Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Something New in Publishing Part Two

Is this another publishing first? I’m not sure, to be honest. Is it a record? Most definitely. Next month, we’re publishing a book by Martin Toseland called ‘The Ants are My Friends’, a wonderful collection of linguistic gaffes, including malapropisms, eggcorns and mondegreens, or misheard song lyrics (the title comes from Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowing In The Wind’. Think about it). Martin has put together an iMix of some of the misheard songs in question, including such classics as Madonna’s ‘La Isla Bonita’ ('Last Night I Dreamt of Some Bagels) and Johnny Nash's 'I Can See Clearly Now’ (or rather, ‘I Can See Cleveland Now Lorraine has gone’). So you can buy the book, download the songs from iTunes, and enjoy a true multimedia misheard experience. I wonder if it will catch on with other authors – Martin Amis recommending ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd? JK Rowling choosing the Steve Miller Band’s 'Abracadabra'? Better suggestions please!

Monday, 30 July 2007

Something New in Publishing Part One

Well, it's probably not: not many things in publishing are, but it feels new for now at least. I've bought a book to be published next August called The Bromley Boys by Dave Roberts. It's the story of a football fan recounting the non-league club's worst ever season, back in 1969 when he was 14. Not the most immediate subject for a book, I'll grant you, but in a slightly perverse way, I think it's great. The book came in unsolicited, after the author had seen an interview I did with a writing magazine, so it just goes to show: these things can happen. The unsolicited signing isn't the new thing, btw, rare though that that may seem. No, Dave and I have hit upon the idea of blogging the progress of the book from start to finish. So he'll write as he writes, I'll write as I edit, and as the book gets further down the line, there'll be contributions from copy-editors, designers, publicists and so forth -- the whole book chain in fact -- to give, for the first time, the whole story of a book being put together, from all sides, as it happens. Follow the progress here.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The Nicest Man in Publishing?

Not me. Actually, given the amount of hassling I've been doing this week, certainly not me. I am, instead, referring to the rather wonderful Alexander McCall Smith. I'm publishing a book in September called 'Whatever Happened to Tanganyika?', a charming and quirky book about old place names by first time author Harry Campbell. Harry and I discussed who we might send the book to for an advance quote. I tried Michael Palin -- his people politely declined, though given they replied about an entirely different book, I'm guessing he gets quite a few requests. Harry wrote to Alexander McCall Smith... who wrote straight back and asked to see a copy. He read it, loved it, offered to write a foreword, during which he very generously said, "In this marvellous and intriguing book, Harry Campbell has achieved something that most scholars would give anything to achieve. He has created a whole new discipline - one which we may perhaps call nostalgic geography". He even invited Harry to tea. What a top, top man.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Harry Potter for Grown Ups

Even a jaded old publisher like me can still occasionally get excited about a book being published. At lunchtime I hotfooted it to Books Etc in Hammersmith to snaffle the last copy of The Blair Years in the shop. By the time I got there, there was already a large hole where the book should have been sitting on the shelf -- as luck would have it, though, there was a display copy still sitting in the window.
With my publishing hat on, I think Alistair Campbell has played a blinder in terms of the publicity for the book. Too often with big books, by the time you've read the serialisation in the newspaper, you feel as though you don't need to buy the book. By not selling the rights, Campbell has kept the buzz going to publication day, and also given the impression that he's not in it for the money.
Is that spin? Who knows? I will say this, though, about a supposed master of presentation: what a dull jacket.