Thursday, May 10, 2007

Macmillan New Writing -- an update

Macmillan New Writing (MNW) is a UK imprint designed to give a platform to first-time novelists, writing in any genre. It is now just over a year since the first published books appeared, and therefore it is time perhaps to consider how the imprint is doing.

When first announced, the MNW initiative was warmly welcomed here, though not everywhere. Some book-trade people thought it was just plain silly, or worse, and some writers feared they would be ripped off.

Well, in the event nothing untoward has happened, and on the whole I think Macmillan, booksellers, and writers, have all done rather better from the initiative than might have been expected. MNW themselves have naturally chosen to look on the bright side, and here are a few of the highlights of the past year, as they see them.
  • The German rights to M.F.W. Curran’s The Secret War have just been sold for an advance which would have many established authors breaking out the champagne. It will be published by Lueba later this year.
  • Jonathan Drapes’s Never Admit to Beige was one of the first books to be selected as Book of the Month by the Simon Mayo programme on Radio Five.
  • German rights of Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands and his second novel have already been sold to Dumont.
  • A film option has been sold in Michael Stephen Fuchs’s The Manuscript.
Which isn't bad. Most MNW novels have been reprinted several times, and sales have been measured in thousands rather than hundreds. Submissions continue to arrive, with over 6,000 being received in the first year.

You may recall that the standard MNW contract gave the imprint an option on their published authors' next book, and deals have been done to publish follow-up novels by Michael Stephen Fuchs, Edward Charles, and Brian McGilloway. In fact, Pan have bought world rights to three more books by McGilloway, and it is pretty clear that Pan Macmillan are hoping that he will be the natural successor to Colin Dexter (the onlie begetter of Inspector Morse.)

At least one author, to my knowledge, has had her second book turned down, but that, I fear, was always going to be the inevitable outcome for the majority of those whose first book appeared under the MNW banner. It was always the case that MNW saw this venture as a way of sorting out the top commercial talent. If you don't make the cut it is doubtless bitterly disappointing. But that, I fear, is what happens if you venture into the cutthroat world of trade publishing. You can scarcely say you weren't warned, both here and in a thousand other places.

As for year two of MNW, the firm have issued (to the trade) a paperback containing extracts from the next 12 months' output. This includes some intriguing stuff. Fuchs's second book has a good start; the opening chapter from MNW's first American signing, David Isaak, is also interesting; but the best bet, to me, looks like L.C. Tyler's The Herring Seller's Apprentice.

This features Elsie Thirkettle, the world's rudest literary agent (a title for which there is considerable competition). The book begins with a postscript, which is something of a novelty, and I am much looking forward to the rest of it. So are others, it seems. If you wish, you can pre-order a signed copy from Goldsboro Books.

All in all then, MNW looks increasingly like a very good idea indeed. But then I always said it was.


Anonymous said...

Cheers, Michael (as always).

One very minor correction/addition: the initial contracts gave Macmillan (not necessarily MNW) an option on the next novel. The original idea was always that MNW writers invited to go again would move over to Pan. Along the way, however, a decision was taken to publish second books on the MNW imprint, as well. As it was explained to me, this was to maintain some continuity of editorial relationships. Naturally, I tended to see it as an extension of the apprenticeship period. ;^) In any case, I don't suppose 'Macmillan Pretty New-ish Writing' would have had the same ring . . .

I'm actually only commenting to plug, shamelessly, my new one:

Thanks again for the kind comments.


David Isaak said...

Hi, Michael,

Thanks for the mention. Your original MNW post ("New thinking by publisher -- world grinds to a halt") helped me decide to submit to MNW in the first place. The fact you were a lone voice in favor of the venture, with all the dunces in confederacy against you, made it clear you had to be right.

Thanks also for your fine essay "On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile." I found it gloomy at first (perhaps because it is?), but then liberating, since in essence you are saying that success on the page is our responsibility, but success in the publishing world is largely in the hands of Lady Fortuna. This silly business is nerve-wracking enough without the writer thinking he carries the resposibility for outcomes beyond his control.

Len Tyler said...

Unlike others I do not have a second novel to publicise, but I did want to thank you for your kind words on my first, which are much appreciated. As of last night my still-to-be-published book was ranked 226,973th on Amazon (I am not sure if there actually was anyone in 226,974th place) but after being noticed on such a well-respected blog my ratings can only improve!

From a writer’s viewpoint, I have to agree with you about MNW. It has been a great success. No complaints from me, certainly. I have little experience of other publishers, but it is difficult to imagine getting as much help and support elsewhere. The editorial process has been a dream. I agree too that there are some talented writers amongst those MNW has published so far. Brian McGilloway as the next Colin Dexter? Yes, definitely.

Thanks again and best wishes

Len (alias L C )Tyler

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