Friday, August 24, 2012

Bats and their habits

Bat Conservation News is still emailing me, a missive I read intently, because I have much to learn.

So, while I do not think bats have much to do with nuns or monks (habits), the current Bat Conservation Newsletter is all about the trunks bats pack when they go back to school. I think a vampire bat would pack extra vials in which to store blood sucked but not consumed - a sort of bat tuck shop.

If I was a bat going back to school, I would want to suck up to my teachers. However, my teachers may not wish me to suck up to them, so I would have to clever. Any animal that can hang upside down all day and still manage to fly the right way up has life fairly sussed, or should that be sucked.

Monday, August 06, 2012

6th August 2012

Marion Boyars Publishers is currently receiving email updates from Bat Conservation News. Why this new Inbox event is happening will become apparent very soon, but in the meanwhile I thought I would share some fascinating facts with you.

The newsletter starts in quite a peppy way. It boldly states:

"Sex can be a risky business if you're a fly," carrying a snippet from the New South Wales, Australia, Great Lakes Advocate, an eminent news journal, I am led to believe. It goes on, 'Scientists have demonstrated that a bat callled a Natterer myotis locates and attacks mating flies by listening to the buzzing sound made by the males", when in a state of passion, I assume, brought on by the presence of female flies. The result is a supersised meal for the bats. The mind boggles. And those clever bats simply ignored the shy, chaste flies simply walking on the ceiling in their roosting shed.

(Additonal info from Wikipedia, the publisher's secret friend:
Natterer's bat (Myotis nattereri) is a European bat with pale wings. It has brown fur, also seen on the leg wing membrane, tending to white on its underside. It is found across most of the continent, but is considered scarce.)

Monday, April 09, 2012


It's coming up to the time of year where editors and publishers, production managers and agents, start to pack their bags for the London Book Fair, and we will be exhibiting on the Central Books stand, G920 in EC1. I will be there, Monday to Wednesday, and look forward to meeting people there.

As the book world changes with the challenge of keeping print books as a proper currency along with the digital version, it will be interesting to join in with this very sociable gathering over a few days. And it is nice it is in our home town, London, although I would love to spend more time in New York again.

I have to say that I think the printed book will always exist, and grow in popularity, just as the CD has managed to survive despite I - versions of everything under the sun. And I love seeing new books, and having the time to read some of them too, now I am involved in publishing fewer myself. But the backlist sems to be made of strong stuff and is very much in print and surviving.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Alchemy of E-Books

Et voila! - a little logo I knocked up today to go on the back of printed books from now on – feel free to email me for it. Actually, Photoshop would not do what I wanted it to do, and I had a terrible morning - but after an hour of yoga, (yes, there was a tiny chanting session at the finale), I returned to the chains around my office chair, and resorted to InDesign.

Thankfully, it all fell into place as if the morning’s turmoil had never happened….

We are nearly at the point of going live with 28 e-books through Faber Factory, powered by Constellation, a digital platform developed by our American distributors, Consortium Book Sales in Minneapolis.

It has been an exciting process, and my eyes are now agog at the advantages of e-books - for students, and anyone with a curious mind.

So I will now take complete liberty and digress, using the subject of alchemy, which as we know, is all about turning the most unpromising substances to gold. And that is what e-books seem to do, by making it oh, so much easier to browse through interesting books, and find fascinating nuggets of information.

So, The Alchemy of Paint by Spike Bucklow – an erudite book on the history and origin of paint pigments. And then, one of the bestselling Social Sciences books on the list, Decoding Advertisements by Judith Williamson, which is all about the power that advertisements have over our desires and image of our own bodies, and our appetites, which include fashion, food and sinful things like cigarettes and alcohol. What on earth has alchemy to do with in Judith’s book? Well, she uses it to explain the process of turning unpromising looking granules into edible potato.

In Chapter Six, we have alchemy in the chapter title – then the e-book search function gets you to her paragraph of lengthy persuasion that the potato microcosm – the atom of artificial potato. Is in fact called ‘Wondermash’. We are not shown the fluffy potato with the water added, because that would be prosaic, no, the ad. shows us the magic granule, and the ad. makes us believe we can perform the alchemy to turn it into real mash.

Now, in Spike’s book, you may want to know more about Tyrian purple, which is extracted from Murex snail shells, found in abundance around the Eastern Mediterranean. These are carnivorous snails, or should I call them snarls, as I am now starting to fear the snails in our back garden may add threatening snarls to their slime producing. Spike tells us Tyrian purple was discovered when Hercules was wooing the nymph Tyros. Not getting on well with her one day, Hercules turned to playing with her dog on the beach. He found that the dog had picked up some snails for a tasty (possible meaty scented) snack, and the dog’s nose had gone purple. Tyros picked up the snail, as maidens interested in fashion are wont to do, and pleaded with Hercules to dye some material purple for her, which of course, he promptly did by crushing the shells of the Murex snail, and Bob’s your uncle, Hercules and Tyros became romantically inclined. In the e-book, in Chapter Six, next to the word snail is a small superscript 5, which if you click on it, takes you to the end notes of the chapter, and references that will lead you to more discoveries about snails and pigments. No arduous turning of pages, or making of notes – it is all there at a click of the mouse, or flick of a finger.

So I think e-books and alchemy have earned their place in the world, indeed they are making more alchemy possible.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A snippet from Publishers Weekly online caught my eye -

Authors on the Air February 2, 2012: Mei-Ling Hopgood, David Agus
Mei-Ling Hopgood, author of How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (Algonquin Books, 978-1565129580)

When we published Gerard Beirne's novel, which I thought was full of fairly hard characters from real life - we were criticized for using the word 'eskimo' rather than Inuit. The Inuit in the Net had no 'ring' to it, while The Eskimo in the Net conjured up an image of a frozen body, with icy whiskers, and a shiny head of black hair, so we stuck to our guns. And here we are a few years later, and Eskimos are OK. So that is one in the eye for the politically correct, I guess. If all publishers edited out every nuance in language, we'd have a rather depleted vocabulary to work with.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Year pick me up

Last night I went to a talk given by Salley Vickers, and she read a few lines from a short story, about taking a bus to from Penzance to St Ives to see the Barbara Hepworth exhibition. She and her friend were alarmed at the speed the driver went at and arrived in a quivering state. She used this experience in a short story, but had a lone man take the bus and use the turns of the run away bus to lurch towards the body of a girl seated next to him, who then accepted a drink from him at his hotel - at which point Salley Vickers stopped her reading.

This brought back good memories of Thessaloniki, Greece. I was on a mission to introduce Greek writers to UK publishers, which resulted in our publishing Vangelis Hatzyiannidis' books, Stolen Time and Four Walls. We had a spare hour between seminars and meeetings so I went into the hotel spa pool for a swim in salt water (it was a tiny pool but the spa was warm, the water salty and very good for mind and soul). I emerged, and a well known female scout invited me to the top floor panoramic bar for a drink. We took our seats at a table with bar stools, and were surrounded on four sides by glass, a view of the port and city, and then there was an almighty thunderstorm with lightning. The skies went dark, then lit up, and opened with torrents of rain. Next, a waiter came over with two tall glasses of white wine, which we had not ordered, and a man on the other side of the bar nodded at us. We could not work out which of us he had decided to honour with a free drink... A highlight, so to speak, of our trip, and a definite pick me up.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I've been wondering about the self-publishing route, as this weekend the press (Guardian Money section, for one) has had a few stories of individual success stories. If you can publish directly to Kindle, do you feel like an author? Having readers definitely would bring a warm glow, and if you find that you are earning directly from your work, that would feel good.

But what happened to that warm glow of having your finished book in your hands? And what of the publisher's knowledge of how to gain publicity, and how do literary festivals and radio programmes contact the author if they do not have a publisher's office ready and waiting? I think if I was a prospective author, I'd want both - and so I would have to commit some of those Kindle earnings to having my work put in print.

All in all, very interesting times. And I think that people will be encouraged to write more, not less, now that these new routes to readers, let alone markets, are opening up.