Friday, 27 March 2009

Here's an interesting fact for you...

The Bookseller Crow on the Hill is one of the participating bookshops, displaying the project in store. (This is of course an interesting fact in itself, but additional to that...) Yann Martel, Life of Pi's partner, has bought a copy of Stephen Clayton's 'Art of Being Dead'!

Apparantly after spotting the book in Bristol Library, the title was sought after, and spotted in 'Exclusively Independent' yesterday.

So to quote Kevin from Bluemoose Books directly, "By the six degrees of seperation Steve and EI are Booker Prize winners. The future's so bright I've got to wear shades."

Steve will be hosting a book signing at Borders Cambridge on Thursday 2nd April at 6:30pm, and also be speaking on BBC Radio Cambridge at 3:00pm on the Sue Dougan afternoon show.


Thursday, 26 March 2009

Some nice reporting!

It was really nice to stumble upon this bit of feedback for EI and the event last week.

Kevin from Bluemoose Books runs a blog 'The Moose That Roared', and on it details the most recent news from the company, as well as general thoughts on what's happening in the industry. When talking about the event, Kevin says, "Sixty people turned up to listen to a varied array of talent and different stories from the six authors there to read form their newly published novels. All very exciting. There was a Q and A about indie publishing and a vibrant and hopefully informative evening was had by all."

The project has been running for about six months now, and is an ongoing scheme that is going from strength to strength. So it's reassuring to hear what the publishers involved think of the project, and the effect it has had on them individually. In the process from submissions, to selection, to distribution, and ongoing publicity, it's really interesting and quite refreshing to hear what all of the work has meant to those involved.

So have a look at where you can read the full report of feedback about EI, as well as catch up on what the latest news is from Bluemoose Books.


Monday, 23 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Mike Bollen- Author of Earth Inc

Today's Guest Blogger is Mike Bollen. His novel 'Earth Inc' was published by Picnic Publishing, and selected as one of EI's final ten titles. Here are his thoughts about Wednesday's event at Hammersmith Library.

“I’ve never done this before, so if it’s a bit rubbish, that’s why.” Perhaps not the most stirring opening to a speech, certainly not the sort of thing that would inspire an army to follow you into battle. But that’s how I chose to begin my career as an author-who-reads-bits-of-his-book-aloud-at-public-events. There’s probably a more concise way of describing this activity, but a novice like me doesn’t know what it is.

So, not the most rabble rousing of starts, but it seemed to do the job. It broke the ice nicely, and lowered everyone’s expectations, which was good. And then I launched into a section of my novel, Earth Inc. I wasn’t reading from an actual copy of the book, instead I clutched a couple of sheets of paper I had printed earlier that day. This did feel like I was cheating rather, and I felt the need to proudly wave a copy of the novel first, to prove my credentials. I really had written a book, a whole one, not just two sheets of A4.

The paper was necessary because I had slightly re-written the section I had chosen to read. This was good, because I wasn’t starting from very beginning of Earth Inc, so I’d been able to cut a few things that didn’t make sense out of context. However, it was bad because, while trimming the scene down, I thought of a new joke for it, which was kind of annoying as the book is now on the shelves and is completely unchangeable. So the audience in Hammersmith Library were treated to an exclusive remix that night, featuring a bonus new gag.

I was sharing the stage with six other authors, and while not reading from my pieces of paper, I sat there quietly and rather timidly. We seemed to be split into two distinct groups: those (like myself) who could hardly start speaking, and those who were the exact opposite. I hope that doesn’t sound unkind, because I don’t want to disparage the members of the other group. Indeed, thank god for them. They managed to be amusing and informative, and the evening would have been much duller without them.

Personally I was rather daunted by the event; I suppose I’m happier putting words down on paper where they can be rearranged, crossed out and replaced before they are offered to the public. But I can understand how those from the other group felt liberated by the occasion. You speak a word and it’s gone, quick, on to the next, no time for second thoughts or thesauruses. (I was going to look up whether or not that should be thesauri, but I shall pretend that I’m speaking this bit aloud, and plough on regardless). Plus of course it can be intoxicating for an author just to be out in public, with other human beings, human beings who, luxury of luxuries, actually want to hear about the author’s writing. In my extremely limited experience I can see that these events are not a million miles away from group therapy. But it’s not a one-way street; while the authors were getting tipsy on attention there was at least some free wine for the audience.

I found the actual reading of my extract extremely rewarding, a rare chance to get some immediate feedback. Novelists are quite hard done by in this respect – songwriters can play you their songs, artists can show you their paintings, but for some reason it’s considered rude to scrutinise the face of someone who is reading your book, interrupting every thirty seconds to ask “Are you still enjoying it? What about that bit?” I have tried this occasionally, but the feedback you get quickly descends into abuse. The other night in Hammersmith I could easily tell which jokes were working because people laughed at them, and I knew the extract was interesting because no one yawned or walked out. The whole thing was very enjoyable, and I hope it won’t be my last such event. Also, I can see now why authors tend to read from actual copies of their books, rather than pieces of paper. It’s so they can give in to the temptation to carry on beyond the scene they’d planned to read; I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t confined myself to those two sheets of A4, I’d still be reading now.


Friday, 20 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Corinne Souza - Picnic Publishing

Lauren Parsons of Legend Press, and kindly funded by the Arts Council, has organised this fantastic initiative allowing small publishers to promote their books - but oh boy has she left this particular small publisher with a headache. I am a hundred years old, embarrassingly dull and a blog virgin. So, what does Lauren ‘invite’ me to do? Only to write a post about EARTH INC – one of the funniest, freshest novels you are ever likely to read – explaining how Picnic came to publishing it. ‘Oh yes,’ she added, ‘Perhaps you might also tell us something about its author Michael Bollen. He will be blogging too in due course…’

Now, Michael is not a blog virgin. Nor is he dull. This is reasonably scary in itself. Scarier in the fact that he is one of the country’s most brilliant, edgy, and wittiest young writers. Going head-to-head with him via a blog post is not a good place to be.

A quasi-similar situation arose prior to EARTH INC’s launch. Deciding that having a publisher around with creaking bones could ruin my author’s street cred, I spent hours working out a plausible apology for not being at the party: Dear Mike: a chap called Professor Ruck telephoned to say he is a character in EARTH INC. He says you describe him as an ‘evil dictator’ when all he is, is a normal run-of-the-mill sort of dictator trying to make a positive difference to young people’s lives. I thought it best I investigate his story, because, if true, it could ruin the book. Sorry to miss the party. PS: Would you PLEASE delete the word ‘heroin’ from the banner on your publicity shots and insert the word ‘food’ instead, so it now writes ‘I write for food’, NOT as you have, ‘I write for heroin’. Thank you.’

To return to the present and this post. Problem Number One: Mike, in hilarious horror, has written a novel depicting the future. In his book, his coporates are called Softcom, Okay Cola and O’Connels. But can I get Microsoft, Coca Cola or McDonalds to sue? Nope. I cannot tell you how many letters drawing EARTH INC to their attention and suggesting they might like to contact their lawyers…

Problem Number Two: Mike’s enormous street-cred. Do I run the risk of ruining it if I say he: a) turned out fabulous copy; b) met every deadline; c) is utterly professional; d) wanted EARTH INC.’s cover illustration for his Mum? (Regarding ‘d’ above – there is worse. As many reading this will know, it is mandatory for publishers to send copies of their titles to the British Library. The latter – staffed by some brilliant characters – then send a note back naming the title and acknowledging it has been lodged for posterity. EARTH INC.’s British Library accreditation is now with Mike’s Mum too. See what I mean about my potential to ruin his street-cred?)

Problem Number Three: do I tell the truth and admit that I read EARTH INC initially because I thought it was about a satyr. Thinking EARTH INC’s editor Rena Valeh might advice, I telephoned her. ‘Don’t put that,’ she ordered crisply. ‘Blog readers will know you thought ‘satyr’ was spelled ‘satire’ and ‘satire’ was spelled ‘satyr’. We do not want everybody to know you cannot spell. We are publishers, after all.’ Before replacing the receiver she added ‘Actually, your spelling is probably worse than Darren’s.’

Darren is in EARTH INC too. He is a brain in a jar. A teenage brain.

Thank you for reading this post. I have no doubt you will enjoy this wonderfully funny, timely novel. It is the ideal companion for the ghastly economic months ahead. And far too brilliant a book for idiot mainstream publishers to have spotted – which is how Picnic got lucky.

Corinne Souza

Thursday, 19 March 2009


First Exclusively Independent Event Pictures

Last night was the first Exlusively Independent Event at the Hammersmith Library, and what a success it was!

Authors Michael Marr, Michael Bollen, Shanta Everington, Megan Taylor, Peter Cave, Woodrow Phoenix and Stephen Clayton each shared with us a reading from their books, and an insight into their work as a whole.

We also heard from Kevin of Bluemoose Books and David Herbert, Head of Libraries and Archives on how they felt about the project, and independent publishing.

The venue had a great turnout with readers and people from the industry, coming along to listen and offer numerous questions at the Q&A session.

It's nice to now relax knowing that the first event went down a storm, and I'm eager to organise another one in the near future.

The photos were taken by Adrian Lewis or contact him on

So click on the image above, and have a look through the photo album.


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The First EI Event - Tonight!

So tonight, at 7:30 is the first Exclusively Independent Event at the Hammersmith Library.

There will be brief talks from David Herbert - Head of Libraries and Archives, Kevin from Bluemoose Books, and authors from both the previous cycle, and the current one.

It should be a great night to celebrate the success of the project, and hear from those involved, how the scheme has grown, and involved us, in each various ways.

So do come along, have a drink and relax. I'll post some photos of the event, on tomorrows blog.

See you there!


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Irene - Bookgroup Info

When we met Lauren and Tom of Legend Press at the launch of In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika we were struck by their vitality, individualism – and youth! It was good putting faces to names, having only corresponded by email before that.

We were delighted when they subsequently invited us to sit on the panel of the Exclusively Independent project.

Each member of the panel is sent a selection of AIs and synopses from the publishers’ submitted books and then have to select 10 of those that we feel are suitable. The submissions have been really interesting and diverse and so far, remarkably, all the individuals on the panel have more or less come up with the same choices. There haven’t been any fisticuffs - yet!

Bookgroup Info launched in 2002 with an Arts Council grant and has gone from strength to strength. From the hundreds of books we are sent or that are recommended to us, we choose those, which have really made an impression on us and review five on the site every month. We also interview authors as well as keeping up with events in the literary world. The site also has a unique searchable bookgroup directory. As well as the EI project we are on the judging panel of the Penguin Orange Broadband Readers' Group Prize and will be running a workshop at the Readers’ Voice Convention in Oxford on April 4th.

We believe that independence is one of our strengths so working with other independents on this project is appropriate and appealing to us. We believe passionately in supporting independent publishers and booksellers because they're generally run by enthusiasts like us who believe in the benefits of books and aren't just in it to make money. As long as we have independents, we can be sure of diversity and choice in the marketplace!

Irene Haynes, Bookgroup Info and Exclusively Independent panel member.

Monday, 16 March 2009

EI Call for Submissions - Now Closed

Two weeks ago, the third cycle of Exclusively Independent was open for submissions. The reaction from independent publishers has been overwhelming, and it's great to see such enthusiasm for the project.

We have had submissions from a huge variety of companies, from genre's such as travel, sport, fiction, non fiction, poetry, illustrations, historical novels, and childrens books.

The submissions pack will be distributed to the panel today, where they will have a further two weeks to read through the pack, and select their personal favourite ten.

The pack is collating the submissions from publishers across the country, and so the panel have quite the task on their hands.

In two weeks, we'll meet and discuss our favourites, when the final ten titles will be chosen to highlight independent talent.

So check back here in two weeks, to see what the final then 'Independent Picks of the Month' will be!


Friday, 13 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Steve Potter- The Book Depository

Today's Guest Blogger is Steve Potter. Steve is the Commercial Trading Manager for TBD, and also a panel member for the project.

A week is a long time in publishing – as the Sunnyside saga has aptly demonstrated. Whether it is a victory for the independent bookseller or a clever marketing strategy by one of the giants of the publishing industry will depend on which side of the fence you sit... perhaps it was both. What is for sure is that restricting the sale of any title (indeed any product) in the current climate seems churlish to say the least.

The concept of exclusivity in the trade is by no means a new one, but historically this has been about exclusive editions and bindings, rather than a restricted period of sale. You only have to look at the shelves of any bookseller at the airports (is there more than one airport bookseller now?) to see that exclusive editions have been around for some time. I doubt that there would have been any furore had there been two different bindings made available on pub date.

The polarity between the chains and the independent bookseller has perhaps never been greater, and while the independents have some very vocal and knowledgeable booksellers in their ranks I’m sure they sometimes feel like a lone voice. Sunnyside has shown the power of a united front and the importance for independents to formalise alliances, agreements and structures that enable them to take advantage of the best available deals and support.

Independents will always have an edge because of the diversity and extent of range they are able to offer, and by taking a punt on titles that fall outside of the mainstream radar. It is this diversity that underpins the Exclusively Independent programme, allowing booksellers to take advantage of extra discounts on a selection of titles that in all likelihood won’t be found front of store in the chains.

The selection process has been rigorous and some strong opinions have been shared – though surprisingly the final selections have been pretty much unanimously agreed. My main concern – and this may well be the airport bookseller in me – has been that titles may be too eclectic to sell. Yes, we want different and interesting writing, but ultimately the titles selected need to sell and have customers coming back for the next month’s selection. That being said, with upwards of 40 submissions each month, there is certainly something for everyone. The titles selected allow independent booksellers to do what they do best – talking to their customers about books they can be passionate about – and to create a point of difference from the same old titles on display in the chains.

As far as the day job is concerned – I am really proud of what we have achieved at We have just re-launched the site, thanks to some extremely gifted techie people, and have received really positive feedback from customers, publisher s and indeed other booksellers. We are always looking for ways in which we can work more closely with publishers and anyone in the trade, so please feel free to contact me if you feel we can work together going forward.

In a week in which I have met with Rotovision , McGraw Hill and I.B.Tauris , I am constantly reminded of the sheer vibrancy and breadth of the publishing on offer in the UK and know that the independents will always have something different to offer. Sunnyside certainly inflamed opinion, but it is soon forgotten - as new, different and exciting books appear to arouse those bookselling passions.


Thursday, 12 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Shanta Everington - Author of Give Me a Sign

Todays Guest Blogger is Shanta Everington. Her book, Give Me a Sign was published by Flame Books, and included along Megan Taylor's book, in the first selection of EI. Both authors will be speaking at the first EI event, next Wednesday at the Hammersmith Library.

After a rocky road to publication, I was thrilled when my young adult novel, 'Give Me a Sign', was selected as one of the first picks of the month for the Exclusively Independent Initiative.

'Give Me a Sign' is my second published novel and my first for young adults. I've always wanted to write for this market, as it was during my teens that I really became hooked on reading novels. 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee, was the first book to have a major impact on me, with its exploration of prejudice provoking a powerful emotional response. But it was Judy Blume who had all us girls turning the pages in our lunch break with stories that spoke to us personally, such as 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret', 'Then Again, Maybe I Won't' and the infamous 'Forever'. I wanted to write a teen book that dealt with issues of difference and tolerance, and how we all struggle to accept ourselves and others.

I tend to write quite organically, without a whole lot of planning and plotting. I started off with the idea for my main character, Liz, a fragile sixteen-year-old girl, who is mourning the loss of her dad and trying to readjust to her new family life with step-dad Dave and half-sister Emma. A shy asthmatic with big feet, Liz finds herself being bullied at school by performing arts wannabes, the Russell twins. The story explores Liz's difficult relationship with herself and her mum. It's not until she meets new boy Doug, who happens to be deaf, that Liz is able to start to see herself in a different way. At the time of writing 'Give Me a Sign', I was immersed in a deaf project in my day job. I was totally thrown in at the deep end in learning about this whole new community, culture and language, an experience I found quite stressful. This inspired me to create a deaf character so that I could explore some of the issues about deaf identity and deaf-hearing relationships.

I was very lucky to have an agent when I completed the book and she submitted it to the children's imprints of mainstream publishers. Rejections can be difficult to cope with but you learn to develop a thick skin. However, publishers stating the book was 'too political' or that 'our girls don't like to read about disability, they like to read about people like them' not only depressed me but made me feel strongly that the book needed to be published. I started to look around at independent publishers who I felt may be more interested in this type of story but then I encountered another hurdle - many small presses don't look at 'children's fiction.' I stumbled across ethical publisher Flame Books who take books that explore social issues. Despite the fact that they had only published adult fiction, I sent the book in anyway, with all the reasons they should publish me! After a nail-biting six month wait, they offered me a publication contract and published 'Give Me a Sign' as their first young adult novel in July 2008.

Independent publishers should be applauded for their willingness to take risks on books that sit within an area which mainstream publishers are unlikely to consider. But getting published is only the first step to getting your book into the readers' hands. Although I was very fortunate that my local Waterstones have a policy to support local authors and therefore agreed to stock 'Give Me a Sign', I know it has been difficult for my publisher to get high street chains to stock our books. That's why I'm genuinely excited about this innovative initiative from Legend Press and The Arts Council England, which I hope will mean more books from independents reach the book buying public.

I've recently completed my second young adult, and am now working on a memoir of early motherhood. I hope to place these books with publishers soon!

Shanta is the author of two novels, 'Marilyn and Me' published by Cinnamon Press (2007) and 'Give Me a Sign' published by Flame Books (2008). She has an MA with distinction in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and lectures in Creative Writing with The Open University. Shanta lives in London with her husband and son. Visit


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Megan Taylor - Author of How We Were Lost

Today's Guest Blooger is Author Megan Taylor. Her novel 'How We Were Lost' was selected for the first cycle of EI. Her work is published by Flame Books.

‘How We Were Lost’ – Found Again

In June 2007, I opened a package from Flame Books. My hands were, quite literally, shaking. Inside, nestled between the brown paper and bubble-wrap, was a brand new novel – ‘How We Were Lost’ by Megan Taylor. It had actually happened. I was published.

It was a moment I’d daydreamed about since childhood. A wish I’d hardly dared to believe would ever actually come true.

‘How We Were Lost’, this story of a young girl’s search that had so possessed me (I’d written it frantically, almost compulsively, in snatched moments between small children) could now belong to other people too. To say I was ecstatic might well be an understatement.

When I found out that my book was to be one of the first titles to be featured in Legend’s ‘Exclusively Independent’ promotion in December last year, my feelings were similar – and not just because I felt so lucky, personally.

With ‘Exclusively Independent’, Legend Press have already achieved so much, creating vital links between independent authors, presses and booksellers, and reaching out to many new readers. This initiative is bold and generous and especially important right now, amidst the challenges of our current, ever-shifting economic climate.

Since ‘How We Were Lost’ was released, a lot has changed for me too. I can now (almost) think of myself as a Proper Writer. I’m approaching the end of a Creative Writing MA and have completed my second novel, ‘Before the Light’.

But when I take my turn to read, alongside all those wonderful and genuinely Proper authors at Hammersmith Library on March 18th, I know that my hands will still be shaking. And, as well as being enormously grateful, I’ll still be ridiculously excited too. Because some things, happily, haven’t changed at all.


Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Sean Wood - Flame Books

Today's Guest Blogger is Sean Wood. Flame Books have so far had three titles to selected as the 'Independent Picks of the Month'.

Independent publishing helps sustain the variety of books available, and the originality, quality, and depth in the writing. We’re delighted to have ‘Tru’ selected for the Exclusively Independent scheme this month, as for us the book is a great example of the kind of book that is suited to the independent route.

We were drawn to publishing ‘Tru’ because the central character of Getrude “Tru” Hayes spoke so strongly to us through Melbye’s well-crafted language. The story has an atmosphere about it which is mysterious and enveloping, and moves subtly but profoundly into the experience of reading the book. It is this manner of touching the reader, which grows throughout, which makes it such a rewarding read. This is not the kind of element which may so easily suit the mainstream publishing and marketing model, but selection for the Exclusively Independent scheme demonstrates its worth, and why we need to celebrate independent publishing and bookselling.

The independent sector can find real gems, because it is willing to take risks and keep its doors open. Most of our authors are previously unpublished writers, and submitted their manuscripts to us directly by email, not through agents. We are keen to nurture new talent at this level, and to do so in close contact and co-operation with the authors. We consider their best interests at all times, and our long-term goal is to increase the percentage of royalties we are able to offer to authors. We hope to grow collectively with this approach, and continue to provide readers with a high standard of unique books.


Monday, 9 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Laura Keeling - Reportage Press

Today's Guest Blogger is Assistant Editor of Reportage Press, Laura Keeling. 'A Week at Waterloo' is one of the selected titles for this months' EI list, from Reportage Press.

Working for Reportage Press is my first job in publishing, but I already know that my working day is very different from that of friends working for Penguin, or Random House. And that is fine by me. I know all the authors personally (apart, of course, from those that are deceased, such as the lovely Magdalene de Lancey of Legend Press’ current pick, A Week at Waterloo..), am very close to my (one or two) colleagues, and am involved in every aspect of the publishing process from commissioning to printing, from marketing to editorial.

But of course there are challenges. Faced with the juggernaut of the various big publishing houses, with their massive budgets and eternal dominance of the bestseller lists, trying to sell a few good, interesting books about the less commercial people and places of the world can seem a daunting task. A case in point – the other day I was having a pleasant chat with the owner of Primrose Hill Books, when a couriered parcel was plopped down on the table in front of us. Inside were five or six ‘bound proofs’ cherry picked by Bloomsbury, the best of their autumn list. But these were not the ‘bound proofs’ of my experience - i.e. spiral bound manuscripts - but actual, glossy, proper ‘books’. And they were ready months in advance of printing! My heart sank – what hope did our small repping team have against this?

Well, thank god for initiatives like Exclusively Independent, unreservedly and unashamedly batting on the side of small, quality publishing houses, struggling to get small, quality bookshops to bat an eyelid. Indie publishers and bookshops are a vital aspect of the literary landscape, and any scheme that encourages the two to come together in support of each other is very worthwhile.


Friday, 6 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Candi Miller - Author of Salt & Honey

Today's Guest Blogger is Candi Miller. Her book is one of the first books published by Legend Press back in 2006, and was shortlisted for World Book Day Top 10.

Just fancy…. almost three years on, a young African girl dressed in beads and animal skins can still cast a spell across the water, to get herself noticed.

Koba is a San (Bushman) girl whose tale of survival is told in my 2006 novel, Salt & Honey. The stories surrounding my desert research for the novel would make another, but they’re all true, including the one about the elephant charge, the veld fire and the snake. Stranger to me, is what has happened to my little book along the way: shortlisted for World Book Day in 2008; translated into French and Italian with German rights pending and now, selected for the Exclusively Independent promotion. Who’d have thought it?

That it has been noticed, I’m grateful for, especially for the EI selection. What a worthwhile initiative; well-done Legend Press and the Arts Council for making it happen! I’m so glad the little guys are getting some attention.

Should anyone read and enjoy Salt & Honey, please bear with me while I write the sequel. It features adult Koba alive and kicking up dust devils in the Kalahari while she tries to establish her self-identity. Of course she’ll be in jeopardy, in love, in lust and in charge… though in what order, remains to be seen.

Here’s hoping it’s a good week for book sales at Exclusively Independent stores.


Thursday, 5 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Peter Cave-Author of 'What's Wrong with Eating People?'

Today's Guest Blogger is Peter Cave. He is the Author of 'What's Wrong with Eating People?' Published by Oneworld Publications, Peter's novel is a collection of philosophical puzzles.

Writing a book is a way of passing the time; but, as Samuel Beckett quipped, time would have passed anyway. ‘How true,’ we may nod in agreement, but we may think further, ‘Whatever do we mean, when we talk of time passing?’

Thus it is that we enter philosophical perplexities – and the perplexity of time is one puzzle in my What’s Wrong with Eating People? After all, many people tend to think that the future does not exist – not yet – and, although the past was once present, it no longer exists; so, what is left of the present? Is the present just a boundary between the past and the future? But how can we live in a boundary – and how can there be a boundary between two non-existent items, namely, past and future? We seem to have lost all time... Hence, the need for the red wine...

Writing philosophy often involves no writing at all. It involves staring into space, sipping that red wine, while puzzling about such questions, be they questions of time or fate or love or voting or, indeed, the question of what’s wrong with eating people. I guess that the quick answer to that last question depends again on the wine to accompany those people.

Writing philosophy – where I live, in Soho – also engenders lots of teeth gritting, at the noisy road-works outside, car alarms going off unnecessarily and, dare I say, people outside enjoying themselves, cavorting and having fun. So, off I trek to the British Library – only to encounter other ‘readers’ who fail to turn off their laptop sounds. Road-works’ noise is replaced by Microsoft jingles – and the sounds of merry mucus swirling noisily and unhappily in those readers who lack the ability to use tissues.

Oh dear me, do not get the impression that I am forever complaining, ‘Sulky of Soho’ – dear me, no.... of course not. ‘Live and let live’ is my motto – but silently.

True, you may think it bizarre that I live in Soho, in view of the problems of noise; but then it does afford easy opportunities for music, as opposed to noise. I can skip along to English National Opera. Opera is one of the great absurdities of life, of the arts, yet curiously we can wallow in it, suspending belief – another source of paradox. We know we are in the opera house – or the theatre, or reading a book – yet we are swept along by the story, the music. We have hopes and fears for the characters – and yet, how odd! We know they are not real – but we can worry about how their lives develop, even when having left the theatre. Oh dear, another philosophical puzzle!

Thus it is that philosophy can find questions to ask about virtually everything in our lives; and thus it is that I sit down, maybe with earplugs in, headphones on, and try to write some more philosophical puzzles. Pity that the telephone than flashes – maybe it could be someone important – so I remove aforementioned headphones, take out sticky earplugs, pick up the phone – only to be able to hear, over the din of the road-works, some recorded voice urging me to return to the delights of BT or such. So, put down ‘phone, earplugs back in, headphones back on – but then must have some coffee...

And so – one way or another – we live the absurdity of life. And so it is that, in my Robot collection, I mused upon the better life of a pebble on a sun-drenched beach. It would be a better life for then things would just wash over us – and no one would think of eating us. And yet....

Well, try Doctor Atomic – some links at my webpage: or even some jazzed-up Monterverdi sung by Philippe Jaroussky. When submerged in such music, we may lose ourselves – as we lose ourselves when writing a book and reading a book. Paradoxically, things often go best for us when, indeed, we have lost ourselves – be it in the music or in love and romance or even in digging the garden. Here, once again, we have a philosophical perplexity. Whatever is the ‘self’ that we worry so much about? Whatever is the self that we can lose – and feel so much pleasure when lost?

When the mountain flowers are blooming,
Their scent carries their meaning.


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Open for Submissions!

Email With Exclusively Independent, we aim to provide readers with an exclusive selection, refreshed every 4-6 weeks. In order to provide the titles with the best publicity in terms of presence and events in shops and libraries, we will be refreshing the selection at the beginning of April. Therefore we are now open for the next batch of submissions.

All you need to do is email me 1-3 selected titles, this includes the AI's, manuscripts (if possible) and cover images.

I'll collate all of the information, submit it to the panel, and hopefully your submission will be one of the lucky ten!

Good luck!

Lauren or call 0207 426 0340

Guest Blogger: Mike Stocks- Author of 'White Man Falling'

Today's Guest Blogger is Mike Stocks. His novel, 'White Man Falling' was published by Alma Books.

WHY THE WHITE MAN FELL...About ten years ago the Crime Writers' Association ran a competition for aspiring novelists; you had to submit the first 5000 words of a crime novel, and the winner won publication or cash or mentoring or something -- I've forgotten now. That's why the premise of White Man Falling -- what if a white man falls out of the sky into a small South Indian town? -- was conceived as crime fiction rather than as the poignant comedy of Indian small-town life that it developed into. My submission failed to win the competition, and my then agent showed zero interest in the sample of writing I'd produced, so I shelved the idea. But my thoughts often went back to it. A few years later, I was in South India for six months -- my fourth trip there -- living in small undistinguished towns and suburbs, just observing how people went about their lives. I didn't go back to writing White Man Falling while I was in India, but all the life I lived there and observed there was absorbed into my literary bloodstream. A couple of years after that, Alma Books commissioned the novel from me. I found that I still wasn't ready to go; I had to spend several months in the library just reading about India to get myself back into the zone, and I assembled and then rejected two or three detailed plans before the final one passed muster. But once I started writing, the book came -- not quickly, because I'm a slow writer, but without too much protest.

It's not easy to publish successfully a debut novel from an unknown author with a new, small independent publisher and little marketing money; winning the Goss First Novel Award gave us a bit of confidence that we were right to have faith in the book. White Man Falling hasn't made us rich, but it has sold exceptionally well given the starting point of the author and the publishing house, and to remain in the bookshops after three years is an achievement. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book's success has been its recent publication in India -- the Indian rights were bought by HarperCollins India. White Man Falling is quite satirical about India, and there are nuances of Tamil culture and family life that I was bound to get wrong at times, so I was nervous about the reaction; one review was pretty scathing, but a large majority of reviews and blog responses within India have been enthusiastic overall, and that was a relief.

This new input of energy into the book by the Exclusively Independent scheme feels like a natural development for a book that I hope will carry on bubbling away for many years yet.


Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Stephen Clayton- Author of 'The Art of Being Dead'

Today's Guest Blogger is Author Stephen Clayton. His novel, 'The Art of Being Dead' has been published by Bluemoose Books.

All writers believe that they have something to say. Why else become a writer?

I wrote ‘The art of being dead’ because it was a story that intrigued and fascinated me. I wished to discover how my main characters would behave under certain extreme circumstances and how, once their true nature and background had been fully evolved, they would relate to one another and the outside world. But it was only after I had finished the story that I came to believe that my work could possibly be of interest to other people. Then I wished for the story to be published.

The first step, and perhaps the most difficult, was to allow selected friends, those who were avid and conscientious readers, to view my work.

Encouraged by their comments I embarked upon a careful and extensive re-writing of the novel, concentrating solely upon making it as accessible to a publisher as possible. The whole process took nearly two and a half years.

I had met Kevin, the owner of Bluemoose Books, the previous year and although I wasn’t totally convinced that he would be interested in the work, I thought that it was time to seek out a professional opinion. I sent him a synopsis and just the first twenty pages of the novel. He came back within a matter of days and asked to see the rest.

Once he had confirmed that he was going to go ahead and publish I thought, in my naivety, that my work was finished. There began, however, a close working relationship with Bluemoose, Kevin and his editor, that encompassed all aspects of the publishing process, including the design and printing of the cover.

Once the book had been published I was determined to do everything I could to promote the novel and, by implication, Bluemoose Books. In this regard the support and encouragement shown by libraries, reading groups and by various independent reviewers has been invaluable.

As a first time author working within a small publishing house I am only too aware of the effort that is needed to bring one’s work to the notice of national reviewers and the general public. Any lack of ‘clout’ that an independent publisher may have in the professional book market is, in my opinion, more than offset by the care and commitment that they show for their authors.


Monday, 2 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Kevin Duffy - Bluemoose Books

Each day, various people, from authors to those who work for the publishing company, will be our guest blogger. You can read their views on the project and the industry, giving you a little insight into what goes on in 'Exclusively Independent'. Today's Guest Blogger is Kevin Duffy from Bluemoose Books Limited. 'The Art of Being Dead' by Stephen Clayton is currently one of the ten selected titles.

As a publisher it is always exciting to get a new manuscript. To sit down and read what you hope will be a stunning piece of work. Of course there are disappointments but when you read something that is utterly compelling, it makes up for all those near misses. When I read the ms of The art of being dead, I was a little anxious because I knew Steve, not well, but Hebden Bridge is a small place and we met occasionally for a drink. So when he asked if I could read his ms, my immediate thought was, ‘what if it’s really bad, what do I say to him?’

I needn’t have bothered. I read the whole thing in three hours and was utterly gripped by the story. And it was beautifully written. It reminded me of seeing a Francis Bacon painting for the first time. Visceral, uncomfortable, disturbing, beautiful and utterly, utterly compelling. Once started you just have to find out what happens. And for me that’s what I want from a book. I sent it to one of our editors and within a couple of days we decided to publish and offer Steve a contract. He was delighted. Fantastic. So were we.

What smaller independent publishers can offer, which bigger publishers cannot, is the inclusion of the author in the whole publishing process. Keeping them abreast of what’s happening, especially with jacket design. As soon as I had read Steve’s book I knew what the jacket should look like. This doesn’t always happen. I arranged for Steve and I to meet the designer, Mike Barrat. We met in a local coffee shop, talked about the book, the characters, the time and place in which it was set and the market we were aiming it at. Within two weeks we had the final jacket and it is stunning. A book jacket has a fifth of a second to catch the eye of the casual book browser. Mike’s design does just that. It stops you in your tracks because it is so different to anything out there at the moment. It stands out. They pick up the book, turn it over; read the blurb, Can you become a murderer by doing nothing? Hopefully they open the book, read the first page and are hooked. They buy. We’ve done our job. They read it, love it and tell their friends. It’s simple isn’t it?

Now we don’t have a big budget for marketing and promotion but what smaller publishers tend to have is champions in the book trade who are willing to take a punt on something different. They see ‘stuff,’ all the time, so they tell me and delight in seeing something different. At the manuscript stage I gave a copy of the book to Ian Oldfield at Waterstones Leeds and he loved it. He chose it as one of his books of the year. He even gave us a window. A window in Waterstones .We couldn’t believe it. It’s thanks to Ian that Steve’s book became the biggest selling non-promotional title in their store. I also have to mention Jim Gross at Holt Jackson for his support for new writers and small publishers too. He made The art of being dead Holt Jackson’s book of the week and put an excerpt of the book online for librarians to read. It is the support of these passionate people that makes it possible for us to compete with the likes of Penguin and Random House. Then it’s book promotion time and trying to get that all elusive national review that will solve all your problems. Simple. You send it off, and everyone likes it. Sales pour in. Well, it doesn’t happen like that. What we do at Bluemoose is to start locally. Local newspapers, Radio and TV and then we hope the nationals will pick up on the ripples. We can but hope.

Local newspapers all interviewed Steve and he appeared on TV and Radio in the North of England. Then we started on the World Tour of Northern Libraries. Rochdale, Halifax, Wakefield, Huddersfield, Bolton, and Blackburn. All the librarians we have met have been passionate about supporting independent publishers and new writers. Without the support of libraries it would be even harder for small publishers to exist. The events have always been lively and vibrant, sometimes bruising, but never dull.

This is a great time for independents to publish provocative and compelling work from new writers that don’t fall into any generic publishing category, other than that they are great stories beautifully told and skilfully written. Exclusively Independent gives publishers like Bluemoose an entrĂ©e into bookshops and libraries they otherwise might not be able to get showcased in and on a national stage, and we thank them for that.

Check back here, and see who we have blogging tomorrow!