Macmillan New Writing (MNW) is an imprint which was announced last year, and launched in April this year.
The whole purpose of MNW is to publish first novels, in any genre, and to do so as economically as possible. Theoretically, at least, this should, in the long run, benefit all interested parties: publisher, writer, and reader.
The MNW initiative was one that I welcomed when it was announced, but many observers of the book scene were much less enthusiastic. See my posts of 3 May 2005 and 25 May 2005 for details.
In due course the imprint was launched, and a fair amount of publicity resulted. The first few books probably did rather better, in terms of sales, than the typical first novel.
Now, however, the monthly novel issued by MNW is just another book. It has to fight for attention in competition with the 30 other novels a day (or thereabouts) which are published in the UK. Given that each MNW novel that appears is likely to be in a completely different genre from the previous month's, this is no easy task.
Bear all that in mind, then, when I come to tell about the latest batch of three MNW books which have come my way. And remember, too, that each MNW novel has had to compete against several hundred, if not thousand, other books which have been submitted to the MNW editors by hopeful would-be novelists.
Samantha Grosser: Another Time and Place
This, one can safely say, is a love story, set in the second world war. American pilot Tom Blake is having tea (what else) in an English cafe when he sees a young woman. And so on...
It is worth noting (particularly by all those keen and eager young writers out there) that Samantha relates that she spent two years reading nothing except books which would give her a feeling for what life was like in World War II. There's dedication for you. Also worth noting is that she wrote 17 drafts of this book.
Samantha has a blog in which she tells us how she is getting on with marketing this novel (just out) and working on the next.
Jonathan Drapes: Never Admit to Beige
Due for publication on 1 December, Never Admit to Beige is a... Hmmm. Bit hard to classify. Humorous fantasy possibly. Anyway, the story involves a very English chap called Trigg Harvey, who has lost his luck and wanders around Australia in search of it. Along the way he has to deal with the head of the Japanese Mafia on the Gold Coast.
I must confess that I don't like the title or the cover image very much, but probably that's just me. And goodness knows the world could do with more humorous writers.
Jonathan also has a web site, on which we learn that he has had some success as a short-story writer. But he doesn't make his stories available online. Which is a mistake, I feel. Showing people what you can do is always a good thing. You do get some samples of his cartoons, though.
M.F.W. Curran: The Secret War
The year is 1815, when angels and daemons walked our streets.... So that's straightforward enough. Fantasy. To be precise, historical fantasy, beginning at the battle of Waterloo. And this book will be published on 5 January 2007.
Captain William Saxon and Lieutenant Kieran Harte, survivors of Waterloo, become involved in a secret war between Heaven and Hell. Daemons and angels, vampyres and knights, clash for the future of mankind. And the Vatican, needless to say, has clandestine ambitions. The Vatican always has clandestine ambitions. There must be a book somewhere in which it doesn't, but I've never come across it yet.
Oh, and by the way, this one was fifteen years in the writing. I just thought I'd tell you that to encourage you.
More info on M.F.W. Curran's web site, which also has a blog in which he discusses 'the highs and lows of being published.' Lows? How can there be any lows?
With the possible exception of the middle one, these three books fall into well defined genres, and therefore, in principle, the publisher should be well aware of where to send review copies and so forth.
But there is still a bit of a problem. If MNW was doing one crime novel a month, say, then everyone would get used to the idea. But when MNW does a crime novel in January, two more in October and November, and then no more until the following July, it all gets a bit iffy. Somehow it lacks momentum.
And what of the retailers? They were supportive initially, one hears, but as each new issue comes out they don't know immediately where to put it. They have to take a look at it and, perhaps scratch their heads.
Still, it's all a good idea in principle. And if you can fight your way through the competition, to the point where you actually get offered an MNW contract, I maintain that this is still a better than average way to launch what might turn out to be a career.