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Mills & Boon launches multi-platform digital project

Paperback romance maven Mills & Boon isn’t a literary brand you would normally associate with formal or technological innovation – unless your sole exposure to the books is listening to your gran unconsciously recite passages she’s read from them as she drifts in and out of sleep in her armchair, in which case they might come across as automatic writing sprung straight from Barbara Cartland’s id – but it seems to be looking to change that with the launch of a new multi-platform venture. The Chatsfield centres around a fictional London hotel, telling multiple stories through a central website and across social media, e-mail, YouTube, blogs and even text messages.

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Harper Lee allows publication of To Kill a Mockingbird ebook

On the occasion of her 88th birthday, HarperCollins has announced that it will finally release an authorised digital edition of Harper (no relation) Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird on 8 July, 54 years after the book’s initial publication. A long-time holdout against the transition to digital, Lee acknowledged the changing times in a statement through her publisher (newsworthy in and of itself, so infrequently does she make public utterances), saying: ‘I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries. I am amazed and humbled that ‘Mockingbird’ has survived this long. This is ‘Mockingbird’ for a new generation.’

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2014 Orwell Prize shortlists announced

The shortlists for this year’s Orwell Prize, awarded annually to political books and journalism, have been revealed. Nominated books are: Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman (Hurst); Frank Dikötter’s The Tragedy of Liberation (Bloomsbury); James Fergusson’s The World’s Most Dangerous Place (Bantam, Random House); David Goodhart’s The British Dream (Atlantic); Alan Johnson’s This Boy (Bantam, Random House); and Charles Moore’s Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography (Penguin Allen Lane). Nominated journalists are Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, James Astill, Aditya Chakrabortty, Jonathan Freedland, AA Gill, Gideon Rachman and Mary Riddell.

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David Foster Wallace’s family does not support upcoming film

Last month the first pictures emerged of Jason Segel in costume as the late, celebrated American author David Foster Wallace in the upcoming film End of the Road, based on David Lipsky’s 2010 book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, itself based around a five day road trip Lipsky took with Wallace in 1996 while interviewing him for Rolling Stone. To Wallace’s fans, at least, the photos did not bode well, and it seems Wallace’s family shares that sense of trepidation: they, along with the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust and Wallace’s publishers Little, Brown, have issued a statement outlining their objections to the film.

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R.I.P. Gabriel García Márquez

Several outlets are reporting the death of Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author of 100 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, at the age of 87. Following a decade and a half of declining health, including a successful fight with lymphatic cancer (diagnosed in 1999) and the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease (made public in 2012), a dehydrated Márquez was hospitalised earlier this month with infections of the lungs and urinary tract, ultimately succumbing to pneumonia.

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Donna Tartt wins Pulitzer for The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt’s third novel, The Goldfinch, has won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Pulitzer – one of the most prestigious prizes in American cultural life, awarded annually (for the most part) by Columbia University – is undoubtedly the most high-profile recognition Tartt’s novel has had since its October release. The $10,000 award joins the book’s placement in several publications’ 2013 year-end lists, its nomination for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (where it was beaten by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah) and its being shortlisted for the yet-to-be-announced Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Tartt’s previous novel, 2002’s The Little Friend, was the recipient of the WH Smith Literary Award in 2003, was also nominated for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize (then known as the Orange Prize for Fiction) and took home the Chris Ward Prize for Best Book I Read That Year That I Didn’t Have to Read for School (‘NOT A CASH PRIZE’ scrawled in black ink over the notification of victory).

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The Guardian launches monthly prize for self-published books

The Guardian has teamed with publisher Legend Times to launch a monthly prize that aims to find the best from amongst the vast swathes of self-published novels. Open to work either written in or translated into English of 40,000 words or longer, and having been self-published after 31 December 2011, each month a panel of readers (currently standing at 20, but ready to be broadened as demand requires) will whittle down submissions into a shortlist of ten titles, which will then be read by a panel of ‘expert judges’, with the winner’s prize a review in The Guardian, either online or in print, and the prestige of being named The Guardian Legend Self-Published Book of the Month. Authors can only submit one entry per month, and cannot submit the same title twice. The final submission date for the first month is 18 April.

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Russell Brand rewriting fairy tales for Canongate

Though initially thought by some to be an April Fool’s prank, due to its appearance on YouTube on 1 April, a repost by Canongate’s YouTube account earlier today confirms that Russell Brand’s video announcing his plans to rewrite a series of fairy tales for children is, in fact, for real, and the first instalment of Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales will be with us by the end of the year. The two minute video finds Brand reading extracts from his retelling of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” and waxing philosophical about the power of fairy tales to shape children’s outlook on the world, striking a tone midway between Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and a Richard Kelly film.

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Faber Social publishing Can biography in 2016

On the heels of the announcement that Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside would be taking over from Andrew Weatherall as its artist in residence, Faber Social is continuing to delight a certain kind of music nerd (<—–this one) with the news that it is set to release an official two-volume biography of krautrock OGs Can, with the first instalment due in the spring of 2016. That initial volume will be a standard history of the group written by former editor of The Wire Rob Young, featuring interviews with the band’s members. It will be followed by what’s being called a ‘symposium’ volume, a collection of essays curated in part by band member Irmin Schmidt and written by a selection of the many who have been influenced by Can over the past 40 years, including the aforementioned Weatherall, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Daniel Miller, founder of Mute Records, which has reissued Can’s discography.

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A new Youtube channel to demystify the publishing business

One of the things that constantly crops up when I talk to writers – and I talk to a lot of writers – is that most of them have a pretty vague idea of how the publishing business works.

That’s not all that surprising. Publishers and agents are not necessarily the most forthcoming of people and can seem rather remote and unapproachable. Indeed the publishing business as a whole can seem like an arcane world with its own rules and language and one which is perhaps not all that welcoming of outsiders.

And of course it is not that all that complex – it is not simple, but the basis of the business is pretty straightforward. Which is why I have started a YouTube channel at devoted to demystifying aspects of the publishing business – what agents do, what publishers do etc etc.

I’m hopeful it is something people will find useful and it rather amazes me how little there is out there that is like this – it surprises me that more of my colleagues haven’t done something similar. But that’s a good thing. This is a great opportunity to reach large numbers of people and my hope is that by doing so I will be able to help writers navigate the sometimes trick waters of their writing careers.

So please do take a look – I have just posted another clip, this time talking about what publishers do and will be building my clips up over the coming weeks. I really hope you find it useful. I’d welcome feedback and suggestions and can be reached either by the comments page on YouTube or by my twitter @pblofeld.

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