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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tonto writers kickstart Durham Lit Fest

Tonto writers Pete Tanton, Katie-Ellen Hazeldine, Stephen Shieber and Roz Wyllie will open the 2007 Durham Literature festival tomorrow, Saturday 29 September.

Pete will be reading from his prize-winning comic novel Johnny Lonely, following wannabe musician Hughie Youngkin on an ill-fated quest to become a rock star, during which he finds himself trapped in a terrifying firestorm. Katie-Ellen, Stephen and Roz will be reading their stories from the acclaimed More Tonto Short Stories collection.

The event, Pete Tanton and Friends, will take place at Durham's Gala Studio tomorrow Saturday 29 September at 2pm.

Pete will also be signing copies of Johnny Lonely at Waterstones in Durham on Wednesday 3 October from midday.

Johnny Lonely by Pete Tanton and More Tonto Short Stories are both available to order from all good book shops.


Jonny Kennedy coverage and contest

As promised, here is a selection of coverage of yesterday's Jonny Kennedy book launch. Scroll down to win a copy of the book signed by Nell McAndrew and Roger Stutter.

Firstly, for some reason the third part of the Evening Chronicle's serialisation of the book didn't appear online, so you can view a PDF of it here. The first two parts can be seen here and here.

Roger, Nell and Edna were all featured on ITV1's North East Tonight last night. You can watch the programme online here.

The Journal covered the launch this morning. Click on the image below to view a bigger version.

The Evening Chronicle ran a similar feature, again click to see a bigger version:

The launch should also be featured on BBC Radio Newcastle later today.

As promised, we have a copy of Jonny Kennedy specially signed by Nell McAndrew and Roger Stutter to give away. For a chance to win the book, email your answer to the following question along with your name and address to:
contact [at] tontopress [dot] com

Question: Jonny's theme tune 'Don't Stop Me Now' is performed by which rock group?

The contest closes next Friday 5 October 2007, and the winner will be chosen at random from correct entries received.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nell McAndrew supports Jonny Kennedy launch

Nell McAndrew was kind enough to come up to Asda Gateshead today to help launch the book about her friend Jonny Kennedy, which she contributed a foreword to. Author Roger Stutter and Jonny's mam Edna Kennedy were also present, along with many friends and supporters of the Jonny Kennedy North East (JKNE) charity - and a room full of press reporters.

Nell McAndrew with the Jonny Kennedy book

When not surrounded by TV and newspaper cameras and radio microphones, Nell and Roger signed copies of the book for shoppers, and collected donations for the JKNE charity. Nell was very patient and kind, and told us she liked the way the book had turned out and thought it would be a big hit with readers.

Nell with author Roger Stutter

Asda stores across the North East are donating £1 from every copy sold to JKNE. We'll be posting more photos, plus some of the TV, radio and newspaper coverage of the launch here on the blog over the next few days, and tomorrow we'll be giving away a copy of the book specially signed by Nell (and Roger!), so watch this space.


P.S. Yes of course Stu and I had our photo taken with Nell. Nell is the one with the smile!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

That's Amaz(on)ing!

We've just noticed that all ten Tonto Press books have five star ratings on Amazon.co.uk. Not bad going by any publisher's standards, if unregulated reader reviews mean anything at all - and of course they most certainly do.

So if you're an Amazon 'System Addict' and 'Can't Wait Another Minute' why not 'Find The Time' to have a look 'Whenever You're Ready', 'Rain Or Shine'? [That's enough Five Star-related puns for today, thank you very much.]

[Five Star were an inoffensively-rubbish mid-80s brothers-and-sisters pop-soul combo. Watch their infamous Going Live TV appearance on YouTube.]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Local books for local people?

One of the problems we've encountered in running a publishing company from Newcastle upon Tyne is that our books are often perceived as being of only 'local interest'. This means that some North East bookshops stock our titles in the Local Interest section rather than alongside their regular stock, even when they are supplied nationally via their head office. It means some national buyers overlook our titles in favour of 'national' books published in London. And it means that we regularly get submissions along the lines of, 'I know you only publish local stuff, but I once had an uncle who lived in Whitley Bay and so I thought you might like this...'

In fact, of the ten titles published to date by Tonto Press, only two are specific to the North East of England (Wor Al and The Burglar's Dog - our two bestsellers, both of which sold well nationally).

Jonny Kennedy lived in North Tyneside and then Northumberland, so he was a 'local' lad, but the book can hardly be considered to have only 'local interest'. The documentary about Jonny, The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, was screened - and won awards - around the world. The Emmy Award judges did not dismiss it for being 'regionally specific to the North East of England'. [It won the Emmy.]

And when The Rocketbelt Caper - a true crime / popular science book that is set in TEXAS - is filed under Local Interest in a Newcastle bookshop you know you have a problem. [It should be added that Local Interest sections are usually a mish-mash of local history and guide books tucked away at the back of the store.] Bookshop staff explain that this is because the author is from the North East. True, but the Harry Potter books are not filed under Local Interest in Edinburgh. [Is Peter Kay filed in Local Interest in Bolton?]

It's a fact that we work with more writers from the North East than elsewhere because we receive more submissions from writers from this area (although we also currently work with writers from as far afield as Los Angeles, Geneva, Ottawa...). We're quite happy for that to continue, after all there is a pressing need for a good publisher in this area to support the very many talented writers up here. But their work deserves to be read outside of the North East.

So what is the answer? Set up a 'virtual office' in London? Affect Home Counties accents on the phone? (This might prevent callers from hearing our Northern twang and behaving like they have accidentally dialled Outer Mongolia: 'Oh, I'm sorry, I'm calling from London...' 'Yeah, we've heard of it - it's where the Queen lives, right?') I suppose the answer is to continue to plug away with our books and hope that eventually their quality will be seen to be more important than the address on the copyright page.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Jonny Kennedy book released - watch the doc

Jonny Kennedy: The Story of the Boy Whose Skin Fell Off is released today and available from all good bookshops here in the UK, and from Amazon stores worldwide (United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France, Germany and Japan.

If you have not yet seen the remarkable documentary that made Jonny a household name, or you would like to see it again, you can now watch The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off at the FourDocs website (just click the yellow 'play' button).


Friday, September 21, 2007

Jonny Kennedy launch events

Jonny Kennedy: The Story of the Boy Whose Skin Fell Off as told to Roger Stutter, with foreword by Nell McAndrew, is released on Monday and will be available from all good bookshops (ISBN 9780955218385) including Borders stores and Amazon.

To celebrate the release, the book's author and Jonny's friend Roger Stutter (above) will be appearing at a number of launch events, as will another of Jonny's friends Nell McAndrew, and Jonny's mam Edna:

Tomorrow, Saturday 22 September, from 12 noon
Borders, Silverlink, Newcastle upon Tyne:

Roger Stutter will be signing copies of Jonny Kennedy, talking about Jonny, and the Jonny Kennedy charity.

Thursday 27 September, from 1pm
Asda, Metrocentre, Gateshead:

Roger, Nell McAndrew and Edna Kennedy will be signing copies of Jonny Kennedy, talking about Jonny, and the charity.

Saturday 29 September, from 12 noon
Borders, Team Valley, Gateshead:

Roger will be signing copies of Jonny Kennedy, talking about Jonny, and the charity.

Further events are planned around the North East and further afield. Watch this space.

Roger and Edna can be heard on BBC Radio Newcastle this Monday 24 September from 1.15pm. You can listen live or listen again for 24 hours afterwards here.

The third part of the Evening Chronicle's extract serialisation will appear tonight. The first two parts can be seen here and here.

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, a mention for Tonto's opening event at the Durham Lit Fest on 29 September courtesy of the excellent Grumpy Old Bookman:
"Further to yesterday's mention of Durham Literary Festival (they've got two Booker Prize winners -- good, eh? Oh, all right then), I saw that the programme is being kicked off by some (mercifully) non-Arts-Council-funded writers from Tonto Press. So all is not entirely lost."


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Geneva reading photos

As promised, here are some photos from More Tonto Short Stories contributor Daniela Norris's very successful reading from the book at English language bookshop Off The Shelf in Geneva on Friday. Daniela will next be appearing at the launch party for the Geneva Times next Friday 28 September.

Just a reminder that Jonny Kennedy continues to be serialised in the Evening Chronicle tonight. If you missed yesterday's extract you can read it and see photos here.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Press & media round-up

We've updated our website's media page, and here's a round-up of some of the latest coverage.

The Rocketbelt Caper was featured in the Sunday Sun (Murder movie's rocket science), and then reviewed in the same paper on the following week (Rocketbelt quest ends in murder) ('Yet another soaraway success for Tonto Press'). The book was also featured in a double-page Evening Chronicle spread (Invention led to kidnap and murder). I also spoke about the book to Julia Hankin at BBC Radio Newcastle. You can download the interview as an mp3 file here.

The NewsGuardian got reasonably excited about Pete Tanton's Johnny Lonely book signings (American promotes debut novel in borough).

And the Jonny Kennedy book has been mentioned in several articles about Jonny and the Jonny Kennedy North East charity. The Evening Chronicle featured Jonny's brave fight to help fellow sufferers. Both the Sunderland Echo and the Shields Gazette reported on the charity's new shop, and on the support offered by singer Charlotte Reid, pictured below with the book.

Finally, the Chronicle is beginning to serialise extracts from Jonny Kennedy tonight. We'll post more about that over the next few days.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Geneva reading is sell-out success

Good news from Geneva, and Daniela Norris's reading from More Tonto Short Stories. The Off The Shelf bookshop was full, and the book sold out. 'It was fun and I enjoyed the opportunity you've created for me to join the rank of "real" writers...' says Daniela. 'I love meeting readers and talking to people interested in books and writing, so readings are definitely my thing.' Expect photos from the reading to appear here here soon.

More Tonto Short Stories, featuring Daniela Norris's The Day Of The Dead, is a brand new anthology of fresh short stories by exciting new writers, following the acclaimed original Tonto Short Stories. It's available from all good bookshops, including Geneva's Off The Shelf, and direct from Tonto Press.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Geneva convention

More Tonto Short Stories contributor Daniela Norris will be reading from the book at English language bookshop Off The Shelf in Geneva tonight, Friday September 14, from 6 to 7.30pm. Swiss newspaper 24Heures has written a feature about Daniela (Short-story writer gives reading), which reports, 'Daniela Norris has a fascinatingly diverse background. Born in Bucharest, Romania in 1971, she has lived and worked in Canada, Israel, Kenya, Angola, Peru and France. The ex-diplomat and former editor currently works as a writer and an adviser to one of the permanent missions to the United Nations in Geneva. In her spare time she writes fiction.' You can find more details and directions at the Off The Shelf website.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rocketbelt launch report & pics

Around 50 people squeezed into our makeshift cinema here at Brick Works on Thursday for the launch of The Rocketbelt Caper. It was a very warm night, and ice buckets full of premium Czech lager were much appreciated.

Once everyone had been suitably refreshed we screened a short film about the caper, with interviews and footage of the main protagonists - proof that the story in the book is 100 percent true! Over the remainder of the night the screens played a selection of real rocketbelt footage that had everyone captivated (you can watch a clip below), backed by music including, of course, Elton John's Rocketman (and William Shatner's Rocketman!).

Watch some of the real rocketbelt footage!

Thanks to everyone who came along to show support or buy a book, and further thanks to Jamie and Jo for their help on the night. The Rocketbelt Caper by Paul Brown is available now from all good bookshops, and some rubbish ones.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How NOT to approach publishers...

A week or so ago Stu posted some advice on how to approach publishers. Now here's how NOT to do it. We don't make a habit of posting submission emails here on the blog, but after our very polite and quite generous (even if I do say so myself) responses, this emailer's nasty reaction was astonishing... The spelling mistakes are the emailer's own, we've 'bleeped out' the swearing, and we've changed the emailer's name. Let's call him "Gary Blair"...

Dear Publisher,

I know there is a snobbery surrounding poetry, some publishers won't
touch a writer
who is unpublished, some won't read submissions, some demand hard
copy, some look
for structure, theme and reasoned arguments. As I am not "in the
scene" I can only
be honest and hope honesty is good enough..
Please find below a selection of works which I submit in word format
(I figure in
the immediate age of the internet, why not get an immediate rejection?)

Many Thanks

Gary Blair

[There follows an entire collection of poetry, not in 'word format' but pasted into the body of the email, so long that our email program is forced to cut it short]

[We reply]

Hi Gary

Apologies for this "immediate rejection", but it has nothing to do with snobbery, rather the fact that we do not publish poetry at all. Without wishing to patronise, it might be useful to check publishers' websites etc to ascertain the type of material they publish before contacting them. This will save you time and reduce the chances of rejection. Unfortunately your current approach is unlikely to yield
any positive results.

Best of luck

Tonto Press

[A couple of weeks later... Gary sends exactly the same email again]

Dear Publisher,

I know there is a snobbery surrounding poetry...

[We reply]

Hi Gary

We have already responded to this query. We do not publish poetry, therefore please remove us from your mailing list.

Best regards

Tonto Press

[Just weeks later...]

In A Bar At The Edge Of The World

Please find attached below a ten poem collection, as I do not have the
finances to
send a hard copy, be simply scrolling below this message the work is
contained for
your perusal. I appreciate this may not be the normal way of doing
things but who
knows you might actually like it!

Gary Blair

[Cue another very long pasting of poetry that again exceeds our email program's capabilities]

[We reply again]

Dear Gary

We told you last time you sent us poetry that we aren't interested in it. Try finding out this kind of info before just sending to anyone. Our website would have told you this.

There are publishers who are interested in poetry - try the INP website for poetry publisher in the region.

Best of luck.

Tonto Press

[Gary replies...]

Sorry for being a t*sser, it won't happen again! Gary

[But it does...]

Please find pasted below a collection of new poetry works entitled "Empty Sky".

I hope you may find the work to be of sufficent merit to justify further


Gary Blair

[Yes, another huge pasting of poems...]

[We reply again]


We've told you several times to stop bombarding us with your work. We are not interested in it and never will be. Remove us from your list.

Tonto Press

[Gary replies...]

The reason you end up on my mailing list is when I type UK Poetry
Publishers in a
search engine your company crops up. (By the looks of things you do actually
publish poetry)
Trust me I want nothing to do with you set of smug Geordie tw*ts
either, so let's
agree to mutually despise each other and be done.


[We reply]

If you want nothing to do with us - stop emailing us.

We don't publish poetry and have no plans to. It's quite simple. If you despise us for that, then that's your own problem. We tried being civilised to you though you clearly have issues.

Best of luck getting published!

Tonto Press

[Gary replies]

Like I said you end up coming up on poetry publishers in search
engines but I shall
remember in future

[Then Gary sends a postscript]

Oh f*ck off!

[Now what had we done to deserve that?!]

There are lots of things to be learnt from that electronic exchange, all of them blindingly obvious. We fully expect to hear from 'Gary Blair' again, but we hope not to.


[UPDATE: We DID hear from 'Gary Blair' again]

Please reemove me from your blog site

OK, OK I get the message I'm a tw*t, I know I am but can you remove my name from the blog of how not to approach publishers?

In exchange I give you my word that I will never approach your company ever again.

PS I still hate Geordie's so that won't change but if you want to never ever hear from me again please remove any reference to my name on your blog.

PPS My spell checkl was knackered for several weeks so sorry about the mistakes in my written insults!


Gary Blair

Monday, September 10, 2007

Jonny on the telly

Friday's North East Tonight on Tyne Tees TV featured Jonny Kennedy author Roger Stutter talking about his friend Jonny and the book. You can watch the piece on the new ITV Local website here.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Rocketbelt launch lands safely

Thanks to everyone who came along to the launch event for The Rocketbelt Caper. A good turn-out bought books and watched a film about the rocketbelt murder, and, on a very warm night, drank a lot of cold beer. Photos and reports will appear here next week. Special thanks to Jamie for lending his audio visual (and carpentry) skills, and to Jo for manning the book store.

P.S. We are assured that Jonny Kennedy author Roger Stutter's delayed appearance on Tyne Tees Television's North East Tonight will air tonight!


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Rocketbelt Caper media frenzy!

It's the turn of The Rocketbelt Caper to go under the media microscope today, which means I'm readying myself to be grilled by the Evening Chronicle and BBC Radio Newcastle. The Chronicle article will be published on Thursday, and the Radio interview broadcast live today at 1.15. Here's a photo from the book of one of the rocketbelt builders, Larry Stanley, after being attacked with a hammer...


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Jonny Kennedy media frenzy!

Although it won't be released until 24 September, Jonny Kennedy: The Story of the Boy Whose Skin Fell Off is already attracting a lot of media attention. (A big problem for publishers is trying to keep a lid on publicity until the release date nears to avoid jumping the gun!) There was an article in last night's Evening Chronicle (Brave fight to help fellow sufferers) about Jonny and EB, which mentioned the book. And ITV North East (Tyne Tees telly in old money) are today filming author Roger Stutter as he watches the book being printed(!) for a piece about the Jonny Kennedy North East charity on North East Tonight. So tune in on Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday at 6pm to see what Roger has to say. If you miss it you can catch the show online for 24 hours here.


Monday, September 03, 2007

The Rocketbelt Caper released today

'We finished the rocketbelt, and from then on there was murder, kidnapping, and all kinds of other stuff'

When three friends set out on a quest to build a real-life Buck Rogers-style flying machine, their obsession with the Rocketbelt 2000 shattered their friendship and set in motion an astonishing chain of events involving theft, deception, assault, a bizarre kidnapping, a ten million dollar lawsuit and a horrifically brutal murder. From sci-fi to reality, this is the incredible true story of the amazing rocketbelt.

'In this book, Paul Brown brings the topic alive. It has to be one of the most readable science/technology focussed books of the year. Brown has an excellent journalistic style, and pulls the reader on relentlessly through the tales of technical inspiration and human weakness that litter the history of the rocketbelt. The book overall is a delight to read, and the story is genuinely one where reality is stranger than fiction. Recommended.' - Brian Clegg, Popular Science .co.uk

As featured in yesterday's Sunday Sun (Murder Movie's Rocket Science).

Read more here and here.