Thursday, 2 October 2008

Sort of Super Thursday

Apparently, today is Super Thursday, with over 800 titles being released today, each hoping to find a spot in the Christmas top ten. Even with my bad maths, I can see that's 790 books that are going to be disappointed. And quite how your average bookseller is going to find space for so many new titles in one go, God only knows.

Anyway, last night was our annual Portico party, so I must confess to feeling a little less than super. It was a very nice occasion, as these things always are when there are lots of authors involved. The biggest difficulty as a publisher was trying to talk to everyone. That and making a speech, which is not my favourite activity in the world. For what it's worth, here is an edited version of what I had to say.

"Firstly, I’d like to say thank you all for coming to celebrate the last twelve months of life at Portico – and to say how nice it is to see so many faces I’ve worked with all in one room at the same time. There’s something rather decadent about a drinks party in the midst of the worst economic crisis for 60 years and I’m pleased to say there’s plenty more. As Alan Partridge once so rightly said, Titanic! Titanic! What everyone forgets is that there were 2000 miles of very pleasant sailing before it hit the iceberg.
It is currently all the rage to set up a quirky non-fiction imprint and I’m always happy to pioneer a trend. But Portico was there first, and in my not remotely biased opinion, is still the best. In reviews from just the last fortnight, we’ve had one fantastic, two brilliants and three hilariouses, And with many more wonderful books to be published in the coming weeks, we’re in a strong position for the Christmas season ahead.
So what is Portico Books about? If one of the big Anova successes for the year is the TV tie-in to Britain from Above, then Portico is perhaps best described as looking at the world with a sideways glance - looking at things differently, quizzically and satirically.
One of the strengths of Portico lies in its variety. Over the last year, I’ve been to the East End of London, to my first ever book launch come darts tournament. I’ve been to the Argentinian Embassy, to watch the world’s leading Tango dancers strut their two feet, quite literally two feet in front of me. I’ve been to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where I somehow found myself on a panel of the great and the good, discussing the future of publishing. I’ve been to the South of France, to see for myself a working organic and biodynamic vineyard in action. I’ve been to a cooking masterclass in Notting Hill to discover why watermelon and feta cheese are unlikely but delicious bedfellows. And had I not given up free tickets to some head office buyer who then couldn’t be arsed to turn up, I’d have watched Have I Got News For You being filmed as well.
But don’t just take my word for the quality of the list. Take the words of Adrian Chiles, Boris Johnson, Paul Merton, Emma Thompson, Indra Sinha, Harry Pearson, John O’Farrell, Alan Titchmarsh, David Crystal and many others who have been kind enough to endorse the books we have published this year. Take the words of the newspapers and magazines who have given us so many glowing reviews, some of which you can see on the projection in the corner. The Portico class of 2008 is a classy list, and each and every book deserves a place on any discerning bookshelf.
I’d like to thank you the authors on the Portico list – those who have already been published, and those who we are publishing in the years to come. What makes publishing so enjoyable is the opportunity to work with rare and talented individuals, and at Portico, we are fortunate to work with a collection of such writers – each experts in their own fields, who write with wit, warmth and insight. It’s a great honour to be given someone’s work to publish, and we remain hugely touched that you have entrusted your writing with us.
Your spark of creativity and gift for good writing is what all publishing is based on – without it, agents wouldn’t have books to agent, editors wouldn’t have any books to edit, and sales wouldn’t have books to sell. I’d like to finish with a favourite joke of mine, from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, ‘Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken.’ And the doctor says, ‘Well, why don’t you turn him in?’ And the guy says, ‘I would, but I need the eggs.’ And so what I’d like to say to all the authors in the room, please keep writing, because, well, the rest of us need the eggs."

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