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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Free books and 20% off at Borders!

Two great offers courtesy of two of our favourite literary blogs today. First up, Michael Allen at Grumpy Old Bookman is having a clear-out and is rather generously offering free copies of some of his books in the hope that they will be read and enjoyed, and then passed on to others to do likewise. Grab a great free read here.

Meanwhile, Emma at the Snowbooks Snowblog has posted a voucher for 20% off any full-priced item at Borders, valid from 2nd to 5th November - just print it out and take it in to your nearest store. Once there you'll find many a nice Snowbooks publication, and also, of course, our very own Jonny Kennedy and The Rocketbelt Caper, both of which are stocked by Borders nationally. Get the voucher here.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Burglar's Dog gig guide

We Tonto folk do like our music. Only last week I bumped into Short Stories scribe Roz Wyllie at a Kate Walsh gig, and last night I saw Mark Jones, AKA The Burglar's Dog, at a show by Arcade Fire - the 10-strong Canadian 'baroque indie' outfit (no, I have no idea what 'baroque indie' means either).

The general consensus as we left, after an astonishing encore performance of Wake Up, was that it was something approaching the gig of the year. Mark's verdict? 'Mediocre. 6 out of 10.' To be fair, he blamed this on the rubbish venue - the soulless Metro Radio Arena Newcastle - rather than the band, stating he would never go there again, even if they 'dug up Hendrix'. The Burglar's Dog Gig Guide will be on a bookshelf near you somewhere around the year 2099.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Watch out publicans - the Dog is back

A good piece on The Burglar's Dog by Tony Henderson in this morning's Journal. It doesn't seem to be on the paper's website, so here's a scan - click on the image to see a bigger readable version.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pete Tanton on the California wildfires

The terrible wildfires that are currently sweeping through California have brought back some vivid memories for Johnny Lonely author Pete Tanton. In October 1992, Pete lived in Mission Viejo, Orange County, as a series of wildfires erupted around the area.

'It was terrifying,' says Pete. 'What started as plumes of smoke in the distance grew to become massive columns on every horizon. We'd stand at the top of our street and see lines of flame along the ridges. We were trapped, and to my eyes there was no way out. I spent three or four days watching the helicopters and firefighting planes dropping water on this wall of fire in what appeared to be a futile effort.'

'The television news did a fine job of sensationalising the emergency with alarmist headlines, while at the same time urging viewers not to panic.'

After several days Pete managed to escape to Laguna Canyon, which had remained relatively unaffected by the fires.

'I expected to see the city of Laguna Beach in charred ruins, and was surprised to see all the shops still open. It was the houses up in the hills that had burned. Locals told me that the area was prone to brush fires. Why, I wondered, did people build expensive houses in such a volatile place, and why did everyone seem so surprised that they burned so easily?'

'Many of the things in Johnny Lonely come from this experience: people desperately watering down their roofs with garden hoses, news reporters standing a few feet from trailer homes as they went up in flames, their kerosene tanks exploding for the cameras. I hope I went some way towards capturing the experience.'

Johnny Lonely follows wannabe musician Hughie Youngkin on an ill-fated quest to become a rock star, during which he finds himself trapped in wildfires.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Getting your book stocked

Recently Paul blogged about the curse of being a 'local' publisher and the associated problems. There are, of course, many more...

We've had an ongoing battle with high street chain WHSmith since last year. Today we heard from them that they will not be stocking Jonny Kennedy, Rocketbelt or Burglar's Dog books. It's a shame as in our hometown of Newcastle, WHSmith is one of the only bookstores not to stock us. Obviously, we realise that the decision largely comes down to not being a major publishing organisation and not being able to afford tens of thousands of pounds to ‘buy’ shelf space. No doubt we'll carry on with the battle. At Tonto we refuse to give up on such matters. The last buyer at the store couldn't stock us because she didn't know how the computer system worked! Really.
For those of you interested, you can actually go into any WHSmith store and order our titles from them. If you are from the Newcastle area, you can always pop into WHS in the MetroCentre where they buy direct from us. Yep – there’s the other problem: Decisions also come down to personal taste. Some buyers are able to buy direct from us (to support us locals) and some won’t or can’t. You really don’t know until you ask.

Which brings me to another point. We are approached quite often by people asking us how much we charge to publish new authors. We’ve advised those authors whenever possible, and it is nice to see that instead of paying a vanity publisher, people are now self-publishing. The entire process of publishing is difficult enough, so for an author to take all this on board is a huge risk. However, it is pleasing to see people taking the initiative. For those of you who are interested in the pitfalls of DIY publishing, there is a very informative blog by June Austin. It tells of the highs and lows she’s encountered in her struggle to see her book stocked. Read it here.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The future of reading is electronic

As publishers we would have to be crazy not to keep a very close eye on the progress of electronic books - e-books - or books published on the internet. We've become used to finding our music online, and now movies and TV shows are becoming increasingly available for download. Magazines are going 'web-only' - big US mags Premiere and FHM are just two that now exist exclusively online. But how will this electronic shift affect books?

The main argument for resisting the switch from paper to electronic is the loss of physicality - books are desirable, people like to hold them, and they're a lot easier to read than LCD screens. But witness the Sony Reader (above), which uses a 'paper-like' display to make reading e-books easy and pleasurable. 'Suppose Apple released an electronic-paper iTome,' suggests Jon Evans in his Walrus magazine article Apocalypse Soon. Based on Apple's previous successes you'd have to assume that such a device would be desirable, tactile, and easy to read. Then the world of electronic books would become very interesting indeed.

It's a debate that will continue, but one that will need to be settled very quickly if the book industry is to continue to compete with other entertainments. You can read the full Jon Evans article here. He also discusses giving electronic books away for free in a Guardian blog here. Credit to Grumpy Old Bookman for the links.

From our own point of view, we published a free-of-charge Christmas Short Stories e-book last year that was downloaded more than 1,200 times within the space of a week or so. But how many of those 1,200 actually read the thing, and how many of them went on to actually buy a Tonto book? (It was, after all, a promotional exercise.) Crucial questions, but certainly we will continue to experiment with electronic books. If nothing else, it will save a few trees.


PS. On a tenuously-linked subject, I went across the road to the Cluny last night to see singer-songwriter Kate Walsh. Kate, once of this parish and now living in Brighton, has made good use of the web. She was the first unsigned artist to have a number one hit on iTunes, and subsequently her album Tim's House (so-named because it was recorded at friend Tim's house) has become a hit CD, prime-time Tesco ads and all. Of course, much of her success is just down to the plain fact that she is bloody brilliant. You really must visit her MySpace page for a listen and a look.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A small, good thing...

There's an interview with Tonto author Jolene Hui on a website called Blushing Ladies in which she is asked, 'What do you feel has been your most important writing accomplishment to date?' This is Jolene's reply:

The most important writing accomplishment was the first story I had published with Tonto Press. It was called "Bookshelves" and was the first fictional piece I'd had published (outside of my college literary journal). It meant all the difference in my self esteem and pushed me in the right direction writing-wise. Since then I have had so many successes I can't even count them. Even though I had already been writing for years, I look at it as my true starting point.

Jolene has gone on to write for publications as varied as Inside Hockey and A Is For Amour, and we're pleased she regards being published by Tonto as her starting point.

Jolene's story 'Bookshelves' is published in 'Tonto Short Stories', which is available from Amazon in the UK and the US, and 'The Remaining Half' is published in 'More Tonto Short Stories', available from Amazon in the UK and the US, and also with £2.00 off the cover price direct from Tonto. Jolene has a website here.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Publishing will eat itself...

Interesting article in the Observer this week about Frankfurt and the state of the book industry ('It's carnage ...' Inside the genteel world of books). To summarise: the publishing industry should be boarded up like an old abandoned mine.

The feature's author, Carole Cadwalladr, does a nice job of wading through the bizarre world of solicited/unsolicited submissions, slush piles, and agents, and gets some interesting quotes from industry faces.

Selected highlights include Bloomsbury editor-in-chief Alexandra Pringle on the joys of being a writer ('It's a horrible job. It doesn't pay well. It's lonely. It's depression-inducing. It's frustrating. There's no fun to be had... When my writers say I could earn more money at the till at Sainsbury's, I say, well go and do it.'), Curtis Brown agent Jonny Geller on why writers should never attend Frankfurt ('It's soul destroying. You see writers being traded like pork bellies.') and publisher-turned-agent Patrick Janson-Smith on the state of the industry in general ('You look around and you think the world needs another book like it needs a hole in the head... If you're not in a three-for-two or Richard & Judy, forget it. There's no point. If you ask me, publishing is in a mess.').

This comes in the same week that Anne Enright's The Gathering (described by judges as as 'bleak, depressing and uncomfortable') won the Booker Prize. Chairman of the judges Sir Howard Davies launched an attack on the 'kid gloves' approach to reviewing literary novels. 'There appear to be some novels where people leave their critical faculties at home,' he said. His comments are printed in the Times (Rank outsider Anne Enright takes Man Booker Prize).

Meanwhile, Ed Handyside, founder of this fair city's own Myrmidon Books (Tan Twan Eng's Gift of Rain was long-listed for the Booker), discusses the peculiarities of the publishing industry in Publishing News (Boxing Clever).

'We've found the UK supply chain to be especially challenging,' says Ed. 'We actually find it easier, and often less costly, to sell our books overseas. There, buyers are content to judge us by our products. In British trade publishing the formula is reversed: the assumption made by press reviewers and some influential booksellers seems to be that a small press can't possibly produce books worth taking a look at. We've sold thousands of books in the Far East, South Africa and Australasia but, despite the enthusiasm of Borders, some independent booksellers and a few brave Waterstone's branches, you couldn't find any of our titles in our own city of Newcastle until a couple of months ago.'

All very interesting, and a good insight into why the book industry is currently circling the drain.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Burglar's Dog's 'caustic critic' is back

The brand new edition of The Burglar's Dog was officially released yesterday. It's available from all good bookshops, including Amazon, Asda, The Back Page, Blackwell's, Borders, Fenwick and Waterstones. If you enjoyed the original 2006 version, this is a must-have - completely revised and updated and containing up to 33.3% brand new material.

There was an interview with author Mark Jones in the Sunday Sun at the weekend ('A caustic pub critic has blasted fun pubs and designer venues, claiming they are destroying a North city's individuality').

And don't forget, you can claim a FREE exclusive set of four Burglar's Dog badges here.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Wor Al Shearer in Toon and in tune

Alan Shearer was back on the pitch at Newcastle's St James' Park yesterday for the first time since his retirement to take part in a charity match (he scored a hat-trick in a 5-3 win for his side). Meanwhile, video footage has surfaced of Wor Al performing a cabaret version of Lionel Ritchie's All Night Long. Particularly impressive is his decision to sing his own backing vocals ("Let the music play on, play on, play on"!), and also his attempt to sing the Swahili bit in the middle!

Our Shearer tribute, Wor Al, is currently available direct from Tonto for just £4.99 - get it here. If you prefer you can get it for £5.99 from Amazon. Mick Lowes from BBC Radio Newcastle called it 'A tribute book that no self-respecting Newcastle United fan should be without'. Fifty pence from each copy sold goes to the NSPCC.

You can hear BBC Radio Newcastle's 'Local Hero' montage of extracts from Wor Al here. It's an mp3, so you can right-click to 'save as'.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Pete Tanton back in Durham with Johnny Lonely

Fresh from opening the Durham Literature Festival, Pete Tanton will be back in Durham tomorrow (Saturday 13th) to sign copies of Johnny Lonely at the city's Waterstones from 12.30pm (69 Saddler St, Durham, 0191 383 1488). The next day, Pete and fellow Tonto scribe Roz Wyllie will be visiting HMP Low Newton as part of the Lit Fest Inside programme of literature workshops within the prison.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Not fair, not in Frankfurt

The Frankfurt Book Fair officially got underway yesterday but, although we do have a couple of spies in the midst, we aren't there. This was a source of much debate for us, as we were keen to be there and do some 'networking', but ultimately we couldn't justify the cost of going over. This is a view echoed by an anonymous publisher (not us!) in the Bookseller's Frankfurt Preview. Other publishers, obviously, state that the Fair is invaluable to them. The article, Strength in Numbers on pages 10-11, reports on how independent publishers are banding together to reduce costs, via organisations like the IPG. The Bookseller is publishing daily during the Fair, and the issues are available electronically via its website. We will get to Frankfurt eventually, this year's event probably just came around a little too early for us. In the meantime, anyone wishing to discuss rights for such fantastic internationally-appealing titles as Jonny Kennedy and The Rocketbelt Caper is most welcome to get in touch! Our 2007 Rights Guide can be viewed here.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Website redesign uploaded today

The Tonto website has undergone a slight redesign over the last few days. The homepage has more news stories and a new feed from this blog, and there are now dedicated pages for writers, trade and press. Check it out here and let us know what you think.

To celebrate the website's redesign we've added a couple of special offers - you can now get £2 off More Tonto Short Stories and £3 off Wor Al.

Speaking of offers, we've also extended our free Burglar's Dog badges offer until 22 October.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jonny Kennedy Book Day

Following on from our launch for the Jonny Kennedy book, there is now a short from the day.
You can view it by clicking here. Soundbites come from Nell McAndrew, Edna Kennedy and the author, Roger Stutter. If you look closely you can see Paul and I trying to avoid being caught on camera.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Jonny Kennedy in the Weekly News

Another good piece on the Jonny Kennedy book in the new edition of the Weekly News. Click on the image to view a readable version.

If you haven't already got your copy of the book it's available from all good bookshops around the country, including Asda, Borders and Waterstones, and from Amazon stores worldwide.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More Jonny Kennedy mixed media

There was a nice piece on the Jonny Kennedy book in the Hexham Courant on Friday. Jonny lived much of his life in nearby Rochester. Click on the image to read a bigger version:

And on Saturday the Shields Gazette reported on Nell McAndrew attending the book launch (Nell's model behaviour at Johnny book launch).


Monday, October 01, 2007

Lit Fest opens in style with Pete & friends

Tonto Press writers Pete Tanton, Katie-Ellen Hazeldine, Stephen Shieber and Roz Wyllie headlined the opening event at the 17th Durham Literature Festival on Saturday. Pete read from his novel Johnny Lonely, and Katie-Ellen, Stephen and Roz read stories from their acclaimed More Tonto Short Stories collection. All did a great job, engaging and captivating those present. The writers then signed copies of the books for audience members.

Thanks to all four writers, and to everyone who came along, some of whom had travelled long distances to be there.