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.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Nov 16 - The View From Here Round Up

Selection of Author Events & New Releases


November 18, 2008
The Appeal (Paperback & Trade Paperback) by John Grisham
Yokaiden 1 (Graphc NovelPaperback) written by Nina Matsumoto
Food Wine The Italian Riviera & Genoa (Paperback) Downie/ Harris
A multitude of Fodor Travel Guides, 2009

November 27th, Penguin Classics is publishing the first complete English translation for 120 years of The Arabian Nights as a luxury three-volume hardback box set priced £125 and limited to 3,000 copies.

Book Packages from Penguin
Penguin have put together 4 sets of books with a free limited edition poster (whole stocks last) for enticing prices. With beautifully designed covers and striking posters, they will make fantastic gifts for anyone who loves books.

For example:

These titles are perfect for those people who want to indulge in heroic fantasies, whether it's traveling around the world in 80 days, wrestling tigers in the depths of the jungle or a duel to the death. Vibrantly illustrated covers will take you back to the golden age of exploration and will awaken courageous voyagers in any living room or office for the perfect armchair adventure.

The series includes:
*Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
*Rupert of Hentzau by Anthony Hope
*The Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard by Arthur Conan Doyle
*Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
*Greenmantle by John Buchan
*Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
*The 39 Steps by John Buchan
*The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
*The Man Who Was Thursda
y by G.K. Chesterton
*She by H. Rider Haggard
*The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope

The set and poster are on offer for £69.99

Other sets include:
They can be bought online at:


For 'bigger' boys, the boxed set of retro 007 Penguin Paperbacks - the perfect gift for lovers of Mr Bond. Featuring the full set of Bond titles including Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever, From Russia with Love, Doctor No, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy and The Living Daylights.


Selection of Book Festivals & Fairs

Bratislava International Book Fair
, Slovakia. 13th to 16th November

Munich Book Fair, 13th - 30th November, 08:00 - 23:00

Moscow International Book Fair, Fiction and Non-Fiction, 26th to 30th November


Guadalajara International Book Fair, 29th November to 7th December

Cambridge Wordfest, Saturday 30th November, 10:00 - 23:00
Listen to the Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize 2008, Kate Summerscale, or Award-winning war zone journalist Kate Adie whose book, 'Into Danger' explores the lives of extraordinary people who, like her, put their lives in regular peril, such as Saddam Hussein’s former food taster. Or why not meet the man who taught Harry Potter magic? The magnificent and amazing Paul Kieve, master magician and Magic Consultant on the Harry Potter films is there to perform.

Venue: ADC Theatre, Cambridge, England


Selected Other Literary Related Events


DYSSING MONADYS is designed to encourage people with dyslexia to indulge their imaginations and prove to the world, and themselves, that their dyslexia is not a disadvantage. Dyslexic artists, poets, writers, performers, etc. are encouraged to participate.

Dates: November 17th and 24th
Place: 10 Hoxton Street, London N1 6NG
Time: 7pm
Tickets: £5/4
Box Office: 07917157748
Tube: Old Street


All in Print China 2008, Shanghai New International Expo Centre, November 14th -17th

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2009 Gets into Gear

Amazon and Penguin Group USA, launched the campaign today, to encourage writers around the world to begin preparing their manuscripts for entry into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, which begins February 2, 2009 at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and ends February 8, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time), or when the first 10,000 Entries have been received, whichever is earlier.The winner will be published by Penguin Group (USA).

Last year's winner Bill Loehfelm emerged from 5,000 entrants. G. P. Putnam's Sons (a division of Penguin Group (USA)) published his novel, Fresh Kills, in August 2008. Loehfelm said, "The opportunity to enter this contest and share my manuscript with two publishing industry innovators like Penguin Group and Amazon was thrilling enough -- but to go from longtime struggling writer to nationally published author in nine months is an aspiring writer's dream."

Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 8, 2009, writers can submit their unpublished English-language novel manuscript at Up to 10,000 initial entries will be accepted, from which Amazon editors will select 2,000 to advance to the next round. Expert reviewers from Amazon will then review excerpts of these 2,000 entries and narrow the pool to 500 quarter-finalists. Reviewers from Publishers Weekly will then read, rate and review the full manuscripts, and 100 semi-finalists will be selected. Penguin editors will evaluate the manuscripts from this group of 100 and choose three finalists. A panel of esteemed publishing professionals -- including bestselling authors Sue Grafton and Sue Monk Kidd, literary agent Barney Karpfinger and Penguin Press Editor-in-Chief Eamon Dolan -- will read and post their critiques of the top three manuscripts on Amazon customers will then have seven days to vote for the Grand Prize Winner. The winner will be announced on May 22, 2009, and will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $25,000 advance. More details on the terms of the prize can be read here.

"We are excited to once again team up with Penguin to help authors break through and to introduce millions of Amazon customers to great new books," said Jeff Belle, Amazon's vice president, U.S. Books. "Authors last year quickly formed one of the largest communities on around the contest and exchanged views on writing and publishing."

Sponsors include, CreateSpace (on-Demand Publishing LLC, a subsidiary of, Penguin Group (USA) and Publishers Weekly.

Completed Manuscripts must be novels between 50,000 and 150,000 words. Each Manuscript must be authored by a single, individual author. Entrants must be legal residents of the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada (excluding the Province of Québec), China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States (the 50 states and D.C.), and the United Kingdom, who are 13 years or older at time of entry. More details of the rules here.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Amazon Top 100 for 2008

Amazon has posted its top 100 Editor's Picks of 2008.

They write, "It took us almost a whole year of reading to find our favorite book of 2008: Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemency, a late addition to the fall publication schedule after it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. A fat and fulfilling novel of two families in Sheffield, England, during the '70s, '80s, and '90s, The Northern Clemency inhabits the lives of more than a dozen characters with the kind of brilliant observation and imagination that reminded us of recent favorites like The Corrections, The Emperor's Children, and On Beauty."

In at number five is David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle which was Oprah's recent book club pick. Twenty-Nine is The Boat by Nam Lee, who took part in the author live exchange between the Edinburgh and Melbourne book festivals earlier this year. It is closely followed at thirty-two, by Man Booker winning, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

The first YA featured novel is Bog Child by Siobahn Dowd at thirty-six, which was shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Prize for Fiction, but lost out to Patrick Ness and The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Perhaps the most inspirational, is Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, at number ninety-three but ranked second in customer orders. I've still to read the book to compare it with the live lecture he delivered, but this was one of my video highlights of 2008.

More Amazon editors' picks and customer favorites in the Amazon Best of 2008 Store.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Obama Victory - first Impressions of Change?

Barack Obama's election as the next President of the United States of America, has prompted some reactions from the writing and publishing community. Will it affect publishing in ways beyond a general change in financial policy may impact the consumer market?

Potentially, it could change staffing rights in US bookshops and other retailers, if the Employee Free Choice legislation is passed, which Obama has supported. It would make joining a union easier for employees.

Michael Hyatt, President & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, has made four commitments to Barack Obama, encouraging his blog readers to give Obama a fair chance.

Perhaps we will now see a book written by the First Lady, Michelle, as purported in the New York Observer in March this year, or a new wave of Obama-related titles?

At least Chicago booksellers, seemed caught up in the Obama whirlwind on election day, according to Publisher's Weekly. The Chicago 57th Street Books/Seminary Coop will lose at least two regular customers as a result of the election. Known to be the Obama's favourite bookstore, it is about half a mile from their Chicago home, but it is somewhat further from the White House.

According to The Telegraph, Jamie Byng, managing director of Canongate Publishing, who brought Obama's two books, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father to Britain last year, ordered an extra 120,000 copies of the books on hearing the presidential result. If you want to know more about it, there is a fine review of Dreams for my Father, over at Vulpes Libris.

And if you missed his full speech during the election night, you can read or view it here.