Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Slow Non

I am struggling a bit at the moment.

I say "at the moment" but the moment feel very long - especially if you are someone I'm struggling to find time for. It's a lot of factors - too boring, too long and too time-consuming to list - but if I weren't working largely on my own, then some of the pressure would be alleviated.

Of course I don't work completely alone. I have the support and enthusiasm of a great team of reps and marketeers at Bounce Sales and Marketing who recently launched this amazing website. (Check it out, there's a world of information there that makes my mind boggle when I think of how much work went into creating it.) And I work with some great freelancers - one publicist working one day a week, one editor working one day a week and another who has taken a whole book on board to develop with the kind of consistency of care that every book on our list deserves.

But teams of freelancers do not a workforce make. I am the workforce, and I work four days a week producing 22 books a year - not to mention the reprints and the special orders that don't get the same fanfare as a new title. 

Sometimes - frequently - I feel that I am not doing enough. I should be faster, stronger, more amazinger. "Look at the great books we publish!" I say. "These books deserve everything I can give them. Give them more, Non. MORE I SAY."

But I am finite and I get frustrated at how slow I am all the time. Can't I just be much faster? At reading? At editing? I'm getting faster at emails to the point that my brevity borders on rude - unfortunately I don't think anyone will forgive me one-word answers in the subject line alone.

And then, just now I read this blog over at Brooklyn Arden and it made me feel a lot less rubbish. Because it turns out that there's a reason why I'm slow. And that's because I'm actually doing it properly.

I love this blogpost, because it made me feel better about myself. So, check it out, and you'll see a life an editor's life in publishing:

Six Reasons Why Everything in Publishing Takes So Long

And for anyone wondering how I found the time to write this blogpost, it took me 8 minutes between replying to my last email of the day and before the Catnipper emerged from bathtime ready for me to read her three stories and kiss her good night.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The art of losing

Some <insert favoured noun for idiot here> wrote a thing in the Guardian about why non-gold-medal-winning Olympic competitors should not be applauded. It's an opinion piece on why athletes should not be heralded as successful without succeeding and that we should not cast the achievements of non-winning competitors as being anything other than failure.

I don't have a problem with someone earning a living by pitching up to an athletics track and coming in last each time, if they do it with all the commitment and professionalism of the person who crosses the finish line first. Without losers, you don't have winners. Fact. If there weren't any silver or bronze medallists in the Olympics, then there wouldn't have been any competition in the first place. And without competition, there'd be no reason for the winner to be that good. Without worthy opponents, what's the point in upping your game?

This doesn't just speak for sportspeople but for all awards, all businesses, all industries, all governments. Competition breeds a better quality of competitor all round. So we should celebrate the losers for trying every inch as hard as the winners. Today may not be their day, but tomorrow might be if they keep up that commitment and professionalism that got them there in the first place.

On behalf of not-yet-winners everywhere: go team.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Why I commissioned… RAW BLUE

Twitter-style summary: Carly lives her life on the surface, not getting involved or noticed. Only when she surfs does everything else drop away – even her past.

This is me dipping my toes into commissioning a book with strong crossover appeal – it’s a YA novel, but the protagonist is 19 years old and this is a very personal narrative about how she lives her life in Australian coastal town Manly. There’s swearing and there’s sex, both of which can sometimes bring a gatekeeper out in hives, but are nonetheless important for teenagers to read about in a responsibly published setting. (Yes, I know that sounds pious, whatevs.)

I first heard about this by reading a post on The Crooked Bookshelf, where Carla raved about an Australian book that I’d never heard of. I’ve always felt a strong connection with YA from that corner of the world, finding the voice to sit perfectly between US polish and UK grit (to talk in sweeping terms) and I started doing a little investigating…

The result of which is Catnip acquiring the rights to publish this emotionally engaging, beautiful piece of contemporary writing by Kirsty Eagar.

Kirsty has Voice. In her intimate first person narrative the reader is balanced on a knife edge: you’re really getting to know a person yet all the while sensing that they’re pushing you away. This book is not ‘about’ anything; I don’t view it as an issues book (the issue that Carly is dealing with is hard to read about but it’s presented as part of her history, not the focus of her story); I don’t see it as a ‘coming of age’ novel (living on her own and working a late shift at a kitchen to support herself I’d suggest Carly is already of an age); it’s not even about surfing itself, although when Kirsty Eagar writes about it, I can feel my bare feet on the board and taste the salt on my lips. It’s a snapshot into a life that isn’t yours and it’s painful to read at times, a note of melancholy tempered with the possibility of hope that in time all things will fade, that whilst your past shapes you, it doesn’t own you…

This book feels real – emotions are complex, forging friendships can be hard and when connections are made they may not work out perfectly. I didn’t know where the book would take me, but Kirsty Eagar’s writing led me onwards, sucked me in and left me moved. I feel very strongly that there should be more books like this in the UK market for teens to read, books that neither protect the reader nor push an unrelentingly harrowing agenda.

I am desperately proud to be in a position to publish this one.