I run the independent publishing house Punked Books, which has just achieved the distinction of having one of its authors, Chris Morton, shortlisted for the Not the Booker Prize with his debut novel English Slacker.
The shortlisting was very much an unexpected bonus for me, since Punked Books is so small that it rarely ever gets a mention in the national media. Indeed (if you don’t count the authors) Punked Books has only one employee: me. And while I’m okay at typesetting, creating covers, editing, and formatting ebooks, one area where I’ve really struggled is publicity, since even local newspapers don’t appear interested in novels written by authors in their community, and as for the nationals? Well, I always send them copies of Punked Books titles, but my books are never mentioned, let alone reviewed. This is understandable really when you consider how many novels are published yearly, so it’s not surprising that beleaguered literary reviewers will only tend to look at books produced by the big trade publishers.
However, the great thing about the Not the Booker Prize is that it was founded by The Guardian as a democratic riposte to the Man Booker Prize. And all of the titles on the shortlist are from small independents such as Punked Books, beating many famous authors from the big publishers along the way, such as David Baddiel, Greg Egan, Anne Enright, Linda Grant, Philip Hensher, Richard Mason, China Mieville, and Magnus Mills. Combined with this is the astonishing number of small independents that featured on the Man Booker Prize longlist. So what is happening here? Are small independent publishers suddenly on the rise again? Maybe; after all, we have many competitive advantages in comparison with the big publishing conglomerates, since it is now increasingly possible to run a publishing business from your living room (yeah, my commute’s a real nightmare). One definite bonus from the competition has been that a couple of the other shortlisted independents, also aggrieved by the lack of column inches that their titles have accrued in the nationals, have suggested that we all get together to increase awareness of our books.
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. When I first entered English Slacker into the Not the Booker Prize, it wasn’t long before I was regretting my Twitter spat with Sam Jordison 6 months ago when I called one of his Guardian blog posts (in which he argued strongly in favour of the agency agreement) “rabid”, since it is, of course, Sam Jordison who runs the Not the Booker Prize on behalf of the Guardian. Also the Guardian blog moderators seem to be peculiarly overzealous, as they removed all my blog posts in the Not the Booker process, as they thought that I was promoting English Slacker to the extent of spamming. Sam Jordison wrote in one of his blog posts that he was mystified by the absence of publishers from those contributing to the Not the Booker Prize, but given the way that the Guardian blog moderators deleted my posts without considering that they were legitimate with regards to the terms of the competition, this is hardly surprising. One might argue that the reason why the Not the Booker Prize shortlist was solely composed of small independent publishers may be due to us being hungrier for success than our more established trade publishing opponents. Or maybe the strenuous Guardian blog moderators just scared the conglomerates off from participating in the competition in previous years?
As a way of increasing English Slacker‘s chances of winning the public vote, I have decided to give away a free pdf version of the novel from the Punked Books website for the duration of the competition. You can download it here.
So, BookMachine readers are very much welcome to read this free version of English Slacker, especially as the next round of voting may require you to write a review of the novel on the Guardian website. I’m not sure when the final round of voting is due to begin, but it will definitely close by midnight on October 12th. You can follow the latest developments in the Not the Booker Prize via the Guardian website.
Here are some more details about Chris Morton’s novel English Slacker:
Chambers is an eighteen-year-old student living in the small town of Bracksea, England. Fresh from his final college exams, he is now ready for what is to be his last summer of freedom, which involves going to parties, smoking dope and getting drunk with all his friends. However, what begins as a seemingly innocent and routine set of social events soon turns into a nightmare for Chambers as a suppressed memory – which may or may not be related to the recent disappearance of his best friend Colin – begins to surface. The more Chambers immerses himself in the distractions around him the more he begins to find that he is losing his whole sense of reality…
English Slacker is available to order from all bookshops in paperback (ISBN 9780953317288, RRP £7.99). The ebook of English Slacker can be also downloaded from Amazon.co.uk and iTunes for only £2.49.
—Kevin Mahoney is the author of the novel A Fame of Two Halves, and the co-author of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who 2010. For over a decade, he has been the editor of the literary website Authortrek.com. Kevin has also spent many years in book retail, working for Ottakars, then Amazon.co.uk. After leaving Amazon, Kevin spent 18 months at Random House, before moving on to Legend Press/YouWriteOn, and then Orion. Kevin now publishes print on demand paperbacks and e-books as the Publisher and Founder of Punked Books.