Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I thought I would post a little about this company, now that we have reached the middle of the year.

Last year, when Borders and Books Etc in the UK shut up shop, I felt that a small independent press would not be able to hold its own, and gain fiction orders on new books, at the one brilliant remaining chain, Waterstone's.

So we stopped doing new books, and 38 titles were chosen by Penguin UK. I prepared to see this list slow down.

But sales all the way through this year have been very high. It's not just amazon, we have had great orders from Urban Outfitters, HMV and many books are on courses and selling well. We have reprinted at least 6 titles, including Spike Bucklow's The Alchemy of Paint, which is selling in the Uffizi Gallery Florence and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art - all over the world.

I am doing consultancy for a Cambridge publisher, and enjoying less pressure and fewer bills. I have done yoga and pilates, and tennis, and this year has just been more relaxed. But Marion Boyars Publishers appears to be a survivor, in every sense. So if you see me at awards and book events, don't be surprised - any more than I am, anyway!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Election 2010

We had an author standing for election, in Hampstead & Kilburn. Tamsin Omond stood as an independent candidate - her main issues were green politics, climate change and law and order. Well, she polled 132 votes - and Glenda Jackson held the seat for Labour. Apparently Glenda appeared only 6 times last year to vote and is one of the most apathetic MP's. Tamsin in only 25 and I hope she will continue her energetic campaigns on climate change, green issues, gay rights and so much more. If I ever feel a little down, I just think about how much Tamsin has achieved in the two years since she left university. A low poll in a British election has no bearing on her future as a political force for the good.

At home, Richmond took the lead from the Liberal Democrats. The young professional Tory vote counted. Maybe we should move to Brighton...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rosy Barnes - the scrummiest script writer

Great news - Rosy Barnes, the author of SADOMASOCHISM FOR ACCOUNTANTS which we published last year at a launch complete with bowler hatted male strippers and whips, in a London club, (OK - a cafe with literary leanings which may prefer to remain anonymous right now) has been chosen to work up her book into a film script as part of the only programme in the UK which exists to nurture the talents of female script writers.

We all know how hard it is to break into the film industry, and it seems that there are very few female script writers - plenty of actors and plenty of female parts (no double entendre intended). But only 12 per cent of movies have women writers.

She Writes 2010 have chosen ten writers who will benefit from a residential retreat, attend film workshops, and work with professionals associated with the Birds Eye View Film Festival.

Rosy Barnes is delighted:

'This is my dream opportunity. I want to develop insightful wicked comedy, with strong, funny, different women characters that make people snort out loud in public places. What Birds Eye View is doing in terms of encouraging women's viewpoints and characters is just the sort of thing I want to be part of.'

For more information, go to:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Charlie Gillet

I'm working away - all kinds of things including preparing copy for the English Pen Writers in Translation 5 year celebratory compilation (we were lucky enough to have two books and authors supported by the programme in the past few years - TOUBA AND THE MEANING OF NIGHT by Shahrnush Parsipur, and last year, SEE HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU by Luis Leante).

But today started with the very sad news that Charlie Gillet has passed away. I met Charlie when a group of us used to go to African concerts all over London, and one Keith Jeffries imported vinyl records and ran a very small business - (I think he is now deputy governor of the Bank of Botswana). So Charlie was interested in which musicians Keith had found and we all had a few beers together.

All the way through having children - those years when going out on a Saturday is all but impossible - we listened to Charlie on GLR 94.9. I took Samuel Charters on to his programme when we published THE DAY IS SO LONG & THE WAGES SO SMALL. I was incredibly sad when ill health meant that Charlie stopped his programme on Saturday evenings, although by then going out was again the norm, staying in with Charlie was always a good option.

So, listen in to Robert Elms on 94.9 as he is doing a tribute to Charlie. And hope his programmes have been recorded and will pop up on the schedules for ever more.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


At lunch time today, an email came in from a consultancy who offer to set you a questionnaire for personnel so you can judge their mood swings and ability to cope under pressure.

Well, I assessed my morning's work which was paying royalties, and decided that the normal annoyances of finding envelopes, statements, checking some addresses on the web and countless other small tasks was bound to make one slightly grumpy. But I was coping OK.

Then - the phone rings and a lovely independent bookshop calls to tell me they are selling books for an event that involves one of our authors. They asked for 5 copies on sale or return, which I said fine to. But they did not want to order them because they wanted to return them the very next day - and I apologised but said I was not going to manage to deliver and then return to the shop to collect unsold books the next day - I mean two hours journey twice over for a possible profit of a tenner? And guess what - the bookseller just put the phone down on me!

Golly. I am so glad that lovely words like golly still exist.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Sustainable Energy – without the hot air Professor David Mackay

OK – two things are definite – we all want our time on this planet to be worthwhile. And we kind of want to have a good conscience about not using up too many of the world’s resources. So a book I am reading is Professor David MacKay’s top selling energy book Sustainable Energy – without the hot air.

But – he is Professor of Physics at Cambridge and so, although I did an O Level in Physics a long time ago, I have to concentrate hard to get his arguments. They involve equations.

I recall my Physics teacher (who played the banjo – remorselessly, and we had to listen to him) telling us that the bicycle was the most inefficient machine known to man.

So how does David MacKay explain the efficiencies of bicycles, which he rates higher than cars?

What is the energy consumption of a bicycle in kWh per 100 km? That’s a long way, to me - I am no Lance Armstrong, but theoretically I am still very interested.

In these equations, Professor MacKay explains, for a car, “4” is used to stand for engine efficiency, p the density of air, d is distance, A is the area of the front of the car, the area A=cdAcar is the effective front area of a car and v is its speed.

Anyway, using lots of equations, but primarily dividing the energy-per-distance of a car by the energy-per-distance of a bike, a cyclist going at 21 km/h consumes 3% of the energy per kilometre of the lone driver on a motorway, about 2.4 kWh per 100 km. So the fuel efficiency (your pumping legs) is 30 times better than a cars. David MacKay thinks the area A of a bike is 4 times less than that of a car, as you can fit 4 bikes in the space of one car on a road. You can, but hardly any cyclists ride side by side as it is too dangerous to slow down the cars behind. But I do think 4 cyclists can easily squeeze up past your car waiting at traffic lights, so I will allow him the dividing by 4. He calls these equations a fun means of scaling the efficiencies of bikes and cars. I think they are primarily about making people feel good about using their bikes rather than cars.

If you want to follow all of the equations, I suggest you get a copy of the book – which is packed full of other equations. What I really like about science is that it can prove beyond doubt what your common sense tells you is right and thus provide fuel to combat human nature. Yes, his book aids will power!

Friday, February 05, 2010

the present

Well, the most surprising thing to blog about this year, is how strong book sales are from this list, and how enjoyable it is to plan a future mainly in the back shelves of bookshops and on online book selling sites.

So that's my news! My lesson for 2010 is that sometimes in life it's best to do less.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

Hope the hangovers are lifting now as the sun sets in London - we had a fine New Year with fellow publishing folk at the pub of the year 2009 in Putney, the Bricklayer's Arms. Only draw back was the young ladies who could not hold their drink so les toilettes were not the best - last time we were there, a group of stags were wearing cloth hats which was far a more civilised crowd to have sharing your space in a pub. Stags of the pre marital variety rather than the Richmond Park variety, I hasten to say, although it would have been fun to see animals propping up the bar. One of the best books I did not publish was about a man who fell in love with an elk when his marriage fell apart - yes, a novel from Scandinavia...but I digress. Now someone will tell me it would have been a best seller.

So, what a year in publishing it's been. Amazon and The Book Depository race ahead and poor old Borders and Books Etc is no more. Farewell, lovely buyers at Borders, and I hope the New Year brings new opportunities.

For myself, it'll be a mix of running Marion Boyars while the Penguin rights transfer continues, some literary agenting for a very exciting project - more soon when a You Tube clip is ready, and publishing consultancy. And I hope to bring you cheer as you contemplate what the 20 ten - no, let's stick to two thousand ands or else we'll have 20 eleven, 20 twelve ad ininitatum - what 2010 will bring.