Friday, November 03, 2006

So, fiction is king in the Guardian First Book Award short list - really good news. I really, really hope that Harbor by Lorraine Adams wins - I rate it as the best book I have read this year. It's about an Algerian stowaway who swims to the shore in Boston harbor, and then follows his life and that of his fellow Algerian room mates as they try to survive in the USA. Some of the things they try are bizarre and comic, like writing Algerian proverbs on coffee cups and selling coffee in the streets. Disaster when a wind blows up and they all disappear.

Portobello were brave because -

they kept the US/Canadian spelling of Harbor on the cover
they used a very minimal design cover - just suggestive of the book's content
they started with a £7.99 paperback

I hope this means

lots of people will buy the book as it is only £7.99
other publishers can do artistic covers they like rather than garish ones they feel forced to adopt
spelling and conventions which are seen as perfectly OK in the movie world can sometimes be adhered to in books

We have a transatlantic policy here. If an author is American, we use American spellings, and on our title page we print
NEW YORK . LONDON instead of LONDON . NEW YORK - this kind of makes the nationality of the author something of note, we feel.

But what do you do when an author has an Irish and a US passport, as Maureen Freely does? As she lives in the UK, we changed her American spellings of math, center, color etc to the English ones. But why should it matter so much in books - is it because you read the words rather than hear them?

1 comment:

booksellercrow said...

Portobello were also brave because the book was 18 months old in America when they published it in Britain. Indeed some of us had been importing the US paperback for 6 months or so.

Well done them.