Posts Tagged ‘Random amusing stuff from the internet’

I had an interesting discussion with the Observer‘s complaints guy the other day (see blogs passim). (As an aside, what a way to earn a living: dealing with people whingeing about stuff all day long, while knowing that your newspaper, and your job, probably won’t see out 2013.) He, in turn, had spoken to Nick Sherbert: Sherbert maintains (apparently) that he was told by ‘someone in the Home Office’ that Gadget was not an Inspector. Obviously, this person was mistaken – we’re, of course, not suggesting Herbert is a liar. The very idea.

However, he made the statement and it has the aforementioned implications for us. We’re now wondering whether or not to take matters further. Our lawyers advise us that we would not have to prove that Gadget was an inspector (or above). It would be for Herbert to prove the opposite, which he could not.

However, when you pull the pin on a grenade like this, the shrapnel can hit people other than the intended target. Could Gadget be damaged, collaterally-speaking? I’m not sure. We’re sleeping on it for a bit.

Meanwhile: what would happen if you jumped in a swimming pool full of booze?

Finally, no apologies for mentioning yet more very positive reviews of The Little Girl in the Radiator. Eight have been placed on Amazon since Christmas Eve alone, all five stars (barring one four star).

To take a couple at at random,’Yimsakin’ says, ‘This is the best book that I have ever read… I could not put this book down once I started reading it.’

Nicola Eggleton writes, ‘Very well-written book, I work in the care industry and it was fascinating to read the experiences Martin had with his mum and his struggle in understanding and coming to terms with this terrible illness.’

We still haven’t achieved the cut-through that this title deserves; it’s selling well on Amazon, and as an eBook, but I think Waterstone’s should be doing more with it. Possibly a superrmarket, too. People don’t just like it, they love it. One chap has bought nine copies.

In related news, Bobby Womack has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Here’s one of my favourite Womack 70s tracks:

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The late Humphrey Lyttelton.

Meanwhile. Although we love eBooks in general, and Kindle in particular, one issue with this new technology is that it is forever evolving. Each iteration of the device – Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, the forthcoming Kindle HD etc etc – requires the text to be re-uploaded and often reworked. This is very time-consuming indeed. Hence, everything being slower than normal.

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The Bookseller is predicting that 50 Shades of Grey will sell 10 million copies, which leaves just one question burning in my mind: can respectful and consensual thrashings form the basis of a new paradigm for mutually rewarding male/female relationships in an essentially patriarchal society where can I get hold of someone to write low-grade erotica about spanking? I could have a go myself, but my erotic experience is limited, especially bondage-wise (my wife, when testy, can lash out with a hairbrush or whatever else is to hand now and then, but that’s different), and my imagination is sadly lacking.

According to the brilliant Marina Hyde: ‘(M)ore British troops have been deployed for the Olympics than are serving in Afghanistan.’ They could do worse than give them all brollies and ask them to escort people around the venue.

(GQ says the Guardian might be about to shut down. I know several journalists there, all good people, and it would be a real tragedy. The press, even the Graun, is one of those things we won’t miss until it’s gone; the idea of George Osborne/Ed Balls having no-one watching them is chilling.)

Theodore Dalrymple on François Hollande’s plan to tax holiday home rental:

Most British people come to France, however, not to avoid taxes, but to avoid their fellow countrymen, especially the younger ones. In France, even the most uncouth people address you as “monsieur”, not “mate”. The burglar who broke into my mother-in-law’s flat in Paris, not expecting her to be there, withdrew with a courteous “Excusez-moi, madame”. An English burglar would have bound and gagged her.

Until next time…


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One problem with working in publishing is that it all-but destroys reading for pleasure. You spend eight hours a day either reading or editing, and the last thing you want to deal with when you get home and put your feet up is more words. Additionally, you are so attuned to either skim-reading (initial manuscripts) or quasi-proof-reading (stuff you’re actually publishing) that it’s very hard to find that middle ground, where you don’t skip half of a given page or re-read it a dozen times to see how you can reword it.

Anyway, I’ve belatedly just finished this (it was a Christmas present from my in-laws two Christmases ago) and I can heartily recommend it. (Interestingly, the author has chosen personally to respond to the one negative review on Amazon.)

On coffee breaks, meanwhile, we’re trying to understand the crisis in Europe, what it means for the UK, for publishing and for us. A weak Euro means a strong US dollar, apparently; we do now sell a reasonable quanity of books in the USA, so this might be a good thing for Monday Books. On the other hand, the US looks pretty like a basket case-in-waiting to me, stuck between wantologists and a pensions nightmare. If Greece leaves the Euro, maybe with a hybrid Nazi-Communist government, will that mean cheaper holidays for Britons (and more money to spend on reading), or will it mean the RAF airlifting people out of a burning Athens? The Euro might drop to 50% of its present value; will we all finally be able to afford the ski chalets of our dreams, or will it take the UK with it? (Can you buy shares in Bognor Regis?) If people don’t have the money to go out, will they stay in with a book instead? It’s all very confusing. In a very long list of things about economics that I don’t or can’t understand, do we actually have ‘austerity’ anyway, and how can it be ‘rejected’ by voters in Greece and France? Isn’t the opposite of austerity borrowing (and spending)? And if you reject austerity are you not going to struggle, eventually, to borrow? I’ve half a mind to announce that I’m rejecting the concept of paying my mortgage.

Inspector Gadget is leading the Tolploddle Martyrs* on a trip to London this week. I tend to support privatisation, if only because, in theory at least, incompetent firms can go bust, whereas incompetent council chiefs and MPs just increase your tax bills and end up getting to the baronetcy or the House of Lords; but privatising the police is bonkers. Read Wasting More Police Time for the reasons why, and follow this link to youtube to see what it’s really like in the custody block.

You have to chortle at The Angry Underground World of Failed Pickup Artists:

Results, apparently, would entail mass quantities of sexy women lining up to bone him and his ilk, regardless of the fact that they spend all of their time ranting and raving on a misogynistic website.

The 10 best cricket books; Mike Brearley’s Art of Captaincy should be in there, I think. Graham Gooch’s autobiography is well worth a read, too. Derek Randall’s isn’t, which is a shame as he was my boyhood hero. I also like not-Kevin Pietersen’s The Cricketer Diaries:

“WTF Belly. Where the hell is everyone?”

Finally: ‘I was a business intelligence analyst for a paperclip marketing company.’

* That is a high quality pun.

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…should have been published today, but is delayed, I’m afraid. We’re still editing and adding in stuff from interviews done last month. It should be out in about a month from now (we hope).

Meanwhile, Mark Steyn on Occupy Wall Street:

You won’t be surprised to hear that Ben & Jerry’s, the hippie-dippy Vermont ice-cream makers, have come out in favor of Occupy Wall Street. Or as their press release puts it:

We, the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, compelled by our personal convictions and our Company’s mission and values, wish to express our deepest admiration to all of you who have initiated the non-violent Occupy Wall Street Movement and to those around the country who have joined in solidarity.

Ben & Jerry’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever.

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Our eBook sales have fallen dramatically this month – 50% down at least on August, which was itself down a bit on July. We have a rocket scientist on it, and she says it’s because people buy books in June and July to read in August and September, and that things will pick up again as the nights draw in, and sitting by the fireside with a good book, or at least a book, beings to appeal more. Presumably, lots of people will get iPads and Kindles for Christmas, too; January this year was when our eBooks took off.

The existing Kindle is great as a reader, but the Kindle 3 is apparently going to be enhanced, navigation-wise. We recently invested in an iPad 2, and can report that it’s very good for reading on. It’s also good for playing Risk, though if you allow the computer to allocate your territories you end up with 7 armies on South America, 6 in Central America and 7 in the Belize area. Crazy.

Talking of iPad, more of our titles are now live on iTunes; as and when they are all available, we’ll post up here about it.

Rape music? My mom is  a FOB (not literally mine).

Finally (from Passive Aggressive Notes), what is wrong with this hedge, and what action are they taking? It’s not the finest example of urban topiary ever but…

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Sick Notes has a new rival, Confessions of a GP (Friday Project).

I’ve just finished Confessions, and, while it’s a good read, I don’t think it’s as good as Notes.

I know I would say that, but the doctor in question has less to say about his practice, possibly because he’s a locum. He also (to my ears) writes with less authority than Tony Copperfield.

Still, it’s good to see a small genre being created; the more books about a subject, ultimately the more sales, I think.

Friday did what I wish Monday could do: burned their way through hundreds of thousands of pounds in double quick time, went bust and got bought out of insolvency by HarperCollins. That’s the way to do it!

As a result (of being part of Harper), they have lots more cash to spend than we do; this allows them to promote and PR Confessions much more, which means that, irrespective of whether it is or (as I believe) is not a better book than Sick Notes (free extract of the latter here), it will almost certainly sell three or four times as many copies, possibly more.

This can be galling for authors, but as independent publishers we have long since given up fretting about it.

You cannot risk falling in love with your books, because if they fail it kills you. It’s a bit like seeing your children come last on sports day, I guess; you can’t get too emotionally involved (in the race, not the kids).

The fact is that for a publisher of our size, in the currently climate, a sale of 5,000 to 10,000 books on any given title is not too bad.

In fact, I’d take a guarantee of 10,000 sales on all titles from here on in if it were on offer, even though we have one or two things on the horizon that could and should do substantially better.

Five books at 10,000 sales a year is a pretty good business for us (living in the sticks, and not eating at The Fat Duck every night).

For authors, it’s a different story. A sale of 5,000 is not much good to an author, at least if making money is your aim. On an £8.99 paperback, with an average royalty of (say) 8%, you’re making 72p a book, and £3,596 in total. Spread over a couple of years. With tax to deduct.

This is why our website states, on the ‘writers and agents’ page:

There are eight million stories in the Naked City, according to the narrator of the eponymous film. Unfortunately, few of them would make a book; the first hurdle to clear before you decide to submit a manuscript to us is to ask yourself, ‘Will at least ten thousand strangers be interested in paying to read this story?’

That doesn’t stop people sending in manuscripts which, frankly, they’d be hard-pressed to persuade their mothers to read, if they paid them to do it.

Which brings me to the upside: it is nice seeing your book on a shelf, even if it’s only the shelf in your own living room.

In other news, there’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek piece by Theodore Dalrymple here at the New English Review in which he explains some of his own shortcomings, and how resentment has been the engine of his writing. Meanwhile, John Crace, of Guardian ‘Digested Read’ fame, takes aim at Dalrymple’s latest (non-Monday) book and kind of misses the point.

Finally, The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks is a great site if, like me, you are a bit of an obsessive, read bore, about punctuation and speech marks (and yes, I’m sure we mess up lots of that kind of stuff in our books, too). I mean, what is the writer of this sign trying to suggest?

P.S. Shortly after we moved from blogger, we dropped from the vertiginous heights of 1 or 2 comments on every other post to a flat average of zero.

I thought for a while that this must be because our posts had become even more boring than normal. That may still be the case, but additionally we’d done something somehow to prevent people commenting. I think I have now fixed this.

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