Thursday, 17 February 2011

Submission 17th February 2011.

It never ceases to amaze me, the way some inexperienced authors think the world works according to their own skewed vision of it.

Case in point. We had a submission query in yesterday, note I said query, and not an actual submission itself.

The entire e-mail was basically three sentences (albeit one of them was quite long and included a web address).

Sentence 1. I’ve written a science fiction book, and released it on ... its fully edited and I have a cover, and you can find it on such and such a site.

Sentence 2. I’ve picked your company to publish it.

Sentence 3. I want a non-exclusive contract and royalties of x.

There was then quite a curt sign off.

That was it, the whole shebang.

I have no idea whether the guy was 8, 18 or 80, although I suspect the middle figure is nearer the mark. My gut reaction, and my partner’s gut reaction was to tell him to “go forth and whistle”, but luckily I refrained from doing that, and since it was the early hours of the morning over in New Zealand, I had the opportunity to react before she did.

Out of sheer curiosity I clicked on the link for the book, only to be dumped onto the site’s home page rather than the book page it purported to link too. It took a couple of minutes digging to find out why this self-publishing site didn’t want to show me the book. Apparently the author had flagged it as age restricted due to the level of violence in it, and the only way I could look at the book was to register and join the site – not something I was prepared to do.

By now, I’d calmed down a little so my reply was polite, informing him of my inability to see his book, and if he was truly interested then he should submit it. Secondly, I pointed out, politely, we would under no circumstances sign a non-exclusive contract for e-book rights. In fact I don’t know a single publisher who would, except for specific geographic rights that is – certainly not have two versions of the same book, with the same cover competing against each other. There is a world of difference between publishing rights, and copyright.

Finally I pointed out his exorbitant and pre-emptory demand for such a high royalty right was totally out of the question.

That e-mail elicited a nice exit e-mail, thanking me for answering so promptly and telling me “we weren’t for him.”

I bit my tongue... hard! It’s a good job I don’t swear very often. I felt like it several times.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Borders 14th January 2010

I see, with some sadness, today, that The Wall Street Journal is reporting the impending demise of the Borders Books chain. They are about to, indeed by the time you read this, may well have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to provide them with protection while they try to wind up the business as smoothly as possible.

Borders, as much as Barnes and Noble, are almost an institution for the book buying portion of the American public, but have been hit by a double whammy. Firstly the inexorable rise and rise of Amazon and the web sales companies, and secondly by the more recent rise of the e-book readers. Barnes and Noble, may have been able to beat off both challenges, certainly the B&N web presence is slicker and of course they have the Nook, the e-book reader they are hoping to challenge Amazon’s Kindle with.

Over here, the rise of the supermarket book shelves, coupled with the influence of the Net and the e-book reader are taking their toll. WH Smith are probably safer than companies like Waterstones, but the loss of Borders, rumoured for so long, must be sending shockwaves through the retail sectors worldwide.

These stores are a national institution, they’re too important to be allowed to fail. No?

If you want to try that line, tell it to the staff of Woolworths.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Six Degrees of Separation 07th February 2011

You are probably already aware of the modern myth that no one person is more than six casual links away from any other person. It’s an interesting theory which is difficult to prove either way. It just turned up an amazing circular connection though, that circumnavigated the globe in a totally casual manner.

My business partner down in Christchurch, New Zealand, was being interviewed on television about her books, one Monday late last year. Of course, as would we all, including us men, she wanted to look her best so booked a rush appointment with a hairdresser beforehand. The hairdresser, making conversation asked what the rush was about, and on finding out it was about her writing and publishing books bemoaned the fate of a friend of hers who hadn’t been able to find a publisher for her book.

Sensing this was at least worth looking at, the other half of the company handed her business card to the hairdresser to pass onto her friend. Lo and behold a couple of weeks later the author submitted her book to us – from England where she lives. So that’s half way round the world – and nothing much in this day and age. She read through the manuscript and didn’t reject it, so I had a good look too and we decided to offer a contract last month, which was duly accepted. (Ed: They both have to agree it’s worth publishing – one no is enough to reject).

The first step after the contract is to start work on the production of the artwork for the cover, and in this case, as in many others, this is the first direct contact the author has with me. I had paid no attention to her contact details until it came time to e-mail her, and noticed where she lived, a town some fifty odd miles from me, but importantly, a town where I used to work full time. Several conversations later, coincidence was stretched to the limit. Not only did she know the company, which is not particularly surprising seeing as they’d been there for over a hundred years, and their premises were the tallest in that part of town. (Ed- Don’t remind him about those endless flights of stairs!). In fact, going back some thirty years, a few years before my involvement with the company, she’d actually dated one of my bosses – and I shared an office with the woman he eventually married!

So someone who was literally only one degree of separation from me, is now being published by us, and the contact was made half way around the world by someone different.

If you put that kind of thing in the plot of a novel, it’d probably be rejected as being beyond suspension of disbelief.

Truth is truly stranger...

By the way, this same boss, and his brother, went to school with Tony Blair, who of course got on famously with a certain Mr Clinton. So, I suppose it would be fair to say, there’s only three degrees of separation, between me and a certain infamous cigar.

Ah, well. Good job I don’t smoke... Monica.