The finished cover for The Burglar's Dog has received a lot of praise, but how did we come up with it? Basically, we provided a brief to designer Garen Ewing, he outlined some ideas in sketch format, and then, along with author Mark Jones, we knocked ideas back and forward before settling on the final design. Every day this week we're going to be posting one of Garen's rough cover sketches on the blog. This is what the dog could have looked like. Click on the image to see a bigger version.
This week we're also offering another chance to get a Burglar's Dog enamel badge. Click here for details.
Chaotic, foul-mouthed and a lot of fun - last night's The Burglar's Dog Pub Quiz was a very fitting way to launch our latest book. The venue was the Newcastle Arms, the Dog's favourite bar - and one of the few he doesn't slate in the book. It was standing room only and clipboards and biros at the ready as 16 teams did battle over three very taxing rounds.
Image from www.theburglarsdog.co.uk. We forgot to take a camera, so if anyone has any digital photos of the event please email them over!
There were hiccups, naturally. Compere Phil Hoffmann managed to read just one solitary question before the PA system packed in. Not to be defeated, Phil leapt onto a chair and delivered the rest of the quiz in very loud voice. The general knowledge round was mindbending (Sample question: 'What is the combined number of whole legs owned by Paul McCartney's wives?' Answer: Three), and the picture and music rounds were extremely testing, but by the end there were three teams tied in first place with 41 points out of 60. A quick tie-breaker saw one lucky team walk away with a 'Geordie Hamper' containing Brown Ale, stottie cakes, pease pudding, pickled onions and black bullets. What a result.
Thanks to everyone who came along and took part in the quiz, and bought books and badges. Special thanks to Phil Hoffmann for doing a great job as compere in testing circumstances. Thanks also to Burglar's Dog author Mark Jones and Burglar's co-pilot John Egdell for helping organise and run the night, and to the staff at the Newcastle Arms for serving up the booze. The Burglar's Dog is available from all good bookshops. Get more details here.
It's only ten days since The Burglar's Dog was released, but we're already happy to label it a resounding success. Mark Jones's vitriolic Newcastle upon Tyne pub guide has struck a chord regionally and nationally, and booksellers are (almost) falling over each other to stock up on copies before Christmas. We're calling it 'the North East publishing sensation of the year', but we're not sitting back with the cigars yet. The success (albeit on a relative scale) has been built on a lot of hard graft, and there's plenty more to do as the Christmas shopping period gets into swing.
So why has The Burglar's Dog succeeded where so many other independent publications have failed? The most obvious reason is that the content is fantastic. In terms of writing quality, Mark Jones's 'non-fiction pub guide' wipes the floor with many of the supposedly 'more literary' tomes around at the moment. Ian Robinson of BBC Radio Newcastle said during an interview with Mark, 'It's a great book, it's beautifully written, and it's very, very funny'. His co-presenter Paul Wappat added, 'For a tenner, you'll never laugh so much.' We very much concur. The book has also enjoyed invaluable 'word of mouth', building on the popularity of the Burglar's Dog website to become something of a cult, and it has been great to overhear people discussing the book in pubs and at Newcastle United football matches!
Another reason is that the book looks great. It has an eye-catching cover by Garen Ewing, and we made the decision to get it printed on good quality paper by a printer used by many of the UK's biggest publishers. At 304 pages it's a hefty volume that feels very satisfying in the hand, something that means a lot to book broswers (on the downside it costs us a fortune to post). Some might say it's 'bigger than the Bible' (bigger than those Gideon hotel ones, anyway).
The third reason is that we've put a hell of a lot of work into this, spending weeks hitting the pavements and phone lines attempting to drum up interest from wholesalers, booksellers and the press. This would be a good place to thank everyone who has supported the book - there are still a lot of people in the book industry who are passionate about books. Naturally there are also plenty who don't appear to know their A from their E, and we've suffered plenty of bloody noses after running into their brick walls. But, hey-ho, that's life for you.
Overall the experience has taught us who we can rely on and who we can't, and allowed us to build up an invaluable list of contacts. The process has had a very steep learning curve, and that's the main thing we've gotten out of the project as publishers. Friends who have watched the book's success have asked how much money we're 'raking in'. The honest truth is that we're probably not going to make a penny. The book should eventually make a small profit, but that will go back into the company to fund future projects. This has been about putting out a book we believe in, and making it a success. We've achieved that and are pretty proud of it.
Our recent attempt to make The Burglar's Dog an Amazon bestseller (i.e. hit the Amazon Hot 100) very nearly came off, with the book reaching a ranking of 189 on the day of our 'Burglar's Dog Enamel Badge Giveaway / Amazon Bestseller Attempt', still quite an achievement. [UPDATE: It later hit a rank of 165 before Amazon temporarily ran out of stock, scuppering the plan!] The book DID oddly top the Atlases & Maps bestseller list, ranked number 1, so we did sort of make The Burglar's Dog an Amazon bestseller - an Amazon Travel & Holiday: United Kingdom: Atlases & Maps bestseller. And that's got to count for something, right?!
Recent print coverage for The Burglar's Dog has included Accent, The Informer, Neon, The Sunday Sun, and, as previously blogged, Viz. The book is available from The Back Page, Blackwell's, Bookworld, Borders, Fenwick, Waterstones, [WHSmith is missing from this list for reasons which will be blogged about soon...] Amazon.co.uk, and from tontopress.com. And I can add, quite honestly, get it now while stocks last...
We're holding an 'exclusive' Burglar's Dog Pub Quiz tonight. A report and pictures will follow.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about our attempts to try to get our books stocked by bricks and mortar booksellers. Since then we've had further successes, and further setbacks. So here's an update...
Our books were already stocked by Gardners Books ("the UK's leading book wholesaler" - www.gardners.com), and now they're also stocked by Bertram Books ("the UK's leading book wholesaler" - www.bertram.com). We've naturally found it much easier to get our books stocked in local branches of major bookshops, but this week Borders decided to stock The Burglar's Dog nationally. But the big news is that we have finally managed to get Wor Al and The Burglar's Dog in WHSmith - in one location at least. Visitors to the Gateshead Metrocentre will now be able to purchase both books from that branch of Smiths, although other branches remain unmoved. The big WHSmith on Newcastle's Northumberland Street is now the only book shop in the city that isn't stocking either book. We're still working on them, but in the meantime shoppers might like to cross the street to Virgin or Fenwick, walk up to HMV, or down to Waterstone's, or across to Blackwell's, or drive across to Borders... You get the idea. Tesco are the other retailer that remain uninterested but on our hitlist.
On the subject of problems getting the books on the shelves, this week we had an astonishing exchange with out local library service. Details will be posted soon...
Meanwhile, The Burglar's Dog is out on Monday. It's beginning to get publicity, which you can see on our media page. And if you buy the book from Amazon on Monday you can get a free Burglar's enamel badge. Full details here.