The Irishman who finished Paxman’s book

Eoin Purcell

Odd but honest
I read a great story today in The Bookseller headlined: Paxman hit finished by Irish writer

It goes into considerable detail and its fascinating:

Paxman stated that he resisted repeated requests from the book’s editor, Albert DePetrillo, to write the book, and added: “In the end, the solution arrived in the form of the young Irish writer, Neil Hegarty. Quite apart from pulling together the various elements—scripts, research notes, ideas and other material—his creative talents ensured, I hope, that the book is a worthwhile thing in its own right. He is a gifted writer and we shall, I think, hear much more from him.”

Published in February to coincide with a landmark BBC series, reviews of the television tie-in had highlighted Paxman’s ability to “turn a phrase”. The book is riding high at number eight in this week’s hardback non-fiction list.

BBC Books publicist Caroline Newbury said: “The TV series and book stemmed from Jeremy’s own fascination with Victorian art. Well before the series went into production he had been researching the topic and had written a lengthy introduction and outline for the book, as well as the scripts for the series. In order to help shape the text he had already begun, Jeremy worked with Neil Hegarty to bring the book to completion. Neil’s role in editing Jeremy’s material and supplying additional research is fully credited in the acknowledgements and the publishing page of The Victorians.”

And here is the website of the man who ACTUALLY wrote the book.

Interesting,
Eoin

Book Covers: Some thoughts for Self-Publishers

Eoin Purcell

A lot of traffic
Comes to this site looking for answers about book covers. Generally, I’m guessing, this is more from self-publishing authors than traditional route publishers. I say this because it is rare for traditional publishers* to leave cover choice to the authors.

I thought I would add some thoughts for those visitors. Feel free to ignore it or to get in touch with questions.

Essentially there are five steps

1) Decide what genre your book fits into
I don’t want to hear that your book is unique. To some degree all books are. Responding that your book is unique indicates either laziness or lack of knowledge of the market you are writing for. Should you be going ahead with this project if that is the case?

Take some time to investigate the market, search for books that have similar themes or writing styles and try and think how you can fit into those genres. The questions you need to ask yourself are, is this a definable genre? That could be as broad as General Fiction if you like, or as narrow as 19th Century British Merchant Shipping if you prefer. But make sure you know what it is.

2) Figure out how you are publishing the book
This may seem trivial, but it will have a direct impact on your work-flow. Some publishing routes are easier than others, some may require you to have cover files ready earlier than internals, some may not offer you customized covers.

Whatever way you choose find our how they want cover files submitted. This will be be as .jpg, .tiff, .psd or perhaps even .pdf. Be sure that they also tell you what DPI and size the image/file should be. All of this information will be vital to making the cover look perfect at the final stages.

I’d use this opportunity to ask them about paper weights and make decisions about gloss, matt or demi-gloss stock. No option is necessarily the right one, but each has its uses. As with 1) take some time to search out the types and styles of covers that your competition favours.

3) Write a designer brief
I’d counsel drawing up a draft designer brief to give to whoever is designing your cover, even if that person is yourself. Why?

Just putting together the details about the book will help focus on the task at hand. I have drawn up a very loose sample you can use if you like. It’s here.

4) Hire a designer
You probably say this one coming but here goes. Many people who are pursuing self-publishing feel that they should be free to design their own cover, and indeed they are. However, the cover is THE key selling tool your book will have. Online and in-store, the cover is what the buyer sees first.

With that in mind, a professional, pitch perfect cover will sell more copies of your book than any other factor. Search for a good designer and pay them for their work. Don’t even dream of paying more than you need to though. A good design should cost you between €600 and €900 and not more.

There are cheaper options available and places like elance.com are great sources of freelance ability.

5) Allow time for a proof or even a rethinking of your cover
Whatever your timetable is, make sure that you plan all of these steps to ensure you have sufficient time to rethink a cover. Perhaps when your designer is finished you will not be happy with their work, or it will need serious tweaking.

Don’t be too worried. Even trade publishers rethink and comprehensively rework jackets at the last minute.

Wrap up

I am speaking from a trade perspective. I have heard that some academic houses do allow for authors to decide on covers if they don’t want a plain or series cover. I think the money is better unspent on the authors part in such cases.

A lot of this advice is only worthwhile if an author is intent on selling copies to a wide audience. If the market is limited to a few friends, then feel free to designer your own cover in whatever way suits!

Tired but happy to be finished driving for the weekend,
Eoin

Planning for 2008

Eoin Purcell

Overambitious

So I foolishly announced that I would lay out a plan for blogging in 2008 in response to Bloglily’s tag. Thinking it over it sure offers a challenge. Such a big challenge and the world being so terribly random and unpredictable* that I think I made a foolish promise. So I need to do something else. If I cannot predict the blogging year, I can at least offer some thoughts on what I see playing a role in my year ahead and about which I will probably be writing a great deal.

1) Digital projects & technology

– In the next few weeks Mercier Press will be launching one of its first major digital efforts. I’m not going to talk too much about it right now but the basic idea will be to capture digital content online and take that into print. It is an experiment for us and I can see the short term element proving to be a successful precursor to a much longer term goal for us.

– What is more, 2008 sees the start of something very exciting for Mercier. We will be launching our first blog to book product. The wonderful Murphy’s brothers from Murphy’s Ice Cream will launch a book that build on their blog Ice Cream Ireland and offers all Irish ice cream lovers what is going to be a very beautiful book. There will be more of these types of books in the future (not just from Mercier) as blogging makes real talent more visible and findable on the web.**

– These are not the only reasons I think this area will be a huge part of my year in 2008. If you have been following the links both on the blog and on my linkblog at Google Reader ***, you will have seen that these issues are looming large in my thoughts. If you fail to be inspired by these I suggest you check out a few of Snowbooks videos on using Onix data to make life easy. that ought to bring the point home forcefully.

– Mercier have just started the process of moving to an integrated system (Using Anko’s Publishing Manager). it will be tricky as so much of our legacy information is in people’s head and not digital systems, but once we have finished the process we will be in a great place to make much better use of all our content.

– And then there is this, e4Books, which will probably be honoured more in the missing of the target than in the achieving it.

2) Books: reading & commissioning

– Ha, I’ll bet you saw that one coming! The To Be read pile is now insane. Though again I’m feeling a little better about that (thanks NTT). I do try. I read a good few books this year but not nearly as many as I had hoped (closer to 60 than the 100 I had planned). Spending too much time online and reading for work perhaps.

– Of course the other aspect of books will be the process of publishing and building the list here at Mercier. 2008 is now more or less to bed and it is time to get cracking on commissioning 2009. It is nice to be in a more relaxed place with this commissioning but I am conscious still that the competition is hotting up in Ireland with the arrival of an Irish based Transworld office. This side will definitely make for an exciting year.

– And while we are on the subject of books, I need to mention that Litlove has just published one, The Best of Tales From The Reading Room (you can buy it here). A collection of her very, very fine essays from her excellent blog: Tales From The Reading Room.

3) Events & Trends: the unpredictable

– Who knows what will happen to prompt a blog post. Sometimes I have been inconsistent in covering topics here and I have no doubt that will continue. One area I know I have yet to really write much on is the effect that the iPhone is having on the world of mobile devices and online reading. Apple’s OS X has taken a lump of market share in this space very rapidly implying firstly that iPhone users browse the web more than the users of other smart phone/mobile computers and also that consumers are not put off by mobile internet they just want it to be user friendly.

– Here is a list of words that I suspect (but with no real level of confidence) that we will see much more about this year: Onix, Community, Digital Publishing, Online Reading, Ebooks, widgets, content, micro-chunking, CS 3, XML. Of them, for publishers I think XML is going to be the big one! But Community will be too. Just check out Authonomy and see what I mean.

So there you go BL. I hope that my lack of planning is up to scratch.
Pleased with the outcome
Eoin

* And my reading of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan is sure not helping me remain confident of my ability to predicate anything reliably, though it is making me much more comfortable with that. More of that soon when I finish the book and process my thoughts.

** Hint! Hint! Authors, start blogging if you don’t already!

*** Who also have a shared items page which I find a it confusing.

Waterstones.com, Hubs & “The Lies of Locke Lamora”

Eoin Purcell

When you get it really right
Waterstone’s have been pushing to make their online store a site worth visiting for a little while now. They only recently broke away from their amazon link up so I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this page.

Yes it is a promotional page and yes it is designed to promote only one book but it goes to show you the capabilities for really pushing a book. The book in question is The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch. Interestingly the author page does not have a link or an embed of the video.

And it works
The odd thing about that is that I recently took the book from my TBR pile and moved it to the read next pile (this is a slight misnomer as the next pile is about four books high). Having spent time on the page I am now more than ever looking forward to reading the book and I think once I finish Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, it’ll be the first book I pick up.

Which brings me to my point, how great the Waterstone’s site could be if they did this for more books. Hell, as a publisher I’d be willing to finance some of the work for many of the titles we are launching in the coming year and even for some of the backlist too.

Who else can do it
Remarkably though it reinforces for me the value of LibraryThing as a potential locus for promotion. After all so long as there was a strict separation of sponsored content from user and non commercial content it could be a great place to host pages of this type.

Hub or not?
it also reminds me of the positive discussion on the web recently about hubs, from Snowbooks (Here and Here) and from Penguin (Here), two of the publishers that seem to my mind to be most on top of the web as a community tool concept.

I have been considering this at length since I read this report. I have yet to follow up all my random thoughts but when I do I’ll post some more on the idea.

Ah the luxury of writing decently long posts
Eoin

To all the ‘modest successes’ wondering where to go with their next book

Eoin Purcell

The doom first
Who wouldn’t be depress by reading this (Reg Required) article in The Bookseller (but actually a cull from The Herald which is free online and here):

The result? Publishers can no longer afford to take chances and authors who have enjoyed modest successes over many years are suddenly being dropped in favour of potential big hitters.
“They could be on their way to writing an opus, but will not be given that chance,” says Kean. “Ian Rankin, for instance, wasn’t an immediate success but his publishers stuck with him because they saw his potential. That wouldn’t necessarily happen now.”

The article’s main focus is Book Clubs but is concerned too with the side effects:

“The downside is that if someone goes into a book shop and buys the books that Richard and Judy have recommended, perhaps they won’t buy other titles,” he says. “There is no doubt that there are winners and losers in this. That’s something I feel slightly disturbed by. There is a sense that it is very much about corporate dealing.”

So where is the light?
Well here it is: if you happen to be one of those modest success squeezed out by the bigger publishers, I am happy to say there are tonnes of smaller, pluckier and braver publishers just waiting to do the job. Perhaps large advances won’t be forthcoming, maybe the massive campaigns the big ones can pull off will be a memory, but we can publish and publish well. We can drive sales and sell rights just as much as the conglomerates and we are always eager to try things.

What is more you will find modest success to a large publisher is a very nice little success to a smaller publisher. So maybe you have one or two or three books under your belt and your publisher is no longer on board. Maybe you have modest sales and a small but loyal fan base. I say you have a good platform and room for growth.

Get in touch, if not with Mercier (where I work) than someone else. The world of publishing doesn’t begin and end at the top five or even the top ten. Don’t be the victim of a dreaded publishing trend, buck it and move onto new and hopefully happier one.

Waiting for e-mails, letters and calls
Eoin