Friday, 20 April 2012

Why I commissioned… UNISON 3.0

Twitter-style summary: Two teens run for their life across futuristic NYC into Unison – the social network that knows you better than you know yourself…

Sometimes a book just works right off the bat. Our list is made up of the triumvirate of original fiction, re-issues and buy-ins. When I look for a buy-in, I look for something perfect, something I connect with immediately with zero effort from my editorial itchings to talk to author about “what I get” from the narrative. A buy-in should have instant appeal for the home market and need nothing other than a critical proof read, a new imprint page and a fancy pants cover.

And would you look at the fancy pants cover? That bad boy has matt lamination, spot UV and de-bossing in real life. It is truly a thing of beauty. You should probably hunt it out in the wild and capture it with some of those English pounds to stroke and read and love in your own home. The imprint page is pretty good too… (I jest, it is like all other imprint pages: informative.)

The only thing I wanted to change about this book was the title, in the US it’s published as Unison Spark, but we preferred Unison 3.0 – what do you think? Anyhoo, it’s taking me a while to get to why I loved it: I wish this has been in print when I was 12. The narrative is exciting, pacey and the plot is clever and current, using wry turns of phrase to reference the way the digital era is shaping our lives. (Although 12-year-old me would have said, “Social networking, WTF? Hang on, what does 'WTF' mean?”)

When I read this book I felt I was at the cinema. I could really envisage the dinginess of Mistletoe’s Little Saigon beneath the Canopy that divides New York. When Ambrose Truax stands in his apartment several hundred feet over Mistletoe’s head I’m there in his room, watching him select clothes from a digitally enhanced wardrobe. The plot picked me up and carried me off, only occasionally pausing to set me down and dust off my clothes before grabbing my hand and pulling me back to stand, watch, listen and feel another scene.

Andy Marino has written a really fun, knowing and exciting book and I’m really pleased to have him as part of the Catnip team. You can follow him on twitter @Andy_Marino or check out his website, but better yet, I recommend you read his book. It's cheaper than a cinema ticket, there are no adverts and it lasts longer than 120 mins. It's a no-brainer.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Another Book Fair, another blogpost. I really need to get on with actually posting a little more often...

London Book Fair is very different from Bologna: it's for more than just children's publishing; appointments aren't just about acquisitions; it's a shorter commute from my house and the coffee is much worse. It's an intense few days (especially if you don't map your route through the fair between appointments and allow for vital toilet/tea-drinking/toasted panini-eating time).

Here are some of the things that happened at the fair:

  • I got to hang around the beautiful new-look Bounce stand and catch some between-meeting chat with other publishers represented by the mightiest children's sales force in the land. And some of said sales force too.
  • There was the joy of handing out Catnip's gorgeous new catalogue and, AND, some very lucky people received a shiny (literally), limited edition proof of Colin Mulhern's forthcoming thriller, Arabesque.
  • I had the utter delight of seeing an author approach the Bounce stand, introduce himself and say that he's written a book and would like to talk to someone about it. This is not unusual. Lots of authors do this at the fair. BUT THIS BOY WAS FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. How cool is that? Fourteen and with the gumption to cold-call industry professionals at a massive trade fair - I know forty-year-old writers who'd quail at the prospect. Lucky for me I was able to have a chat with him about starting out in writing, give him advice on the resources available and tell him about a seminar that was running later in the day that he might be interested in checking out. This is the thing I love more than anything in the world: giving away what I know about publishing to people who want to listen.
  • I went to the Best Seminar Ever, (or Express Yourself if you look at the programme) run by Bali Rai and Booktrust where a panel of teens talked about reading. It was just... refreshing and perfect. Sometimes the way publishing professionals talk about teen readers troubles me. It can seem a bit 'us' and 'them' and weirdly, 'we' seem to have an agenda when it comes to 'their' reading habits. I hope any of those prescriptive tendencies were assuaged by this panel of intelligent, interested and articulate people who were quite clearly capable of dictating their own reading choices in exactly the same way as the audience of 'grown-ups' were. More of these seminars, please. Publishers may not have the resources to test their books on the prospective audience, but it doesn't mean we don't want to listen. (Oh and the 14-y-o author did take my advice and go along for a listen and talked to Bali at the end. Whoop.)
  • I managed the inevitable almost-missed appointment. 'I thought we said my stand - but you thought it was at yours... ARGH. Schedule fail.' But managed to make it work. Phew.
  • Tuesday I managed to survive by only consuming a banana, a tracker bar and a KFC - which I don't recommend.
  • Self-control was summoned when I saw Patrick Ness waiting outside the exhibition centre. He was wearing earphones (the international sign for 'I am happy in my alone time') and instead of running up to him and thanking him for enhancing my life with his words (and possibly sobbing about them), I walked past like a sensible grown up. Then I rushed over to the Bounce stand and told them I'd just seen Patrick Ness.
  • And I got to chat to a ton of people outside of official meetings by wandering around, and making it to the tweetup. All of them awesome, obviously, because y'know, they like books and stuff.

*If you know what this means without looking it up on the internet, you are more down with the kids than any of the audience at the Express Yourself seminar.