Month: January 2012

Anyone paying even cursory attention to the Scottish literary scene at the moment knows that the most exciting publisher around is Cargo. From humble beginnings, the company has grown exponentially in influence over the past couple of years, having released some of the most vital and critically acclaimed Scottish books in a decade, including Allan Wilson’s rightly-hailed debut short story collection Wasted In Love and the landmark anthology The Year Of Open Doors. For the first time since the glory days of Rebel Inc., a publisher feels central to the cultural conversation in Scotland, or at least the countercultural conversation.

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It’s been said, that it’s the most fun you can have in publishing with your clothes on.*

It’s been said, that if you can talk books, digital publishing, politics, haircuts, music or… anything, then this is the place to be.**

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BookMachine @ Porter’s Bar (The Green Man), 383 Euston Rd, London, NW1 3AU

23rd February 2012, 6.30pm

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In Waterstones Piccadilly, books read you

Picture the scene: it’s February 2012. You’re in Waterstones in Piccadilly. You’re wandering around, browsing aimlessly, not really focusing on one thing or the other. Maybe you’ve got something on your mind. Did you lock the door? You’re pretty sure you locked the door. But then, you were on the phone when you left, so maybe… huh, there’s a lot of books in Russian here. Weird.

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Real-world Quidditch as silly as it sounds

A disclaimer, upfront: it’s great that J.K. Rowling has sparked the imaginations of so many children in the 15 years (!) since the initial publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s wonderful that so many of those children have then used the Potter books as a gateway to further reading. It’s beautiful to see a generation grow up clutching seven novels so close to their hearts. And now that’s out of the way, it’s safe to say that real-world Quidditch – which The Guardian reports is being played at Oxford, Yale, Harvard and several other universities around the world – is too deeply, deeply silly an idea to ever qualify as the ‘sport in its own right’ its most ardent proponents would like it to become.

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Believe it or not, given certain recent events, Waterstones does not exist just to wind up the members of the Apostrophe Protection Society (what do you mean ‘is that really a thing’? Of course it is. It has been since 2001, with the vintage website to prove it). When it isn’t brazenly flouting the laws of grammar in the name of style (which I would cautiously estimate hasn’t featured highly on the list of priorities of the Apostrophe Protection Society for quite some time), the high street mainstay likes to try to sell some books.

Having abandoned its primary tactic for doing so some months back – its neverending 3 for 2 offer, which, finally succumbing to logic, ended in late August – it is now experimenting with new pricing structures and promotions that will see it able to compete with the reduced costs of online vendors whilst maintaing an ability to, y’know, break even. Its latest attempt? A book club. Sort of. Nobody tell Richard and Judy.

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Having apparently taken one look at the nation’s increasingly obese children and let out a long, sad sigh of impotent culpability, McDonald’s is now aiming to trim the flab from kids’ minds. Realising that it’ll never convince those impish tubs of lard to swap a cheeseburger made from Chinese newspapers and some cow for a nice salad (unless it comes with that dressing that takes its calorie count higher than that of a Big Mac), the fast food giant has given the table of the past a cursory wipe with a napkin, decided ‘eh, it’ll do’ and introduced a new attempt to improve the lives of children, one that isn’t attempting to atone for the company’s own sins or anything: starting this week, it’s giving away copies of Michael Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle Farm series free with every Happy Meal. Presumably Burger King got the rights to the War Horse with flamethrower attachment.

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It’s pretty well documented that January is the most depressing month of the year if you live in the UK. We’ve got nothing to look forward to except the two long months between now and the possibility of Spring, which, to be honest, is likely to be late, cold and disappointing. It seems commentators in the book world have caught this negativity virus as I’ve read more articles bleating idiotically about the demise of the printed/edited/published world this year already than I did for all of December, but let me assure you there is plenty to be excited about this year in publishing. Before we all top ourselves, let’s run through a few things that have gone right lately.

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Amazon and the Dramatic Unmask

The Dramatic Unmask is something well-known in superhero or crime television shows where a villain or hero decides, or is forced, to reveal their true identity. The audience and the other characters all take in a sharp breath and someone on-screen usually says: ‘It was you/me all along!’ If it’s a good unmask, there’ll be some evil cackling involved or maybe a reference to ‘meddling kids’. And as petty as it might sound, I would take no small pleasure from doing this dramatic unmask to a sales rep for New Harvest in the USA at the moment – leaping from my chair mid-way through their pitch about a celebrity memoir and shouting: ‘Ah-HA! But these were AMAZON titles all along!’ And my smugness would be exceeded only by their embarrassment and the force with which they were tossed from the premises by my in-store security.

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Anna Faherty
Anna Faherty is a lecturer on the MA Publishing at Kingston University and a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She’s currently working on a tablet app for the National Maritime Museum and a suite of digital publishing courses for a major publisher. Follow her on twitter: @mafunyane.


I’ve blogged for BookMachine before about the value of an MA in Publishing, an issue that was debated further by a lecture-hall full of publishing academics, publishers, industry representatives and other interested parties last week. The Are publishers born or made? symposium at Kingston University was designed to provide a forum for discussing the value and content of academic publishing qualifications, how industry and academia might work more closely together and what publishing-related research is – and should be – undertaken. If that all sounds a bit like academic navel-gazing, the presence of Richard Mollet (CEO of the Publishers Association) along with a number of professional publishers demonstrated the practical relevance of all this.

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This is a guest post from Arundati Dandapani, who is halfway through an MLitt in Publishing Studies degree at University of Stirling. She has worked for television, magazine and advertising in Washington DC, New Delhi and Mumbai for four years, after graduating with a Bachelors degree in English from Ohio. Having published her first novel at 16, she is glad to be learning about the highs and lows of book publishing in the UK, and in Scotland. She blogs about books here, and you can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

Wigtown, I repeated.

The librarian hung up her hands in dismay.

I say Galloway, and it evokes a slow, bemused response.

Few have heard of Scotland’s national book town. Fewer know it is slouched in the Machars area of Galloway where River Cree Estuary meets the Solway firth, in the backdrop of the Galloway hills. Coastline, hills, the sea, and the ferry to Ireland, typical south western climate, all defining characteristics of the region.

But those who do know the area, will warn you, there is nothing to do in Wigtown, a town which you can walk around in twenty minutes flat! Not many know of Wigtown as a geographic location, least of all for what it’s most famous: Scotland’s largest boutique showcase of about 20 antiquarian bookshops, internet book warehouses, and studios dealing second hand books and older and new collections too, crossing all genres from film, music, Tartan noir and topography, world history, local mythology and combat aviation to name the very least.

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Self-Publishing: Us vs Us?

Here’s a lesson in how to sink an already flooded market: create a piece of software where publishing is as easy as clicking a button, and promote a culture where it is commonly accepted that writing a novel is as simple as putting down whatever comes into your head. Inflate your life jackets now, guys, because we’re there.

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See the man. He is talented and celebrated, he writes celebrated and prize-winning novels. He stokes the slow publishing news day. He – wait, before I continue, everyone’s read Blood Meridian, right? No? Oh. Then I’d better stop rewriting it. And you should probably stop reading this and go read that instead.

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Pick your favourite Harry Potter film. Not the nearest visual approximation of your favourite Harry Potter book, but the one that works best as a stand-alone film. Got one? It’s neither of the first two, is it? It is? Have you seen any of the others? You have? And you still like one of the first two the best? Yeesh. Do you also view any flavour of ice cream other than vanilla as an abomination unto the lord? You do? Well then why are you reading about the misadventures of those little satanists at Hogwarts in the first place?

Anyway, today’s your lucky day, because if you like bland attempts to hew as closely to a J.K. Rowling novel as possible, you’ll be thrilled by the news that Chris Columbus – director of the film adaptations of The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secretshas signed a deal with HarperCollins to pen a three-volume young adult fantasy adventure series, one no doubt populated by entirely original creations like Hydrangea Danger and Vol-de-Sac.

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