Monday, May 08, 2006

Weekend roundup

Sand Storm

Steve Clackson has posted the Prologue and first two chapters of his novel Sand Storm on his blog. So you can have a test drive before you buy.

Match Made in Heaven

Bob Mitchell is attracting attention with his first novel Match Made in Heaven, published in the US by Kensington on 6 May. Kirkus reviews have given it a starred review.

The basic story is: 50-year-old Elliott seems likely to die and prays for an extension of life. And God agrees, provided Elliott can win 18 holes of golf. And it turns out that Elliott has to play the likes of Freud, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Babe Ruth, and all like that.

Clearly not for me but the American market seems to like that kind of thing.

Pocket Book Guide

Running a small press? Or published your own book? Fancy a punt (which means a bet, in England)? If you do, there's an insert which goes in the Radio Times (which is still the quaint old name for the BBC's program schedule for the week, including all the non-BBC TV channels). It's called Pocket Book Guide, and it features synopses (advertorials) of up-and-coming book releases. Though it could just as easily feature previously published books.

Of course you have to pay: a minimum of £649. And you will have to work out how many books you need to sell to cover that cost. But theoretically these little boxes of info reach a very large audience at less than £1 per thousand, based on circulation, or about 30p a thousand based on readers.

Details: email the account manager, Alex Powell: alex.powell at

Fewer than?

Last week I mentioned that Bookscan data reveal that 93% of books sell less than 1,000 copies. And I got ticked off by one commenter, who told me that I should have said 'fewer than'.

Well, nobody ever taught me that as a child, so I went looking. Bill Walsh, author of Lapsing into a Comma, has nothing to say on the matter, so far as I can see, but the third edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage does. The pedants' rule is: you say 'fewer than' when referring to a countable amount, e.g. books, biscuits; and 'less than' when it's a non-countable noun, as in 'less power'.

Well, there you go. A trivial offence, I feel, but I shall try (and probably fail) to remember.

A dirty weekend with Mitzi Szereto

Actually it's a whole week. Mitzi Szereto, the established number-one authority on how to write erotic fiction, is running a week-long residential creative-writing course on the Greek island of Skiathos, 9-15 September 2006. And all for a mere $795. A single room costs extra, oddly enough. Don't quite follow that. Anyway, for further info, go to Zoe Artemis. And try not to get jammed in the doorway.

Fish Publishing

Over at Fish Publishing, the winners of the 2006 One-page Prize have been announced. The winner gets 1,000 euros.

Fish have also launched three new summer competitions. There is a new Short Histories Prize, and also a Historical One-Page Prize. Both of these are being run in conjunction with the Historical Novel Society. Finally, there is a prize being offered in conjunction with the UK's Crime Writers Association, the Fish-Knife Award.

Interestingly, entries to these competitions must be submitted online.

Should you happen to be in Ireland in early July, Fish Publishing has events in the West Cork Literary Festival, 2-7 July. John Banville is among those attending said festival, but I'm sure you won't let that put you off.

Frankfurt in London

The Frankfurt Book Fair, held annually in October, has for many years been a major event in the lives of publishers and literary agents from all over the world. Representatives of all leading firms tend to gather in Frankfurt and sell each other the rights in various books. The fair does not usually have much to offer to authors, and by and large the general public are not admitted.

A similar but slightly less prestigious rights fair, the London Book Fair (LBF), has been held in London in March each year. However, some attendees in 2006 were less than thrilled with the way in which LBF was organised. The proceedings were moved to a new location in East London which was not universally popular.

Well, now the organisers of Frankfurt have announced that they will be running a kind of 'Frankfurt in London', beginning in April 2007 (Monday 16th to Wednesday 18th). Their press release has details. (Link from The name of the event is to be The Book Fair Earl's Court.

The press release points out that this initiative has been launched 'after approaches were made to the Frankfurt Book Fair by UK publishers and agents asking them to support a venue in central London.' The organisers seem committed to making this a regular event.

Quite where this leaves the organisers of LBF is anyone's guess. But as of now, they are still intending to hold an LBF from 5-7 March in 2007.

Galleycat has comments.

Science-fiction awards

Geoff Ryman has won the 2006 Arthur C Clarke award for best novel with Air. He was previously the winner in 1990 for The Child Garden. The prize is a cheque for £2006, appropriately enough. Air has also won the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) Award for Best Novel; and the Sunburst and Tiptree awards too.

Meanwhile the Nebula awards were handed out in Arizona a couple of days ago. Full details and picture courtesy of Locus online. Kelly Link, spoken of here on 24 April 2006, won two prizes, a feat rarely achieved, and Harlan Ellison was hailed as a Grand Master. Harlan was interviewed, 1 May, by the Arizona Republic. This link also from Locus online, which is a rich source of data on science-fiction awards and the genre generally.


Here's a para from Dave Langford's always interesting Ansible, a monthly newsletter relating to science fiction.

Hardcover Theatre of Minneapolis adapts works that are safely in the public domain. Their latest, opening this month, is Edgar Rice Burroughs's A Princess of Mars (1912; book version 1917). But the very rich Burroughs estate has a cunning plan. The character John Carter was trademarked for a 1950s comic, and though this trademark was specific to the comic, the estate wants $1,000. (Minneapolis Star Tribune). Ansible suggests that Hardcover should play safe by changing the hero's name to John PublicDomainYouGreedyBastards.
Now I'm really confused

The Locus page mentioned above has a link to questions that are being asked about the veracity of yet another set of memoirs. This time the book is Jack Williamson's Wonder's Child. The publisher (reportedly) defends the author as follows:
Jack Williamson -- or Hymie Merkowitz, if you must -- may have invented several of the less-important details of his personal life. That's just the inborn nature of fiction writers. They like to embroider on reality. But regardless of whether he ever really held a professorship or not -- and the jury is still out on that charge -- he nonetheless wrote all the marvelous classic stories we've all loved for so long. Unless he didn't. We're looking into that.
And before you get too exercised about this one, just make sure that you notice the date of the report.

WH Smith prospers

Time was, and not so long ago, when W H Smith (perhaps the UK's biggest bookseller) looked to be dying on its feet, and Kate Swann was appointed to sort it out. I was not optimistic about her chances, and said so (25 November 2004). However, the girl done good, it seems. The Retail Bulletin reports that, in terms of online sales at least, W H Smith is doing well. (Link from


Anonymous said...

Upon ordering unstocked books from any WH Smith's branch nowadays, a staff member will navigate to the WH Smith website, and add them to the basket -- exactly as you would if you'd ordered them via the internet from home. They just have a special branch login/password which doesn't require a CC card, and results in all ordered items being delivered to their branch for customer collection.

So, I wonder: Are these 'unstocked book' orders reflected in their latest online sales figures? If so, then I'm not surprised they look so positive.

Maxine Clarke said...

I was taught that "fewer than" rule when starting out as a sub at Nature -- too many years ago to mentoin in polite society such as here.

Have you seen that massive row that has developed between Steve Clarkson and Lee Goldberg (also on Books, Inq.) over those sample chapters? Very stimulating and well worth a read. Peculiarly American?