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!


1 comment:

Mike French said...

Fascinating - thanks for the insight Kevin.