Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2008 : TVFH Literary Highlights

A subjective, unweighted and entirely personal selection of some of the news stories in publishing from 2008.

January :
Scottish author and stand-up comedian A.L. Kennedy won the 2007 Costa Book of the Year award for her fifth novel, Day; the story of a former RAF prisoner-of-war returning to Germany to confront his demons. Catherine O'Flynn won the first novel award for 'What Was Lost' and Ann Kelley's 'The Bower Bird' took the Children's award.

Margaret Truman Daniel died January 29, 2008. She was known for her mystery novels such as 'Murder at the White House' and was the daughter of President Harry Truman.

The 'Writers' strike' ended on February 12 by the Writers Guild of America, representing film, television and radio writers working in the United States. More than 12,000 writers joined the strike which had lasted 100 days.

Writer Kate Christensen won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, an annual prize for U.S. authors, for her novel The Great Man. The story is a satire skewering the art world, biographers and the myth of greatness in artists. Christensen, from Brooklyn, N.Y.received US $15,000 with the honour.

Arthur C. Clarke died aged 90 in Ski Lanka on the 19th March.

Gary Gygax the author and game creator died March 4, 2008. He was the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons and writer of many game-related books.

The London Book Fair was held at Olympia. Notable rights deals included, the acquisition by Clara Farmer at Chatto & Windus of a mesmerising literary debut by former prison warden Anna Lawrence Pietroni from Tina Bennett at Janklow & Nesbit. Charlotte Cole at Ebury secured a memoir by Bel Mooney about her recovery from the breakdown of her marriage to broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby. Ebury acquired the book at auction, with four other publishers bidding, paying a "very large five-figure sum" for UK and Commonwealth rights in a deal done with Patrick Walsh of Conville and Walsh. Nick Davies at Canongate pre-empted a book by a Canadian journalist, John Geiger, about strange near-death experiences. Bloomsbury bought a new book by Kate Summerscale, author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. And Kirsty Dunseath, publishing director at Weidenfeld & Nicolson acquired 'I Do Not Come to You by Chance', by a young Nigerian author, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. Dunseath bought UK and Commonwealth including Aus/Nz from Angharad Kowal at Writers House, and they hope to publish the title in late spring/summer 2009.

Pulitzer Prize winner, Jhumpa Lahiri's book UNACCUSTOMED EARTH debuted at #1 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction list.

And 550,000 copies of the book, co-written by professor Randy Pausch and WSJ reporter Jeffrey Zaslow, were in circulation at pub date. Hyperion worked at a breakneck pace to get the first of another 1.5 million copies in stores and the sell-out continued.


The Mystery Writers of America announced the 2008 Edgar Allan Poe Award winners. Best Novel was won by 'Down River' by John Hart (St. Martin's Minotaur).

'The Shack' stormed the bestseller lists based entirely on word of mouth and a marketing budget of $300. It reached #1 on the NY Times paperback list a year after it was published.

The Road Home by Rose Tremain won the Orange Prize for fiction. Seven of the 20 books which make the shortlist were by first-time authors, with Anita Amirrezvani, Sadie Jones, Lauren Liebenberg, Heather O'Neill, Dalia Sofer, Carol Topolski and Patricia Wood nominated for debut novels.

Tasha Tudor died June 18, 2008. Born August 28, 1915. She was the illustrator of classic children's books like The Secret Garden, she also wrote some of her own and won two Caldecott medals.


Salman Rushdie was named winner of the Best of the Booker award for 'Midnight's Children'. The shortlist of six books was selected by a panel of judges - the biographer, novelist and critic Victoria Glendinning (Chair), writer and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, and John Mullan, Professor of English at University College, London. The decision then went to a public poll. Midnight's Children won with 36% of the votes.

Melbourne became the second UNESCO City of Literature. The first was Edinburgh, awarded in 2004. Nam Lee in Australia linked live with Salman Rushdie in Scotland, in a pioneering live link between the two Cities of Literature and events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Melbourne Writers’ Festival in Australia.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died August 3, 2008. Born December 11, 1918. Wrote the controversial One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, won the Nobel Prize, expelled from the Soviet Union and lived in Vermont from the mid-70s until he returned to Russia in the '90s.

Patrick Ness's first novel for teenagers won this year's Guardian children's fiction prize. Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go, in a world of information overload, beat Jenny Downham's Before I Die, Frank Cottrell Boyce's Cosmic and Siobhan Dowd's Bog Child to take the £1,500 prize.

It was announced that children's author Eoin Colfer is to write a sixth novel in the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series, seven years after the death of its creator Douglas Adams.

Previously unknown Agatha Christie recordings were made public. The reels of tape, over 13 hours long, were discovered by the author's grandson in a cardboard box during a spring clean-out at Christie's former home in Torquay.

JK Rowling won the case of copyright infringement of the Harry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, and Quidditch Through the Ages through publication of the Lexicon. They were awarded statutory damages of $6,750.00.

David Foster Wallace, the teacher, novelist, essayist and humorist best known for the novel "Infinite Jest," (1996) was found dead at his home. He was 46.

Google Book Search Agreement reached. $125 million will be used to establish the Book Rights Registry, to resolve existing claims by authors and publishers and to cover legal fees. The settlement resolved a class-action suit filed in 2005 by the Authors Guild, certain authors, and five major publisher-members of the Association of American Publishers against Google breach of copyright. The agreement paves the way for a whole new approach to books accessibility and distribution via the Internet, working with Publishers and authors involvement.

Aravind Adiga
has been named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The White Tiger, published by Atlantic.

Le Clezio won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Two weeks earlier Horace Engdahl, the Permanent Secretary of the Nobel Committee for Literature caused controversy when he told the Associated Press that American literature is, "too isolated, too insular," and American writers are "too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture. He went on to resign in December.

Michael Crichton died of cancer on November 4, 2008. Born October 23, 1942. Best known for Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park and creating the vastly popular TV series ER.

The critic John Leonard also died of cancer. Died November 5, 2008. Born February 25, 1939. Writer for New York, Harper's, The New York Times and resident critic on Sunday Morning.

Economy related news hit the publishing world with various closures and layoffs. Random House Inc. had a significant in-house reorganisation. Harper Studio and Borders agreed a new no-returns policy, breaking the mould of the classic, global, book buying model.

Harold Pinter died. The 78-year-old playwright made his career with award-winning plays like "The Birthday Party" and "The Homecoming." He won the Nobel Prize in 2005, railing against President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair in his acceptance speech.

Julius Fast
also died in December. Born November 11, 1914. He won the first Edgar award for a mystery short story, mostly wrote popular nonfiction like Body Language and Sexual Chemistry.

JK Rowling launched 'The Tales of Beedle The Bard' on December 4th. This is potentially the last Harry Potter related book. Its sales raise funds for the charity JK Rowling helped found, the Children's High Level Group. It topped the UK Christmas book charts by an unassailable margin of 64,000, according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan, selling almost 160,000 copies in the week to December 20 compared to just over 95,000 from the second-placed title, Dawn French's autobiography Dear Fatty, bought for a reported £2m in 2007. The battle of the Christmas cooks was won decisively by Nigella Lawson, who shot into third place overall from 20th the previous week, helped by her BBC2 series Nigella's Christmas Kitchen.


The year draws to an end with many wondering what next? The news of closures, layoffs and general economic instability, with all the trends pointing to an ever deepening global recession touches the publishing world, as any other industry. But it's also been a year of gradual change, adaptation and acceptance. The Amazon Kindle and Sony e-Readers have become more established, and publishers have moved to increase the number of books available as digital versions. Simon and Schuster even opened a digital studio. The Google Book Agreement laid the foundation for a different future in e-accessibility. The Book Fairs of London and Frankfurt were business as usual, with new names, rights and deals being made, albeit, with fewer, high-end advances. 2009 may see further bookseller closures - who knows the future for Borders, or could have predicted the collapse of Woolworths? The coming year may see further restructuring, along the lines of thinning layers of management, such as at Random House.And it may see a fall in book sales. But there is much to look back on and much to look forward to. Events, new book launches and news.

My personal 2008 event highlights were visits to the London Book Fair to support the launch of a collaborative collection of short stories, and the Frankfurt Book Fair at which I had the opportunity to talk to people in various parts of the industry and experience some of the behind-the-scenes. I've enjoyed reading more diversely as part of a newly formed bookclub and being part of the team here at TVFH. It's been a wonderful opportunity to look at the publishing world from a different perspective. And it's that perspective we need to keep, despite challenges ahead in 2009. For writers, it's business as usual. Keep reading, and keep on writing. Wishing you all every success in 2009 and beyond.

And if you fancy a spot of book related fun, here's the Guardian's 2008 book quiz.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

On the Sixth Day of Christmas my True Love Gave to me...Six Geese-a-laying

"Lights were shining from every window, and there was a savory smell of roast goose, for it was New-year’s eve..."

Thoughts of geese and Christmas conjure up many images from my favourite fairy tales, of princes transformed into birds, and sad little snow girls, and this line is taken from one of Hans Christian Andersen's best known stories, "The Little Match Girl".

Every year, NPR asks a writer to compose an original story with a Christmas theme. This year, Ellen Silva commissioned Gregory Maguire who reinvented the Hans Christian Andersen classic "The Little Match Girl" for a new time and new audiences. You can read the story in four parts, starting here, at NPR.

Maguire's new piece, entitled, "Matchless," re-illuminates Andersen's classic, using his storytelling magic to rekindle Andersen's original intentions, and to suggest transcendence, the permanence of spirit and the continuity that links the living and the dead.

An illustrated gift edition of "Matchless" will be published by William Morrow in fall 2009.

"Andersen's ‘The Little Match Girl’ is a more luckless relative of the likes of Oliver Twist, Sara Crewe and Little Orphan Annie,” says Maguire. “Her brief life and sad demise could bring 19th century readers to tears, and did. Now, while we shudder at the fatalism of her plight, we can't deny the grip that cold and hunger maintains over the poor. In 'Matchless' I tried to honor Andersen's original tale while maintaining the poignancy of the central event, and by setting it in a larger context I hoped to extend and perhaps refresh its ability to console."

Learn more about Gregory Maguire at his website.

He is the award winning author of many children's books, and his novel Wicked, was adapted as a stage musical.

Monday, 29 December 2008

On the Fifth Day of Christmas my True Love Gave to me ... Five Gold Rings

by Guest Writer: Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Stroud was born in Bedford and grew up in St Albans. He always had a burning desire to write a full-length work of fiction which he would have wanted to read when he was younger, and so after graduating from York University he embarked on a publishing and writing career in the game book and non-fiction department at Walker Books. He moved to Kingfisher Publications to edit children's non-fiction, and for a time juggled working with writing; but Jonathan is now a full-time writer. He lives in St. Albans with his wife and their two young children.

Jonathan is published in the UK by Random House Children’s Books, and is represented by his agent Laura Cecil.

Rather cheekily I shall take this fine seasonal motif and, in the blink of an eye, melt it down to form one gold ring, namely the famously baleful object at the heart of J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The keystone of the book was the quest to destroy the ring; ever since, because fantasy is inherently conservative, similar objects and quests have multiplied. Tolkien was influenced by Norse myth and legend; today fantasy bookshelves burst with tale featuring dwarves, trolls and brawny blokes with swords.

All this was on my mind while I wrote my novel Heroes of the Valley, which is being published over Christmas. I purposefully wanted to create something which was inspired by the old Icelandic sagas (wonderful mixtures of fantasy and domestic realism), but which also subverted a lot of the post-Tolkien saga-quest clichés.

It took me a while to work out how to do it, but eventually I realised that my protagonist – a short, somewhat squat, boy named Halli – had to share the assumptions that a lot of fantasy readers have. Every night, as he lies in bed, Halli listens to tales about the great heroes of the past, stories which form the bedrock of his society’s culture. He longs to repeat their feats and, when a relative is murdered, seizes the chance to head off on a quest of vengeance. He (and the reader) sees it all ahead of him: a long journey, a series of dangerous encounters, a climactic battle and final triumph. Instead, I took great delight in pulling the rug from under Halli (and the reader)’s feet at every turn. Nothing occurs as he expects, actions have consequences, violence is decidedly unromantic. Instead of a simple linear narrative, Halli’s story loops back in on itself: halfway through, he finds himself back home… By the end Halli has learned a great deal about the limitations of old tales, while I’ve learned that it’s possible to create plenty of comedy and suspense by deliberately undercutting hoary old fantasy traditions. Hopefully the result will help freshen up this particular corner of the genre.

Well, I can see I’ve strayed rather from the five gold rings theme, and I haven’t a clue how to bring us back there, except to say that Heroes of the Valley would make jolly good reading for young readers – and adults – on the Fifth (or indeed any other) Day of Christmas…

Have a good one!

Buried Fire ISBN 9780552549332
The Leap ISBN 9780099402855
The Last Siege ISBN 9780552551465
The Amulet of Samarkand ISBN 9780552550291
The Golem’s Eye ISBN 9780552550277
Ptolemy’s Gate ISBN 9780552550284
Heroes of the Valley ISBN: 9780385614016 *
(*Publication Due: 1st January 2009, £12.99 hardback)

Heroes of the Valley is the tale of young Halli Sveinsson, who’d very much like to be the hero in question. Certainly he’s got a hero’s heart (brave, reckless, resolute); unfortunately he’s also short and squat, with little stumpy legs and a face like a toad peering out in a rainstorm. Still, this doesn’t stop him trying to emulate the tales of the great heroes of old, much to the annoyance of his parents, his brother and sister, and everyone else in his small Scandinavian village.

Jonathan's website
The Bartimaeus Trilogy website

The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate form the Bartimaeus Trilogy, which has sold over 4 million copies in the UK. Miramax is currently developing it into a major film.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

On the Fourth Day of Christmas my True Love Gave to me...Four Calling Birds.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, I have chosen to pick up the theme of 'calling', and highlight four books, related to one of the most significant news stories of 2008, the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Having lived in Chicago at a time when he was senator, it was easy to recognize that he was a man with a calling. In 2004, knowing nothing about him, we listened to one of his locally delivered speeches and knew he would one day run for President. That he would be elected only four years later is a credit to him.

Publisher Canongate
has long admired Obama’s talent as a writer, and publishes the three bestselling books written by Obama himself. Dreams from my Father features in Waterstones, Amazon and Blackwells Top 10 Lists and favourite paperbacks of the year at the time of writing.

To date, his three books have sold over 407,000 copies in the UK. Dreams from My Father, released by Canongate in June this year, has sold 208,447 copies alone. They also released the audio CD of "Dreams From My Father" which is not included in these figures. A hardback edition of "Dreams From My Father" is being published on 15 January 2009.

In an interview on given just before the release of Dreams of my Father, he gives a brief insight into the writer and the man to be the next President of the United States.

Q: Do you ever find time to read? What kinds of books do you try to make time for? What is on your nightstand now?

A: Unfortunately, I had very little time to read while I was writing. I'm trying to make up for lost time now. My tastes are pretty eclectic. I just finished Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, a wonderful book. The language just shimmers. I've started Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is a great study of Lincoln as a political strategist. I read just about anything by Toni Morrison, E.L. Doctorow, or Philip Roth. And I've got a soft spot for John le Carre.

Q: What inspires you? How do you stay motivated?

A: I'm inspired by the people I meet in my travels--hearing their stories, seeing the hardships they overcome, their fundamental optimism and decency. I'm inspired by the love people have for their children. And I'm inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart. They make me want to work to make the world a little bit better. And they make me want to be a better man.

The Audacity of Hope.
"A "political biography that concentrates on the senator's core values," according to the Chicago Tribune. The paper also credited the large crowds he met at book signings in part having contributed to his decision to run for President.

This title presents Barack Obama's political vision for the future of America.If Barack Obama is successful in his quest to become President of the United States, he will dramatically change the face that his country presents to the world.In this bestselling book, Obama discusses the importance of empathy in politics, his hopes for a different America with different policies, and how the ideals of its democracy can be renewed.With intimacy and self-deprecating humour, Obama describes his experiences as a politician, about balancing his family life and his public vocation. His earch for consensus and his respect for the democratic process inform every sentence. A senator and a lawyer, a professor and a father, a Christian and a sceptic, Barack Obama has written a book of transforming power that will inspire people the world over. It is an autobiography and covers politics.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781847670830
Published: 7 February 2008
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd

Dreams from My Father.
The son of a black African father and a white American mother, Obama was only two years old when his father walked out on the family. Many years later, Obama receives a phone call from Nairobi: his father is dead. This sudden news inspires an emotional odyssey for Obama, determined to learn the truth of his father's life and reconcile his divided inheritance. Written at the age of thirty-three, "Dreams from my Father" is an unforgettable read. It illuminates not only Obama's journey, but also our universal desire to understand our history, and what makes us the people we are.

Format: Paperback 464 pages
Date of publication: 05/06/2008
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781847670946

Change We Can Believe in.
The election of Barack Obama as President of the USA is a defining moment for all of us. After years of failed policies and a failed politics from Washington, change has arrived. Barack Obama now has the chance to reclaim the American dream. He has proven to be a new kind of leader-one who can bring people together, be honest about the challenges we all face, and move his nation forward. "Change We Can Believe In" outlines his vision for America and its standing in the world. In these pages you will find bold and specific ideas about how Barack Obama plans to fix the ailing American economy and strengthen its middle class, make health care affordable for all, achieve energy independence, and keep America safe in a dangerous world. "Change We Can Believe In" ask us not just to believe in Barack Obama's ability to bring change to Washington, it asks us to believe in the ability of each of us to change the world.

Format: Hardback 304 pages
Date of publication: 11/12/2008
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781847674326

President Obama, by Time Publications, Callie Shell.
On November 4, 2008, America voted for change. This is a must-have record of this epic event, featuring exclusive footage from campaign photographer Callie Shell, showing the profound speeches and rallies of Obama's trail, as well as the private, more poignant moments of his journey to become America's 44th president. Behind-the-scenes photography is accompanied by "TIME" articles from its stable of respected writers, documenting Barack Obama's journey from his groundbreaking speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004. Callie Shell has been alongside Obama since he started his campaign in January 2006, and has been able to document the private side of the 'skinny kid with a funny name', showing what he's like in repose, with Michelle Obama and their two daughters as well as when he's on the stage or behind the podium. Featuring interviews, analysis and the photographic inside track to this fascinating man, this is the book to own when people ask you here you were the day that history was made.

Format: Paperback 96 pages
Date of publication: 26/12/2008
Publisher: David & Charles PLC
ISBN: 9780715333419

Saturday, 27 December 2008

On the Third Day of Christmas my True Love Gave to me...Three French Hens.

By Guest Writer: Rebecca Ramsey

Rebecca S. Ramsey was a frustrated high school Chemistry teacher until she moved to France. Suddenly she found herself surrounded by people living their passions—the neighbor who played the trumpet in his yard every afternoon, the old woman who dyed her hair a different color of the rainbow every month, and a man who regularly put on a duck suit and walked the streets of Clermont Ferrand, hawking his paté. What else could she do? She set her soul free and started writing! French By Heart, the story of her family’s four years in Clermont Ferrand, France, was published in April 2007, by Broadway Books. She and her family have now returned home, where she spends her days writing and searching upstate South Carolina for a good café au lait.

Rebecca is published in the US by Broadway Books (Under the Tuscan Sun) and is represented by her agent Nathan Bransford.

I sing the words Three French hens, and instantly I am pushing Baby Sam in his stroller through the dimly lit aisles of a restaurant supply store in the middle of the French countryside.

I examine a hand-painted bucket, wondering at how the French make the most ordinary things beautiful, when the door opens. An old man enters, dressed in les bleus, the typical blue coveralls worn by men all over France for physical labor. His worn jacket has a squiggle of chicken poop on the shoulder. Hmm, I wonder. How did that get there?
“Bonjour, Madame,” he says to me and my baby gasps. Under his right arm he is carrying a live chicken.

“Do you like chickens, my little man?” the old man says in garbled French. He grins, showing us his rotten teeth and lowers the chicken to Sam’s eye level. The chicken bobs its head and scratches its claws against his jacket, struggling to make a break for it. It was a beautiful bird, all auburn and white, with bead eyes and a bright red wattle and comb. As it darts its head, Sam looks up to me for a cue. Is this chicken good or bad?

I smile at Sammy, trying to pretend I am Calm Mommy—the kind of mother who encourages her children to delight in the discovery of their natural world—not Paranoid Mommy, the mother who stands frozen in the aisle, envisioning tragic chicken calamities.
The man laughs and stands up and the bird makes a break for it, leaping into a nearby quiche pan.

“Non!” the man shouts, wrestling the chicken back under his arm and tightening his hold. “No you stupid bird,” he says and walks to the cashier.
“Bonjour, Madame,” he says. “I would like to buy a knife.”

She takes his money and hands him a knife from under the counter, and I watch him let himself out a side door. There in the sunshine is the flutter of wings and the noise of other chickens. Since it is Christmas now and I’m all aglow with love, hope, and peace, I’d like to think that this was not The Chicken Pen of Death, but instead a chicken retirement center, his Christmas present to the bird. And as for the knife? I’m hoping his wife was a whittler.

French By Heart
Format: Paperback 320 pages
Date of Publication: 4/24/2007
Publisher: Broadway Books
ISBN-10: 076792522X

Rebecca's inspirational blog, Wonders of the World and
Rebecca's website

Friday, 26 December 2008

On the Second Day of Christmas my True Love Gave to me ... Two Turtle Doves

by Guest Writer: M.G. Harris

Maria G. Harris was born in Mexico City, but grew up in Manchester, England. She has a PhD in Molecular Biology. From her youth, she was interested in the Mayan culture and travelled regularly to Mexiko. Out of action for a longer period, following a skiing accident, she began to write, the result was the first volume of the Johua Files; Invisible City.

She lives with her husband and two daughters in Oxford, England.

Two turtle doves makes me think of true love.

“The course of true love never runs smooth. Discuss, with relation to Tom and Becky” was a question I remember from school, studying ‘Tom Sawyer’. That classic adventure novel must be deep in my psyche because the relationship between Josh and Ixchel, his reluctant betrothed from the ‘invisible city’, isn’t too different.

Ixchel is the enigmatic girl who encounters Josh in the depths of the jungle during ‘Invisible City’. Then she runs away from home. Only later will Josh discover that she’s leaving to avoid her arranged marriage – to him.

‘Ice Shock’, book 2 in the Joshua Files series, sees Josh begin to tackle the reality of his adolescent emotions. He may be brave and intrepid but when it comes to pretty girls, Josh can be clueless and helpless. Who knows what he’ll be like as an adult, but at 14 he’s still vulnerable. Especially via his heart.

‘Ice Shock’ sees Josh embarking on a perilous journey with Ixchel. They venture right into the lair of the enemy, confront the past and also Josh’s destiny. But it’s no lovefest – they squabble like brother and sister. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to get these two together”, I remarked to my agent. “They could have the odd moment,” he suggested.

I took his advice. So there are moments. Josh may not realise it at the time, but those moments have soaked into his subconscious. The effect may not be noticed for a while. But when it hits later in the series, it will be seismic.


Invisible City
Format: Paperback 384 pages
Date of publication: 04/02/2008
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9781407104027

Ice Shock
Format: Paperback 384 pages
Date of publication: 02/03/2009
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9781407104034

Find out more, at The Joshua Files website.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

On the First Day of Christmas my True Love Gave to me...a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

The Independent recently reported that Jamie Oliver was beating Nigella Lawson in the battle for the best-selling cookbook this Christmas. Both were published on October 2nd this year.

His book, "Ministry Of Food", had out-sold its rival, "Nigella Christmas", by 200,000 copies at Waterstone's by sales figures on December 19th.

Last year, Lawson's "Nigella Express" took the Christmas crown, selling more than 600,000 copies to place "Jamie At Home" in second place.

However, the article reported that "Nigella Christmas" was a purely festive book whose appeal would strengthen as Christmas Day approached.

The View From Here spoke to Blackwell's in Edinburgh today, and they have to date sold a total of 22 copies of Nigella's latest book, compared to 14 of Jamie Oliver's. At the time of writing, Nigella is currently selling at number 4 on amazon's bestsellers list (updated hourly), compared to Jamie's place at number 10. Over at WH Smith, Nigella's at 16 and Jamie at number 8.

So it looks like the race isn't over yet.

If you are still looking for a great winter roast recipe, why not try out Jamie's Game Birds with Polenta, including Partridge.

Nigella Lawson: Nigella Christmas
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN-13: 978-0701183226

Jamie Oliver: The Ministry Of Food
Hardcover: 360 pages
Publisher: Michael Joseph
ISBN: 978-0718148621

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

TVFH Newsdesk Christmas Package - The Twelve Days of Christmas

The newsdesk will be on vacation starting tomorrow and returning on January 12th. There is a series of features parceled up and ready to be unwrapped, between now and then.

The Twelve Days of Christmas package, will open tomorrow and includes features on the latest Christmas sales figures, as well as articles by published Guest Writers on their latest books, news and events. I've also wrapped up some of my favourite authors' new books coming up in 2009, stories related to news of the past twelve months and on the 31st, a review of literary highlights of 2008.

The carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas dates back to English origins in the sixteenth century although the music is reputed to be French. The first publication date for The Twelve Days of Christmas was 1780. Over the holiday period, the newsdesk will not be manned, but there will be a series of twelve posts using each of the days’ themes as inspiration.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me,
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

I wish you all a very happy holiday time, and a peaceful and joyful 2009.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Independent Publishers and Booksellers Doing it For Themselves

Legend Press, in conjunction with Arts Council England, has launched an innovative scheme ‘Exclusively Independent’ to bring independent bookshops and independent publishers together. They aim to drive further market share in the independent sector and publicise books that may not appear in the mainstream/commercial spotlight and yet still evidence raw and exciting talent.

With displays varying in size, set up across independent bookshops, the project aims to better integrate independent book publishers and booksellers, combining talents, strengthening individuality and building new and important relationships.

They have created a shelf-size display of the best books from independent publishers, selected on a monthly basis by an industry panel; the initiative offers POS, promotional discount and high-profile marketing support to the bookshops.

This month’s selection consists of Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore by our very own Paul Burman (Paperbooks Publishing), How we were Lost by Megan Taylor (Flame Books), Bonebreaker by Peter J. Murray (Mokee Jo Promotions), Black President by Rich Schmidt (Picnic Publishing), Good to be God by Tibor Fischer (Alma Books), Three Jumpers by Michael Marr (Paperbooks Publishing) Salmonella Men on Planet Porno by Yasutaka Tsutsui (Alma Books), Slow Food Story by Geoff Andrews (Pluto Press), and Give me a Sign by Shanta Everington (Flame Books).

Initially the scheme will feature in London based Independent Bookshops including Dulwich Bookshop, Eastside, Housmans, Bolingbroke, Primrose Hill, Bookseller Crow on the Hill and Peckham Review. With this month acting as a trial, after Christmas will see the list include additional shops throughout London and the surrounding areas.

To promote the project the scheme offers discounts, material, and events such as book signings and readings, to the shops.

Friday, 19 December 2008

The Children's Christmas Book Tree scheme - Donate a book this Christmas in Scotland

Blackwell's Bookshop on South Bridge, Edinburgh, are working with City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh Women's Aid and Edinburgh Young Carers to help make Christmas a little better for disadvantaged local children. The Children's Christmas Book Tree scheme means that children who will be living in difficult circumstances at Christmas, who have caring responsibilities beyond their years or those who won't be at home for Christmas and will have few personal possessions, will each receive a book to treasure.

The children have each put their Christmas wishes for a book on a gift tag which is then hung on a Christmas tree in the store. All you need to do is choose a book which you think the child will really appreciate, from dinosaurs to fairies, Jacqueline Wilson to James and the Giant Peach. Staff in the children's department will be more than happy to help with selections.

After you pay for the chosen book you leave it with staff in store who will ensure that it gets wrapped, before being distributed to the right child for Christmas day.

If you are keen to donate a book, there's not much time left: the scheme finishes on 21st December. The scheme has been so successful, said the shop staff, that there are not many tree tags left, but any further books bought will go to a local children's home, which needs books for all age groups. This weekend is 25% off children's books - so what are you waiting for?

Those of you who can't make it to the store can ring Blackwell's on +44 (0)131 622 8222, ask to speak to the children's department, and donate a book over the phone. And this year you'll be supporting two great causes simultaneously - the children in need and the publishing industry in a tough economic climate.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Borders Buying Breaks with History - No Returns Policy with HarperStudio agreed

HarperStudio and Borders have reached an agreement to end returns. In exchange for an initial purchase discount ranging from 58-63%, Borders will buy HarperStudio books on a non-returnable basis, departing from a decades-old publishing tradition, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Wall Street Journal says, "Under the terms of the deal, the nation's second-largest bookstore chain by revenue will get a deeper discount on initial orders of books published by the new imprint of News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers -- 58% to 63% off the cover price, instead of the usual 48%. In exchange, Borders won't return any unsold books to HarperStudio, instead probably discounting them in the store."

Industry practice dating from the 1930s allowed retailers to return unsold titles to publishers for full credit and without incurring shipping costs. These titles, about 30 percent to 40 percent of all titles according to industry figures, may get sent back to the stores for heavily discounted sale, but others are pulped.

The WSJ quoted HarperStudio's president and publisher Robert Miller saying that the economic downturn has made publishers and booksellers more open to experimenting with models that might decrease waste and increase profit.

HarperStudio is the new imprint of News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers.

This news may come as no surprise to many who believed that the returns policy was long overdue for a rehaul.

That includes Paul Smiddy, retail analyst at HSBC, who said in The Bookseller earlier this year, “The [book] retail supply chain is currently more akin to the 19th century than the 21st.”... "The number of routes from publisher to each retail store are “far too numerous to make commercial sense. Most publishers have their own sales forces and distribution networks,” he added, with some smaller publishers using the services of larger ones such as Random House and HarperCollins. “Wholesalers, of which there are now only two main ones left, act as consolidators to a degree. Most retailers do not have their own centralised distribution system.”

Add to this already complicated system the sheer number of times a book can travel up and down the supply chain—a problem caused by sale or return. “It’s remarkable because in most other retail sectors the retailers take more of the stock risk, and product doesn’t go back down the supply chain with a consequential increase in handling costs,” Smiddy said.

We will see if this small step between Borders and HarperStudio becomes a trial model for others in the business. It seems like it must make business sense, for improved product supply, demand and profitability, but what of the impacts on publishers and authors? Will it make publishers less willing to take on new authors who may not sell as an unknown to bookstores? Will stores reduce the number of different books they buy, and focus on selling more copies of those they do purchase, reducing their spread of risk? Will it mean an increased focus on quality or saleability? It will surely become a more popular model of the future, and whilst book buyers continue to act as gatekeepers between the consumer and the supplier they will be ever more conscious to maximise their profit, meet their customers demands and follow the most environmentally sound and financially sensible buying model they can. In overcrowded bookstores and a saturated market, ever edging towards greater sales of e-books, some may think, it's about time.

View the GalleyCat interview with Bob Miller here.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

'The Tales of Beedle the Bard' launched at Edinburgh tea party, now also in Thailand

JK Rowling launched her new book of fairy-tales The Tales of Beedle the Bard at a children's tea party at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh on December 4th, and already it has reached Thailand.

Paper Tigers states that, "This is particularly exciting because in the dark ages before Harry Potter, conventional wisdom claimed that Thai children would only read comic books. It just took one young wizard and his talented creator to prove that generalization was wrong–and his magic continues to keep young readers in Thailand–and all over the world– reading."

Millions of copies of the book went on sale on December 4, to raise funds for the charity JK Rowling helped found, the Children's High Level Group.

The tales were first mentioned in the seventh and final book in the Potter series - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and originally produced in a limited edition of just seven books, each hand-written and illustrated by Rowling herself. She gave six of the volumes as gifts to people who helped make Harry Potter a global success, while the seventh hand-written copy was auctioned by CHLG last year and snapped up for £1.95 million.

JK Rowling talked about why she decided to make the book much more widely available."The idea actually came from you, by which I mean Harry Potter fans," she told the 200 primary school children gathered at Edinburgh's Parliament Hall. "There was quite a lot of high feeling from Harry Potter fans that only someone who had £2 million could afford to read the book. I thought 'fair point', so I thought I'll publish it and then the charity can have that money too."

Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children in Eastern Europe are living in appalling conditions in large, residential institutions
JK Rowling

In the final Potter book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was a volume of wizarding fairytales left to Hermione Granger by Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. The tales played a crucial role in helping Harry to defeat Lord Voldemort, but only one of the five stories, The Tale of the Three Brothers, was recounted in the book.

The National Library of Scotland has borrowed an original copy of the tales from Barry Cunningham, JK Rowling's first editor. Mr Cunningham was one of only six people to receive an original Beedle, created, illustrated and hand-written by JK Rowling, as a personal gift from the author last year.

The seventh copy was given to CHLG for the charity to auction, and was acquired by Amazon for a winning bid of £1.95m/$4m in December 2007.

It is hoped that sales of the book, which has been translated into 28 languages, will raise millions of pounds for CHLG, the charity co-founded by Rowling and Emma Nicholson MEP.

About the Children's High Level Group

CHLG is funding a series of education and outreach activities to improve the lives of marginalised and institutionalised children.

The Children's High Level Group (CHLG) was founded in 2005 by the author JK Rowling and MEP Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne to help the 1 million children across Europe still living in large residential institutions.

Contrary to popular belief, only 4% of these children are orphans, and they are in care because their families are poor, disabled or from ethnic minorities. Many of these children have disabilities and handicaps, but often remain without any health or educational interventions. In some cases they do not receive basic services such as adequate food. Almost always they are without human or emotional contact and stimulation.

To make real and lasting change CHLG is focusing on improving healthcare, education and welfare services. This includes finding ways to strengthen and support families; improving national foster care and adoption so that vulnerable children can be brought up within loving families in their own countries; and reforming welfare systems so that children are not put into institutions unnecessarily.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Le Clezio In the forest of paradoxes

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio delivered his Nobel Lecture on the 7th December 2008, at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. He was introduced by Horace Engdahl, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy. The lecture was delivered in French.
Photo: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, like many Nobel Laureates before him, autographs a chair at Kafé Satir at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, 6 December 2008.

Here are a few selected highlights. He discussed why he writes, and his own experience as a reader and writer, as a child and later in life. He addressed the topics of globalisation and access to information, and the roles of a writer as a guardian of language, as witness and the desire to change the world.
To read the full lecture, see the Nobel Prize website.

"Why do we write? I imagine that each of us has his or her own response to this simple question. One has predispositions, a milieu, circumstances. Shortcomings, too. If we are writing, it means that we are not acting. That we find ourselves in difficulty when we are faced with reality, and so we have chosen another way to react, another way to communicate, a certain distance, a time for reflection."

"We live in the era of the Internet and virtual communication. This is a good thing, but what would these astonishing inventions be worth, were it not for the teachings of written language and books? To provide nearly everyone on the planet with a liquid crystal display is utopian. Are we not, therefore, in the process of creating a new elite, of drawing a new line to divide the world between those who have access to communication and knowledge, and those who are left out?"

"For all his pessimism, Stig Dagerman's phrase about the fundamental paradox of the writer, unsatisfied because he cannot communicate with those who are hungry—whether for nourishment or for knowledge—touches on the greatest truth. Literacy and the struggle against hunger are connected, closely interdependent. One cannot succeed without the other. Both of them require, indeed urge, us to act. So that in this third millennium, which has only just begun, no child on our shared planet, regardless of gender or language or religion, shall be abandoned to hunger or ignorance, or turned away from the feast. This child carries within him the future of our human race. In the words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, a very long time ago, the kingdom belongs to a child."

J.M.G. Le Clézio, Brittany, 4 November 2008

Three minutes of the lecture on video.

Text translated by Alison Anderson. © THE NOBEL FOUNDATION 2008.
Photo: Christine Olsson. Copyright © The Nobel Museum
Film Copyright © Nobel Web AB 2008. Credit Ladda Productions AB (camera).

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Random House Restructures and confirms Industry facing some of the most Difficult times in Publishing History

More changes afoot in the publishing world. The anticipated restructuring of Random House, Inc. U.S.A was announced on December 3, in a letter sent by chairman Markus Dohle to company employees.

A new publishing structure and a new leadership team have been put in place for the adult trade divisions, effective immediately. The letter can be read in full at Publisher's Weekly.

"After looking closely and extensively at our organization and its rich diversity of authors and resources, we have created a plan for our future that aligns existing strengths and publishing affinities and fosters teamwork throughout the company. It will maximize our growth potential in these challenging economic times and beyond."

The Random House Publishing Group, under the leadership of President and Publisher Gina Centrello, will expand to include the imprints of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, including The Dial Press, along with Doubleday’s Spiegel & Grau.

The Knopf Publishing Group, led by Chairman Sonny Mehta, will expand to include the Doubleday and Nan A. Talese imprints from the Doubleday Publishing Group.

The Crown Publishing Group, under the direction of President and Publisher Jenny Frost, will expand to include the other imprints from the Doubleday Publishing Group—Broadway, Doubleday Business, Doubleday Religion and WaterBrook Multnomah.

The highly regarded Random House Children’s Books division, led by President and Publisher Chip Gibson, will continue its remarkable publishing programs without change.

IRWYN APPLEBAUM, President and Publisher of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, will step down from his position, effective immediately, and will leave the company. The position of President and Publisher of the Doubleday Publishing Group has been eliminated. Chairman Markus Dohle is currently in discussions with STEPHEN RUBIN about creating a new role for him at Random House, Inc.

Through greater collaborative efforts among the publishing, marketing and sales departments, we can sharpen our priorities, market our books more effectively, and respond more quickly and directly to a constantly changing marketplace.
That, in turn, will strengthen our vital partnership with our customers. Coordinating our online marketing and growing our digital publishing business will be further priorities.


What does this mean for authors? The group has been slimmed down and consolidated. Random used to have a huge number of imprints, each acting independently. Which would mean that you could have had a large number of potential publishers competing to bid for your work. Now, the newly created three larger groups will still be bidding for work independently but there are now fewer groups, meaning that there are fewer industry-wide bidders than there used to be. Editorial imprints within the groups will remain independent, but, of course, will not be bidding against each other within their group.

Dohle says, each will , "publish autonomously, promote aggressively, and strive for more competitive advantages in the marketplace."

And lots of changes to Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2009 and Writers' Market 2009, don't forget to use the online versions for, I would hope, up to date information.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publisher Resigns

The senior vice president and publisher of adult trade books at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has quit, effective Dec. 10, reports Hillel Italie, of the Associated Press.

Spokesman Josef Blumenfeld confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that Becky Saletan has resigned, but declined further comment. Saletan didn't immediately return phone and e-mail messages from the AP.

Saletan had served in the job since January 2008, when she was appointed to head the newly merged Harcourt and Houghton Mifflin divisions.

The company has been in the news for a reported stop on new acquisitions. Blumenfeld has offered conflicting statements, saying the publisher of authors such as Philip Roth and Guenter Grass had "temporarily stopped acquiring manuscripts," but later acknowledging the policy didn't apply to education and children's books and a mystery book imprint.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has reportedly been hit hard by the tight credit market and any halt on acquisitions is widely believed to be in anticipation of a possible sale.
Their owner, the private-equity concern Education Media and Publishing Group, has acknowledged that rival publishers have expressed interest in buying HMH.

Saletan, ironically, had initially benefited when Houghton purchased Harcourt last year. Formerly publisher of adult trade books at Harcourt, she was promoted to head the combined adult trade divisions, winning out over Houghton publisher Janet Silver.

Silver, who edited Roth and Cynthia Ozick among others, soon left to join Random House Inc.'s Doubleday division as an editor-at-large. She was among 16 employees laid off by Doubleday last month.

Houghton Mifflin is one of the leading educational publishers in the United States, publishing textbooks, instructional technology, assessments, and other educational materials for teachers and students of every age.

The Company also publishes an extensive line of reference works and award-winning fiction and nonfiction for adults and young readers.

Julie Walters - That's Another Story, the Autobiography

Julie Walters’ autobiography, That’s Another Story, has been selected by Richard & Judy for their Christmas Books special.

Julie will be appearing on Richard & Judy’s New Position on Watch TV on Wednesday 3rd December 8pm.

Julie Walters has been described as the nation's most popular actress and comedienne. She has been delighting us on screen and on stage for over 25 years - and now, for the first time, she tells us her own story.

Born in 1950s Birmingham Julie was sent to school in a convent. She always wanted to be an actress but to appease her mother she first went into nursing. This didn't last for long - she soon went to join the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool.

West End success was followed by films, and an Academy Award nomination for her role in Educating Rita. Julie's collaborations with her close friend Victoria Wood have given us, among others, the unforgettable character 'Mrs Overall', and she's recently charmed a new generation of fans playing Mrs Weasley in the Harry Potter films.

Julie's life away from the public eye has not run so smoothly. Shortly after the death of her mother, her two-year-old daughter Maisie was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Julie Walters reveals with characteristic wit and candour the highs and the lows of a remarkable life.

That's Another Story moved up to the second spot in the Top 50 Bestsellers list this week, with sales almost doubling at 64,405.

Published by Orion books
Hardback out October 2008.
ISBN-13: 9780297852063
RRP £18.99

Paperback March 2009.
RRP £10.99
ISBN-13: 9780753826201

Monday, 1 December 2008

I Found My Horn on Stage

The stage version of I Found My Horn, Jasper Rees’ hilarious book about learning to play the French horn, will be performed at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London from Monday 1st - Saturday 20th December.

About the Play:
A man wakes up at forty to a broken marriage, a beckoning bedsit, and the realisation that he has done nothing to make himself memorable. Then he clambers into the attic...

Ever learnt a musical instrument? Then dropped it on leaving school? And secretly regretted it ever since?

After a lay-off of 25 years, Jasper Rees seeks redemption via the sixteen feet of treacherous brass tubing he never mastered in his youth. Resuming his old French horn, he sets himself an impossible task: to perform a Mozart concerto in front of a paying audience of horn fanatics. For Jasper, there’s no choice - it’s now or it’s never.

Jonathan Guy Lewis plays Jasper Rees and the show is directed by Harry Burton.

To find out more go to

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Upcoming Events - The View From Here December round up

Despite bad news from publishers, on staff cuts, lower sales and freezes on submissions, with just 24 shopping days left until Christmas things are hotting up on the high street according to Canongate. Here's some of their upcoming books:

Book News

The Mighty Book of Boosh – it’s already a huge success but with two weeks of London Underground advertising and a massive Facebook ad campaign both kicking off on Monday, plus appearances on Richard & Judy and T4 still to come, get ready to see it everywhere.

Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks – a brilliant anthology of the work of much-loved and much-missed humourist Alan Coren.

Power to the vowels! Our univocalic poetry feat Eunoia is flying off the shelves and is ‘set to be a cult hit this Christmas’ (The Times). It’s official: vowelcaholism is all the rage this year.

The Complete Peanuts - Charlie Brown and Snoopy’s adventures are perennially popular and our next two volumes of Peanuts cartoon strips are going down a storm. Ideal for the young and also the young at heart, the Spectator puts it perfectly: ‘Unlike almost everything you read as a child, they are actually better than you remember them.’

And then, of course, there’s the man everyone’s talking about at the moment. With no less than three books by Barack Obama on their list.

Change We Can Believe In, a collection of Obama’s key campaign speeches, will be published on 11th December. It includes his amazing victory speech, which you can watch on YouTube, should you need a reminder, as well as a foreword by the man himself.

With a national newspaper serial deal in place and guaranteed reviews across the press, Change We Can Believe In is all set to join Dreams and Audacity in the bestseller charts.


Usborne has a whole range of Christmas related children's books on offer. See here for their latest titles.


OUP Oxford University Press (USA)
has a huge sale online. Titles such as the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations are available at 20-45% reductions.


Other Selected Author Events:
Thursday 11th December, 20:00 at Borders, The Hayes, Cardiff. Entrance by invitation only. Patrick Jones poetry, Darkness is where the Stars are. Details from Cinnamon Press.


Selected Book Festivals & Fairs:
The Sofia International Book Fair.
3 - 7 Dec 2008, National Palace of Culture 10am - 7pm.

The Sofia International Book Fair is the highlight of Bulgaria's literary calendar, held once every two years. Around 120 publishing houses from Bulgaria and abroad present their newest titles and hottest authors at the National Palace of Culture.

Contemporary Bulgarian writers at the Sofia International Book Fair have included Dontcho Tzonchev, Professor Boyan Biolchev and Georgi Konstantiniov. The UK, France, Germany, Greece, Macedonia, China and Iran are all represented, and the Russian Federation is Guest of Honour in 2008.

Selected Other Literary Related Events:

Nobel Lecture in Literature at the Swedish Academy, Källargränd 4, 5:30 p.m. Tickets are required.

'Nobel Week' will begin shortly in Stockholm, and the new Laureates will attend a host of events, including press conferences, concerts and parties, all leading up to the Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies and Banquets in Stockholm and Oslo on 10 December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

But Nobel Week isn't all about partying. In order to receive their Nobel Prize, Laureates are required to deliver a lecture within six months of the award ceremony. For the great majority of Laureates, this means addressing an audience during Nobel Week, and this year twelve lectures will take place in four days, between 7-10 December. will be broadcasting the lectures live every day online, but don’t worry if you miss the live broadcasts, videos on-demand will be available at a later date. The scope of the awarded discoveries the Laureates will be telling us about is as broad as ever, ranging from Economist Paul Krugman discussing "Increasing Returns", to Chemist Roger Y. Tsien talking about "Constructing and Exploiting the Fluorescent Protein Paintbox".

Browse the 2008 programme of events to get this year's dates in your diary.


Welsh Fargo/On The Edge - 8pm, December 10 2008
supported by the Arts Council of Wales, 'No Offence', a comedy of terrors by Terry Victor in an uncensored rehearsed reading of a new play about theatre censorship. No Offence is a play about the freedoms of artistic expression. It is a serious comedy, planted and grown in the author’s passionate and professional involvement - as actor, writer and dictionary compiler - with the language of our time. It’s an outspoken battle for the truth. It’s offensive, it’s a comedy, and it’s at Media Point, Chapter, Market Road, Canton, Cardiff CF5 1QE. Tickets £3 on the door.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Awards: The Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Winner 2008

The Literary Review's annual award was presented to Rachel Johnson for her novel Shire Hell at a ceremony at London's In and Out club today.

Johnson beat the other nine shortlisted nominees to win what the Guardian called "the literary world's most dreaded honour," the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award.
  • The Gate of Air by James Buchan
  • Sashenka by Simon Montefiore
  • The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike
  • To Love, Honour and Betray by Kathy Lette
  • All in the Mind by Alastair Campbell
  • Attachment by Isabel Fonseca
  • Triptych of a Young Wolf by Ann Allestree
  • The Reserve by Russell Banks
  • Brida by Paulo Coelho
Previous winners include Sebastian Faulks, Melvyn Bragg and Wendy Perriam. A lifetime achievement award was also given to John Updike after the American author realised the "unique achievement" of four consecutive nominations for the award.

The 'winning' book is described as, "set in Dorset and is a sort of darkly comic romp..think Desperate Housewives meets Straw Dogs." It is published by Penguin, and sounds actually ...pretty funny.

"Mimi and Ralph have left social climbing, pushy parenting and their marital problems behind them in London, and moved west to the bucolic green depths of the country. Or so they thought. ...But what should be Shire Heaven is, it turns out, just as tricky to navigate as Notting Hell. Yes, in honeybourne, if you don't have:
1) A landscaped garden within 1000 acres (minimum) of prime land
2) A helipad for your trophy guests
3) An organic farm shop selling 16 sorts of home-made sausages
4) Four pony-mad polo-playing children
5) A literary festival in your mini-stately
6) A bottom that looks smackable in jodhpurs

Then,'re Mimi basically. And that's just the start of her problems. Mimi also has a secret. But can she keep it?"

Rachel Johnson writes for among others, the Daily Telegraph, the Spectator, the Evening Standard and Easy Living. She is married with three children and lives in London. Rachel is also the author of Notting Hell.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Bookselling: International Market Comparisons A Benchmark Study of Profitability

The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom and Ireland (BA) today launched its Benchmarking Study, authored by retail experts Sarah Charles and Tim Ingle. The purpose of the study was to analyse how other bookselling markets operate in order to provide insight to UK booksellers on possible causes of differences in profitability. The report compares the UK bookselling market to that of the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, and the USA and specifically considers the changes in market volume and value growth, industry and bookshop profitability and key profit drivers such as competition, pricing, promotions, discounts and costs. The report also briefly explores the related UK retail markets for CDs, DVDs and stationery.

The study included both academic and trade sectors although the findings focus particularly on the trade (consumer) sector (defined as bookshops which primarily sell fiction, non-fiction/reference and children’s books to the general public). The report recognises that there is a significant blurring across the boundaries of the academic and trade sectors, partly because many books do not fall neatly into a single category and partly because booksellers and other distribution channels may sell both consumer and academic titles.

There are clear indications that the UK is suffering from a ‘triple whammy’ of declining prices, declining volumes and rising costs.
It concludes that the UK market is more competitive, and has lower-than-average levels of profitability for booksellers. Relative to other markets studied, the UK is more fragmented with greater on-line and supermarket share, which many survey respondents perceived to have significant influence on sector performance.

Key findings include:

  • Total UK market growth appears to be one of the slowest in the sample.
  • The use of promotions and discounts creates a ‘vicious circle’ for UK booksellers.
  • On-line and supermarkets have a more significant influence on booksellers in the UK.
  • Low prices and low gross margins in the UK combine to drive the lowest gross profit per book in the sample.
  • UK bookshops offer a narrower product range with a lower weighted average gross margin than most other markets.
  • Independent booksellers in the UK do not cooperate as much as in other markets.
For further details, or to download the complete study, Bookselling: International Market Comparisons - A Benchmark Study of Profitability available free to all BA members and at a cost of £100 to non-members, see the Booksellers Association website.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

US Awards: National Book Awards; PNBA Book Awards Shortlist

Winners of the American National Book Awards, were presented last night and covered in detail in today's New York Times:

  • Fiction: Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (Modern Library)
  • Nonfiction: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed, (Norton)
  • Young people's literature: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic)
  • Poetry: Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems by Mark Doty (HarperCollins)

"I can't say what a wonderful November this has been," said Annette Gordon-Reed. "It's sort of wonderful to have the book come out at this time. People ask me if I planned it this way; I didn't. All of America--we're on a great journey now and I look forward to the years to come."

The National Book Foundation awarded its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Maxine Hong Kingston, and Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset received the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

In 2008, over 200 publishers submitted 1,258 books for the 2008 National Book Awards, an increase of six percent from 2007.

The total number of books by genre:

  • Fiction, 271
  • Nonfiction, 540
  • Poetry, 175
  • Young People's Lit., 274


The shortlist for the 2009 PNBA Book Awards, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, consists of 12 books written or illustrated by Northwest authors and published in 2008. They were selected by a committee of independent booksellers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, who will choose the final list of no more than six titles in mid-December. PNBA will announce the winners in January. The shortlist includes:

  • American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon by Steven Rinella (Spiegel & Grau)
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Harper)
  • Conquistador: Hernán Cortés, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs by Buddy Levy (Bantam)
  • The Eleventh Man by Ivan Doig (Harcourt)
  • The English Major by Jim Harrison (Grove)
  • Guernica by Dave Boling (Bloomsbury)
  • The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones (Beaufort Books)
  • Little Hoot, illustrated by Jen Corace (Chronicle)
  • Selected Poems: 1970-2005 by Floyd Skloot (Tupelo Press)
  • Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska by Seth Kantner (Milkweed Editions)
  • Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867-1957 by Terry Toedtemeier and John Laursen (The Northwest Photography Archive & Oregon State University Press)
  • The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life by Floyd Skloot (University of Nebraska Press)
Last year's winners included The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson and The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Happy 80th Birthday Mickey Mouse

Today is Mickey Mouse's official birthday. Created in 1928 he featured in a handful of short films before being distributed successfully in his officially recognised debut film, Steamboat Willie.

According to legend, Disney began sketching ideas for a new mouse character after a rights issue and fallout over his character Oswald involving Universal Studios. Those ideas were refined by Ub Iwerks, his chief animator and draftsman.

In his first and unsuccessful cartoon, Plane Crazy, released in 1928, the world's most famous rodent lures Minnie onto an airplane, where his repeated attempts to force his kisses on her eventually cause her to parachute out of the plane. His second appearance, the Gallopin' Gaucho based on a film of the same year Douglas Fairbanks's The Gaucho saw him tobacco chewing, beer drinking and generally mischievous. A character for adults.

Mickey made his first comic strip appearance on January 13, 1930. The comical plot was credited to Walt Disney himself, art to Ub Iwerks and inking to Win Smith. The first week or so of the strip featured a loose adaptation of Plane Crazy. Minnie soon became the first addition to the cast. The strips first released between January 13, 1930 and March 31 1930 have been occasionally reprinted in comic book form under the collective title "Lost on a Desert Island".

While Disney and his cartoon animations continued to focus on comedy, the comic strip effectively combined comedy and adventure. This adventurous version of Mickey appeared in comic strips and later comic books throughout the 20th and into the 21st century.

Floyd Gottfredson, who was responsible for the comic, left his mark with stories such as Mickey Mouse Joins the Foreign Legion (1936) and The Gleam (1942). He also created the Phantom Blot, Eega Beeva, Morty and Ferdie, Captain Churchmouse, and Butch. The next artist to leave his mark on the strip was Paul Murry whose first tale appeared in 1950 but began to work regularly with "The Last Resort" (1953). In Italy, Romano Scarpa in Topolino reused the Phantom Blot and Eega Beeva, and created Atomo Bleep-Bleep. Under Western Publishing Mickey was characterised as a Sherlock Holmes detective until editor Byron Erickson at Egmont and Cesar Ferioli returned Mickey to classic adventures.

Disney originally called the mouse Mortimer, but Disney’s wife, Lillian, apparently disliked that name and suggested Mickey. He went on to become one of the most beloved characters of popular culture with both adults and children of the 20th century, and his round ears became the brand image of Disney.

He had a makeover in 1935, and according to Time magazine, Mickey also appeared in color for the first time that year; The Band Concert's use of Technicolor was so innovative that critics still consider it to be a masterpiece.

He has played leading roles in a number of animated versions of classical stories such as Charles Dickens' Scrooge. Mickey portrays Bob Cratchit in "Mickey's Christmas Carol".

The eighty-year old icon has maintained youthful continuity for Disney as new characters have come along. Most recently in Disneyland Anaheim, he joined "Hannah Montana" star Miley Cyrus with more than 5,000 fans to sing her "Happy Birthday" on October 5, 2008 at her "Sweet 16" birthday party, a park-wide gala attended by dozens of celebrities and fans from around the world.

Mickey's own birthday seems to be a much quieter affair, with little on Disney's website or much fuss. But perhaps that's just what the octogenarian would want? Or perhaps he's just too busy? Together with Minnie Mouse, he posed for photos at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India on October 30th, 2008. The cartoon characters are in India for a special live event titled "The Mickey Mouse Show" in New Delhi and Mumbai, this November, in which they dance Bollywood style and speak in Hindi.

He seems to adapt well to travel, new audiences and young people. His characteristics and good guy image have developed, differing significantly from his first offering, in Plane Crazy (see below) featuring social, racial and ethical stereotypes of the day. Manga and anime fans recently told me at the Frankfurt Book Fair, that they also watch Mickey Mouse regularly, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Perhaps very much a character for our time. He combines comedy with adventure. His modern personality encompasses a dashing smile, eternal optimism and perseverance in the face of difficulty. With so many talents he will surely remain around for generations to come.