Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The way the world turns

If you live in London, there's an open literary festival due in a couple of weeks' time. This is organised by a 'loose coalition of London literary folk'. And it looks as if you can still join in as a participant, if you've a mind to.

Marti Lawrence alerts me to an article about how painful and difficult it is to run a small, independent bookshop. The context is California, but the problems are universal.

David Barringer seems to me to be doing quite a lot of things right. He belongs to a small co-operative of writers who publish work under the name So New Publishing. They describe themselves as:

an ultra-micro-mini press based in Eugene, OR. What does ultra-micro-mini mean? It means that our staff consists of a few very dedicated people and a few volunteers now and then -- people who make books because they love making books. Our warehouse is a spare bedroom. Our shipping department is a stack of envelopes and a PO box. We have day jobs.

Fair enough. So Mr Barringer has found a way into print.

Secondly, he has an unusual way of marketing his new novel (American Home Life). Go to his web site and you find that potential purchasers of the book can get a signed copy, complete with a choice of gifts, direct from the author.

Third, when writing to people to publish his book, Mr Barringer encloses details of three calls for submissions. He invites people to make contributions to various book projects and litmags that he is associated with. These are: a book called The Bush Years; a litmag called Opium; and Code Green, a collection about eating sensibly and the effect it has on the eater and others.

Next Stop Hollywood is a collection of short stories which were specifically written with a view to being suitable as adaptations for the big screen. On the whole I think I would prefer stories to be written primarily with a view to working as stories on the printed page. However, when you consider what godawful stories are produced by the tens of thousands of MFA students in this world, perhaps something written with overtly commercial intent, albeit in another medium, is a better bet.

Steve Tiano is a book designer who writes a blog about the finer points, and the trials and tribulations, of his calling. Well worth a look. Steve also has a web site, on which he publicises his various designs.

Good book design is, as ofttimes stated here, a matter of critical importance, frequently underestimated.

I keep coming across new, and small, UK independent publishers. Here are a couple more.

Legend Press thinks it has the youngest staff of any UK publisher, and I am not in a position to disagree. The Press specialises in high quality, contemporary work, both lit'ry and commercial. They also do a daily blog on MySpace. And they're prepared to consider submissions.

Then there's a firm called Paperbooks, which is located in Wendens Ambo, Essex. Now you really couldn't make that up, could you? Not even if you were Margery Allingham. They also have an interesting list, and, naturally, a blog. Also open to submissions.


Anonymous said...

On line ordering and discounting will remain one of the banes of the independent store, particularly when the cost of gasoline is compared to shipping--while ideal to hope customers will combine a trip for the cabbage with a stop at the book store, many no doubt elect to just have their reading choice dropped off at their doorstep.

Anonymous said...

We run a small independent bookshop and it's neither painful nor difficult. We learned to stop worrying about amazon and supermarkets ages ago because we opened when they had already become established players in the market. We do something different, we know our customers and we're nice to them and they're nice to us back. It's not rocket science.

And reading the article, the California couple didn't seem to find it painful and difficult either. In fact they were pretty contented if you ask me. Ok, so there's not much money in it but I've no intention of buying a Merc any time soon so it doesn't really matter. Being your own boss and making your own decisions more than makes up for not being able to afford a house in Chelsea.

And it really doesn't help if you keep calling the indie trade by names it is not. Don't assume that a few loud-mouthed whingers represent all of us and be careful with your assumptions because you do damage to something that you maybe, secretly quite like.

We don't want people's sympathy 'because it's so hard being a virtuous indie' we want their respect because we're good at what we do and better than the other guy.

Anonymous said...

Mmm. Blogger didn't link to our website