Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Notes and jottings

The misery continues. In last week's UK paperback bestseller list, 5 out of the top 10 were memoirs which sound to be about as much fun as a bad dose of flu. Viz the summaries:

  • Four sister's experiences of a brutal East End childhood.
  • Childood abuse that resulted in a teenage pregnancy.
  • Memoir from novelist who grew up in poverty with alcoholic parents.
  • Story of childhood abuse by deaf and partially blind parents.
  • Man who killed his abusive stepfather suffers further in prison.


There is a school of thought which holds that the new social-networking web sites present a considerable opportunity for book marketers and publishers. Publishers Weekly has a discussion of same, and I suppose you owe it to yourself (whatever your interest in books) to struggle through it.

As you will have gathered from the tone of the above paragraph, I find myself profoundly indifferent to all this. However -- underline however -- you should not let my world-weariness influence your own assessment of these places. Web sites such as Shelfari, Goodreads, and LibraryThing all attract visitors who are mad keen on books, and who also handle the net as easily as putting butter on bread. People of my generation just don't find it so instinctive, and I for one tend to find it more trouble than it's worth.

What is slightly depressing for publishers and authors to contemplate -- and I can see no way round it -- is that here we have yet further proof that book marketing on Web 2.0 is going to be just as fiddly, time-consuming, and generally tiresome as every other aspect of writing and publishing. You may have thought that, as technology kicked in, everything would get simpler and easier. Ha! Fat chance. It seems to be getting more and more one-to-one and bespoke, rather than one size fits all.

Shelfari, by the way, has just developed a new application for Facebook members which is

designed to let them easily rate, review and share their books with Facebook friends and connect with one another via their love of literature. Unlike the majority of Facebook book applications that were built by independent software developers as siloed communities, the Shelfari Facebook application connects with the vibrant community of and enables users to connect their book activity within Facebook to the deep book-centered world on

And all like that. Wow, eh?


If you want to know what it is like to undertake work experience at a small UK publisher, Marianne at Tonto Press can help you.


Oh what joy. Focus groups -- much relied on by Noo Labour -- are coming to publishing. Story in The New Yorker. (Link from I see, by the way, that The New Yorker, home of a thousand fact-checkers and nit-pickers, spells focuses as focusses. I know it's one of those cases where you take your pick, but that's never looked right to me.


The first thing I do, on hearing of a self-publishing services provider, is see what Mark Levine has to say about it. In the case of Cold Tree Press, he lists it in the 'outstanding' category. Which is a good start.

Cold Tree have just announced an enhanced set of services and revised pricing plans. They declare themselves to be looking for 'serious authors' and aim to produce books of an exceptionally high standard, in terms of production quality. They are no doubt assisted in this by the fact that Peter Honsberger, the boss man, is an award-winning graphic designer.

The firm has been going for six years and has 99 books listed on Amazon. I wonder whether they ever decline to publish, even if the authors do have the money.


As every newspaper in the world is probably reporting, Sebastian Faulks is writing the new James Bond. Hey, what's wrong with the old one? Fleming, like Edgar Wallace, was one hell of a writer, and a neophyte thriller writer would be a lot better off studying him than reading the bloated books produced by many of today's bestsellers.


Andrew W.M. Beierle guest-blogs at Bookseller Chic. Subject: the difficulties of writing about a character with two heads. It can't be easy.


If you're in Birmingham, England, on Tuesday 26 July, 6 p.m., Mick Scully is reading from his 'deviant noir' debut, Little Moscow -- subversive and witty crime stories set in and around Birmingham's gay village. Venue: Prowler Birmingham, 29-30 Stephenson St, Birmingham, B2 4BH. More info at Tindal Street.


Fitzroy Cyclonic said...

Ah, always enjoy reading the stuff that appears here and today it provided a much-needed balm to a soul that had been irritated by all the guff written about Ian Fleming in the wake of the announcement that S Faulks has written a new Bond book.

The Guardian today refered to Bond's caddishness, which drew a perplexed profanity from my otherwise chaste mouth.

More importantly Fleming was capable of really exciting writing, a fact that is continually neglected by people who see fit to comment on the the novels - the build up to the card game and the game itself in Moonraker is utterly marvellous.

It's a tough thing to do, and he did it better than many.

And was Colonel Sun by K Amis really as badly received as all that? Being a young'un I have no memory of when it came out, but although it may lack the sinister atmosphere that Fleming was able to create, I always thought it was quite good. Or were the adverse reviews from people who didn't like the idea of Bond rather than just not liking Amis's book?

Another overlong comment from,

Fitz Psyche

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I continue to be puzzled by Mr. Levine's choice of these highly priced houses who tout themselves as interested only in "serious writers" (a rather patronizing sales pitch) and then charge thousands for the honor of being “chosen” (because “we care about our authors”).

I guess I'm not "serious" enough to shell out the kind of money they want.

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Anonymous said...

I wonder if the UK is ahead of the trend or behind when it comes to publishing memoirs. Agents tell me that the memoir train has already left the station in the U.S. These things tend to run in cycles so I don't know if we are a head of the game or playing catch-up again.

Anonymous said...

Ah, sweet misery of life...Guidelines of some U.S. publishers and agents already specify that they won't consider these memoirs.

hotels in Venice said...

haha good post. I enjoyed it. You are right. reading memories doesn't sound fun at all. I doubt people are so... intelligent and... boring to really put these books in top 10. It looks like big hypocrisy to me.

birmingham hotel said...

Great post. I think you are completely right.

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