Tuesday, June 20, 2006

not usually from the unsolicited

Having been psuedonymously critcised and then praise in the author newsletter Pass It On (nicely hanging modifier), I still want to get the message out there that less 5% of our list comes from unsolicited manuscripts. Danny Katz books (praised) are marvellous - and they grew out Maryann (black dog publisher) knowing Danny personally rather than Danny submitting scripts cold.

a marathon not a sprint

Playwright Tony McNamara describes a writing career as "a marathon, not a sprint."

Danny Katz is sharp as well as funny.

I have his column from Thursday 8 June on my desk

I now realize that In 1993, when our first child was born, we narrowly missed by only a few letters the Great Georgia epidemic.

We've an offer out on Danny's next children book "Sheldon, the Selfish Shellfish" the story of a self-hating Jewish prawn. (I'm just warning off other [less well-intentioned] publishers.)

And for those who are still hungry mid morning, watch out for more Little Lunch this year (and next year).


We once published "books" then came "product" and now reading the The [British] Bookseller we can look forward to slots:

"Given the intense competition for slots in publishing houses, successful agents are cherry picking authors and working with them to develop their manuscripts to the highest state
Ivan Mulcahy, director of Mulcahy and Viney

"It's ['On Beauty'] is one of our biggest paperbacks of the year and we have slots in supermarkets."
Joanna Prior, Penguin marketing and publicity director

Monday, June 19, 2006

state of writing

nteresting reading on the state of writing in the weekend papers.

McCrum in the Weekend Australian thinks things are looking as rosy as they're ever likely to be:
"Literary life has become global, democratic and uninhibited. Bookshops are better equipped and the books they sell are better printed , designed and marketed than ever. There's a huge audience and apparently no shortage of money. It's an almost perfect environment for the new writer of talent."

But playwriting is described in the same section of the same newspaper as being in a in a parlous state. In 1991 three were 129 subsidized theatre companies in Australia now there are 67. "We are spending practically nothing on trying to generate Australian playwriting." - David Williamson. "What we're looking at in the long run is a return to the pre-70s of a largely amateur theatre culture." - Hilary Bell. There are only 6 premieres of new Australian plays by the five flagship theatre companies in 06.

And again in the Weekend Australian Ian McFarlane damns Australian publishing for failing to publish his collection of stories, essays and poems on depression. "When you factor in the public profile and audience demands on authorship, you begin to reach some idea of the insidious way that writing of promise is being pushed into the background and possible oblivion, by shallower and shinier work." While I like the ring of the final words, I think there are other explanations. Firstly I don't think people want to read collections of stories, essays and poems. Was there a golden age in the past when they did? McFarlane goes on to add: "The economic imperative driving books and writing today is seriously eroding the social relevance of literature. I didn't realize literature had to be socially relevant - just good.

According to Raymond Gill in The Age's A2, globalisation is hard at work and "the commercial networks … produce only the bare, pathetic, government decreed minimum for local drama" and "an avalanche of foreign culture suffocates our stage and screens." But he adds we may now start exporting American culture in the form of stage productions "Dirty Dancing" and "Dusty" back into the States.

And on Monday Nathan Hollier went in to the defence of the requirement for the winner of the Miles Franklin to somehow represent Australia. He quotes Jane Sullivan's comment: "times have changed in a good way for our books" and Australian literature is no longer "an endangered species" and disagrees with her that the award should be open to an Australian writing on any topic. Nathan feels that the readership of the literary novel within Australia is in decline and Australian literary studies within universities are in dire straits. "Major publishers are increasingly reluctant to invest to any significant degree in new literary talent, and more particularly in new local literary talent. Economically it makes much more sense for the half-dozen corporations who publish most of the world's books to focus their attention on obtaining and promoting the work of "star" writers whose work can be sold to as large an audience as possible (and, crucially, within the US). It is these major publishing firms which are most energetically promoting the global reading market, at the expense of local markets, readerships and literary cultures. Within this context if the "local" is to be represented at all, it will tend to be in the "exotic, "picturesque" terms that confirm the prejudices of the cultural centre, the metropole.


I'm just back from my first visit to Western Australia, and Perth, which was to attend the WASLA conference. The enthusiasm of everybody involved made the trip a pleasure.

We visited a number of very impressive children's booksellers as well. It was a shot in the arm, and the weather was just gorgeous and Perth shone in the sun. The light was very particular - clear and crisp - and the views out over the Indian Ocean were stunning.

I want to go back - soon.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Treasure Chest

We're still struggling with the treasure chest aka the unsolicited manuscripts. The volume still exceeds our capacity to deal with it. And writers are still getting angry that we aren't doing what's wanted. Only maybe 2.5% of our list comes from the unsolicited. We're interested, but its not the core of our business at the moment. The expectations of writers far exceeds what we can reasonably deliver.

One of the people here at black dog was mentioned by name in an anonymous entry in Pass It On. There was a sense I felt of the writer wanting to out an individual within our organisation - yet it was done anonymously. That seems both cowardly and unprofessional to me. If that author is reading this, please call me. And I don't think Pass It On should permit anonymous entries.

That said, the standard of the way submissions are being presented has improved immensely and I thank those writers. It is making it much easier for us to respond more quickly. We also have for the moment somebody spending a half day a week on the treasure chest (as well as the more ad hoc efforts by individual editors including myself.)

One thing I dislike is to be told that it's been recommended by a manuscript assessment agency that the book be sent to us, or that the book has been favourably commented on by this or that manuscript assessment agency. We have no relationship with any agency of this sort and we prefer to form our own opinion. It rapidly cools my interest.

Another bug bear for me is when I respond by email with a "no thanks this is not for us" or a "this is why this isn't working for us" I get an immediate return email submitting another story or asking for some other advice or help.

We're not branch of the public service and we don't have obligations to writers that are yet to become our authors. Maybe writers should be talking to the Australia Council about grants to publishers to deal with their unsolicited piles.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Graffiti boy

This odd but strangely appealing little boy has been appearing upon surfaces in Fitzroy:

mid weight

The job ad for a designer from Adrenalin Strategics in the Blue News caught my eye for "a talented and enthusiastic mid weight graphic designer". Mid weight? In breach of discrimination guidelines? Or is this something like semi-bold?