Thursday, March 31, 2005

Patricia Ferguson

Booktrade.info kindly pointed out an article in the Independent on Sunday which highlighted the trials and tribulations of a writer called Patricia Ferguson.

Patricia is a past winner of the Somerset Maugham award and a Betty Trask prize. Neither of these is an easy thing to win, and to win two constitutes a considerable achievement. Unfortunately, such achievements apparently count for nothing among modern publishers, who examine only the sales figures. And, since the sales of Patricia's earlier books were not impressive, she couldn’t find a mainstream publisher for her new novel, It So Happens.

Eventually, after a two-year search, a small firm called Solidus proved willing to issue the book. And now, to the author’s surprise, It So Happens has been longlisted for the Orange prize.

Solidus is a very small publishing house which works through POD. The web site states that they ‘specialise in publishing the work of established authors who want to make a break from their usual subjects, or to experiment with different ways of writing. Many writers find that traditional publishers require them to repeat earlier success and write within the narrow confines of accepted genres. We want to encourage writers to follow their own paths and to allow them to reach readers who may not have met their work before.’

All of which is precisely what I warned you about a few days ago. Publishers want you (a) to sell lots of books, and (b) to do the same thing over and over. Fail to do either of these and you will lose out.

Meanwhile Patricia is now getting a new lease of life, and good luck to her.

Amanda Craig,who reviewed It So Happens in the New Statesman, is quoted as follows: ‘I'm furious that the book wasn't picked up by anyone else. It wasn't as if she didn't have a really good track record. The trouble with publishing is that with the accountants running things, everything is dominated by how much your last novel sold. For middle-aged, mid-list authors, the result is disastrous.’

So three cheers, says the Indie, for one tiny publisher who was prepared to take a risk. And I add a fourth cheer too.

Other writers who are looking for a publisher should note that the Solidus web site says that the firm is not currently reading new submissions. But no doubt there are other publishers. You just have to keep searching.

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