The proofs are done!

27 February 2009 in The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (0)

[caption id=“attachment_85” align=“alignleft” width=“225” caption=“The Mistress of Nothing”]The Mistress of Nothing[/caption]

I finished the proofs of my new novel, ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ an hour ago.  Bells did not ring, trumpets did not sound, angels did not sing.  Instead I went to the post office to post it and, on my return, had an altercation with my children over what to eat tonight.

Now I’ve escaped back out to my office and, truth be told, bells are ringing, trumpets are sounding, angels are singing.  If you could see me now, you would see me smiling at the computer screen.


25 February 2009 in Future of Publishing | Comments (0)

Chris Joseph and I are currently working on a story called ‘Luke’s Message’ for the if:book schools project, Mofohob, or The Museum of the History of the Future of the Book.  At the moment, neither our story, not Mofohob itself, has a public face online, but Chris Meade posted a little teaser about it in his blog bookfutures last week, and the story was mentioned in the interview with me in the Observer this past Sunday.

Anyway, just to say, ‘Luke’s Message’ is nearly done, and it’s a cracker!!  No idea when/if we’ll be able to show it to a wider public than the schools project - stay tuned!!

The Observer and the future and me

22 February 2009 in Asham Award Future of Publishing Inanimate Alice Short Stories | Comments (0)

‘A whole library in a wafer-like form’:  nice piece with an interview with me in the Observer newspaper today, by Kate Kellaway. Nice to be in the vanguard, or even the guard’s van, of the future of the history of the future of the book, though to tell you the truth I wish I was more like Andy McNab, at least in terms of sales figures.

There’s something odd about seeing one’s self interviewed on paper… I’ve done it many times, but still have this sense of being boiled down into a few quotes, nothing more, nothing less.  Hmm.  That’s a gloomy thought for a Sunday morning. Time for grilled cheese sandwiches.

Lynne Tillman

19 February 2009 in Mentoring | Comments (0)

americangeniusMy friend Lynne Tillman is here in London at the moment and I’m looking forward to seeing her.  We met years ago when her novel Motion Sickness was published here in the UK.  She’s a terrific writer - very funny, very sharp.  American Genius, A Comedy is a masterpiece of style and substance.  For an overview of her work this article from Slate magazine, American Ingenious, is a good place to start, but I recommend all the books.

It’s half-term here and I’m scrabbling with deadlines and childcare and a general feeling of remorse.  A few new commissions in though, not least of which is a second mini-taster for the Rising Stars project, Lifelines.  You can view our first taster for this project, ‘I am Kima’, by following the link to ‘View Software Sample’.

Mistress of Nothing cover

13 February 2009 in The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (0)

[caption id=“attachment_101” align=“alignleft” width=“188” caption=“draft cover of The Mistress of Nothing”]draft cover of The Mistress of Nothing[/caption]

Here’s a draft cover image for The Mistress of Nothing from Serpent’s Tail - it’s good, I like it.  Great colours, and the feluccas looks lovely. The woman isn’t quite right - her dress is the wrong period, my character, Sally Naldrett, would never have worn a dress that showed her bare arms; the book is set in the 1860s, not the 1920s.  But it’s a good start, something to show reps, bookshops, and other retailers.

This cover image, combined with the proofs, make it very plain that, yes, this book is finally going to be published, fourteen years after I first started trying to write it.

Foreign Rights

10 February 2009 in Future of Publishing Inanimate Alice The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (2)

The Marsh Agency will sell the rights to publish ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ in translation, and word has it they are enthusiastic about the book, which is good news in these doomy downturn days.  Still, I won’t hold my breath (while, maybe just for a little while).

Translation rights should be an area of publishing where the old models hold firm for a bit longer than in the rest of publishing. British and American publishers already squabble over who has the right to sell the English language editions into which territories, but at least Swedish publishers don’t have to worry about Italian publishers muscling into their territory and vica versa.

Peter Carey wrote an angry piece in ‘The Guardian’ on Saturday; in ‘Australia’s Rights Wars’ he describes how native Australian publishers don’t stand a chance of promoting Australian talent in a globalised publishing market, reduced as they are to ‘distributors in a global chain’, as Australian literary culture is destroyed.  The same argument holds true for Canadian publishers; Canadian writers have produced a huge wealth of great books over the past thirty years, supported in many cases by government subsidies.  But now there are very few Canadian-owned mainstream publishers left; my own publisher, McArthur & Co, may be the last one standing.

With our project ‘Inanimate Alice’ we’ve undertaken an experiment in publishing translations as well as the original English language edition; commissioning and publishing these translations has been one of the most popular aspects of the project for both readers and educators. A print writer could, theoretically, commission and self-publish their own translations alongside their own books, provided they could find the right distribution model.  The problem with Alice is, as ever, also one of its greatest strengths - it’s available online for free.

Agent Carmen Balcells in Spain has struck a deal to publish e-books of her two Nobel Laureate writers, Marquez and Cela, direct to digital with Spanish digital publisher Leer-e. Two things are worth noting about this - the e-books retail for 5 Euros, cheap and cheerful, which is what many of us have argued must happen in this country for the e-book to take off and for the economics to make sense to readers; as well as this, the agent Balcells is returning to an 18th century model where agents were publishers, and there was no middleman. I think that more agents in the English speaking world are going to be flexing their muscles in this direction shortly.

A note on that 5 Euro e-book price - I wonder what the breakdown of payment is overall:  1 euro per copy to the agent, 1 euro per copy to the publisher/retailer, 3 euros per copy to the writer? I live in hope.

Jill Dawson for tea

6 February 2009 in Press | Comments (0)

jill dawson

A couple of weeks ago a bunch of us converged on a grand London hotel for afternoon champagne tea to celebrate the publication of our friend Jill Dawson‘s new book, ‘The Great Lover’. We cackled loudly over the tinkling of the grand piano, ate, drank, gossiped, and toasted Ruby (aka Jill) and wished her every success with this new book.

‘The Great Lover’ is about Rupert Brooke; I’ve got my copy and can’t wait to read it.

Ruby set up and runs Gold Dust, an innovative mentoring scheme, pairing well-established writers with new writers to work together 1-1.  She’s a great advocate for writers and writing.

Digital Books are already here

4 February 2009 in Future of Publishing Inanimate Alice | Comments (0)

Another thoughtful post from Michael Bhaskar over at; he argues that talking about the future of the book is kind of redundant, because, in many ways, that future is already here. He names ‘Inanimate Alice’ as an example of digital fiction (already here, yes, most definitely) and says:

“To recap, digital books/fiction looks like this:

- ebooks and ebook derivatives

- ??writerly” computer games

- stories told used existing forms of social media (blogs etc)

The first and the last are already realities. Pretty much every large publisher has an ebook program; most publishers are now using social media for at least marketing. Both authors, publishers and others are increasingly using social media more creatively. The middle is the most difficult for those involved in books. The big winners maybe authors and agents who can begin to sell rights for game spin offs and/or get involved in the process of conceiving game ideas.

Lets not wait for the future anymore; it arrived in about 2006.”

Here’s my comment:  This is a thoughtful post Michael, and a useful summary of where things are at currently. And thanks for mentioning ‘Inanimate Alice’. Your list of forms for the digital book/digital fiction is useful, but I’d like to add a fourth item: a hybrid form that takes elements of all of the first three to create a new kind of literature for a born digital generation. I’ve no idea where this will live, in terms of the platform, but for me the word ‘literature’ and all it implies about quality of writing, quality of narrative, quality of experience, is important.