Friday, June 29, 2007

"Brought to Book"

Frank, our accountant, recommended Julian Gough's article to me "Bought to Book". He'd found it in the AFR, originally published in Prospect magazine and available online.

Gough asks provocatively why the modern literary novel is so worthy and dull and answers that its because tragedy has squeezed out comedy. Otherwise it is too rich to summarize here. Highly recommended. Gough coins the marvellous term "wangster".

Gough won the UK's National Short Story Prize, the richest in the world in April for "The Orphan and the Mob" - "15000 pounds worth of story".

shrinking mainstream

I love reading about the census figures. Such rich food for thought (especially a publisher in hopeful search of the zeitgeist.)

According to the Age based on the latest census figures the mainstream is shrinking. James Jupp is quoted as saying mainstream is British-Australian Christian, and we're down to two-thirds of the population - though I wouldn't claim to be a Christain and I prefer the term Anglo-Celt to British (there's enough rebellious Irish blood still flowing). And the average Australian is a 37 year old, mother of two, still paying off a mortgage.

&, if I read this right, Judaism disapproves of the census. Which surprised me, as it would have seemed to me a statistical rather than religious execise, but I am sure there is rich and logical Talmudic reasoning at work.

The data showed "a particular growth" in non-Christian religions. And the number of Muslims has been overtaken by the number of Buddhists.

There are nearly 400 languages spoken in Australian homes with Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) the most common language other than English, replacing Italian and Greeks. Cantonese, alone ties with Arabic (after Greek and Italian) as the most common language other than English spoken at home. But Mandarin and Hindi are the fastest growing languages.


The Penguin publicity machine are doing a superb job - I feel that everytime I open a newspaper in Melbourne in the last few months I'm been reading about Sonya Hartnett - and how unhappy she is. I suppose an unhappy author is easier to promote than an happy author - I'll pass that on to Susie, our publicist, so she can enourage our authors to suffer more in the cause of their publicity. Harnett is a superb writer but her unhappiness with writing and being a writer is in severe danger of over-exposure.

And found the following quote in this morning's Age article of particular interest: "The celebration of the mediocre we have in this country is dispiriting." Following the sentence "Her disillusionment with writing reflected frustration at seeing average books such as The Da Vinci Code or the Harry Potter series being outrageously overpromoted." Was either book any more promoted in this country than anywhere else? Have Dan and JK now taken up residency in this country? Maybe she could have a taken a pot shot at the overpromotion (Is that an oxymoron anyhow?) of, say, a diet or a cook book.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

quote from the Age - future of the book is hopeful

"When it comes to value and volume, Nielsen BookScan principal Michael Webster says, book sales in Australia are growing, with value up 3.8 per cent to $1.05 billion and volume up 2.2 per cent to 53.3 million units last year on 2005. He showed that even without the Harry Potter titles and Dan Brown, this still applied and the trend was continuing in the first half of this year. Contrary to some claims, independent booksellers are not being driven out of business, with the sector's share in value terms leaping 16.1 per cent last yea compared with 2005, giving it a 21.8 per cent chunk of the market."


"Webster showed that youngsters are actually buying books, with 31 per cent of 10-18-year-olds being described as avid and confident readers, according to figures he quoted from Kids: Young Australians Reading, 10-18-year-olds. However, there was agreement that at adolescence the number of readers dropped significantly. "It's the biggest marketing challenge for everyone in publishing."

16 June

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Does anybody know anything about this online bookseller?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


From iTunesI've just discovered that there's a band called Editors - "they can pull off the once old-fashioned blend of dark post-punk guitars and jittery vocals"


Do children's books up to and including YA lack enough good villains. We want to like our characters too much as authors, editors and publishers, and the effect of PC is to be nice to everybody, so the forceness of niceness are eliminating a powerful motor for stories - and make books less appealing for children to read. Sometimes the most successful books, especially those that children choose to read themselves, have an old-fashioned non-PC feel to them

Michael Panckridge's The Cursed seems marvellously old-fashioned in the quality of its villains: "The Light Crusaders and their leader Raymond Brampton are surely the most sinister villlains since Voldemort." - James Molony

Joke - warning, may cause offence

I loved the letter play in this joke. It may cause offence, but I think not.

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.
As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.
In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where! more komplikated changes are possible.
Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.
Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.
By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as
replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl.
Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.
Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.
If zis mad you smil, pleas pas on to oza pepl

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I'd like to recommend the lovely Mockingbird bookshop's
myspace page

Now I'm tempted to do a black dog "my space page" - to see how different my space is to a website. Some people myspace instead of blogging.

and here's the website

And if you're in Mont Albert do visit Evelyn and shop at Mockingbird at:

Mont Albert Village
377 Month Albert Road
Mont Albert vic 3127
tel: 03 9899 2955

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tufte quote

"Powerpoint is a low resolution screw-up like voice-mail menu systems"

Actually I quite like Powerpoint though it is overused to the point of tedium, but I really do hate voice-mail menus systems.

Diversity in the business of publishing

While I was waiting for a coffee I picked up a business magazine and started reading an article extolling the profit virtues of diversity in the marketplace, specifically a diversity in the work force as stimulus to new business and new ideas. It was one of those articles that you wished you could rip out and take away with you.

Diversity is something publishers in general seem to value, presenting something new, different and exciting, and it is something we value at black dog - maybe our size and relative newness gives us a particular opportunity to experiment in distinction to the multis.

(Maybe the alternative story, something fresh, sells better than one supporting the mainstream view. But I wouldn't want to push that argument very far.)

I know we like the story that present a different perspective. A story the presents at least two sides so that each side informs the other, such as Scarecrow Army, or Black Snake, where by the time Carole had finished writing the book she had changed her view of Ned Kelly.

Much as I enjoyed reading Fitzsimmons Kokoda, it reinforced an established Australian story of fighting on the track, and in the end I valued reading Paul Ham's Kokoda book more because it showed me something of the Japanese side, and the diversity and oddities of human behaviour.

Tri-nation Cup culture

In the Tri-nation Cup countries, the ex-Briitish colonies of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, "high culture" is a new and fragile thing. It came a shock to me, a while ago while in NZ when I realised that many of the "state' theatre, ballet and opera companies of both countries, the torch bearers of the this sort of culture, are recent creations of the 1950s and later, and funding for the bodies seemed to have peaked in the 70s and 80s.

In that context I was interesed to read the comments of Jacques de Vos Malan, formerly director of the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra and recently appointed CEO of the Melbourne Recital Centre. The Cape Town Orchestra has closed, "the opera company has also gone, and many professional theatre and dance companies are closing down." Mr de Vos Malan moved here after "losing faith in the African renaissance".

He described his daughter now "as having that fantastic self-confidence that Aussie kids have from growing up in a safe and secure country".

What we define usually has "high culture" has a very European bias.

Chinua Achebe has of course just won the Booker Prize for Fiction. Nadine Gordimer, one of the judges said: “Chinua Achebe’s early work made him the father of modern African literature as an integral part of world literature."

Food critics/defamation

Reviews and defamation are topics of intrigueing interest to writers and publishers so the case of the restaurant Coco Roco v food critic Matthew Evans/Sydney Morning Herald was food for thought. Matthew had among other things described Coco Roco's oysters as "jangled like a car crash" - nice turn of phrase. The jury had found in favor of Matthew initially but that was overturned on appeal and High Court supported the appeal court 6-1 (no mean majority):
" Business capacity and reputation are different from personal reputation. Harm to the former can be as here, inflicted more directly and narrowly than harm to a person's reputation."
Perhaps as a business I should feel warmed by the court's view. In my experience the law tends to support business over the individual - which maybe why we can describe our economic system as capitalist.
John Lethlean said it would raise concerns from journos "whether they comment on restaurants or cinema or theatre or literature, whatever" The restaurant review is a singularly potent influence on the success or failure of a restaurant - maybe it's to do with the size of the market a restaurant draws upon - its local - in comparison to a film or book where many reviewers are (hopefully) at work.
The dissenting judge was Michael Kirby who admitted judges didn't know much about food: "jurors are much more likely to reflect community standards, many of whom like myself, have no special interest in culinary matters, expensive restaurants or cuisine generally. Astonishingly judges may occasionally lack sense of irony or humour." So Mr Kirby is coming out in defence of the jury system with a delicate self-deprecating flourish.

I'm trying to remeber the case when another Sydney food critic was hauled over a flaming lobster.

test your book title

This is entertaining and even a little thought provoking.
title scorer

Saturday, June 02, 2007

e-books and graphic books

There's been much trumpeting blowing about both in the book trade but in neither case has the delivery matched the press. At least withn the traditional book trade. Maybe it's all still coming … but slowly, slowly, slowly.

new ways of making publishing decisions

I received this invitation from Borders (US) in an email:

Borders survey

And I'd like to quote from the opening page:
"Welcome and thank you for participating in the Early Read Book Preview program. Over the next few minutes you'll have the opportunity to offer book publishers your opinion on new books.
Throughout the preview you'll get the chance to discover both unpublished book ideas and recently published new books, and to share your views on them. This is not a book review exercise or a reading test — we simply want your personal reactions to help book publishers better understand what you like to read most.
We hope you enjoy taking part in the Early Read Book Preview, and to show our thanks you'll be given a link to a coupon good for 20% off the list price of one item with a purchase of $20 or more at any Borders, Waldenbooks or Borders Express, at the end of the preview.
Your friends at Borders and Waldenbooks"

How does it work? What influence will the data have on publishers? How will Borders use it to influence publishers? I assume the publishers have submitted books at Borders' request.

Why would a bookshop wish to influence the publishing process in this way?

Lots of interesting questions. Intrigueing!

(Part of the survey form didn't make sense to me and it kept bouncing my answer back to me for further work and I gave up before completing it.)