Friday, June 24, 2005


Here are a few bits and pieces that have accumulated during the week.

For those who are interested in reading more about what the Archbishop of Canterbury had to say, Dylan Kinnett has a longish comment on his No Categories blog. Yes, I probably was a bit quick to criticise, as Dylan says, but I do think the Archbishop has enough to deal with without antagonising the media as well.

Cathy Wald, author of The Resilient Writer, was interviewed on the Leonard Lopate (radio) Show on 17 June. You can, if you wish, download an MP3 recording of this conversation, which included the novelist Edmund White.

The recording runs for about 16 minutes. If you have broadband this should be no problem, but at 6.3 MB it will take a while to download on steam radio so to speak. The conversation will tell you nothing startlingly new, but it is, I believe, what is known as a podcast, so you will be able to boast to your friends about being at the absolute cutting edge of technology. Or some such.

For those who care, and I hope I am not being too ungracious when I say that I am not one of them, there was a further instalment this week of the Aultbea publishing saga, about which I have already written twice, on 7 February and 18 February. When I say another instalment, what I mean is that the firm have issued another press release, which has been reprinted without any serious questioning by another newspaper, this time the Independent.

I repeat -- if Aultbea and their young authors can make any serious money or build a reputation out of all this, then good luck to them. But the newspaper stories about Aultbea and their various young authors are quite remarkable for a complete absence of verifiable facts. This latest one refers (again) to 'overseas print runs' (whatever they are) and translation deals (which languages, and which firms? No one says.). Dragon Tamers is referred to, on the basis of no information whatever, as an 'international bestseller'. What does that mean? Amazon sold three copies in the Isle of Man?

'Talks on a Hollywood film are in the pipeline,' we are told. But have they even sold an option? To whom? Or are these 'talks' just the publisher chatting to his wife about it over breakfast?

This is the second time that the Independent's Scottish correspondent, Paul Kelbie, has dealt with this matter, and he hasn't added any more facts than he had the first time.

Oh, I beg Kelbie's pardon. First time around, 18 February, Kelbie quoted the publisher as being confident that 'more than one million copies of the book will be sold worldwide before the end of the year.' Now, 21 June, the publisher is predicting that 'by the end of the year the number of copies sold will be well into six figures.'

I remain sceptical. And I am not the only one. See what the Alien Online has to say about it (both on 21 June, and in his February post, which he links to).

Now if you want to read an article which actually contains some useful information, nip over to the (US) Book Standard and read what the publisher Doug Seibold has to say about trade paperbacks. If you were exceptionally fussy you might say that the article is just a tad short on hard numbers. But hey -- let us not complain about finding, at last, a piece of writing which, if printed out, you could do more with than just wipe your bum.


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

Is The Dragon Tamer actually OUT anywhere in print? At crazybooks we tend to keep an eye (well, 2) on the young adults/children's fantasy side of things, and I have seen hide nor hair of such a book in the last 6 months.

Oh, and here is a blog I think you would like. I look illiterate next to this london dweller!

Anonymous said...

One more to the GOB. The case of Emma Marie Urquhart and Dragon Tamers really is most intriguing.

Having trawled the Web to try to find out what is really going on, I too have concluded that Aultbea have orchestrated the whole affair. There is, as the GOB says, no evidence that any of the publisher’s assertions have ever been checked.

Let’s take the claim that there is likely to be a Hollywood film (or movie, if you prefer) of young Emma’s superseller. Well, there is no evidence that Hollywood are remotely interested. And the fact that the book is not even available on (i.e. American Amazon, where the big bucks are made) strongly suggests that they never will be. Any children’s book which, in the UK alone, sells 50,000 in six weeks, will be available on before you can say Harry Potter.

And here’s a thing. As the GOB says, Emma’s assertion that she found her publisher on the Internet seems improbable, since Aultbea isn’t really a book publisher to trade at all, but a very specialised magazine publisher. Ah, but Aultbea is based in Inverness, and so is the precocious Emma . . .

I could say more, but will leave it to the GOB, who I trust will not let this one go. It’s a story which has a lot to tell us about today’s world in general, and about publishing in particular. You’ve got your teeth into this one, GOB, you old bulldog. Keep them there.

Anonymous said...

How frightening. I see some German magazine screaming "Dragon Tamers einen Überraschungserfolg gelandet," which I'm sure is good, and young Emma is in the Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia with the Greats of literature:

"Emma Maree Urquhart, born 1991, from Inverness is an author. At the age of 13, her first published book, Dragon Tamers, achieved success selling the entire first print run of 50,000 copies in six weeks."

Anonymous said...

Sorry to comment twice on the same topic, but I've found out a little more about Dragon Tamers, and want to make it known.

I decided I wouldn't mind a look at the thing myself, but have established that all the libraries in the London boroughs of Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham (serving a total population of some 370,000) have just one copy between them.

I've had a look at ebay UK, and found that 10 copies have been available for a total of 45 days. In that time, there have been six bids, five of them for a signed and dated first edition, for which the best offer so far is £4.20.

One of the volumes on offer carries a description which merits close reading:

This is a very rare first edition/first print run paperback copy in immaculate condition, unread with an unbroken spine. First published in 2004 and printed by Aultbea publishing company of Inverness.

Only 1000 of these have been printed and they are becoming increasingly difficult to find, especially unsigned. Talks are currently taking place in the US to make a movie of this book which will only cause the book to appreciate in value.

This book is the one with the errors - even on the back cover.

Very Collectable item - an investment.

Happy bidding.

The seller wants £40, but might take £25. No one has bid for it in four days.

Anonymous said...

So if this is just a piece of engineering by an inexperienced publisher, will his tales be seen by the industry as a piece of incredible chutzbah (he does have people talking) or has he lost his credibility in one enormous puff of smoke?