Sunday, 28 August 2011

The suits just don't get it

There was a great piece in The Guardian yesterday by Jane Rogers. Her latest book, The Testament of Jessie Lamb has been longlisted for The Man Booker. She has written many books for established 'London' houses , as they like to call themselves but her recent sales have not been heading in the right direction on the sales graph. So they didn't offer her a new contract. She went to an independent called Sandstone Press based in Inverness. They loved the story and guess what? So did The Man Booker judges and now her sales are going through the proverbial. I bet there is one keeper of the sales graph at a very famous 'London' publishing house who is crying into his spreadsheet. And so he should. As Jane said, people want stories to read. Simple really, just a shame the suits get in the way sometimes.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Thorny issues

Team Moose off to Leeds Waterstone's this morning for a book signing by Leonora Rustamova. She will be talking to the book buying public about her book 'STOP DON'T READ THIS - THE STORY'
Yesterday we received THORN by Michael Dean from the printers and it looks fantastic. THORN is a Rabelasian tour round Amsterdam in the middle of the Great Dutch Golden era of the mid 17th Centruy. Spinoza and Rembrandt are exiled, one for his philosophical treatise and the other for his pictoral depiction of the great and the good. A great read and very funny. David Nobbs, who created Reggie Perrin says, 'An astonishing and powerful novel.' Top man.
It is published on September 1st.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Queen Moose

I'm off to Londinium to see the queen this morning. Let us hope she has bathed and scrubbed up in preparation to meet the Moose. The talk at the society of young authors went really well. I spoke on how independent publishers are taking up the creative slack in publishing today. The big six are merely trying to replicate the successes they have already had, to keep the schekels coming in to satisfy their shareholders. This of course means they are publishing very little that is different to what you see on the 3 for 2 tables in our high street stores. Cast your weary eye, dear reader across the bookshelves and the covers of the books look remarkably similar. It is called genre publishing. Here at Moose towers we like to offer the reader something different to read. Not your average supermarket fare,there is no Scandawegian crime here, more like a delicatessan has to offer the discerning literary palette. Original fiction at its best. Now if I can get Mrs Windsor to read a couple of Bluemoose Books as she wiles away the hours playing backgammon with the corgis, the future will indeed be bright.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Society of Young Publishers

I am speaking at the Society of Young Publishers tonight in Leeds. They have never left London before and they might be a little trepidatious of our northern manners and customs. I'll be gentle. I will be talking about independent publishing and Bluemoose Books. It may be the first and last time I will be able to give a valedictory address to bright young things who have come to listen to pearls of wisdom. Well, that might be pushing it a bit. I won't be thanking my mum, or crying. The audience may by the end of the night after a thirty minute tirade against the evils of Amazon and Google. But these are great times for indie publishers. The big houses are too big to move to the constant changes within publishing and we're filling the creative gaps with great stories that engage and inspire the reader. We have come a great distance since we started five years ago. Hollywood directors are reading our books. Penguin in the States is also reading a couple of our titles and the Russians can't get enough of Bluemoose. All is well and long may that continue in the good ship Moose.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Guardian Shortlist

Heaven forefend! There's lots of angry people on The Guardian books website. KING CROW did get onto the short list for THE NOT THE BOOKER. The prize, a Guradian mug.Nothing to write home about, but the most important aspect of the whole process is that it gives a national platform to small and independent publishers to promote their books and authors to a group of people who wouldn't normally view such titles. Why is that you ask? Well, reviewers don't on the whole review books sent to then from indie publishers. Why not? You'll have to ask them I suppose, but my conjecture is that they deem books by those not already signed to the mainstream publishers not really worthy. Publishing is very conservative you see and run on very upper middle class sensibilities. I've worked in publishing for 25 years and my first job was as a rep for a new publishing house run by the son of an Earl. You get the drift. Eton. Oxford. Publishing house. Natch. And publishing is run via a very old model. Agent signs up new wunderkind, sells first new book to commissioning editor for zillions, publisher has to get buzz going so gets Camilla from in house PR to take reviewers out for lunch or the opera and over dinner, chats about new wunderkind and three weeks later wunderkind is all over the books sections like a priapic Oxford poetry lecturer is over a nubile undergraduate. Simple really. Access is denied to the likes of Bluemoose as we can only run to an Avacado and radish sandwich.
For 5 years I have tried to get one of our titles reviewed. Nothing. That is until this year when The Guardian ran their New First book Award and asked bloggers what titles did they think they had missed. Irate Moosers around the country told them about KING CROW. The books editor in her wisdom bowed to the presure, asked for a copy, read it , and loved it. Job Done. Then a week later a review in the newspaper itself. I doffed my antlers to her, now that she had seen the light, and hopefully new Bluemoose titles won't find their first port of call, a bin. Let us hope , dear readers, that all the harrumphing will stop, reviewers will realise that mainstream is replicating the same old, same old and its the bright new buttons in the sticks that are pubishling great new books.
Toodelpip, off to Waterstone's Bradford to see one of our finest writers, Leonora Rustamova, sign copies of her book STOP DON'T READ THIS. I've sent a copy to the shadow education secretary Andy Burnham. The great hope of newish labour. If he reads it, they may have a chance, if not, bunker down because the toffs will be running the asylum.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Book for Europe

Looks like KING CROW made it onto The Guardian's NOT THE BOOKER LIST. About time those scribes in Londinium realised what talent lay outside the gates of the Metropolis. We've got Hollywood excited about KC, and Penguin USA, so, its not before time that they realised we can read and write and publish great stories up here in the wilderness under Ted Hughes' eyebrows in Hebden Bridge. Having said that, they did give it a marvelous review a couple of weeks ago. Mustn't let my inverted snobbery get in the way of a good old rant. Well, its taken four years. So why not?
I received the last re-write of PIG IRON by Ben Myers yesterday and handed it over to one of editors. It's a brilliant story and beautifully written. It should win every prize on planet letters. Ben tells a story that beguiles and illuminates, is lyrical yet visceral, sharp and thoroughly entertaining. It is published next May 2012. Get your orders in now. And we have a jacket image that will blow the beejesus off you.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Its about the stories , stupid.

The Guardian's NOT THE BOOKER LIST is in its final hours of voting. KING CROW by Michael Stewart, which we published in January of this year, is in the running to be one of the 6 titles they choose to review and discuss over the next 6 weeks. As 83% of all books are sold on recommendations, getting a book seen and reviewed by the press is essential to get the book seen by as many people as possible. To get a reviewer to open the first page and jump in is the trick. For the bigger metropolitan houses this is far easier than small indies in the beautiful north. There is still an institutionslised bias against small presses. Small is not beautiful in the reviewers eyes. Small means not being part of the established more successful publishing industry. HOW WRONG THEY ARE. Look at the Man Booker long list. Of the 13 on the list, 9 are from independents and 3 from very small presses. What does that say about the huge houses? Same old same old. For a long time, which started in the mid '80s, publishing got obsessed with literary theory. You know all the post domesticated modernism and the story, where a book has a start a middle and an end, revolutionary I know, became old hat. It became all tricks and whistles and plot and structure went out the window. In my experience, most people want a damned good story, and a great plot that is beautifully written. Period. Now the great unwashed are fighting againtst those books that are only concerned about what happens between each full stop. Most of us don't care about isms. Isms are self generated ivory tower building exercises by professors of long words who are trying to create their own legacy. Stories have been with us for ever, and they always will. From the oral to the written we all need stories and KING CROW is one of the best you will read. I guarantee it.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Book banning Mormons

Now those far sighted followers of Joseph Smith have got an old testament bee in their bonnets. They have complained to the local authorities in Alabama, or some such creationist state in the American south and said because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'A study in scarlet,' has some anti mormon passges in it, it should be taken out of every school library and off any reading courses. The authorities in their wisdom have done just that. It is now banned. You know what is next. Every book will be banned bar Mr Smith's words and God's diary. Oh dear. No wonder America is such an intolerant country. My dad burned my copy of 'A clockwork orange,' because of what he read in the press in 1973, I told him about another book burner, Adolf Hitler. He wasn't impressed with my history lesson. My reward?A fat ear and a few more prayers to commit to the ceiling. Now, if there is one book that should be considered off the curriculum....Nah, people should read as much as possible. It helps, it really does. You might not understand everything, but you'll have one thing in your favour if you do read. You'll be more willing to listen to another's view. Remember, you read it here first.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Those boys and girls at Google will have you believe that everything should be free. The search engine that is taking ove the world, made zillions of dollars for The Brothers Grin last year, wants to abolish copyright. They want all books to be available free at the click of a mouse. Sounds brilliant doesn't it? Every book online free. Literacy rates would soar and we would all have a library at our fingertips. But stop there reader and just think . Google doesn't do everything out of the kindness of their corporate heart. Google exists to suck as much money out of advertisers as they can. They are The Goldman Sachs of the internet age. Don't be fooled by their zany ball pool head offices and driving around the grounds on big boys toys. They want dollars, and they want them now. Free books? What about the content? Who provides that? of course the author. The Creator of those magic words that transport each and everyone one of us from the tedium of our daily existence. How does the writer get paid if the copyright is free? Content is king and the writers need some sort of protection to put food on the table Mr Grin. Copyright is there for a reason, to give them enough calories to finish the next chapter. When the CEO's of Google are taking their billion dollar dividends and buying spaceships to go to Saturn because its a hoot, remember, your search enging relies on the content of others. Journalists and writers. Without them you will have nothing to search for. And if they do get their way and abolish copyright and everything is free, then we will see them start to charge for everything. When the fences are broken, the big bad fox won't have to blow anything down because dinner will have been provided, all trussed with condiments too. Beware those that say all lunches are free. They're not and they never will be.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


We have an extremely busy few weeks ahead of us at BLUEMOOSE BOOKS. On the 1st September, we are publishing an historical fiction title called THORN by Michael Dean. Spinoza and Rembrandt on a Rabelasian tour of Amsterdam in the middle of the 17th Century. David Nobbs, the acclaimed author and creator of Reggie Perrin, says, 'It's an astonsihing and powerfull book.' Praise indeed. Michael will be singing and talking about his book at Colchester Central library on Saturday 24th September at 11am and at Waterstone's Chelmsford on saturday 17th between 12-2pm.
KING CROW by Michael Stewart has been nominated for The Guardian's NOT THE BOOKER LIST, get your votes in now.
Leonora Rustamova, fresh from espousing her thoughts on BBC Radio Leeds on Thursday 11th August and after being interviewed by The Telegraph and Argus, will be signing copies of her book STOP DON'T READ THIS at Watesrtone's Bradford on Saturday 20th after 1pm and the following Saturday between 11 - 2pm at Waterstone's Leeds

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Bishop Of Bradford

We're off to BBC Radio Leeds this morning. That is, Leonnora Rustamova and I. She has been invited onto the morning show to talk about how she managed to engage with five disaffected young lads and get them to come back into school and finish off their education. She succeeded and the result is her book, STOP DON'T READ THIS - The Story. Because she was so successful, she was sacked. Madness I know, but when the educators find somebody getting great results but not following the dictats and formula, they get worried. Then we're off to see the Bishop of Bradford. He's worried that he can't speak to the youth of Bradford. He doesn't know the 'idiom and argot' in which they speak. He's blogging. We're going to see if we can help. Leonora's not one for pointing. She lsitems. Perhaps there should be more people like her. You can't have a conversation without listening, and defintely not with water cannon and rubber bullets on the streets. Wasn't Mr Cameron part of a social group that met in pubs in Oxford, got drunk, trashed the rooms but then paid the owners for the havoc they'd wreeked? It's called hypocrisy. The youth know, you know.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


I heard Andrew Wylie on the radio yesterday. The press have given him the moniker 'the jackal.' He was the chap in the late eighties that ramped advances to authors through the roof. Now I'm all for writers getting what is their due, but the astronomical sums that are still being given to writers is unsustainable. Mr Wylie was moaning about Amazon and digital rights. Should one of the questions being asked, do we really need agents? What do they really do for their 10%? The most important person in publishing is the creator of the content, the writer. After that it is the editor. Now, there are some unscrupulous publishers out there, but surely it is not beyond the wit and ken of writers to have a template for a contract that gives them ample reward for their efforts. They surely can use the author's society as their union to watch and advise with contracts.I don't think we need Mr Wylie to advise on the publishing model. No doubt he has the writers welfare at his heart, and of course his cut of their earnings. There's a word for that.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mooses and Pirates

It's Sunday, Purple Jesus looks down on me, no this isn't a new sect started by his purpleness Prince, the diminutive musician of a paisley persuasion, but the purple Jesus that resides on the top of my bookshelf and looks down on everyone at Moose Towers. It has no religious significance, its just a great statue and makes me laugh. We also have a Ganesh and a plastic Moose to cover all faiths, well two. This revisionist look at religion has started after I bought a book called'the Gospel To the Flying Spaghetti Monster by Bobby Henderson. It is a response to the propogators of Intelligent Design, those flat earthers who think that the world is only 6000 years old, creationism is a scientific hoax and the world will end in a rapture in a Macdonalds off Route 66 some time in 2020.It is hilarious and the premise is that if followers of ID can put their belief system forward with little if no scientific findings, established religions too, then why can't anyone have their own beliefs that can't be challenged either, in a scientific context. One theory that is very funny is his statement that global warming has got significantly worse sinse the demise of PIRATES. HAHAAAARGH to that.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Moose on Tour

We have four new author events to tell you about. Leonora Rustamova will be signing her new book STOP DON'T READ THIS-The Story at Waterstone's Bradford on Saturday 20th August 11am-2pm and then again at Waterstone's Leeds on Saturday 27th August between 12-2pm.
Michael Dean, author of THORN will be signing copies of his book at Waterstone's Chelmsford on Saturday 17th September, 12-2pm and the following week he will be talikng and signing at Colchester Central Library between 11.30-2pm.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Moose Abroad

A massive publishing house from the USA got in contact yesterday and asked if they could read two of our books, with a view, I hope, of publishing in the States. The two books in question are KING CROW by Michael Stewart and GABRIEL'S ANGEL by Mark Radcliffe. Now, it's alright to get excited , but I've been here before, and sometimes it doesn't work out as planned. However, it really is pleasing to see that stories have a resonance and can be truly international. It is one of our basic traits as humans to tell and listen to stories, wherever we are. It helps. When you realise you've just spent your last 17 trillion dollars and the credit card company have come round to seize the laptop, keys to the car and the house, its time to grab a book and head for the cave you bought on a timeshare four years ago. Books matter. They can't save lives and feed people , but they do matter, simply as a way of easing out the creases of our daily lives.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


One of the great things to come out of KING CROW's recent review in The Guardian and on their blog site is that I several indy publishers have been expressing the same views about getting their books reviewed. Or lack of it from the broadsheets. There seems to be a consensus that the smaller presses don't get a fair look in. Fortunately we have cyber allies, readers who have come across websites and bought some great books and then gone on various blogs and spread the word. Hopefully now that reviewers know who and where we are, the great stories we publish, they will give us a fair shot next time. But chickens will remain in their coops uncounted. What we have to do collectively as independetnts is to work together, signpost our readers to other publisher's websites and let them know about the great books we are publishing. BUILD A READERSHIP FANBASE. INDY POWER. THE INDY SUMMER OFFENSIVE
It's simple really, it's all about the stories and that's what readers want. Something different and they're voting with a click of their mouse.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The middle class sensibility

I thought I'd draw attention to the reality that publishing panders to many middle class sensibilities in that the vast majority of Literary agents and editors are middle to upper middle class, and as they control the gateways to most of our contemporary fiction, they are somewhat disdainfail of working class lives characters in fiction today.

Here's what Helen Walsh, author of GO TO SLEEP, published by Canongate, has to say about it.

'Prior to writing, I worked in a literary agency in London, and I was acutley and horribly aware of the prejudice against working class lives and characters in contemporary fiction. The 'taste-setters' the agents, junior agents and readers who are the first port of call for manuscripts - are largely upper middle class, as are most of the editors working in British publishing today. This raises many questions then about the non-varied and class dimensional reading of manuscripts and the extent to which such readings reflect and pander to an upprer middle class sensibility.'

I take my hat off to her.

Monday, 1 August 2011


I'm not going to go all Oscar Night on you, dear readers but KING CROW by Michael Stewart has just been praised by leading Literary editor Claire Armitstead, who runs the books section at The Guardian.

'King Crow reminds me of Kes, both in its use of birds and in its setting.' Praise indeed. Now as KES is one of my all time favourite books, I'm loathe to make such comparisons because it just doesn't feel right. Perhaps in time we can put them side by side but let's just see what longevity KING CROW has. I'm convinced it will, but then we published it. As we all say at Bluemoose, great stories travel. And look how far. All the way to London.

Cyber- Ink Synergy

I have been told that 83% of all book sales are through recommendations. Either through reviews in papers, from friends or on the net. That is a big figure. I would presume the other 13% of impulse buys are mainly through the supermarkets and a some through the high street. This is the new frontier for indy publishers . Getting an audience for your books. Finding readers. With high street and wholesale discounts being so high, we have to look elsewehere for readers whilst still using some of the traditional outlets. Waterstone's is still the shop window but gaining readers from previous visitors to the website and finding book lovers and telling them what great stories we have is the key. There was a commentary on a website about KING CROW, one of our recent publications and the lit ed of a national newspaper picked up on it, read the book, liked it and then reviewed it in the newspaper. Now Techhies will have you think that INK is dead in the dailies but the sales from that review provided a spike. Reviews do matter but the cyber readers and followers are making great inroads.