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

Friday, May 30, 2008

Marianne's Blog - I'm Back!

Hello everyone,

It's Marianne here - remember me? For those of you with good memories you'll know I did a couple of weeks work experience with Tonto Books last summer, for those of you who don't remember, not to worry, cos now I'm back!! Not quite 'back for good' as those Take That lads crooned in recent years, but for the next couple of weeks I'm working with both Paul and Stu as a Freelance Editor. I like to think that title sounds rather posh, but really I'm doing similar work to last time.

The last few days I've been very busy proofreading two of the boys' most recent projects, an excellent collection of short stories by Stephen Shieber called Being Normal and a brilliantly written novel with a very unusual subject, called Everything You Ever Wanted by Rosalind Wyllie. They both hit the shops on the 11th August so make sure you stick that date in your diaries! All of Stephen's stories in his collection are interesting and different, but my favourite has to be one called Business Trip. This is a deeply moving, realistic and powerful story - but I'm not saying any more than that, I'm afraid you'll have to buy the collection when it comes out to find out what happens and if you agree with me!

I reckon Rosalind's novel would be a perfect book for all you ladies out there to take on your summer hols with you, as I can't think of anything better than lounging by a pool with a cocktail in one hand and this fast-paced, funny and slick book in the other, which by the way, is much better than your average chick-lit book. Besides it seems only right and natural to read a book entitled Everything You Ever Wanted when you're on your hols, as it feels like you've got exactly that when you're surrounded by the sun, sea and sand a summer holiday promises.

Follow the links below to find out more about these upcoming books:

Being Normal
Everything You Ever Wanted

Anyway, I better stop writing and get back to the proofreading, although I must admit, I really just want to find out what happens in the next chapter!!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's a sin

Sin Cities has arrived! It's not released until 7 July, but if you can't wait you can get it direct from us now, or pre-order from amazon.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I am a writer, writer of fictions

This bank holiday weekend, inbetween some gardening and gigging and various cold drinks, I finally got around to checking out authonomy.com, HarperCollins' new community site for authors. The idea is that writers post their work on the site, readers comment, and the most popular manuscripts are read by HC. It's kind of like an electronic slushpile with added bells and whistles. Does it work? Only one way to find out, so I've uploaded the first few chapters of my novel, Sunday League, 'a funny and gritty football fairytale set in the WAGs-to-riches world of modern football' it says here. P.S. Gold star to anyone who can advise which song this post's title is a lyric from.


Friday, May 23, 2008

On Her Majesty's Time-Consuming Service

This week I've spent much of my time telephoning and filling in forms for Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs. All necessary of course, particularly as our accountant is currently indisposed, but what a bloody chore. I worked for part of the HMRC back in the day when it was called the DSS, so I'm very familiar with the bureaucracy that weighs so heavily upon the organisation. I reckon I've filled out maybe 10 or 12 forms this week, all with a lot of duplicated information. A VAT number transfer alone required 3 forms. And none of them could be filled out online.

Here is my solution: Only have one form. For everything. It would be an online form with tick-boxes, asking, 'What do you want to do?' Every time you tick an option, the form re-jigs itself, until you are left with the form you require. So for example, I would tick 'VAT', 'VAT number transfer' - and the relevant (single) form asking for all of the required information would appear (literally) in two ticks. And I would only have to enter the information once.

None of which has much to do with books or publishing, but then not much of my time spent this week has had much to do with books or publishing. Hooray for the Bank Holiday!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm Will Self and I've got a thesaurus

Came across the following quote from Will Self today. Now I actually quite like Will Self - if not as a writer, then for his involvement with some of the best moments from Vic and Bob's Shooting Stars (notably the brilliant Hernia Hotline sketch). But this quote, promoting a DVD of art films by Ian Breakwell (no, me neither), is twaddle of the very highest order:

'Breakwell's was an art of retrieval, absorption and contrariety. His video pieces are subtle enactments of an individual praxis that compel our attention, again and again, to the uneasy comity of lived life.'

I don't know about you, but among those 30-odd words are at least three that I would have to reach for a dictionary to check. This, of course, is the literary equivalent to driving a garish sports car. 'Look at me! I'm Will Self and I've got a thesaurus!' Apparently, Self has written a full 'accompanying booklet' of this stuff. The BFI project was supported by the Arts Council, and I can't help wondering how much cash Self must have trousered in return for his efforts. Watch this instead:


Monday, May 19, 2008

We do not publish poetry

We do not publish poetry. Never have, never will. This is not because we have anything against poetry or poets. It's because we have limited experience and expertise of poetry, and there are plenty of other publishers - nationally and in the north east of England - that are much better equipped to publish it. So please do not send us poetry submissions via email or post. They will not be read, acknowledged or replied to. This is because do not publish poetry. Please do not come knocking on our office door with reams of poems under your arm and a sad story about how very difficult it was to find us. You will have wasted a journey, and it gets embarrassing for all concerned. Because we do not publish poetry. Please do not send us handwritten poems scrawled on the back of letters you have received from a local estate agent. It's unprofessional, and a little bit odd. And we do not publish poetry. Please do not call us up and ask us to come to your home to see your poetry because you are housebound, and then get really angry and quite abusive when we politely and quite patiently (even if I do say so myself) suggest some other avenues you might try. Because we do not publish poetry. And please, please, please do not send us audio CDs of yourself reading your poems in a strange monotone voice. Curiosity will make us listen to a few seconds of it, and then we'll have to spend a good 20 minutes or so laughing like drains, and we're really far too busy to do that. And anyway, we do not publish poetry.


Friday, May 16, 2008

A bad poet, but didn't know it.

As some of you my remember, we've had the odd poetry submission here at Tonto Towers. One of which got a bit 'difficult' when we said we didn't publish poetry. But, all is not lost, as 'the worst poet in the world' can even make a fortune from their work.
OK, so William McGonagall died penniless in 1902, but it seems he now has a bit of a following. His work going under the hammer is apparently in the same league as first editions of Harry Potter. Not that I've read any.

Finally recognised for his work when he was panned by the critics and had food thrown at him at public readings... a happy ending, then.
Read all about it here.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

David Peace's dirty little secret

There was an interesting interview with author David Peace in Saturday's Guardian Review section, notable because, unlike the vast majority of interviews with authors in the Guardian Review section, it wasn't a load of pretentious twaddle. I picked out Peace's The Damned Utd as my favourite novel of the year in a Christmas 2007 post and it's now getting a second wind of coverage thanks to a South Bank Show and a forthcoming movie adaptation.

Talking about his craft, Peace advocates a useful practice that we talk about on our occasional writing courses: 'When I come across a sentence or paragraph that impresses me, I write it out. I'm not sure if other writers do it, but I suspect they do and it's a dirty little secret. It is like practising five-finger exercises. I thought Cormac McCarthy's The Road was a fantastic piece of work. But the only way I could really understand how it was done was to write some of it out.' Peace also names as an inspiration Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl, which, if I'm being completely honest, is perhaps my favourite book ever.

P.S. While I remember, this Sunday, The Observer is doing an miscellany-type 'Observer Book of Books', which, if their previous books of music, film etc are anything to go by, will probably be worth getting hold of.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

This week, we will be mostly reading...

Yep, as reported yesterday, our fiction project is going full steam ahead. At the moment, we are working on the final manuscripts from Roz and Stephen and it is great for us to see that they have enjoyed such a useful development process with their respective mentors.
Both writers showcased their work at the Hexham Book Festival recently, where they went down a storm to a very appreciative audience. I’m sure they were as moved as I was to receive such feedback and have an audience laugh, smile, nod and cringe along in all the right places. It made me more confident in the project and it felt good to see Roz and Stephen beginning to establish themselves as credible writers in the region.
So, at Tonto Towers this week and into the next few, we are re-acquainting ourselves with the finished manuscripts and putting them through final processes before sending them off to print. Personally, I think the project has been a tremendous success so far as we’ve seen two works produced to a very high standard by using the best mentors possible. Credit to all those involved – it has been great to be a part of it. Of course the hard work starts now as well... promotion, publicity, selling...
Both are available for pre-order on amazon.co.uk.


Monday, May 12, 2008

New Novelists news

The judging process continues for our New Novelists contest - the winners will be announced in June. There is one piece of news, however, as there has been a change to the judging line-up. Newcastle-born author Caroline Smailes now joins Wendy Robertson to select and mentor the winners. Caroline, author of In Search of Adam, has already been involved with the Tonto Fiction 2008 project, having done a great job of mentoring Rosalind Wyllie, whose novel Everything You Ever Wanted will be published in August.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Miller time for Keegan

We're currently putting the finishing touches to Stephen Miller's autobiography Paralympian, and very good it is looking, too. The final cover is shown below, as you'll see now featuring the words 'Foreword by Kevin Keegan'.

King Kev (at the time of writing still Newcastle United manager, despite naughty national press speculation) is understandably rather popular in these parts, having now saved the Magpies from certain disaster on three separate occasions, once as a player and twice as a manager. Kevin and Stephen have been friends since Stephen was a nipper, as proven by this great photo.

Kevin also provides a quote for the back cover: 'I know how hard it is to compete at the highest level. It takes dedication, courage and self-belief, and Stephen has those in abundance. His story is truly unique and inspiring.' The book is released on 28 July, but you can preorder a copy now from our website or from Amazon.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why do people buy books?

It's a fairly crucial question for the publishing industry: why do people buy books? New research commissioned by The Bookseller shows that the most important factor in driving UK shoppers to buy books is an instore display. That's a little bit disappointing for independent publishers who can't afford to pay for prominent instore placement and have to rely more on word of mouth or internet marketing.

The Bookseller research surveyed more than 1,000 people across the UK, and the results are below:

26% instore displays
14% newspaper and magazine reviews
13% mentions on television or radio
12% recommendations from friends and family
9% internet recommendations
2% the advice of shop staff or librarians

For some reason the percentages only seem to add up to 76, so who knows where the other 24% get their book buying habits from. If you're stumped for a recommendation, why not buy this?


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

No defence for book flop Cole

We get our padded envelopes from Poundland - you can guess how much they cost. So, every couple of weeks, I pop in to buy a basketful. Poundland also sell books - remainders returned to the publisher and sold on for pennies, basically to save the cost of pulping. This week, I noticed a very high profile book - 'My Defence' by Ashley Cole (RRP £18.99, now yours for - obviously - a pound).

According to The Guardian, Cole was paid an advance of £250,000 (The Sun says £500,000), yet his book sold just 4,000 copies. So 'love cheat' Cole (The Sun again), by my reckoning, must owe his publisher about £245,000. Of course, they won't ask for it back. That's the nature of big money celebrity advances, although surely the Ashley Cole 'affair' will have caused major publishers to think before splashing the big bucks.

But did I splash a quid and buy a copy? No. To obscurely quote Curb Your Enthusiasm, 'I'm with Cheryl!'


Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I was at the festival on Saturday night for the Stuart Maconie gig (got to talk to him and get a book signed at the end) and had a quick look at our set up to find we'd have a much bigger audience than anticipated. Cue Wheatman panic attack.
Sunday: 12 o'clock came and Anna from New Writing North introduced the event. She talked about mentoring for a bit and asked me a few questions about publishing and opportunities in the region for new writers. Then it was my turn to introduce Pete (pictured), Roz and Stephen, who delivered readings from their work and answered my questions about mentoring, entering competitions and story development. It was a relaxed and informal atmosphere - enjoyable, in fact - and great to see the audience reaction, laughing in all the right places to the chosen stories. I'm sure it will have helped raise our authors' profiles further in the region and boost any future interest in them.

As all this was going on, Roger Stutter was busy at our book stand in QHA foyer and doing a brilliant job. When he wasn't talking to everyone who passed by, he even sold a few books too!

In my humble and unbiased opinion, the event went very well indeed. Big thanks to Roger, Pete, Roz, Stephen and Anna.

Photo above: Roger setting up the book stand.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Hexham Book Festival Reminder

Stuck for something to do tomorrow? Well, why not pop along to the Queen's Hall in Hexham for around 12pm. As part of the Hexham Book Festival, three Tonto writers will be showcasing their work in an hour-long event.
Pete Tanton will be reading from Johnny Lonely, Roz Wyllie will be reading from Everything You Ever Wanted and Stephen Shieber will be reading from Being Normal.

As if it couldn't get much better, I'll be asking them questions about their work and even answering a few from Anna Disley, Deputy Director at New Writing North. And that's not even the best part... the event is free. Free, I tells ya!

In QHA foyer, yet another Tonto writer, Roger Stutter, will be playing shopkeeper at our book stand and selling all Tonto books at Hextastic discounts.

Tickets can be booked from QHA directly, or you can turn up on the day. Hope to see you there.

I'm off to see Stuart Maconie there tonight as part of their brilliant line up.