Month: December 2009

Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 11/12/2009

Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews to close. Frankly I find this a little strange. Even spinning them off might have been better, though survival on their own would have been pretty unlikely without serious reorganization and a fundamental rethinking of the business models.
Here

Canongate is profiled in the Wall Street Journal, that Jamie Byng has an eye for a book that can be packaged. It’d almost make ya jealous.
Here

Frankly, I don’t buy this Apple Tablet nonsense much. Apple cannot single-handedly change the industry, though they may try. In any case when Steve Jobs announces this on a stage somewhere, I’m sure I’ll want it, but until then, I shall waste no energy waiting or wanting.
Here

On the other hand, both Mike Shatzkin and Michael Hyatt have articles about new display systems for content that they claim will change the book world as we know it. I think both are right that change is coming but I have more sympathy with the Sports Illustrated demo video on Michael Hyatt’s post. After all that looks like a faster webpage with some extra features rather than something new. Webpages are the answer and so putting the web in every hand you can is the way forward for publishers and makes more sense than creating new, confusing and unnecessary formats. The trick is to make the customer pay for access to your content, not find a fancy way to display it.

Christmas Books Special – 2009 – Part 4 of 4 Children’s

It is difficult when writing about such a huge category as Children’s books, which as within it so many genres and sub genres, to choose just three books, but somehow I have managed it.

Ancient Folk Tales of Ireland


Ancient Folk Tales of Ireland
Hawkhill Publishing is a new house, run by Colm Ennis formerly of Hughes & Hughes. he has had a fairly good start and Ancient Folk Tales of Ireland continues his run of good releases. Illustrated by Paul Bolger a somewhat unknown (for reasons I cannot fathom) illustrator of some talent and based on the stories collected by Douglas Hyde Ireland’s first President, this is a wonderful book of the kind all homes should have. It brings to life many of the older and now sadly neglected Irish folktales that warrant our attention.

The Circus Ship


The Circus Ship
Written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. This is a wonderful book. The images shine and he text sparkles and more importantly, they work well together. The production values are something else. I love the book for all those reasons and because my searching leads me to believe that the book is based (in the REAL LIFE STORY sense of the word based) on an actual event, the Sinking of the Royal Tar (Google Docs).

A Little History Of The World


A Little History of the World
E.H. Gombrich wrote this book in German in 1935 and it was only translated to English and released in 2005. It is a startlingly good read and while it strays towards the upper end of the Children’s category, I think it worth adding here to encourage the reading of solid non-fiction by children.

Christmas Books Special – 2009 – Part 3 of 4 History

Straight into this edition. To read part 1 and part 2, click the links!

Empires Of The Sea

Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521 – 1580
Roger Crowley also wrote Constantinople: The Last Great Siege. That was a good book. But it lacked two things that make this book essential reading, personality and narrative structure. It is as if Crowley went away after Constantinople and read Tom Holland, realised that he could do as well or better and set to. He paints a wonderfully engaging picture of the Mediterranean world and of its rulers, capturing the burdened Phillip II in a few short sentences scattered throughout the book. His real strength though is that his insight stretches to the tensions within the camps and between them, explaining with equal authority the pressure on the Sultan’s commanders and those of the Christian states. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is just excellent.

Hidden Cork

Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers and Cute hoors (DOI: I commissioned this book)
I love a good non-fiction book that opens up unknown places and interesting little bits of information, digestible if you will. Hidden Cork brings to life many of the characters and crazy people who have populated the history of the city along with the stories of fabulous and forgotten events. Michael Lenihan, who wrote the book, is an absolute charm of a writer who has a deep interest in the topic and a passion that is unrivalled. A gem of a book.

The Gutenberg Revolution

The Gutenberg Revolution
John Man’s short and concise biography of Johann Gutenberg is a joy to read. When I look at how the world is changing for what (firmly tongue in cheek) Cory Doctorow at TOC Frankfurt called The People Of The Book, this is the perfect Christmas gift for the publisher, writer, editor or reader in your life. Man has really fleshed out a character who up until I read his books, was at best a cardboard cut out. Maybe it’s my emerging preference for quality narrative fiction (this list really attests to that) but I’d recommend it to anyone, not just a book fan, but the history fan too.

Like the Sci-Fi & Fantasy section, keeping this section to three is too hard and so I have cheated a little by suggesting two notable exclusions.

Notable Exclusions

The Dictionary of Irish Biography
Yes it is expensive, yes it is beyond what most people would need or want, but it’s very imposing-ness makes it invaluable and essential for those engaged in deep study of Irish history, even as jumping off point.

A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
By Marc Morris is an absorbing account of the life of Edward I, a man most people only know for being William Wallace’s enemy in Braveheart. In fact his life was enormously interesting spanning wars in the Levant, France Scotland and Wales, not to mention a vicious civil war while he was still only crown prince. Morris delivers a stirring narrative too, all told one of the better biographies I’ve read

Christmas Books Special – 2009 – Part 2 of 4

Sci-fi & Fantasy today
It is a difficult thing to hold my list to three books in this post (and so cheekily I’ve chosen some series based books). I have read some incredible sci-fi and fantasy books over the last year, some of which have really broken through to the mainstream of sci-fi readers and some of which have only done passably well. The three I’ve selected simply ran away with my imagination.

Fire Upon The Deep

Fire Upon The Deep
Vernor Vinge is by many people’s standard one of the modern greats of Science Fiction. Until I read a post by Jo Walton about his book Fire Upon The Deep on Tor.com the emerging online hub of science fiction and fantasy, (which goes to show the value of a good educational role for online communities). There was so much in the post that appealed to me that I went out and bought the book and have since bought another, I will probably buy anything and everything he writes or has written. Fire Upon The Deep is an absorbing read with strange and wonderful characters, exciting and yet extremely limiting realities (FOR THE AUTHOR THAT IS). What a book to read if your creative insights are running dry, it is sure to spark imagination and profound thoughts.

Empire in Black & Gold

Empire In Black & Gold (The Shadow of the Apt Series)
I was not convinced at first by this book. The pace seemed slow, the language stilted. Yet it was good enough for me to keep reading. And then, boy did it take off like a rocket. Perhaps THE most exciting and inventive series I’ve read in a while. It offers new perspectives on a host of fantasy memes. I was sent book two and three by another fan and I’ve decided that it is that kind of series, the kind that converts readers into zealots. I think you should all become zealots! Read the first four in rapid succession and you’ll feel bereft when it comes to the last page and you’ll be dying for the next book!

The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy)
Joe Abercrombie is a fine writer. One who knows a lot about fantasy. In this remarkable series he pretty much subverts the accepted narratives of fantasy while creating new and exciting versions around the carcass. A berseker (and an evil one at that) central hero, a torturer who holds our pity, respect and I suspect for most people, our admiration and a wise central enigmatic character that is almost the exact opposite of your Belgarath or Gandalf.

Tomorrow, History,
Eoin

Honourable Mention: The Long Price Quartet, by Daniel Abraham (AMAZING)

Publishing Success in Ireland, Part Five, Summing Up

This series has been an exciting and interesting one for me to write and research. The first four parts are the real meat. You can read them one by one:

Publishing Success In Ireland, Part One
Publishing Success In Ireland, Part Two
Publishing Success In Ireland, Part Three
Publishing Success In Ireland, Part Four

So what have we learned with this series?

    1) Success is a lot more mundane than most people think.
    2) 1500-2000 units will put your book in the top 1000 books of that year.
    3) The industry is dominated by the forces of UK publishing
    4) That Fiction outperforms but is heavily driven by hits (making this Fintan O’Toole article nonsense*)
    5) That Average Selling Price makes a real difference

Have I anything new to share?
I’ve three new facts to share today.
– Up to the last Nielsen figures (28/11/2009) the Irish Consumer Market was down approximately 4.52% in Value
– Volume was up 5.42% though
– ASP was down 9.43%

These three facts indicate a number of unsettling features of the Irish book market.

Firstly, price is driving higher volume, but that is at the cost of driving down the ASP. This is surely putting everyone in the chain under extreme pressure.

Secondly, while there are some startling figures for individual books (70K+ for Secret Scripture for instance) as a whole, the Average Sale per Title is down somewhat (if this figure means anything).

Thirdly, Irish publishers are doing A LOT worse than the market as a whole. Not having full data makes this analysis superficial only so treat it with caution, but I estimate that nearly every Irish publisher has suffered a fall in sales much larger than the market fall. This has been driven by the heavy push booksellers are sensibly putting into bestselling titles, making the space tougher for smaller titles.

In short, success however modest, will be even more precarious going forward!
Eoin

* Also Dan Brown (who O’Toole picks on) has sold, 57193 copies of The Lost Symbol in Ireland so far this year.

Christmas Books Special – 2009 – Part 1 of 4 Food & Drink

I normally run a recommendation post for fiction and non-fiction books every Christmas. This year I’m having a tough time narrowing the field down so I’ve decided to do it a bit differently, I am going to suggest 3 books for each of the following categories:

Food & Drink

This section is an easy choice because three books stand head and shoulders above everything else either released by an Irish company or written by an Irish author. These three should be on my shelf by 26th December if all goes to plan :)

Forgotten Skills of Cooking


Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking
What more can you ask for? The Allen’s are cooking royalty, Rachel is storming the charts this year as she did last year and Darina brings the years of experience and knowledge to bear in this very handsomely produced tome.

Good Mood Food


Donal Skehan’s Good Mood Food [DOI: I commissioned this]
Donal is incredible. His blog is always fresh and exciting, his recipes are hearty, homely and importantly for those non-professionals out there (Like me) relatively easy. The book is a riot of colour and features some of the best food styling and photography you’ll see in an Irish published book this year.

Eat Good Things Every Day


Eat Good Things Everyday
Carmel Somers’ book makes me drool, an unattractive image I can accept. I’ve not eaten in the Good Things Cafe, in Durrus where Carmel cooks every day, but on reading this, I know that I really will have to, and soon. It also has an excellent, simple and attractive cover.

Sci-Fi tomorrow!
Eoin