Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Catheryn here. It's been a while since I blogged - my excuses are a flying visit to New York and Boston for our sales conference with Consortium, and a battle with my gall bladder, although in early January I have surgery after a four month wait. Yippee! I could write a book on the NHS, an institution starved of resources which we all rely on.

So, here is a little record of the Christmas messages which have pleased us the most. Firstly, a lovely embossed Moleskin notebook from the Hay Festival. The Hay Festival has been key in the making of our authors reputations - first, they agreed to take Elif Shafak when no one knew who she was, and she stunned an audience of 500 and has never looked back. Then Maureen Freely went this year, and loved it so much she stayed for five days (sorry Faber, I think you got the lion's share of a whopper of a hotel bill), and this year we hope to send Rhyll McMaster to Hay, to talk about Feather Man.

Today we had an email Christmas card from Waterstone's - yea! Retailers appreciate independent publishers! We certainly appreciate retailers, so it's good to feel loved back. Next, my HUGE desk diary from Haynes, who have just had their first order from us for printing. Now, I like cars as much as most women do (they are not exactly the stuff of my wildest dreams), and I am the only driver in my house, so I'm not sure what do with the monthly drawings of the innards of the Ford Zodiac etc, but the Appointments schedule at the back will be invaluable for book fairs. My computer crashed irrevocably one September and I had to painstakingly recreate my Frankfurt schedule from memory as I had not printed it out - never again!

So, have a HAPPY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR, all you booky people out there.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Christmas party that is, ours, tonight. Now, this may sound a rather optimistic proposition for an office of three people BUT not only are we now FOUR ( A new designer, we'll be able to show some examples of her work soon...), we invite other people to bring the numbers up to a jolly party.

And it's been a good year: Chocolate and Zucchini, Enlightenment, Four Walls, Touba and the Meaning of Night,thelistgoesonletsjustsayourbooks... all did well in very different ways and over an extended period of time, and This May Help You Understand the World is rocking around the Christmas tree at the moment. But even more exciting is the feeling that if this year was good, the next (touch wood)... could be... (are you still touching wood?) Great. Here's hoping...

Some odds and ends:

There is a new Pauline Kael author page as I mentioned.

A dialogue between two young women heard on the tube (commuting, I am currently discovering, is rather wonderful for catching up on both backlist and submissions, although it's hard to carry A4 sheets and a coffee at the same time. They sometimes end up entwined.):

'What did you think?'
'Yeah, I really liked it.'
'Yeah, I really like it when people take history and then make it into a story, and that's what you've done'

At which point I reached my stop. I think I shall call it the discovery of the historical novel.

And thanks to 3AM and the British Council for their very different but equally enjoyable Christmas parties.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Stockhausen RIP

The sad news came over the weekend that Karlheinz Stockhausen has died. Fan or not, there's no doubt that he was one of the most distinctive figures in 20th Century music. he inspired many very different kinds of musicians and his electronic experimentation was especially innovatory.
Here's our author page and here's our book Stockhausen on Music.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Functioning at 65%...cough...64...cough...63...

The office is riddled with coughs and splutters today but too much has been going on recently not to leave some kind of post.

Firstly TV. Yes, that's right, we've got writers on it. Channel Fives' Cooking the Books kindly hosted two of our newest recruits: Victoria and Lucinda. Much excitement in the run up to this: hairdressers were visited and the phrase 'glammed up' used. You'll be able to see the results on Boxing Day 2007.

Secondly Maureen Freely took part in an event with Martin Amis and Ed Hussain on Monday night, a 650 seat sell out. Of course, the event was lent much of its piquancy by the fact that Amis has recently been portrayed as attacking all muslims everywhere – a story too eye catching to be dulled by looking at what the man actually said.
The event sounds like it was a good evening: a couple of accounts by those who were actually there:

Prospect Magazine

Liberal Conspiracy

and also Maureen's own account.

And thirdly: Congratulations to Clotilde Dusoulier whose Chocolate and Zucchini won the Best French Cuisine book in the UK section of Gourmand magazine's World Cook Book Awards 2007.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Marion Boyars' Australian adventure

Not that any of us are actually going. There is, however, a web page. The people who are going are Clotilde Dusoulier and Maureen Freely who will be attending the Perth writers festival. Both are getting good reviews already which for a writer would I imagine be the best kind of welcome. And then there's Rhyll McMaster, who is of course, lives there and already got great reviews . Which reminds me, I should do an author page for her.

And for Pauline Kael who, fruit bat* eared listeners will have heard lauded on the Today programme this morning as one of the great critics in times past. The point of the interview being that there are no great critics in times present. The fellow speaking (I'm afraid that I didn't catch anyone's name, except for Pauline Kael's and Kenneth Tynan come to think of it, because I was brushing my teeth**) seemed to be suffering from that peculiarly contemporary fear that wot wiv that internet and all this dummingdown, our culture is getting diluted. 'Where are the heroes of criticism? Without them who will keep the barbarians gated?' He didn't but might have lamented. But then the other fellow he was talking to reckoned that these hero-critics had never had much sway outside of ivorniversity and that this species still flourishes in its natural habitat. For the little it's worth I think that there's still plenty of great critical writing out there and if there's one thing that the internet definitely has done it's been to make it easier to find...perhaps it's just that it has become more difficult to make a living as a critic. But then there are a lot more literary festivals, talks etc. than there ever have been Isaywithnoevidencetobackitup.
Anyway, the point is that Pauline Kael was a great critic; accessible, important and widely read so she should definitely get an author's page.


*is there an animal famous for its hearing? I chose fruit bat because they have big ears and the whole echo thing.
** very definition of too much information.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


It's an absolute pleasure to welcome Rhyll McMaster to our list - her first novel Feather Man is absolutely fantastic. If you read some of the reviews from Australia you'll see why we're so pleased to have found it. But I am not the person to talk, hopefully Cathy will be able to say a little more when she's not so busy.

But at the moment she is so I guess you'll have to make do with me. Who is very pleased at the moment, having discovered that if one uses mozilla firefox as their browser they don't have to type in the html code for each link manually. This is going so quickly! And speaking of links look there, on the right hand side, we've finally got some. Not having them was a real oversight, the blogosphere equivalent of turning up to a dinner party without a bottle of wine.

Two exciting new blogosphere discoveries that you'll find there are booklit and Vulpes Libris, excellent the both of them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's probably fair to say that there's not much that The Mail on Sunday and The Morning Star agree on, but we've found something:

Yes, a press cuttings envelope arrived this morning containing a favourable review from each organ for This May Help You Understand The World. You can read them here . There couldn't be better confirmation that Lawrence achieved the middle ground he was going for.

There was also a nice mention of it on Tuesday from BoringBlackChick .

Monday, November 19, 2007

This is more or less where we were on Sunday night. Underneath these actors' feet is the same red carpet that we walked along on the way the the premiere of Sleuth , tickets for which had kindly been givn to us by Paramount as publishers of, well, Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer. I believe I'm right in saying that it was a first red carpet experience for all involved. Each of our faces was duly scrutinized and then disregarded as un- (but hopefully not in-) famous, and we were not, for similar reasons, allowed to linger, blow kisses to the crowd or sign autographs. Once one has left the red carpet behind, going to a premiere is much like going to a regular cinema except you're not allowed to buy popcorn (packets are provided on the seat but it's just not the same. Having said that, my date still busied herself stealing more from other seats once she had finished her own), there are no adverts or trailers and the lead actors, producers and director all get on stage to thank you personally for having attended. I think that this should happen more often, especially at the places where one is allowed to buy popcorn but must take out a mortgage to get their hands on it.

And the film? I think I speak for the office when I say that we thought it very good - different from the original but similar enough to make each of us grab a copy to read and compare afterwards...


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't Forget!

Lawrence Potter will be appearing at the Peckham Literary Festival fro a Q&A session this evening at the Review Bookshop . Begins 7:30.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Excitement in the office this morning, tho' I can't yet say any more. This, coupled with my fiveish cups of coffee had made me rather jittery by midday and there's nohing better for calming the nerves than a spot of indexing .

Are there any rules for what you can and can't include in an index? The previous one that I did was pretty straightforward; words like 'George Bush' went in and words like 'and' were left out. The book this time is Horribly Awkward and is posing more difficult questions. For instance, I decided that I would only include 'real people' (I think that phrase should always be between inverted commas) and not characters. But then come challenges to the dogma: I'd ideally like to include Royston Vasey, How could one leave Homer, Marge et al. out from the index of a book on contemporary comedy? And is there really going to be an entry marked thus: 'Brown, Roy Chubby p.67'?

Whatever decision we make, it's going to be a long index. Comedians, you see, do not, sit happily in their own chapters like good little boys and girls but keep popping up in each others' spaces. Then there are people like Simon Pegg and Rob Brydon who don't have chapters of their own so just seem to muscle in on everyone else's...

In other news, I've begun my search for the best edition of 1001 Nights . Which is proving a lot of fun - that last advisedly, I'm aware that this might not be everyone's idea of amusement - I rarely get to walk into bookshops in civilian mode. Indeed, I didn't this time either, so quickly: Foyles is great because it has loads of our European writers in its fiction section, Blackwells Charing Cross is great for making The Bookaholics' Guide one of its Christmas picks and Waterstones Putney similarly, because it has lots of The Flea Palace and Chocolate and Zucchini .

But back to the 1001 nights - it seems that there's three major translators: Antoine Galland, the man who introduced the stories to the West, Richard Burton, who was not, as I thought for a tantalising moment the same Burton who wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy but is still pretty gosh darn interesting and Husain Haddawy, who is , I think, contemporary. Oxford World Classics do the former (The first English translation of the former, I mean), Penguin the latterish and Everyman the latterest. There is also a version of the Burton with an introduction by AS Byatt by Random House. Oxford World Classics is the only complete text the other two are 'Tales from' but are still pretty hefty. The problem is, I had imagined that there would be a deluxe edition with pictures so that if I were ever to play a favourite uncle role, I would be able to stop during the narrative and ask 'does anyone want to see the pictures?' ...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Another week another party, this time the Sebald lecture , which, along with the Independent Foreign Fiction prize is the most high profile literature in translation event of the year. More on that further down.

News first:

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs is due another round up:

Peter Stothard (Literary editor of the TLS) used it to read up on Sherlock Holmes sites among other things, Bookseller Crow on The Hill has been selling it , it has been mentioned by librarians here and here , and perhaps most excitingly of all, it has been reviewed on the Complete Review without a grade . I await confirmation that this is a first.

and also

A new author page for Ivan Illich .

Back to the party. It began with readings from six prize winners from all across the world, I especially the one that won the Rossica prize but they were all excellent and the thing about the Purcell room in Queen Elizabeth Hall is that the seats are actually quite comfortable so one could listen to six readings quite happily.

Then came the Sebald lecture itself, this year given by Marina Warner . It was splendiferous, bouncing around between the work of Sebald itself, 1001 nights, via inanimate objects, talismans, the Pitt Rivers museum and a talking umbrella. I'm pretty certain that at one point I saw sparks flying. It also inspired me to a new project: I don't own a copy of 1001 Nights and it's one of those books one should have, if only to leave to a favourite nephew in their will. So in the run up to Christmas I shall spend a portion of my weekends dedicated to finding the very best edition - booksellers beware - I fully intend to be one of THOSE customers...


Friday, November 02, 2007

I left the office on more of a cliff hanger than I meant to last night – when I came into the office this morning I was looked at expectantly: a prize won perhaps? Or a great deal with a major chain? No, the answer is more prosaic:
I had just begun to edit a really good book.

But first thing's first, yes I was allowed in to the Paramount offices but no, they did not mistake me for an actor. More of a delivery boy, which is what I was as I meekly left my package at reception. Although if Hollywood action movies have taught us anything it's that there is always a very good chance that the person manning the reception desk of an office building at night is not, in fact, a security guard but an international terrorist so I suppose that being meek and quick was exactly the thing to do...

But back to the really good book . It is, as those who just followed the link will already know, The Streets of Babylon by Carina Burman as very recently translated by Sarah Death and it is an absolute joy to work on.

The Streets of Babylon ( Which was contracted quite a while before I arrived at MB and about which I knew very little) introduces us to Euthanasia (She would have preferred Ariadne or Malvina) Bondeson, successful Swedish novelist, soon to be amateur detective and a wonderfully infuriating narrator, as she and her beautiful companion Agnes arrive in London for the 1851 Great Exhibition. She is a properly top drawn character, as engaging as anybody I've read in contemporary fiction recently. Whether she is admitting her own frailties:

'I can reveal to my dear readers my difficulties in finding my way in strange cities. Even in Stockholm, my hometown, it is not always easy. I am neither inattentive nor stupid, but my surroundings spin like a cogwheel in my head. I presume it is all to do with the rotation of the Earth.'

'Words are a necessity for my comprehension of the world. That is why I talk a lot'

or describing English foibles:

'Perhaps the explanation for this interminable tea drinking is the possession of so many colonies, whose economy one wishes to support. '

She's just marvelous.

Of course Euthanasia can't take all the credit, the author Carina Burman and the translator, Sarah Death should probably take some. They've produced a text that seems to me to have just the right measures of scholarship - the book apparently owes a lot to the work of the 19th century Swedish writer Frederika Bremer who both Burman and Death revere and on whom both have written academically – and entertainment – it's pacy and funny.

Anyway, I can rest happy this weekend because I know that I've got old (but still 'slender and agile') Euthanasia to get back to.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

I've had a fantastic day today but more on that later, first more news:

The, yes you've guessed it, Bookaholics Guide to Books Blogs received ANOTHER review: this time in a rather well written review by Peter Carty ('elsewhere in the blogosphere, the pixels are more mixed') as The (daily) Independent's Tuesday Book . It's surprising that The Independent is the only paper that has a book review every day, I know even before I entered the biz that I always used to read it, being situated right next to the 'Days Like These' section.

(In a faux California accent) In entertainment news this week two adaptions of Marion Boyars books are to be playing in London. Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer has been adapted by Harold Pinter for the screen and will start Michael Caine (Who played the younger part on stage years ago) and Jude Law (who is apparently the next Michael Caine). There is a rumour of tickets to the premiere so it would seem that one of the things this company does is run in to Jude Law (see blogs passim). This is the film's page .

The other adaption (I refuse to believe that 'adaptation' is a word) is of The Investigation by Peter Weiss by a Rwandan Theatre Company at the Young Vic which looks absolutely brilliant.

I am actually running off to deliver some copies of Sleuth to Paramount as prizes. The other members of the office don't think I'll be let in the door and my protestation that I look like an actor were met with stifled laughter. We shall see.

Oh dear, I suppose that I'll have to delay the explanation of my joy for later. The nature of it is such that I should be similarly excitable tomorrow.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A thread I cannot resist quoting - it is from the Forum on www.chocolateandzucchini.com which is Clotilde Dusoulier's food blog. This discussion started in May 07 but I have only just found it - but it warms the heart of a publisher who spent a whole year at the London College of Printing (after my degree - it was a course you needed 3 'O' Levels to join - which betrays not only my age but my enthusiasm for learning about print and book production in detail) - and who was the main type designer for the English edition of Chocolate and Zucchini!


Could anyone tell me what font is used in the text of Chocolate and Zucchini? The book is beautifully designed, and the font is particularly interesting. I just can't seem to find it anywhere.

My boyfriend spent some time on the internet trying to figure it out, to no avail. Theories involve Scalla, Perpetua, or Joanna, but those don't seem quite right.

Thank you.


Birgit replied from Germany:

... as a typographer I can't resist to answer this question

In the GB edition it's Bembo, a good old classic book typeface, dating back to the middle of the 15th century; combined with Myriad, a humanist sans serif typeface, released in 1992.

... and this means that I've got my copy of the book just today, yay!!

In the GB edition there are several fonts. The French name of the dish is printed in "Bembo" (serif typeface, see link below), the English name in "Myriad" (sans serif typeface, see link below). The pages to introduce sections use a script font for the french name of a section (printed in "Scriptina", which is the font Clotilde uses for "Zucchini"), followed by "Myriad" (set in Caps for the english section title). The French recipe name is set in "Bembo italic" (see link below), followed by the English recipe name set in "Bembo".

*** a little excursion on typefaces and typography ***

It's all about small details, that's why it's a bit tricky to find out, but these details are fun

Liberally you can say that there are two main groups of typefaces. Those with and those without serifs. Serifs are the little "feet" at the end of a letter as in Bembo. Myriad is a sans serif typeface, i.e. there are no serifs attached. And nowadays there generally is an additional italic version also. Sometimes this is a "real" italic (i.e. with some letterforms different from the upright version), sometimes it is just a slanted and then optically adjusted version of the upright letters. Here you can see examples of Bembo italic and Myriad italic.

msue wrote:
Any ideas why it is so important?

Type contains and transports a great deal of our cultural heritage. "Bembo" is a good example for this because it's more than 600 years old and we still use these special and slightly quirky figures to set books with it which are a pleasure to read! There have been technical changes concerning the methods of setting type, but the forms of the letters and their appearance on paper are still largely the same.

Another reason why typefaces are that fascinating lies, in case they're well chosen, in the harmony of form and content. An adequately chosen typeface should visually translate and, at its best, indiscernibly enhance the content of a given text. Even if you can't exactly say why you can somehow "feel" if a typeface is appropriate to the content or not. Just imagine "Bembo" used on a street sign or, on the contrary, a novel set in the typeface you see on motorway signage. It will lead you, at first sight, unconsciously to a totally different option for the interpretation of the coming content.

There are interesting ornamental things you can do with single letters, like those presented by the above link to Scott Kim. And in case you want to take a closer look, there is a historical element as well. As soon as you start to study this subject a little closer, you'll see more and more differences, which might be tiny but more clearly recognizable as soon as you see several lines of text. And be cautious, some people say typography is a virus (although not a bad one ...)

Catheryn, and with thanks to Birgit!

Monday, October 29, 2007

It seems to me that the first chapter of If On a Winter's Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino would be the perfect opening post for a literary book blog*.

Which is a rather oblique way of going on once again to talk about The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs which got a review in this week's Independent on Sunday . And a nice one it is too, beginning 'Marion Boyars is, by all accounts, one of the UK's more free thinking publishers...' Thanks to all those who accounted us such. I like it: it makes us sound like the kind of people who might just decide to put all our commas before the phrase, full stops at the top of line and vertical hyphens everywhere. The review goes on to highlight the extracts from Dovegreyreader as particularly good and quite right too.

More good news comes from Gourmet magazine who have made Chocolate and Zucchini one of their books of the year, which is a pretty big deal. I also like the magazine's web address : epicurious.com. Our congratulations to Clotilde over in Paris, if she's not too busy we hope to be able to arrange some signings over there soon. Unfortunately there is no online link to the text of their books of the year section so this is as much info as we've got at the moment. We'll put the full text on the web page when we get it.

Having spent the last few weeks complaining about early christmas adverts I spent much of today designing, printing and mailing our own. How's about this for diverse?
This May Help You Understand The World
Last Exit to Brooklyn
The Devil in the Flesh
The Bookaholics' Guide to Books Blogs

Something for everyone madam? I'd say so.

Almost lastly: Apologies to anyone who tried to get to Riverbend's latest blog and couldn't through the link from this one. I don't know why it directs back onto itself - the link was to the right address. Anyway, one can copy and paste:

*What a great book this is, I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read it before. It was gift from the same friend who, upon hearing that I'd started working in publishing gave me New Grub Street . This is much happier BUT I would say that if you like this then you MUST read some Julio Cortázar (MB author page coming soon), he has a similarly playful but brilliant conception of literature. Try All the Fires the Fire for starters.


Friday, October 26, 2007

There is a new post by Riverbend telling how the family joined the 1.5 million Iraqis now living in Syria. Go read!


Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's always the same, you wait for a while for a publishers' night out and then three come along at once.*

First was drinks at my previous employ . They're currently very excited about a forthcoming Mervyn Peake book which sounds like it'll be great.

Second, was of course the launch of This May Help You Understand The World . It was also technically the launch for The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs but if I say that the shrinking violets with whom I work saw to it that they brought five copies of the latter compared to seventy of the former plus ten of his previous book, Mathematics Minus Fear then you'll see that, the way they saw it, the night was really supposed to be about Lawrence. And, after a train and bus ride involving much lugging of books and one minor, accidental assault with an electric bass we discovered that we'd lucked out with our choice of venue. The Betsey Trotwood comes highly recommended; not only is it a lovely, atmospheric pub with a good selection of drinks and plenty going on all the time but bar staff went out of their way to help. Even to the extent of giving me a free drink. This last shouldn't detract from credibility of my previous eulogy, within a couple of minutes of going inside we were talking about having our christmas party there.
So we took our room upstairs, laid the books out and waited, which is always a nervous time for me because if not enough people turn up you always end up feeling a little ridiculous. I needn't have worried; Lawrence, who apparently learned his organizational skills arranging monthly games of rounders, had marshalled a large crowd of well wishers who immediately set about buying books and drinking the bar dry. Although this meant much work for the three of us, it's always worth it, and actually quite satisfying to see such things go down well. Lawrence's speech was delivered with the confidence that you'd expect from a talented teacher and then the whole crowd went off to a restaurant that probably still doesn't know what hit it. Many thanks to all who came.

If you missed out on the evening but still want to hear Lawrence's Tamil Tiger story, not mention learn of his fascination for Loose Women then you can catch him at the Review Bookshop on November 15th where he is doing a Q&A as part of the Peckham Literary Festival .

And thirdly there was a very successful evening at Waterstones Hampstead where they held their second Literature in Translation event. This time there were three translators: Lisa Appignanesi who chaired Len Rix (Who translates the work of Anton Szerb ) and Peter Camiller ( Dumitru Tsepeneag ) . Speaking about their authors and the art of translation in equal measure, the three had fascinating conversation, answered some good questions (Somebody always asks if there's such a thing as an unstranslatable text and someone always answers Finnegan's Wake. Always) and those that wanted to wandered off to the pub. Basically to talk about similar things, but, as is perhaps appropriate to discussions of eastern european literature, with more alcohol. I really recommend going to these nights, they give much needed attention to a whole (literally) world of literature (again, is that alliterative?) that just doesn't get enough of a look in in our insular little isle.

* With apologies for the cliché but getting back from Tuesday night's do, three buses did indeed arrive at the same time to take me home after a long wait. I was so astounded at London Transport's sterotypic ability that I lost my favourite scarf.


Monday, October 22, 2007

I happily spent a few hours on Saturday reading The Gathering by Anne Enright. So why did I rush out and buy the Booker Prize winner? I heard an interview with the author on Woman's Hour a day or so before the prize, and had a strong sense as I listened that she would be the winner. When the prize was announced (in a two minute item on News at Ten - what a ridiculous way to find out), she looked genuinely astounded, and press quotes later had her say "My boat has come in." I fully believe that neither she nor her publishers (her book was 'called in' which means Jonathan Cape entered two other titles they thought were more likely to be nominated) thought she would win.

It's a fairly grim read, a dysfunctional family with too many children who are mainly a list of names. The main plot events are seen through a key hole, so scarcely full of dramatic drum rolls and action. But the quality of the writing is fine, and her craft as a writer has been refined over several books. It's a triumph for both a writer, and a publishing house that brought out all her books, that she has won a major prize. After all, that is what prizes should be for - not to award the already famous, but to bring new writers to the attention of a host of readers.

I felt I had bought a book by a really worthy winner, someone who would enjoy the thought of every new reader as a genuine boon. So I also have a warm glow as I read - knowing if she had not won, there is hardly any chance that I would have been reading her book this weekend.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The news at the start of this week seems tailored to prick up MBP ears

The brewing diplomatic fracas between the US and Turkey. has of course special relevance for us. It seems that Democrats in the US congress have voted to declare the supression of Armenian peoples by the Turkish government during the First World War an act of genocide. If the gesture seems fairly meaningless to western eyes, it's seen rather differently in Turkey where, of course, Elif Shafak was arrested for having her characters in her latest novels discuss the issue. It's worth repeating: fictional characters having a discussion. Better news from Turkey is that the government is considering repealing the notorious Article 301 that prevents 'Insulting Turkishness' under which Elif was prosecuted. For an insight into the US's checkered relationship with Turkey Enlightenment by Maureen Freely is well worth a go.

There's a quote from Lao Tse:
'A leader is best when people barely know he exists'
which seems particularly apt when considering the 17th Chinese National Party Congress . Those confused by the apparent lack of a recognisable leader since the death of Deng Xiaoping could do a lot worse than pick up a copy of This May help You Understand The World and turning to the chapter 'How Do You Know Who is Charge in China? Which explains the situation rather well.

And just so don't think it's all frontlist, Radio Four is doing a particularly good series on the history of music. The most recent episode mentioning Stockhausen - who is of course one of our authors .


Friday, October 12, 2007

So review copies of the Bookaholics' Guide were sent out a couple of weeks ago and there's been plenty of blogosphere response. I thought I'd round up some of it - hopefully there'll be a few printed press reviews at the end of the month too.

Dovegreyreader was unsurprisingly one the first off the mark, joined by Baroque in Hackney , and the inimitable (I think that I've called him that before and I'm not at all sure that it's appropriate, I'll ask someone intelligent . . . [later] Well Mr Shorter says that it means 'incapable of being imitated' or 'surpassing or defying imitation', not to be confused with 'inimical' which means 'hostile' and was invented in 1513. So, yes inimitable stays) Mark Thwaite , and the good people at 3AM Magazine , all of whom seem pleased that they were mentioned.

Then there were industry figures Richard Charkin and Girl Friday who both took issue with the use of the apostrophe, thus raising the indignance levels in the office from 'low' to 'quite'.

Next there was an article by A Stevens on the Guardian website and a pretty mixed one by Fiction Bitch both of which had some great commentary (this last seems better written than 'comments').

And that's it so far I think. But the official pub date has not yet been reached.

Yesterday, I said that I'd put up some links to literary events going on. But then I remembered that it's the Frankfurt Book Fair and that this would be better done when it's over. Odd that I forgot really, given it's why I've had no-one to talk to all day . . .


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The launch party for both This May Help You Understand The World and The Bookaholics Guide to Book Blogs will be held from 6-9PM on Tuesday 23rd October at

The Betsey Trotwood
56 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3BL

all welcome.

AND congratulations to Doris Lessing! The nicest Nobel Prize winner that this humble publishing assistant has ever met. A truly brilliant woman (Doris Lessing, not the hpa.)

A round up of criticism of the book blog book and others to come tomorrow as well as what we hope will be an interesting new feature: a guide to literary events going on over the next week. It would happen now but I'm being unfairly mocked for the way I type, what's RSI anyway?


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A new look for the website!

Which is why the blog has been quiet yet again. At the moment it's still fairly simple because I'm learning and it ain't a small task - your html is not an intuitive beast and our website is not small. There's much more info than many of the big publisher's websites, and a far more interesting backlist tho'onedeossayitthemself. AND a funny little man:

Who has become my friend through the process of {[double click/special/template/apply new template/save and upload] x1000 not to mention the little adjustments that each page seems to demand, the oftentimes when it doesn't work and the one time when everything disappeared} redoing the whole thing.

As for evidence of my gluttony for punishment my previous self elected job was changing all the ISBN numbers from ten to thirteen in our catalogue - when is someone going to blame 'the decline of publishing' about which we hear so much on this patently unlucky industry standard?

There are many more goings on: the travails of two books approaching their pub dates in a country without mail, online discussion of the Book Blogs book and more but that's it for this evening.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A first mention in GQ Magazine for This May Help You Understand The World by Lawrence Potter. A book that contains my first ever index. It's not really legible in the picture but GQ calls This May . . . 'fun' and also mentions the chapter about George W. Bush's intellect (Is Bush Actually Stupid?) discovering Lawrence's perhaps surpising finding that Mr Bush scored just as well or better at school/university than predecessors and political rivals. Although anyone persuaded by this info to begin looking at the 43rd president of the United States in a new light might be put off by the article immediately above it rating politician's most famous jokes. Orators such as William Hague and Michael Howard score highly whilst the president's featured piece was an impression of a woman whose execution he authorised whilst Governor of Texas: '"Please" he cried in mock desperation, "don't kill me"'. He received 0/5. There's no doubt about his importance though; he's one of the top three listed in my firsteverindex.

We've also sent out review copies of The Bookaholics Guide to Book Blogs . We hope that people enjoy it and send apologies to those who weren't included but feel they should have been. I've already fielded one or two queries so replicate here what I said to them:

Thanks for your email, it seems that you're one
> > of what will inevitably be a list of people
> > disappointed not to have been mentioned. And this
> > before we've even sent out a single review copy.
> > The Bookaholics Guide never set out to be a comprehensive who's
> who
> > of literary bloggers but is a
> survey
> > of a fascinating phenomenon. Many very good
> writers
> > have been left out and I'm sorry that you were one
> of
> > them – the bloggers that are there were included
> > either because they seemed representative of
> > particular kind of blog or movement or because a
> > certain piece served to illustrate a point made in
> the
> > book. Certainly many of the blogs that are
> mentioned
> > have links to other blogs and the book generally
> can
> > only encourage more people to seek out the best
> blogs
> > around.

Hope that clears things up!


Thursday, September 20, 2007

I thought I would ruminate today about what makes a publishing house survive.

I wasn’t involved in this publishing house until Marion Boyars, my mother, grew ill in 1999, and needed someone to continue the house beyond her death. I had enjoyed a lifetime (well, forty odd years of it) watching her create her house, from the sidelines. The result was a very individual, and often amazingly literary and prestigious, collection of books by the time she passed away. It was worth working hard to keep it going, and I’ll be honest, to remember her by.

But there was also the small question of the debt she left, and which she had worried over, lived with and managed for many years. Making money was not something she paid much attention to. She hoped to sell mass market rights to the large houses, and put right the debt incurred from publishing in hardback. She never did any mass market publishing herself – she thought it was too difficult for a small house to do. And then less than two years after her death, our UK distributor went belly up, and we lost a further £33,000. This was the first of many bankruptcies I have seen in publishing, although it is the one we have suffered from the most.

This is where I thought differently to her. Coming from design consultancies, where very small groups of designers managed the new identity of huge companies (Debenhams, Eurotunnel, Terminal Four, The Co-operative Retail Group, to name just a few) I thought we could do the same in publishing. After all, the large houses are made up of imprints which often have just a few people working in them.

But what about the knowledge that all publishing houses and book related businesses seem to exist on a shoe string (some of them are large shoe-strings, but even huge chains of bookshops seem to dice with debt annually) and a constantly altering cash flow? How do you plan for the future?

Most houses are led by their front list. We have a back list to cushion the blows, but our major successes in the past five, thankfully profitable years (it took over four to get rid of that huge debt), are front list choices. So how do you make those choices?

Well, the healthiest way to go about it, when you find a book you like, it to play devil’s advocate. Rather than thinking, I love this book, the author is funny and nice, the writing superb, how could we possibly go wrong, I think, what could go wrong? Is there a possibility the critics could be snide? Are there books like it on the market? Does the author have too high expectations/livein Darkest Peru/do I know he/she is a recluse who will not turn up at book readings or talk to the press (this is the case more often than you may think)? Will people think we are clever clogs for deciding to publish a very funny book about a suicide shop or an imaginary city which resembles New York but is in fact a reconstruction in a desert (yes, two actual books I considered today which I would have liked to do but which I thought would fall foul of critics comments, sadly).

And why is the publishing business full of so many lovely people who you meet but wonder how they manage to stay afloat? It’s like the dream life, but because of it, there are a lot of books, and lots of people publishing and trying to make a noise about their projects and thus it is really, really hard to have a company which keeps on a financial level footing. I should know, since I watched my mother struggle from the age of three and I am always, always trying to work out a way to be still sailing six months from now.

Posted by Catheryn

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Well, I'm just back from holiday in Italy to a mountain of mail, proofs, catalogue shaping up, and stuff. So why am I taking time out to blog? I just thought this one may be fun for people to contribute to.

We stayed in a very remote hamlet in Italy of renovated cottages. Most of the other guests were English - mainly families with young children. Said young children bonded in the first days by naming all the inflatables around the pool - lilos, balls, rubber rings - with no reference to their parents on choice of names. Each one was called after a Harry Potter character - so it was - throw me Voldermart, there goes Harry - but no one wanted to touch or be thrown Ron. He was the outcast - the ginger. Sorry about that Ron, but apparently you get the girl in the book, so all is OK really.

But the point of this blog is - what were the other holiday makers reading, and what have you spotted on your travels around the holiday world this summer? I can note a depressing amount of chick lit, one Alastair Campbell Blair book, one Paul Coehlo, several Meg Atkins, some thrillers by people I have never heard of (sorry), and hardly any literary fiction or serious non fiction.

Our book hoard taken along? - T.C. Boyle, two Sarah Dunant books (we were in Italy), The Black Book (Pamuk), The Inheritance of Loss, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay (over 600 pages), The Memory Keeper's Daughter, some terrible book by Jane Grey which has had 16 printings (we did have 3 teeenage girls with us), Potter of course (read by 3 of us but not me - I wait for the movies), Mother's Milk, and about ten others which I can't recall this moment. I think all were read by at least two people and in some cases three or more as we were five in total. But what a minority we were. I always return from holiday thinking that book review pages should be made really accessible - more interviews with readers - more like - well, a book blog. But maybe I'm biased.....

Monday, August 13, 2007

So last Tuesday we got a call from a bubbly person at Colman Getty PR firm asking whther we were planning on going to a meeting that we had been invited to a few weeks ago. seeing as that particular Tuesday was also the day when the Booker longlist was announced and that particular PR firm is the one that organizes the Man Booker prize , I said yes, I could probably make it. In spite of the resulting disappointment that evening, I ended up going to that meeting.

I found myself there because fate transpired to put me at another meeting just around the corner from The Groucho Club, meeting one of our forthcoming translators, Frank Wynne, to do an interview for the new catalogue. Frank's story is fairly rare in the world of translation because his story - although full of frustrations - is actually rather successful. You see Frank was the translator of a littleknownFrenchwriterwhoisnownotsolittleknown: Michel Houllebecq. For us, he's doing Banquet of Lies by Amin Zaoui (web page to follow shortly didn't know that it wasn't up already) and the interview went excellently. It'll be available to read soon enough I think. Unfortunately it went so excellently that I ended half an hour late for the Booker thing. Which was the first point that set me apart from the rest of the publishers. The second was probably my hat. The third was that I was not from a publisher whose book had been nominated for the Booker longlist. Not that it wasn't fascinating; the chief concern amongst the publishers was whether their book would be nominated for the shortlist and if so could they please know in advance (No). Afterwards I found time to (trapped by a waiter who refilled my glass five times in fifteen minutes even though I was too bamboozled to touch the first) talk to a few people before shuffling off as discreetly as possible. Still though, it was a good to be in such company, a pleasure to be invited and we'll hope to be there again next year ...

In other news I note through Chekhov's Mistress that there's a piece on Witold Gombrowicz in the new Dalkey Archive Press issue of Context .


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Continental Collisions: an interview with Elif Shafak and Maureen Freely in the Guardian .

'Instead of focussing on the writing, we focus on the writer' says Shafak - talking about Turkey. A brief glance at the Booker hullabaloo will confirm that this is a fault not exclusive to Turkey by any means.


Monday, August 06, 2007

A moral quandary: this morning I phoned what seemed to be a pretty relevant bookshop to ask whether they were planning to do anything in terms of a retrospective of Ingmar Bergman. 'Well', said the bookseller in a tone of voice I've heard more often used when one is talking to carpet baggers, ambulance chasers or venture capitalists, ' I suppose if we were Waaateerrstones (This last was well drawled) we'd have put something up immediately, but seeing as we're not...'. The obvious gist being that it would be a rather tawdry thing to do a tribute/display just because someone had died. This of course had the effect of making me feel rather tawdry. Until a couple of things occurred to me:

One: I would love to see Ingmar Bergman displays in Waterstones up and down the country, that would be exactly the kind of thing, in my humble but impassioned opinion, that Waterstones should be doing on the death of a great artist.

Two: That doing nothing would be worse thing to do of all. Our duty as Bergman's publishers is to promote his writing, now more than ever. How nice it would be to see his film scripts for sale in as many places as possible so that people who may not even be aware that they are available (as I suspect that many do not) might have the opportunity to pick them up and get another perspective on his work. I love that image, it's one of the reasons I do this in the first place. It is sad that people so often only come across an artist's work through obituries and tributes - but we always cherish most that which is taken away from us.

So there.

In other news Enlightenment was reviewed in the Guardian on Saturday and I'm reliably told that an interview with Maureen Freely will appear on guardian unlimited very soon.

That issue of the Guardian was something of a double whammy as there was also a profile of Amiri Baraka in that issue. Four Black Revolutionary Plays is fascinating reading. A lot more fun than you'd think.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

An extract from The Snakeskin :

'Artistic creativity has always manifested itself in me as a sort of hunger. I have observed this need in myself with some gratification, but I have never in all my conscious life asked why this hunger should arise and demand to be satisfied. In the last few years, as it has begun to ease off, and been transformed into something else, I have begun to feel it important to try to establish the reason for my ‘artistic activity’… it was fairly obvious that the cinema should be my chosen means of expression. I made myself understood in a language that by-passed words, which I lacked; music, which I have never mastered; and painting, which left me unmoved. Suddenly, I had the possibility of corresponding with the world around me in a language that is literally spoken from soul to soul, in terms that avoid control by the intellect in a manner almost voluptuous. I threw myself into my medium with all the dammed up hunger of my childhood and for twenty years, in a sort of rage, I have communicated dreams, sensual experiences, fantasies, outbursts of madness, neuroses, the convulsions of faith and outright lies…
By and large art is free, shameless, irresponsible and the movement is intense, almost feverish; it resembles, it seems to me, a snakeskin full of ants. The snake itself is long since dead, eaten out from within, deprived of its poison; but the skin moves, filled with busy life.
If I now observe that I happen to be one of these ants, then I must ask myself whether there is any reason to pursue the activity further. The answer is yes…I feel like a prisoner who has served a long sentence and suddenly tumbled out into the booming, howling snorting world outside. I am seized by intractable curiosity. I note, I observe, I have my eyes with me, everything is unreal, fantastic, frightening or ridiculous. I capture a flying particle of dust, perhaps it’s a film – and of what importance will that be: none whatsoever, but I myself find it interesting so it’s a film. I revolve with the objects I have captured for myself and am cheerfully or melancholically occupied. I elbow my way in with the other ants, we do a colossal job. The snakeskin moves.
This and this only is my truth. I don’t ask that it should be true for anyone else and, as comfort for eternity, it is naturally on the slim side. As a basis for artistic activity during the next few years it is entirely adequate, at least for me.
To be an artist for one’s own sake is not always very agreeable. But it has one outstanding advantage: the artist is on an equal footing with every other creature who also exists solely for his own sake. Taken together, we are probably a fairly large brotherhood who exist in this way in selfish fellowship on the warm, dirty earth, under a cols and empty sky.' – Ingmar Bergman, 1965

Age of Uncertainty on Bergman
Guardian Obit
Indpendent Obit
Telegraph Obit
Times Obit
Baroque in Hackney

Antonioni too?


Monday, July 30, 2007

Sad news: Ingmar Bergman died this morning, aged 89 years old.

One of the most famous and respected of directors and artists, it is a great honour to have him on the Marion Boyars list. I expect that there will be many obituaries in the next few days and is already by strange cooincidence a re-release of the Seventh Seal in cinemas in the UK running at the moment.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll find time to post an extract from his autobiographical essay The Snakeskin.

I'm afraid that I came across Bergman by the most obvious of routes: At around nine or ten years old the image of Death playing chess with the knight took firm hold of my imagination. Having just started playing chess myself I unfortunately missed all suggestion of allegory and was intrigued by the ticklish question of whether Death would be any good at chess and whether or not, if I worked very hard, I might be able to beat Him thus securing a rather geekish form of immortality. The only positive outcome from these angelsonpin type musings was that as I got older I was motivated to seek out Bergman's films – a great boon however it may have come about.

but enough from me - there's a lovely post from the Spurious blog and I'll keep up the links to all that's worth reading over the next few days.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Fridays are always exciting - Independent books review section and The Bookseller all in the same morning! And today is one of those rare times when that excitement is justified and not just because I get to read them whilst listening to good music (the radio has just played Jefferson Airplane, the Breeders and Prodigy all in a row. Kit's alone in the office. ) –

There is a marvelous profile of Elif Shafak in the Independent by Boyd Tonkin.


in The Bookseller there is not only an article all about our book blog book but also a Great Big Marion Boyars advert, an indulgence which we very rarely allow ourselves. I'm absolutely fascinated to see how much effect or otherwise it has. Presumably the nice man who sold us the space and then had to put up with many frantic last minute emails is as well.

and back to the new catalogue . . .

P.S. I've just seen that there's a third mention of MB in The Bookseller. The headline reads 'Marion Boyars gets erotic with Chinese concubine'.
Which conjures up a far more exciting image of the office than the reality, which is just me in an old T-shirt playing with Indesign.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

'Muhammed Ali is not the only one who can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.' – a slightly bizarre quote from The Leed's Guide's review of The Willow Tree by Hubert Selby Jr . They have made it their Book of the Fortnight, beating, rather satisfyingly from our point of view, books from much larger publishers. I can't wait to get stuck in to Hubert Selby.

There was also a fascinating article by Maureen Freely in the Guardian yesterday on Turkey. It seems pretty brave to me that she left her email address for responses. Apparently there were plenty.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Last week ended with a decent little review in the Independent for More Than Eyes Can See . And on Saturday there was a brief mention of Enlightenment by Maureen Freely in The Times during an article celebrating the fact that spies are still everywhere.

Friday was also a day of meeting reps - we're represented by Turnaround who have a fine list of publishers on their books. Thus one turns up at their office and is led into a room with an oval shaped table around which reps from all across the country sit. I'm not sure whether it was deliberate or not, they had arranged themselves around the table in such a way as to mirror the geographical locations that they represent - thus Scotland, or 'Bob' as he'd most likely prefer to be known, was furthest away with the North and Midlands on either side, East Anglia to their right and the two London reps closest. Perhaps they do this so that once we've gone they can get out a big map of Britain and make battle plans. One can but dream. Once settled and introduced you then have thirty minutes to explain why you think they should give extra special attention to your list, just another example of how difficult it is to describe good books in a succinct but adequate manner. One can but hope that we got our message across, I suppose that the proof will be in the bookshops across the country in a month or so. The lack of control is infuriating.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Another week, another party.

This time, it was the English PEN summer party in a lovely if slightly eccentric house in Kensington. Our congratulations go to Brian Thompson who won the PEN/Ackerman prize, thanks go to English PEN for organizing a great evening and especially to Lisa Appignanesi for saying that I looked 'hip'.

But the real reason for this post is to lay down some guidelines my future posting. My friend Mark at Readysteadybook gently chastised me in my old incarnation for using the blog merely as a marketing tool - everything was 'exciting', 'fantastic' and led to buying some sort of book. He was absolutely righ and my response is twofold. Firstly, it's my job. I like being able to pay the rent. Secondly though, it was because I genuinely did find everything 'exciting' and 'fantastic'. We're in independent publishing for chrissakes, we don't do it for the money. Most of my non publishing friends already earn significantly more than me and in five years time the gap will be exponentially greater. However, I still feel more privileged than most of them for the mere fact that I have the opportunity to get excited in my job.

Thus at Marion Boyars it'll be more of the same, almost. The fact that everything is new to me here gives an opportunity to write about the publishing house and especially its list as I discover it myself - I've not read most of the books that we publish but very much plan to and I'd like the opportunity to share what I think about this reading and, indeed, what I think about working here as openly and honestly as I can. If it ends up sounding like marketingspeak by all means let me know.

So: The most exciting and fantastic thing I did today was begin going through The Bookaholic's Guide to Book Bloggers . It's a whole lotta fun. (American passport, I can say stuff like that) I really think that Cathy and Rebecca are coming up with a unique document. It reads more like travel writing than anything else, replete with exciting characters and insights over wider themes. Over the next couple of weeks or so I expect that all kinds of different bloggers will receive permissions requests. I urge them to accept because they'll be part of something very worthwhile and strangely of the moment, one of those books that probably couldn't be written last year and shouldn't in the next and for that very reason will come to be read ten and twenty years from now. (does that make sense? Very F&Eish ed.)

I'm also reading The Devil in the Flesh , but more on that another time, it's late.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A new Marion Boyars blogger:

Good evening, I am the newly arrived Kit Maude and this is what I look like when standing behind stacks of books. As I often am.

I'm now at the end of my second week at Marion Boyars and getting a little more confident about things. Well, confident enough to enter the blogosphere.
One of the first differences from the old place is that here the boss apparently takes us out at least once a week to some event or other.
Firstly it was the launch do for More Than Eyes Can See , by Rhidian Brook at the Salvation Army headquarters . As you might imagine, 'friends and family' means something rather more to the Salvation Army than to the rest of us and Rhidian's guests numbered in the hundreds. Some photos:

Rhidian performing one of the many signings that he would be asked to do that evening. I have never seen people buy books in handfuls before.

Halos were provided to some lucky guests . . .

But not, unfortunately, to Rhidian.

Next there was an event involving Elif Shafak and Maureen Freely who came to speak at the Royal Festival Hall at an event organized by Index on Censorship (Phew, all these links are tiring) . Topics ranged from geopolitical (The place of Turkey in the world today, the clash of cultures between Islam and the West) to the semantical (the many different meanings of the word 'veil') but at all times the room was fascinated and energized by the many debates touched on during the event.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The launch for Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier went well - about one hundred people, brisk book sales, the unlikely appearance of Jude Law in the building, who ate a plate of our Chocolate and Zucchini food (apparently the chocolate and raspberry cake went down the best - it's very easy to make, thank goodness, when you are baking for a hundred, it had better be), and met Clotilde.

Now for our next problem - in the past month two of our staff of four have found pastures new - and these are really good people. I wish them the best - Amy Christian has gone to children's book publisher Anness, and Holly Macdonald starts as a cover designer at Transworld in July. Now, why did I train them too well....

So, Kit Maude will join us from Peter Owen Publishers, and we need an in house cover designer, and type-setter, for two days a week. We are very happy to employ an illustrator (like Holly) who had never designed a cover before - just hope to hang onto them for longer next time...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Matthew of Crockatt & Powell just asked me if I was planning any more crazy things since we seem to do this quite a lot.....

Yes, I am planning to cook appetizers for over 100 people at the French Insstitute next week for the launch of Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier.

That's right, I am planning to cook for someone who spends her life telling other people how to cook.

Totally crazy.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Last weekend I went to the Hay Festival, to spend time with friends in a beautiful house, and dip into the festival whenever we decided to.

The weather was kind, and Saturday saw five of us climbing Hay Buff in glorious sun - so good I missed Asne Seierstad talking on Beslan.

The atmosphere is unique - take a beautiful, secluded piece of Wales and add any number of speakers and a keen audience, plus cheap strawberries, free Guardians and excellent ice cream. People who criticise the festival for being corporate just arrive in the wrong frame of mind. Yes, you can buy an organic champagne brunch or sit in the Sky Cafe, but no one is forcing you to.

Best talks - Bruce Robinson, Tony Juniper and Martin Amis - most disappointing was Sean Hughes but I'm not really a stand up comedian fan and he just seemed totally stressed out, looking at his watch and saying 'five minutes to go' all the time.

And our house - Yellow Drama - was magnificent and we were in the next door house to Mariella so you can just imagine how good it was. All I can do now is plan which authors of ours to pitch for talks next year - non fiction, environment, Aids and issues seem to be more eagerly devoured than fiction. But maybe I'm wrong - most talks were full so I don't think it matters who you encourage to go so long as they are eager to engage with a lively audience.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

From the Crockatt & Powell's blog - No. 5 The Crafter Culture Handbook is by our Amy Spencer!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Top Ten
I haven't done this for a while...

Compare and contrast with the "market share" chasers.

1: What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

2: On Chesil Beach by Ian McYawn

3: Damned Utd by David Peace

4: Banksy Locations and Tours by Martin Bull

5: Crafter Culture Handbook by Amy Spencer

6: Waterlog by Roger Deakin

7: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

8: On The Road To Kandahar by jason Burke

9: Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett

10: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

A list that illustrates the power of indy bookselling I feel. Not only What Was Lost outselling Ian McEwan but Roger Deakin's Waterlog and the Tove "Moomin" Jansson's Summer Book performing well.
posted by CPMatthew at 2:26 PM 2 comments

On another note, last week we successfully concluded negotiations to buy a book in translation. It took many weeks, and a certain amount of nail biting. When I contacted the translator, he said he thought an email had gone missing, since I had not mentioned the name of the book, or the author. I apologised, and said I had not given this information, since I could see the book happily on several other larger publishers lists and I did not wish to court disaster by letting information out before we had secured the rights.

When I told the translator the title - his comment? Oh - yes, Orion wanted me to read it in a hurry a week ago, but did not want to courier the book out to me. Wonderful. We were used as leverage, of course, but at least it failed due to the costs of a courier. Thank goodness for petty costs......

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Last night we attended the award for the Independent Foreign Fiction prize - Four Walls by Vangelis Hatziyannidis was one of the 'runner ups' to the winner, Arcadia's The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa. It was a wonderful ceremony, with champagne supplied by Taitinger. The event was crowded, full of journalists and people involved in the world of literary translation.

But as we left and the tall wooden doors of the National Portrait Gallery shut, I felt sad. Was this it for another year - the fleeting phenomenon of enthusiasm for books from other countries? If this was the Booker or the Orange, being the winner or on the short-list would make a major impact on sales, recognition, and a feeling of having made it somehow for the authors. But I just feel as if the fight to promote really interesting books from other languages has to be started all over again this morning.

In our next catalogue, I intend to devote the first few pages to profiles of the translators of our 2008 books in translation. It may not sound ground breaking, but it probably is.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

John Lanchester wrote an article about copyright and authors payments. I can understand the frustration of authors who cannot find a way of selling their work directly to readers, and if I was a writer I am sure I would feel the same way. In fact, there is a very easy way they could do this. Every contract of ours with an author has a clause in which they can buy their books at a substantial discount far larger than their royalty, and they could buy a quantity and sell them to readers through their own web site. It's not so hard - we sell through this web site using Pay Pal, and you do not need a Pay Pal account to pay - a credit card is fine, and we do not see the details of them, so it is safe. John (I have bought and read your book - it's fascinating, and rings true as my mother also covered up her past, and apparently wrote out her own passport to get into the USA when she was a teenager) - we'd even help you do this. We'd like the world to know that you can buy books online from authors and publishers and not just from mega giant companies.

But publishers do work minor miracles. That's why we stay doing this. It's quite amazing to find a work which you admire, enjoy and appreciate, decide to publish it, and then see it take off. Take one pretty obscure one - Touba and the Meaning of Night by Iranian exiled author, Shahrnush Parsipur. Couldn't really be more obscure. But at 400 odd pages, it's a fascinating insight into Iran through the eyes of a young girl, who goes through several marriages and fates.

Iran. 15 hostages. The Sun. Maybe not so obscure after all.

We are promoting the book by bringing Shahrnush to London. We know the two events we have planned will be packed because we found the Exiled Writers web site, and our invite has gone out to their 1000 members 1000 exiled writers are in London - the mind boggles. And Pen have awarded the book a Writers in Translation prize, which pays for her travel and hotel.

Without our cover, review copies, marketing plans, bizarre way of finding an audience, would 800 copies have already been sold, 3 interviews planned, 2 full events? Authors do need publishers, and we need to be paid for printing books and making bizarre plans like this one work. We'd like to be able to continue making small miracles like this one happen.

Friday, March 30, 2007

In January I went to Cairo as part of a British Council mission of nine publishers, trying to find books in Arabic to translate into English. At the time, I had a cold which four hours delay and a 3.30am arrival in Cairo did not help, so I had absolutely no voice during the five days of the trip. Perhaps a blessing for those involved. But I can recount a few of the short conversations I had with publishers.

'So, your company is called Marion Boyars'
"Yes, it was my mother's company."
'And you work with your colleagues.'
"Yes, we are all women right now. We like working together - we make a good team."
'And your father?'

Since I returned to London, I have been trying to get Arabic novels submitted. I've sent around twenty e mails. I have not had any replies.

My voice has now returned and a bit of me wants to climb a very high tower and scream loudly 'I'm a woman and I want to publish novels from Arabic! I don't mind if they are by a man or a woman but I'm not about to have a sex change myself!'

Maybe it was just as well I had lost my voice in Cairo.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

One of the things we do here is have ideas for books, and then find the right (we hope) person to write the book. It's as creative as we can get, and the books that have resulted have been successful. Mathematics Minus Fear by Lawrence Potter sold really well last year and we are now in talks with TV companies abotu using the content for learning and entertainment both onlineand on TV. he is writing a book on world affairs just now - I had to rewrite the sub title since some people aid they did not understand the title, This May Help You Understand The World. SO - we got doen to specifics, and the result is

From Bush’s blunderings to global glitches –the problems of a troubled world made easy

Always helps to point the finger at Bush.....

Sunday, January 14, 2007

It's been a while since I blogged, and the reason for this is the New Year for me is a point at which all things seem possible. So many contacts to make, meetings to set up with booksellers, contacts to be made with literary festivals and organisers of talks, which will turn into tours for our authors later in the year.

So, no time to blog, it seems but Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier looks like becoming a fabulous success. I hope, I hope.

On our web site, currently in the middle of a total redesign but up all the time (we apologise for missing links etc - they are corrected as soon as we notice), you will see mini sites for The Crafter Culture Handbook (advances are in - sales meetings set up), and Chocolate & Zucchini.

Next week I am seeing a major TV company to discuss opportunities for Clotilde -and they specialise in cookery programmes. Gardners, who I saw on Friday in eastbourne, are right behind this book, and we have an ad. with them and also one in the Bookseller Food and Drink issue out on 19th January. There will be an article by Clotilde in Delicious magazine, and a lot more I hope.

Also, Lawrence Potter of Mathematics Minus Fear, returned from Rwanda and came in last week. He is starting to write his next book for us, THIS MAY HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORLD. Mathematics Minus Fear was our best selling book last year, and in the world of politics, science, and technology there are so many more things which I do not understand (maths is not my strong point - hence the first book). It should be great fun to work on, really illuminating and written with humour, and also, I really hope, sell like crazy.

So, here's to a great 2007.