Monday, January 29, 2007

Natalie Babbit - new book

I very much enjoyed Tuck Everlasting so it was good to read that she's written her first novel for children in 25 years: Jack Planck Tells Tales.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Serpent's Tail for Profile

The independent publishing scene in the UK continues to effervesce: the largely non-fiction Profile (of Eats, Shoots and Leaves fame) has bought out the largely fiction Serpent's Tail.

Just to give some idea of scale in independent publishing: Serpent's Tail turns over 2 million pounds (about A$4.8m) and has been profitable for the last five years, has been going twenty and and has five staff. The five staff is lean for that turnover. (We have a full-time staff equivalent of roughly six and a half.) Serpent's Tail kicked started its profitable years with Catherine Millet's "The Sexual Life of Catherine M."

From their website: Serpent’s Tail’s logo is an ouroboros and represents the two fundamental attributes of time – imminent annihilation and rising hope, which follow each other over and over again in an infinite cycle: time represented as a serpent swallowing its tail. (Which comes across to be my Australian sensibility as a bit much.)

Footnote: Faber's Alliance of independent publisher is interesting to watch.

And I'd like to recommend "Thank you for smoking"


As we have a rubbishy TV set and my hearing is on the decline, I'm watching movies with the subtitles on. I was surprised (& amused) at how much they differ from the spoken words. I'm assuming the subtitles are the script and I'm seeing how much actors contribute with ad libbing. I'm recommending giving it a shot - it's quite entertaining.

Babel - Brilliant

We went to the movies last and saw Babel. It knocked my socks off. Challenging and gruelling and worth every second.

Maryann and I came out of the movies with quite different understandings of the movie. For Maryann it was a bitter film about American (& male) arrogance leading to a chain of disastrous events. For me it was random connections becoming multiple causes (& multiple stories crossing back and forth in time) linking across the globe - the flap of the butterflies wing effect. For me it was reminiscent of Crash, for Mab, Syriana.

The point I'm wanting to make is that like any good movie, there are many interpretations. Rich like a Xmas pud. Please go and see it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

truly excellent quote:

"Characters migrate." Umberto Eco

with thanks to Lloyd Jones ("Master Pip" Text $29.95 available from all good booksellers)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Secret River

Something I hadn't realised was that Secret River has sold almost double in the UK what it sold here laster year and that the shortlisted Secret River outsold the winner Loss of Innocence by more than double in the UK. I'm surprised that it struck such a chord.

recycling The (British) Bookseller

I liked this quote from Will Atkinson, Sales and Marketing Director: "That's the great thing about independent publishing: we are given the time to build these people. Corporates have not necessarily got that luxury. I'm not saying we're better, but we can play a longer game."

Of course everybody agrees that big books are getting bigger - at the expense of the middle ground. Anthony Cheetham offers insight. He says the big hit isn't just big these days but huge - a million copies. And everything above budget is pure profit. The publisher then becomes a blockbuster junkie. And one success outweighs at least two failures so the odds are on the publisher's side. And celebrity memoirs are usually quick - you can have em out for Christmas. A blockbuster doesn't need more staff unlike more lesser titles.

Interesting. As on one level big publishers are said to be risk averse but ready to take punts on big advances.

Kokoda: 101 Days

I'm still in back-from-holiday mode. Lots of treats on my return including the printed copies of "Kokoda: 101 Days". And it looks gorgeous. With Peter's willing participation, we all walked the Kokoda Trail with him in our imaginations, commenting on his many versions. Taxing for any author sometimes but it can be all very participatory at black dog. Anybody, of any age, will love the book. Don't wade through Ham or Fitzsimmons, get it in a crisp and elegant read from Peter Mcinnes.

Monday, January 22, 2007


The Australians have done well again in another set of international awards yet without actually taking out the big gongs: Surrender by Sonya Hartnett and The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak were both Prinz honor books. The winner was a graphic novel: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Susan Patron has won the John Newbery Medal for her novel The Higher Power of Lucky, illustrated by Matt Phelan and David Wiesner won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for Flotsam.

Friday, January 19, 2007

independent publishers popping

I'm just back from a longer than usual Christmas break. Plenty of opportunity for beachside reading. I loved Ford's The Lay of the Land and Raymond Carver's What We Mean When We Talk About Love. Re-read the gorgeous Dragon Moon in page proofs the last of the Dragonkeeper books - due out in April. The perfect end to a superb trilogy. My daughter was very sad to say goodbye to Ping. I read Simone Howell's Notes from a Teenage Underground and I loved it but I thought it fell away in the middle-end, though I was satisfied with the final few pages. I think Karen Tayleur's Chasing Boys (which I'm also re-reading in page proof) is even better - perfect voice and strong finish. Watch out for it - coming soon from black dog.

And picked up e-new on my return::

I think times are good for independent publishers. Here in Oz they're good but I have to admire the way the scene is popping in the UK - Faber, Snowbooks and Profile are vying for the in the inaugural Independent Publishers Guild Trade Publisher of the Year award. A mighty list of independent names.

Good economic times mean independents can flourish (well everybody flourishes). Independents do have advantages of appropriate scale, flexibility and definitely a creative edge over the majors. We can take more and better risks. The big boys are much more focussed on the celebrity end of the market and books they believe they can make big through marketing muscle.

There's a place for everybody in the ecology of publishing - at least in the good times.