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The phrase can’t see the wood for the trees is most often used in a reflective situation framed by the word ‘I didn’t, or ‘we couldn’t’, rather than ‘we can’t’ or ‘we don’t’, because it’s generally only after we mess something up beyond repair that we realise we were focussing on a small and perhaps unimportant element of a larger whole the entire time.

It’s difficult in publishing, perhaps, to identify what constitutes the wood and what are the trees. Bookshops, authors, readers: all these avenues vie for the top tier of our attention, and at different points someone is always willing to tell us which of them are the most important to our business and how. But when I think back to why I got into publishing in the first place, the thing that remains are the stories.

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Publishers, We Need to Talk

There are very few things in life that make my blood boil more than someone tearing down the industry I work in with false accusations of collusion, underhandedness, and evil doing. So when I see a headline like ‘Why Book Publishers Hate Authors‘ in the Huffington Post, it’s all I can do to stop myself from going into a blind rage and throwing my computer into the ocean, finding the nearest rocket, and blasting myself into the face of the sun. Because what the hell, guys.

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Christmas Crackers: (Auto)Biographies of 2012

The first Christmas trees are starting to spring horridly in corners of supermarkets everywhere; turkeys all over the world are being fattened for the kill; pubs are instructing everyone to book their office parties NOW to avoid disappointment;  there’s a chill in the air and it’s raining in earnest; and mince pies have gone on sale. Yes, Christmas approaches, and with this festive season so, too, to we begin to see the race for top biography (celeb memoir) in the publishing charts. Start your engines…

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I try not to read the comments sections of a lot of websites because generally they are filled with postulating jerks who have glanced at the headline and perhaps the sub-header of an article and become incensed enough to burst their self-righteous gland all over the internet. A marked exception to this is the yearly Booker backlash, which I watch with that sick pleasure usually reserved for early episodes of Masterchef. 

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While the government is busy telling us to tighten our belts and make our own sandwiches, publishers are honey-badgering these times of austerity and whipping out fliff like sultans for the next big novels. None moreso than Little, Brown US who are rumoured to have paid a massive seven figures for  the debut novel of Australian author Hannah Kent (deputy editor of Kill Your Darlings). And they said telling stories will never pay. HA!

Single-handedly, this novel manages to debunk two myths about being a writer we’ve seen espoused lately:

1) Writers don’t and can’t make money just from having writing talent

2) You have to come with a ready-made following in order to cash in with a publisher

Oh, and I might add in 3) best manuscript awards and their associated prizes are total bollocks (though it’s arguable that the manuscript would have gotten representation without winning Writing Australia’s ‘best MS’ award).

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Blackfriars Books from Little, Brown UKI do love a good first. The first t-shirt day of the summer; the first beer on a night out; the first time you wear a new hoodie. Last week saw the announcement of the first digital-only literary list in the UK, Blackfriars from Little, Brown. The list promises to curate 9 to 12 titles a year from new or established authors, and is launching in June. Now there’s a first to get out of bed for.

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Last week, Simon and Schuster US announced the new publishing ‘service’, Archway, which, for a fee of between $1,599 and $24,999, offers help to authors wanting to self-publish. The prices are tiered to include more advanced ‘services’ at different levels, all of which you can find on the Archway website. The most premium includes a social media publicist, 40 more PB copies of the book than the tier below, 5 more HB copies of the book than the tier below, and costs $5k more than the tier below.

The reactions to this news do say it all, so I’m going to put a few here:

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At some stage last week while I was asleep, buy buttons were removed from Big 6 (5?) publishers Hachette, Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. What followed was a brief turd storm of concern, blame and speculation about what these publishers had done to bring forth the wrath of Bezos, followed by a ‘statement’ from Amazon a while later saying it was a technical glitch (ie: they sent out an email with ‘technical glitch’ as the subject line and blank body text, probs).

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Cash it in‘I don’t get up in the morning and say: Am I inspired? …No, I’m not. I won’t work. ‘cos, God, how often would I ever work, you know?’

These words were spoken last week by one of the world’s most prolific authors, J.K. Rowling, and summed up quite nicely something I think many people want to forget about literature: books are a business; writing is work. Our explosive amnesia surrounding the b-word was highlighted again after reading the incredible reaction to news that Penguin US decided to sue a few authors after the books they were paid to write were not written.

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Beck To Release Most Backward Book Ever

BecktionaryIt seems the publishing and music industry parallels that we all love to hate (and apparently can’t help but point out at every possible opportunity) has taken a hit this week, with Beck announcing that his next album won’t be released as a record but rather a book of sheet music, published in the UK by Faber and in the US by ultra-indie, underground-before-it-was-cool McSweeneys.

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Yesterday I attended the International Digital Publishing Conference and Forum at City University. It was a real treat to attend lectures by key players in publishing, and also to hear talks by inspirational MA students. The topic of the day was ‘The Global Market place’ but I couldn’t help focussing on the content of the first plenary which left me wondering – can educational and trade publishers successfully extend their business and act as educators?

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