Tuesday 23 November 2010

Launch of Calling for Angels at Caffe Yum, Hertford

This was a truly fantastic occasion. I think I counted 45 guests in total. 50 were invited. Not bad. Every party that came bought a copy of the book. We had just one left at the end of the evening.
The author, Alex Smith, signed copies of the book and read a passage from it. I made a little speech about how good it was, how it had stood out a mile in the competition, and about how page 143 always gets me, even though I’ve read the book four times. But if you buy the book, don’t go there yet. It may spoil the plot for you.
Alex is just 17 but actually wrote the book when she was 14 – which may explain why she got the 14-year-old voice so right. On the back of this, she is now a reviewer for the Guardian.
It’s amazing that our publicist / second editor, a young man and our designer, second editor, an older man, also really enjoyed the story. Even though Calling for Angels is definitely a girlie book. So, it’s impressive that she impressed them.
Caffe Yum was an excellent venue. It has everything you’d expect in a café – the full range offered at the giant high street coffee shops and juice bars – and some. And so much fresher and more individual. All guests were treated by Alex’s parents to a smoothie and a pink or chocolate angel cake. They were decorated with tiny rice paper angels.
Book available from The Red Telephone.
Caffe Yum

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Exciting book launch coming up

I’m really looking forward to Friday. That is when Alex Smith launches her first novel, Calling For Angels. Roll over Daniel Radcliffe and co. Alex Smith is much more important. She is the winner of The Red Telephone’s novel competition and is just 17. She was 16 when she entered and completed the first draft when she was 14. No wonder she has the voice of the 14-year-old protagonist so beautifully presented.
When I read The Red Telephone’s competition entries, I had no idea I was looking at the work of such a young writer. Alex’s novel stood out as a clear winner. We had three other very good novels and it was difficult to decide amongst those which should be second and third. In the end, we went for second, third and highly commended.
I’ve now read Calling For Angels four times. Every time page 143 brings a lump to my throat. No way am I telling you what happens on that page though. I’m rather hoping you will buy the book. It is available from The Red Telephone’s web site and all good bookshops.
Calling for Angels is a romance but it’s not chicklet-lit. It’s a jolly good read for any young girl. And another editor at The Red Telephone, a youngish male, and the quite middle-aged male designer have also made remarks along the lines of “blooming good” and “better than the stuff by most of the experienced writers we publish”.
The launch is at 7.00 p.m. on Friday 19th November from Hertford’s Café Yum. I’ll be there. So will Alex. And so will multiple copies of Calling for Angels and order forms in case we run out of books. If you’d like to join us, contact me and I’ll get you an invite.

Monday 8 November 2010

A Dreary Book Fair

The Book Fair at Crosby’s Civic Hall yesterday was actually much as I’d feared it might be: not enough footfall through the building, no need for the ridiculously early start and not a book sold. Having got there just after 8.30 we were not able to set-up until 10.300 for an 11.00 o’clock start. As normal, it only took ten minutes to set up. Ironically, we were long gone by the time the most promising crowd arrived. There was a children’s show on at 4.00, our finishing time. The audience would have been more likely to buy books on the way out that on the way in when there was too much anxiety about getting their seats.
I used to do craft fairs a lot and had similar experiences there.
There were some other irritations as well. We gave away a lot of free information, yet those people who were prepared to stop and chat for ages were not willing to buy a book and support an industry they claimed they wanted to be part of. Several people asked us how much we charged out authors for publishing their books. We are not vanity press. We do not help people to self-publish.
However, I still found it enjoyable. It’s possible that a book fair for independent publisher isn’t just about selling books. There was the opportunity to network with other publishers, put a few names to faces and actually make a few more connections with the general public. We pointed several people to our web site. Who knows what that might lead to. And we gained a fair number of new ideas from our competitors.
It also had one great advantage over the craft fairs I used to do: we didn’t have to pay a penny for having a stall there.

Monday 1 November 2010

Why some people did not get into Bridge House's latest charity anthology

I've just finished selecting the stories for Bridge House Publishing's latest anthology, the one that will support the Children's Hospices. Some of the reasons are listed below.
There was really no story. This happens so often. I'd even query some I've seen in the New Yorker and in the Sunday Times colour supplement. Good writing has made some authors there get away with it. But you can't in an anthology for children. You have to have a story that works.
The plot was clichéd. Oh, dear, we’ve read this over and over....
The story was not for the junior school child – content or language was too old or too young. Only reading more and more of this material will help the author to get this exactly right. Some contact with junior school children would also be useful. Start offering author visits or do some voluntary work at your local school.
The story was too far-fetched. Back to the problems of story again. Only this time it’s the opposite problem. Some stories were just too melodramatic and not convincing.
There was too much telling and not enough showing. That old chestnut. But it is really important in short stories especially those written for children.
The story was too sad for this particular collection. We did stipulate that we wanted uplifting stories.
There was a roving viewpoint; this does not suit stories as short as these. This is also a very common problem amongst inexperienced writers.
We couldn’t give individual feedback but at least we let people know the points above. And now we’re letting the wider world know.
Happy writing, everyone.