A blog from Tonto Books, featuring musings from the publishing world and some occasional special guest appearances.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Burglar's Dog 'bigger than the Bible'

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.

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