, Denmark, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands have also been affected and several thousand flights have been cancelled.

International publishers are a huge feature of London Book Fair. South Africa is the Market Focus at this year's London Book Fair with Chinese and Russian authors, and Arabian poets in the line-up of seminars and talks, not to mention rights agents from Europe and publishers and agents due in from America.

But let's spare some time to think not only of those whose travel plans have been disrupted but also those 800 and more people who have been displaced in Iceland due to widespread flooding caused by the eruption. What's missing a mere book fair in comparison to that?

Here’s hoping it all blows over soon and that the Icelanders can get back to their homes.

Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped

A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released Wednesday 14 April by R.R. Bowker. The number of "nontraditional" titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books.

Among the traditional titles, fiction remained the largest segment, although output fell 15%, to 45,181 titles, marking the second consecutive year that fiction production declined. The nonfiction segments were mixed with growth coming in educational and practical areas such as technology (up 11%), science, and personal finance (both up 9%).

Categories that depend more on discretional spending fell with the production of cookery and language titles falling the most at 16% each. The travel and sports and recreation segments had declines of 5% and 4%, respectively. Other major categories where output rose included children's, up 6%, to 32,348, biography, up 8% to 12,313, and religion, up 6% to 19,310.

The Amazon subsidiary CreateSpace produced 21,819 books in 2009, while released 10,386. Xlibris and AuthorHouse, two imprints of AuthorSolutions, produced 10,161 and 9,445, title respectively.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

New Publishing House Launched for Literary Fiction and Non Fiction

A new publishing house, Unthank Books, has been set up by a former literary scout at Van Lear Robin Jones.

Unthank will publish "literary fiction and non-fiction which entertains, informs, educates, elucidates, criticises or satirises the modern world". The company will produce four titles this year.

Jones was a former co-ordinator of International PEN's Writers in Prison Commitee as well as a former international literary scout with Van Lear and is a reader for The Literary Consultancy.

Jones said Unthank would aim to publish "the kind of books you used to read and enjoy, but struggle to find any more". He added: "We are fans of the quirky, the comic, the cult and the non-commercial."

For submissions please visit the web site.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Literary Agency Appointments

Catherine Clarke and Caroline Wood have become shareholders of the Felicity Bryan Literary Agency, with Clarke made managing director and Wood joining the board as director. The agency will be renamed Felicity Bryan Associates, with founder Felicity Bryan becoming chair of the board.

Bryan was a director at Curtis Brown before she left to start her own agency with such authors as Rosamunde Pilcher, Matt Ridley and Miriam Stoppard. Clarke, who was previously a publishing director at OUP, represents non-fiction clients including Simon Blackburn, John Dickie, and A C Grayling, and also children's writers such as David Almond, Jenny Downham, Sally Gardner, and Meg Rosoff.

Wood, who was formerly a film producer, joined in 2006 to expand the fiction list and represents authors such as Sadie Jones, Martin Walker, and Simon Lelic.

Sally Holloway continues to work as an associate agent.

Visit their web site for a full list of the authors represented and the submission requirements.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Labour and Conservatives pledge to keep books VAT free

The Labour Party has renewed its pledge not to extend VAT to books in its manifesto published 12th April. In the run up to the election, which will take place on 6th May, both the Labour and Conservative parties have ruled out adding tax to printed books.

The Labour manifesto said: "We renew our pledge not to extend VAT to food, children’s clothes, books, newspapers and public transport fares." Shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey said: "We have absolutely no plans to put VAT on books. I know that VAT on e-books is an issue for the industry and one that we will look at after the election."

The parties have also said they are committed to libel law reform. The Labour manifesto said: "To encourage freedom of speech and access to information, we will bring forward new legislation on libel to protect the right of defendants to speak freely."Last week Dominic Grieve, the shadow justice minister, told libel reform group Sense About Science that his party was "committed, if elected, to undertaking a fundamental review of the libel laws with a view to enacting legislation to reform them".

He added: "This reform could best be done by means of a separate Libel Bill and this is the preferred approach for us."

Monday, 12 April 2010

People Moves and Appointments

In the USA:

Bloomsbury/Walker/Bloomsbury Press: Benjamin Adams has become a senior editor; Pete Beatty moves up to editor; Margaret Maloney is now an associate editor; Rachel Mannheimer becomes an assistant editor; Carrie Majer has been made a senior publicist; and Jiyeon Dew was promoted to production manager.

At Harper, Maya Ziv and Jason Sack have both been promoted to assistant editor. in recognition of their excellent work at Harper.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Fantasy Darts

Fantasy Darts:  Supplied courtesy of BitBookish 
Fantasy Darts
This is how all commissioning editors decide on the kind of fantasy books they publish. Fact.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Three essential tips to writing a publishable novel

Three essential tips to writing a publishable novel: "

Writing a novel is one thing, but writing a publishable novel is a different matter…

Here are three quick tips you can apply to write a publishable novel from Bubblecow.


Until you have a completed work you are just writing a novel. One common trait amongst published writers is that they start a novel looking to finish. This is an important point. It is essential that the act of writing becomes a purpose to an end, and that you don’t become entangled in the writing process. Simply put – until you have a written novel you will remain unpublished.


I don’t care how you do it, but make sure your novel is as good as it can possibly be. You can self-edit, ask friends to help or even pay a professional editor, but you must edit your novel. Professional writers know that their agent/publisher will probably edit their work. However, they also understand that the easier they make their agent/publisher’s job, the better the chance of the work being seen in print.

Be pitch perfect

Or more precisely, know your genre and know your readership. When pitching your book it is vital that you are able to paint a precise picture of who will read your book. It is also essential that you clearly define your book’s genre. Agents/publishers are simple folk and they need to quickly understand if they will be able to sell your book. The best way to do this is to make your pitch as sales orientated as possible.

Here’s advice on how to write a book proposal, also our free email guide to writing a great book proposal.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Literary Translation Centre at the London Book Fair 2010

Literary Translation Centre at the London Book Fair 2010:

New for 2010, The London Book Fair is pleased to announce the introduction of the Literary Translation Centre which will bring publishing and translation communities together to raise the profile and increase the quantity of literary translation in the UK and abroad. Highlights from the Literary Translation Centre seminar stream include: Why Translation into English Matters, Translators in Conversation, Translating India, The Challenges of Poetry in Translation, and Making Literature Travel.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

How to make your book stand out in a crowded market

Branding is often considered to be something of interest only to manufacturers of fast moving consumer goods (fmcg) or car companies and the like, but in the crowded market place of books it is of increasing importance. 

Branding helps to create and reinforce an identity for a product which places it in the minds of the customer, thereby boosting sales.

With books the branding can include the book's style and/or genre, the quality of writing, the book cover, size, the title, typography, and the quality of the paper.  It can also include the imprint, for example the distinctive Penguin brand, or the type of book the publisher is most renowned for publishing.  In addition, it can include the author’s name and/or the names of the characters or main character.
How to define the brand starts with who or what you are offering, its uniqueness, who your customers are and what they want.  When I started a small publishing company some years ago publishing business books, the brand was the Easy Step by Step Guides. These were written in a straightforward style, practical, with lots of tips, no jargon and plenty of bullet points (its uniqueness) for the time pressed business person (the customer) who wanted to know 'how to do it' simply and quickly (the offering).

The brand must live up to that; it must deliver on a promise.

In books, publishers and authors should consider the needs of their customers.  They should examine the first introduction to the product (e.g. the book cover) does it set the book apart from the clutter?  One book alone might not do this, but consistency across a series of books can. 

The books should be packaged in a consistent, recognisable way: colour, image, typography.

What do the publisher and author want the customer to take away from the product?  It could be the content of the book, the practical nature of the Easy Step by Step Guides for example, or the type of story.  With regard to my marine mystery crime novels, readers identify with the setting, (against the backdrop of the sea), the genre (contemporary police procedural) the main character (Inspector Andy Horton, a hunky, maverick detective, a loner with a desperate longing to belong but always on the outside).

The brand is the foundation on which the marketing is built. 

What reinforces the brand is the consistency of communication across all the marketing channels at all times.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Writing Dialogue

Writing believable dialogue in fiction is a long way from dialogue in 'real life' which is peppered with a chaos of ums and ahs, you knows, basicallys and many more superfluous words and fillers. If used in a novel or short story these fillers will only serve to slow the flow and frustrate the reader. Likewise in reality we eat, watch television, cook meals, bathe, spend and waste time on the Internet, visit family, friends and sick relatives, shop and clean. But if included in our fiction (unless absolutely crucial to the storyline) it would drive the reader as far away from your novels as possible.

In fiction every piece of dialogue in a story is a means to a narrative end. In real life, conversations can be one sided, boring, animated or something used to avoid silence. Developing an ear for dialogue is good but writing it you must keep in mind the tone of the novel and the character speaking.

And on the subject of character dialogue many readers have told me that they dislike excessive swearing in novels, a view I personally share. In particular the visually impaired readers who listen to books on audio tell me this is very off putting. I also dislike excessive swearing in films and feel that sometimes a good film or television programme is ruined by it and it is completely unnecessary in fact a lazy way to convey an emotion. Yes, there is swearing in my crime novels but not excessive by any means and only in keeping with the character and the situation.

To return to dialogue and life, Alfred Hitchcock said that a good story was 'life, with the dull parts taken out' a viewpoint I am inclined to agree with and dialogue should follow the same pattern: it's human conversation without the ums and ahs.