Friday, 22 October 2010


As regular readers of the blog will know, we are going to use a new cover artist, alongside our current one, from spring next year, the parties involved being Candida Thring and Angela Landels respectively.

That esteemed organ of the book trade, The Bookseller, was kind enough to devote most of a page to this news today, illustrating the article with the covers for When I was Otherwise and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

About the latter; I have a strange suspicion. Has anyone ever seen these guys in the same room together? You don't suppose.....


Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Today's Bookseller e-bulletin, a very effective and useful digital hoover which collects all kind of publishing fluff, pointed its subscribers towards a Daily Beast feature on what is being read by the current crop of supermodels. Here is my own list of recommended titles.

Less Than Zero
Westwood, Ho!
The Woman who Walked into Dior
The Satanic Versace

But I'm sure you can think of more.....


Monday, 18 October 2010


Some of my colleagues attended the inaugural Katherine Mansfield Society birthday lecture last Friday. This event was sprinkled with literary and other celebrities, including Jacqueline Wilson and Kirsty Gunn, who provided the foreword for our edition of Mansfield's The Aloe. The event took place in New Zealand House, which (see photograph) affords a panoramic view of London rivalled only by The London Eye. The lecture was given by Professor Angela Smith and was entitled: ‘Mansfield and Dickens: “I am not reading Dickens idly” ’. The full text can be downloaded from the KMS website.


Thursday, 14 October 2010


Its always a delight to learn about readers and booksellers championing the Capuchin cause. I was recently contacted by Waterstone's in Nottingham, where they have been running a dedicated display, accompanied by posters and catalogues. This is the work of one particular bookseller, whom I shall not embarrass by naming, and we are grateful for the energy and initiative he's shown, and for the backing of his managers and employer.

Those of you who are lucky enough to live in the vicinity of this splendid city might like to investigate this display and any other interesting selections that the store has produced. There is also an impressive line up of forthcoming events, including one with Jo Brand tomorrow. The 'Events' tab on the main Waterstone's website will guide you to these.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Lest any of you should have taken yesterday's blog as some kind of indication that I don't serve my employer effectively and well at all times, let me just say: 'I was at the Buchmesse all day Sunday'. Not, you might think, any extraordinary evidence of duty, unless you have been there and realise that Sundays in the anglophone hall (Hall 8) now make an excellent and challenging environment for playing 'spot the publisher'. I always had problems conceptualising the Catholic concept of Limbo until I encountered this phenomenon.

Back, as the hoodied rapscallions say, in the day, publishers used to live in fear and trembling of the Fair organisers spotting their stands unstaffed for a few seconds, leave alone a whole day. Such behaviour used to be rewarded with the placing of a stern notice (as only German notices can be) on one's table with a curt invitation to explain yourself - or your lack of self - before some kind of Star Chamber, probably deep underground in a secret location. Those with weak bladders lived in perpetual terror, and would often leave cunningly fashioned dummies of themselves at their stands while they answered a call of nature.

How different now, when many publishers don't turn up on Sunday at all, and many more, including some really major ones, start packing up early in the day, again in defiance of the regulations. I am proud to say that our stall stayed intact and inhabited throughout. I was entertained, as the day went by, through watching members of the public strip the books from an unpeopled stand opposite, often loading many books at a time into capacious wheelie bags. A kind of moral hierarchy prevailed, with some people assuming that the books were available, or not caring if they were, others asking me first and - on recieving the reply that I did not have any information on this point - taking books anyway and one (yes, one whole person) saying that if I wasn't sure, then he wouldn't take them.

It was good to get back home after a busy and productive few days. Only 358 days until Frankfurt 11.


Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Here, as promised, is a faithful and true account of a typical day's activity in and around the Frankfurt Bookfair.

9.30 Arrive at stand, sweep glossy brochures left on table by Chinese printers into the bin.

9.35 Fatigued by previous activity, go to Bar /Cafe and purchase tasteless coffee and sandwich, wondering for the umpteenth time which is more remarkable: the ability of every German to speak better English than most English people, or the audacity of German snack manufacturers in pricing their wares. Decide that the purchase of food at the Buchmesse is solely responsible for strength of German economy.

9.40 First Chinese printer of the day approaches and leaves glossy brochure.

9.45 Meeting with Danish publisher who cannot believe our unwillingness - to buy the English rights for an encyclopedia of Scandinavian flour - can be ascribed to anything but stubborn wrong-headedness.

10.30 Constructively tour round other publishers' stands, extending network of associates and cementing existing relations, activities easily confused - to the untrained eye - with wandering aimlessly around and gossiping.

11.30 Second Chinese printer of the day approaches and leaves glossy brochure.

12.00 Lunch, paid for with small wheelbarrow of Euros, the vehicle having been rented for an immodest fee from the Buchmesse Facilities Office (Tri-wheeled division).

1.00 Meeting with distributor from developing country, who, pleading the general level of poverty in his nation , the Kafkaesque hierachy of bribes and import duties and intense competition, becomes cross when we refuse his reasonable offer of buying our books at 110% discount and acquiring the deeds to our houses.

2.00 Post-lunch coffee, following remortgage of our London office.

2.15 Meeting with author who is touring all publishers gullible enough to allow him to start a conversation. He gives a multi-media presentation about his novel which, through the sheer velocity of his will, holds us transfixed, (wedding-guest in Ancient Mariner style), for several hours. Say, lying, we will consider publishing 'The Angel Vampire Code'.

4.30 Accidentally have useful meeting about something real.

5.00 Torn to psychological shreds by the attempt to decide which publishers' parties to be seen attending, despite consulting IPhone app which cross-indexes all the various parameters, including predicted quality of wheat-based snacks, trendiness of publisher and optimal route between stands. Take so long to try and decide that the hall closes. Ambushed by posse of Chinese printers on way out. Curse own lack of vigilance and improper use of cover.

6.00 Accompany publishing cronies to restaurant and, despite being urbane, sophisticated metrosexual man, become involved in competition to see who can drink the most apfelwein without bowels exploding or face meeting floor.

8.00 Confidently clutching map of train system and street plan, at least one of which is upside down and relates to Berlin, head for hotel, which is in a sufficiently distant suburb to be within the means of a small publisher. Manfully board wrong train, alight at suburb on opposite side of city and begin trek of epic scale on foot, (possibly towards hotel), later to be immortalised by rising German poet. On way encounter, huddling in an underpass, warming themselves through the meagre remnants of their clothing around a makeshift brazier, the employees of a small poetry publisher who came to the Fair three years ago and are still looking for their hotel,which is a dog kennel in Baden-Baden.

10.00 Find hotel. Stagger into room and, pausing only to throw Chinese printer out of window, fall asleep, to dream of isbns.


Monday, 11 October 2010


My Managing Director and I have been away representing our publishing activities at the Frankfurt Book Fair, or as it's delightfully and properly called, the 'buchmesse'. This is a formidably venerable institution, with a history stretching back over 500 years, and now attracting over 7,000 exhibitors and a quarter of a million visitors to its mini city of 9 huge exhibition halls, each one of which could swallow whole the London Book Fair without even needing to belch afterwards. Above is a picture of our stand in Hall 8, with a panel of Capuchins proudly facing the world of publishers, agents, scouts (of the literary, not the dibbing and dobbing variety), printers, members of the German reading public, etc. We had a good level of interest from some European publishers, and as always many folk were kind enough to coo in admiration over the elegant yet striking design of the books.

Over the next few blogs, I'll post a brief diary of some typical days at the Fair.