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

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Wooohoooooo! The new Tonto Books website is live!!
Check out the new store where you can purchase all forthcoming titles ahead of the release date (although they won't be delivered until they are received from the printer).

There's also a new BLOG up and running. Make sure to subscribe to it.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Breaking news...

Today Tonto Books signed up the next novel from best-selling author, Sheila Quigley. To say I'm quite pleased would be a slight understatement! Sheila is a great writer and a great personality and I'm sure will be an excellent addition to Tonto's slate. The book is called 'Road to Hell' and will be out on 5 November 2009. We'll hopefully get a load of publicity around this signing as the rights are in place for the 'Seahills series' of Sheila's... and the relationship is set to grow.

Sheila's last books have done amazingly well so it is a real honour for me to be working with her and I'm looking forward to seeing how far we can take the novel.

It's a busy time at Tonto - Dirty Leeds will be out on 24 September, Slimmer Charlie on 1 October and Road to Hell out on 5 November.

New website is nearly here and you'll be able to buy all forthcoming titles in time for Christmas!

Thanks for your continued support.

Keep the faith.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


I interviewed Ed from Byker Books a while back now. Been pretending to be too busy to put part two up, so here it is...

Stu: What makes a good submission?
Ed: Anything that follows the above! (or below in order of blog posts)

S: What tips would you give to writers approaching publishers?
1. Stick to the submission guidelines.
2. Spend as much time on your synopsis and query letter as you do on your book/story
3. Try to remember that we don’t just sit there all day waiting for you to call/pop up in our inbox – we’re actually fairly busy.
4. Be polite and courteous – not everyone is and that’s just silly.
5. If you get rejected don’t tell the publisher that you don’t care as they’re shit anyway because that will simply make the publisher put a little black mark against your name and then tell all of his publisher friends about you which will result in you spending the rest of your writing life in rejection hell.
6. Don’t submit something then wait until the publisher has done all the work on the book it’s going to be in before deciding that you’d actually like to ‘edit’ it – see point 5 for the result of that action!
7. Make sure your work is a polished, tight and error free. There is nothing worse than reading a submission that looks good but is littered with spelling and grammatical errors – it will be rejected no matter how good the story is.
8. Don’t give up – you will get rejected ... a lot. Everyone does but it’s those who persevere that succeed.

No, this isn't me ranting. I assure you it is Ed. Honest.

S: Are agents essential?
E: I don’t think they’re essential, not at first anyway, however, a good agent will take a lot of the nitty gritty stuff away from you and and allow you to concentrate on the writing side of things. They’ll also know what certain publishers are looking for and steer your style/content towards that, thus enhancing your chances of selling your book. The thing about them though is that it’s a very transient profession so if you get on the books of an agency somewhere for any length of time (and that’s not easy in itself never mind getting published!) you might find that you have a number of different agents over the years and it’s not necessarily your career that’s uppermost in their minds.

S: What are the best traits of a writer?
E:Passion, the ability to tell a story (that’s sounds a bit obvious but trust me it’s not a given) and downright, barefaced cheek! As a writer you have to be shameless in promoting yourself, asking for things and pro-actively selling your books.

S: And worst?
E: They can sometimes think that what they’ve written is the best thing ever and it’s the rest of the world that’s at fault for not seeing it - I’m a writer myself and I know I’ve been guilty of that in the past. They can also tend to forget that publishing is a business first and foremost – even a gobshite little press like Byker Books has to have on eye on actually selling what it produces – so we have to gently remind them sometimes that what they write has to be accessible to the readership.

More splendid replies from Ed. I'll be posting the third installment very soon.
This blog will be moving to a different home very soon. I'll post details up as soon as it all happens.

Monday, May 04, 2009


Some breaking news for Bank Holiday: Although I can't officially reveal all just yet, Tonto is poised to make its biggest signing to date. I'm really looking forward to working with this author and it will give the rest of Tonto's fiction titles - and writers - a massive boost to have them on board.

Details will hopefully be reported on the blog this week as the deal goes through.

This is a genuine 'back of the net' moment.

Look out for the next installment of the Byker Books interview tomorrow - and thanks for the email suggestions on who else to interview.

Enjoy the rest of your day off!

Saturday, May 02, 2009


As the title suggests, the current blog will be transferring to another dimension or whatever you call it next week.
The web wizards at Instinctive Media are putting the final touches to the new website and tweaking it in all the right places.

It looks splendid too.

Will post the new address up in a couple of days.

Keep the faith!

Thursday, April 30, 2009


It's always good to have allies in this 'game'. Tonto is building up a great contact book and it's always nice to add to it. The days of being based at Tonto Towers in Byker isn't tucked too far away in my terrible ummm ... memory, but Byker makes for what I'd argue as a seamless link.

Byker Books seemed to creep up on the unsuspecting north-east publishing world and ... well, give it a playground wedgie one day and a kick in the pants the next, just to let it know that things were changing round these here parts.

It's refreshing to see someone on the scene who is keen to shake it up and make books exciting. Here's part one of the interview with Ed - main gadgey at the Byker Massive.

Stu: Who are Byker Books?

Ed: We're a group of people from the North East of England who aren't that enthralled by reading the memoirs of someone who was briefly on a crap reality show and, after bitching for some years, actually decided to get off our arses and do something about it.

S: What was the motivation to set up / how long have you been around for?

E: See above for the motivation. Well that and girls … publishers get groupies don’t they … don’t they?
(Stu: Do they?)
We’ve been around since November ’08 (if you’re the taxman!) in a publishing sense but we set our website up in the summer of last year and started publishing short stories to that from then – for free an all like!

S: What are the aims of the company?

E: The whole idea behind Byker Books was to give an outlet to writers of British fiction – I don’t know about you but I can’t relate to tales of boy wizards, ancient codes hidden in paintings or the ghost written ramblings of someone who was once on the telly masturbating pigs and flaunting their plastic breasts!

The original plan was to put together short story collections that mixed new writers (the unknown and unhinged as we like to call them) and more established authors which we’ve achieved with our Radgepacket series. So we’re now starting to think ahead and have a couple of full length books planned.

S: Do you have specifics you look for in submissions?

E: We tend to have a couple of quite specific guidelines but after that it’s open to the writer’s imagination :-

1. We want short fiction relating to modern day British life. By short we mean three thousand words or less and by British life we mean that we want you to reflect the grimy, seedy, drug fuelled, hilarious, absurd and violent country we have become.

2. It needs to be snappy, tight and so gripping that if we start reading it and the phone rings we don't even think about answering - even if it's Jennifer Aniston, Sienna Miller and the female cast of Hollyoaks inviting us to a party round at theirs ... again.

3. Now this is important so listen carefully. We want you to send the story in the body of the email, any submission sent as an attachment will be deleted without being opened - as you all know there are some nasty, horrible people out in the world today (you might have wrote about them...) and we don't want to take any chances do we?

And do you know what? People still send us attachments and stories about detectives in Africa and stuff!


Some interesting points there from Ed. Reassuring to know that Tonto isn't the only publisher in the world that gets bombarded by unwanted manuscripts in a genre it isn't interested in! I'll leave it at that before I join in and start on a 'How not to approach publishers' rant.


Quick update - the new website should be up and running very VERY soon.
More rights acquisition news to follow in the next few days too. It's all go at Tonto!

Here's a link from a recent edition of the Bookseller mag about new title, 'Dirty Leeds'.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


OK, OK...
Imagine Michael to Alan in the Travel Tavern in his Geordie accent: 'What's it aall aboot?'
I MySpaced, I FaceBooked, I left Twitter for the likes of Jonathan Ross et al to let the world know what they were having for dinner and where they were having it.

But, due to pressure from a writing friend of mine who shall remain anonymous, I decided to sign up. No idea what to do on there yet until I have a few spare minutes to go through it properly. I do believe in having an online presence and as I always tell people to promote themselves by any means necassary, it may have been worth taking the plunge. With FaceBook contact, I do actually get a lot of 'work related' messages along with all the other updates, so it is worthwhile. After work hours though.

Get me, I'll be phoning people on Skype next. Or like, getting an Ipod. Or a Sony Reader.

Ermmmmm... not.

Find me on Twitter as tontobooks. Somehow.

Join up to the Tonto Books FaceBook Group.

Friday, April 24, 2009


The follow-up emails and calls are starting...

I'm really looking forward to the rest of this year, albeit so far a slightly stressful one. I'm sure readers of the blog (and Facebook, etc) will know about my rants about chasing invoices since January and other energy-sapping admin capers, so it is great to see things starting to level out at last.

At LBF, I had a meeting with Richard Squibb, head of Vine House Distribution. As mentioned in yesterday's blog, I could tell Richard and I had the same vision about Tonto titles immediately. He knows some of the people I'm working with at the moment and even showed me some plans he made ahead of the meeting. I'm very pleased to announce that they will be handling Tonto's sales and distribution very soon.

More news:
The revamped website should be up live in a week or so.

New signings:
'Dirty Leeds' by Robert Endeacott.
Paperback novel will be out on 24 September. You can pre-order from Amazon RIGHT HERE.

Another new signing to be announced next week.
Also up next week will be the first installment of the Byker Books interview with Ed.
And maybe some more developments...

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I got back from London yesterday and am very pleased with how everything went. I think finding my feet there last year really helped - although I was a bit shell-shocked walking around with an 'Eh?' expression most of the time - and I knew why I wanted to be there this time.

The first thing I noticed was that it seemed to be a lot busier than last year. I met up with Paul (the writer previously known as Tonto Paul) and we both said the same... it seemed that there were more publisher stands too. No idea if this is the reality or we were just caught up in the 'Eh?-ness' of it all again. Who knows. Maybe because I was sat at the Tonto stand most of last year and didn't get to see as much action as I should have. The area where we had the stand last year wasn't in use - this hinted that the size of the fair was smaller. Credit crunch? Nah - even Boris Johnson (who was there on Wednesday) described the publishing industry as "successful and resilient", despite the economic gloom.

Monday could have been better meeting-wise. A couple of them didn't go as planned and in one I found it was over within minutes. Seriously. I've taken longer to make a cup of tea. That's the LBF for you. After that meeting, sat down having a rest at a cafe, I was reading through some distributor info when a guy sat at the same table introduced himself. It turned out he worked in distribution and was now an adviser to people in my position. He gave me some amazing advice and passed his card on. How rare! A stranger talking to me that a) wasn't mental and b) was helpful. And one of the people he recommended was on my list of meetings for Tuesday!

Tuesday ruled. Great meeting with a sales and distribution company - details will be revealed as soon as finalised. I definitely want to go with this one. I like to do business with people I like. I'd already came away from a few meetings where I felt I'd just wasted my time trying to coax info out of someone with no personality. Had I just turned into the Simon Cowell of the publishing world? Hmmm...

Tuesday lunchtime - a meeting with a new author and a new signing. The Bookseller mag wanted an 'exclusive' on this, so details will be posted up soon.

Tuesday afternoon meeting with an agent to sign another author up was a non-starter but it didn't dampen the mood.

It was also good to meet up with the 'Newcastle crowd' too, as there just isn't time to catch up with anyone in Newcastle. It's much easier to travel to London to do it, cram into a bar and buy loads of 'London-priced' drinks, go to a restaurant that not everyone wants to go to before going back to tiny hotel rooms for a restless kip.

Ahhh, you just can't beat it.

Friday, April 17, 2009


LBF is nearly here. Just been packing my suits and essentials such as cans of cider for the train journey down and Pot Noodles for meals.

So, what's in store? Well, Monday is packed with meetings with book people - setting up with sales companies and distribution is one of the main reasons for going and that's what I aim to come away with. I'm also meeting up with people such as IPG, Bookseller, Gardners and Bertrams to discuss how we can work together more effectively. On Tuesday I have a lunch meeting with a new writer I'm hoping to sign up there and then. It's a bit of a myth that contracts get signed at book fairs (all the legwork is done before and after in reality) but I'm hoping this one will be newsworthy on my return.
Wednesday is a half-day, back on the train and back to 'normal' and following up meetings.

I dare say there will be a night out thrown in for the social side of it. It would be rude not to, eh?

NEXT WEEK: Interview with Ed from Byker Books. It's a good'un too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Thanks for the fantastic response to Part One. I'm planning to make interviews a more regular thing on here, so any suggestions etc are very welcome. Maybe you are part of this here writing industry and would like to put yourself forward, or as a writer you'd benefit from seeing an editor/publisher/agent under the Tonto spotlight.

On with the show...

Stu: Word on the street is that you have an agent – is this an essential?
Caroline: Yes - I have an agent! (and am still a little overexcited about it).
Not all writers need or want an agent. I managed two novels using The Society of Authors to vet my publishing contracts and advise me.

S: How do you know when you need one?
C: For me, I felt that my writing career had travelled as far as it could without the professional advice, guidance and support of a literary agent. Having an agent will allow me to write and not be dragged down by the nitty gritty of the publishing world.

S: What’s BubbleCow all about and why did you start it up?
C: BubbleCow offers editorial support and helps writers to take one step closer to being published. I'd been an editor for a number of publishers, a reader and a mentor. I'd also been in contact with so many writers frustrated with inadequate feedback and guidance. The decision to found and develop BubbleCow grew from an understanding of what modern writers require - fast, efficient and affordable editorial services that can be tailored to meet personal needs.

Read all about it here

S: What are you working on at the moment?
C: Novel 4 and novel 5. One is experimental and making my head hurt, the other is gentle and set inside a lighthouse. I really need to just write one of them!

S: Do you have time for relaxing and drinking tea?
C: I always find time for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. I never relax.

S: What’s the best piece of advice given to you as a writer?
C: Don't give up!

S: What’s your best advice to a writer?
C: Don't give up!

I hope you have found this interview interesting and has given further insight into the world of a writer... tea, cake, whisky and playing on Facebook are just some of the perks. I found it even more annoying that Caroline is writing two novels at the same time. It's just not right, I tells ya!

Big thanks again to Caroline.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I interviewed Caroline Smailes yonks ago now. Well, a few weeks ago. Hey, I've been busy, ok!
So, now that I'm fully in LBF mode, it seems a nice time to post it up. Caroline is one of those rare writers who has time for anyone and doesn't mind spending time doing interviews like this and passing on words of wisdom to newer writers. In short, she's one of the good guys of the writing world and someone who is only going to find more success with everything she does. I know it's annoying, but lets find out a bit more about her...

Stu: When did you start writing seriously?
Caroline: In 2005, when I packed in my PhD and enrolled on an MA in Creative Writing.

S: What was your PhD? Completely different life for you?
C: It was in Applied Linguistics and I was studying language development in children with Down's Syndrome. So, yes, worlds away from now.

S: What compelled you to write?
C: For me, the writing stems from a gnawing feeling of something that has to be said. It’s an urge, a desire, a need and clearly that sounds far too pretentious! In 2005, it was more about a ‘now or never’ wanting to see if I could be a published writer.

S: It isn’t an easy thing to do – discipline, rejection, despair (and those are the good days)... have you ever been at a point when you nearly gave up? If so, what made you carry on?
C: Last year was the lowest point for me. My publisher went into liquidation and everything was falling apart on a personal level. I began to question the route I was taking and my writing dream. But, even amongst all of the chaos, I still wrote a novel and I don’t think that giving up was ever really an option.

S: How do you rise above and overcome the ‘thanks but no thanks’ letters?
C: With whisky.

(Good answer. And a splash of dry ginger and a piece of lime with crushed ice in mine)

S: You’ve mentored a couple of writers for Tonto Books recently – is that a welcome distraction for a writer?

C: Working with Roz and Nik has been an absolute pleasure. Being a published writer means that I can understand the angst, frustration and hope that debut writers experience. Mentoring was a welcomed break from my fiction into the brilliantly disturbing worlds that Roz and Nik created.

S: Does it help in your own work?

C: I think it has helped to increase my anal tendencies in the editing of my own work. I’m not really sure if this is a good or a bad thing.

Writers take note:

S: You’re great at self-promotion – how important is this for writers?
C: I would question any fiction writer who didn't have a strong online platform - at least on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. There are so many connections waiting to be made and online self-promotion offers opportunity to interact with a wider audience, one that the standard PR offered by most publishers would not reach.

S: What tips would you give anyone in starting to promote their wares?
C: Set up a blog and post regularly. Set up a Twitter account and Twitter regularly. Read and comment on other writers’ blogs. Be friendly and open, the rest will come.

S: Do you actively set up your own interviews, signings?
C: Blog wise, my network is supportive and I have been interviewed or reviewed by a number of bloggers. Twitter has led to a few interviews too. My publisher organises signings and formal interviews, but if I have any requests I can ask them to make initial contact for me.

S: What’s the biggest misconception(s) people have towards writers?
C: That all published writers are sitting in their counting houses with big pots of money!

S: And the second biggest?
C: That anyone can write and so everyone has 'a book in them'.

Big thanks to Caroline for the interview.
Stay tuned for part two.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Not long to go now! London Book Fair, or LBF to those in the know, is from 20-22 April at Earls Court.

A huge industry event where all the moving and shaking in the industry goes on... which means all the bars in the immediate area are 'wall to wall' for three days.

This year I chose not to take a publisher stand. At the moment I'm setting up meetings with overseas publishers to sell territorial rights (new fiction as well as non-fiction) and also setting up meetings with sales representatives and distributors. I'm looking to get these in place ahead of the 'Slimmer Charlie' release on 1 October and have already had some interesting conversations.

If anyone reading the blog would like to meet up at LBF, please feel free to drop me a line.

Friday, March 27, 2009


LAZY SUNDAY AFTERNOON is at Borders Team Valley this weekend - Sunday 29 March, 1pm. It is being held upstairs in Starbucks... a relaxed atmosphere where you can have yourself a cuppa and a muffin and be entertained by readings from Roz Wyllie, Nik Jones, Stephen Shieber and Sarah Shaw.

They will be reading from their recently-published debut works and will be answering any questions you have afterwards. There will also be a chance to buy their books and get them signed!
What could be better?

Borders. Team Valley. Sunday. 1pm.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I'm currently looking for editors to take on freelance work on a book-by-book basis. With some interesting non-fiction and a couple of fiction projects in the pipeline, I'm looking to assign editors who'd best be suited to each title.

Payment would be on an agreed fee prior to taking the work on. If you are interested in applying, please send me a CV and let me know of your experience and suitability to fiction or non-fiction.

And feel free to pass this on to anyone who may be interested.

Fan Q!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the vampires have wings, and are half-breed angels

Couldn't resist nicking that line as the title to this blog.

I've ranted about how not to approach publishers too many times. Or not near enough, I'd probably argue (that's one hell of a mood if I argue about ranting, isn't it?)

There was an ace feature in the Bookseller recently, read all about it here. Basically, a few lit agents in the US of A had been posting Twitter feeds with the worst openers to submissions. For example: "My book is about a friendship based upon mutual vomiting practices in high school".

And there's been a bit of author backlash about it being cruel. It doesn't name and shame though and it would be great if everyone took it all with a pinch of salt, had a little chuckle, remembered their own embarrassing submissions/query letters and moved on.

A publisher friend of mine always says that publishing would be great if he didn't have to deal with authors. Sometimes he's serious, but he'd not be in business without them - same as the agents in the story.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


It's not easy being a dyslexic publisher. That's why I tried to get out of the 'writing game'. It always makes for some comedy moments though.

As I've struggled to and from sick bay recently, I've answered and sent a few emails here and there... nothing too stressful and nothing that can't be helped along by a bit of chicken soup and Lucozade.

Two words that always seem to get past me are 'consultant' and 'area'. I usually quadruple-check them, commission an editor and then spellcheck again before sending. Until t'other day:

A few email replies to distributor enquiries needed swift responses. Where is Ryton? It was in the north east - in the Newcastle area - if describing to Johnny Southerner. Not anymore. It's now in the north east arse. I also once posted an arse on a true crime forum I watch regularly. Oh, the shame. I couldn't go back for yonks.

I've also worked as a conslutant. My CV says so.

As posted the other day, 9987 e-books will be mailed out soon. Once I have the energy to switch on the other PC, they'll be sent. One step at a time, eh?

Remember - SPELLCHECK!

Monday, March 09, 2009


What is it? Where does it come from? Why is it worse for us than it is for women?

I dunno. I'm just getting over a bout of it. My tale of woe started on Wednesday night at my true crime talk at Borders. By the time I got home I was about to phone for th'ambulance. It was touch 'n' go. Probably the worst case of 'flu' ever recorded.

Anywho. A weekend of doing as little as possible always helps. This is my way of saying that 9987 PDF mailouts will be happening later in the week when I'm properly out of sick bay.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Another night, another launch. Nik Jones rocked Gateshead with a Borders Team Valley 9987 event on 3 March. Sheila Quigley hosted the event - a joint 'do' for Nik and Sandra Rowell.

It was great to meet everyone there and was a splendid night for networking. Tomorrow, I'm back at Borders to talk true crime in the shape of notorious underworld bosses, the Krays.

Also coming this week, I'll be posting up an interview with Caroline Smailes.

More news:

PDF e-book requests for 9987 will be sent out tomorrow.

Winner of the weekend giveaway was Ross in Liverpool. A copy of 'More Tonto Short Stories' is on its way to you. Ross wanted the book as he'd read the first one, had his story rejected for MTSS and hadn't bought it out of 'evil spite'. His grudge has passed now and he wants to make friends and develop more work for when Tonto runs another competition.

Thanks Ross... it's always better to have friends than enemies. Feel free to review the book on amazon.

Monday, March 02, 2009


9987 - the Nik Jones debut novel will be launched/relaunched tomorrow night. Borders Team Valley is the place to be all this week from 6.30pm... make sure you get along to one of the events, even if it's just to heckle us and drink all the wine.

Nik is also featured in the current edition of the Journal Culture mag on p38/39.

See you tomorrow!!

Sunday, March 01, 2009



9987 by Nik Jones is the winner!
The novel received the most votes and will be made available FOR FREE in pdf format throughout March. All you need to do is email me at Tonto with your request.

9987 will also be HALF PRICE THROUGHOUT MARCH! That's right - HALF PRICE!!

All you need to do is email me with your order and I will send you a paypal invoice for the amount.

Each copy of 9987 will be priced at £3.99 with 99p postage, total price: £4.98. Bargain!

Other news:

Today sees the official announcement that I'll be doing the Chicago Marathon in October this year. Yes, you read correctly and no, I'm not drunk.
In October, Tonto will be publishing the biography of Charlie Walduck, the UK's record-breaking slimmer and an inspiration to millions around the world. Charlie lost over 30 stones in weight thanks to Dr Chris Steele and 'This Morning' show.

In an article published in today's Sunday Sun, there is our call for sponsorship. Charlie and I will be running the marathon for charity, but in order to get there, we're looking for corporate sponsorship. In exchange for this, companies will be offered advertising space on us as we run, mentions in all interviews - TV and print media - newspaper follow-ups, a mention in the book and in the documentary being shot to mark our progress.

Read all about it here.

Sign up to the newsletter on the Tonto website for more updates.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Doesn't time fly, eh?
The time to cast your votes is nearly up. In case you didn't know, voting is for the four fiction works Tonto published in 2008/09. The winning title will then be available FOR FREE as a pdf throughout March, and will also be half price throughout March via the website.
If you want the opening chapter/story to either of them, please contact me at the usual email address with the title in the subject line and I'll send a pdf to you.


As it's Friday and I'm in a generous mood, I'm running another freebie giveaway this weekend only. All you need to do is email me telling me the title of the Tonto book you want for free and why you want it. The deal is that you HAVE TO review it on Amazon. The offer closes at midnight on Sunday 1 March and I'll pick a winner or two out with my random winner picker and send them out on Monday.

And as we head into March - don't forget Borders Team Valley next week. They are hosting a week of brilliant events including the Gateshead launch for 9987, Byker Books 'Radgepackets Collection' launch, and Steve Wraith and I hosting a true crime night.

Sarah Shaw will also be reading from her work in another March event:
Lit book launch: 10 March, 7.30pm at Culture Lab, Newcastle University
Launch of Lit, the anthology of writing by postgrads and alumni of the School of English, Newcastle University. Writers reading on the night include Paul Batchelor, Ellen Phethean, Sarah Shaw, Kathy Towers and Lynne Wilmot. For more information, email melanie.birch@ncl.ac.uk.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Not too long ago I put out a call for non-fiction writers on an arts site that was picked up by others and I got some great responses to it.

The basics: I want experienced non-fiction writers with a track record who I can assign work to or who have good ideas and manuscripts to bring to Tonto.

As the company moves into 2009 and beyond, I'm looking to build up a list of writers that can write to spec or pitch non-fiction ideas. As a writer myself, I know what it's like to want an ongoing relationship with a trusted publisher, and that's my intention. I'm now in touch with several writers and discussing some high-profile titles.

Of course, they don't have to be high-profile... it always helps if you happened to live next door to Zac Efron when he was a wannabe child star and he signed an exclusive deal with you (in blood) that you can bring my way, but it isn't the end of the world. If you have something with a clearly-defined audience and it looks like it would sell, then I'm interested. If you have it already written, then even better.

Again I've had more enquiries about fiction submissions. As you can see from the above, non-fiction is an ongoing window and fiction can't always work that way. Fiction is difficult to sell, but not impossible. The new website will contain more for fiction writers than previously as this is a side to the company that I want to keep going. It is important to support new writing - that's what we started doing, and that's what should continue. Running fiction competitions and publishing anthologies is what Tonto was based on, but these were always funded projects. Tonto is not a regularly funded organisation like some others are, which is why I have to be very selective on titles, looking for the next big thing, looking for something I am certain of selling, always conscious of the credit crunch. And it happens that non-fiction sells more, so that's mainly where the decision to commission comes from.

It is very likely that I'll be publishing short stories on the new website and looking to offer exposure to writers (no, not in that way, Roz. Get yer mind outta the gutter) and hopefully try to build on this community we have. Any suggestions are always welcome. Submission windows will be on the new website and in newsletters and on the blog, so please stop hassling me - there's only so much I can do. Unless any of you out there are rich investors...

Keep the faith!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Yep, it's all go at Tonto.

The website is currently being redesigned and will be live and revamped in the next few weeks. I'll be adding some extra features for writers and am planning to get a forum up and running too.

I was sent a couple of cover designs for the forthcoming Charlie Walduck biography cover last night. Elliot at Preamptive, who also designed inserts for Sin Cities and Paralympian is back on board and on top form as ever. I'll post some up when I can get them to upload with the correct colours. You can pre-order the book here.

'Shakespeare And Lust' will soon be listed on Amazon etc for pre-order too. Watch this space.

Another book in development: Based on the popular blog 'Flower Faires & Fairy Cakes', Tonto signed Elsie Button up last year and is currently developing the book for release later in the year.

More news on all new titles will be posted as it happens.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Friday 20 Feb, 3pm - I'll be talking about book n stuff on the Alfie Joey show, BBC Radio Newcastle. Steve Drayton and Alfie have supported Tonto from the very beginning, so it is always nice to get asked back.

Ashley Hames will be hosting an author event at Borders Charing Cross on the same day, 6.30pm. He'll be swearing like a docker, so stay away if easily offended. But still buy the book.

Details of news signings and designs will hopefully be announced this week. As will the new website design.

Check us out on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=42707998340

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Two accents I always attempt when saying 'murder':
Tough-talking American detective - 'There's been a miodah!'
Scots accent - 'Thur's been a murrdugh!'

And I'm terrible at both. However, Murder March at Borders will be anything but terrible as you can see from the impressive lineup on this rather splendid poster.

Click to see bigger voision.


... got no time for worries.
Much better to base a Sunday author event on a Small Faces song rather than an Alan Partridge quote, I think.

LAZY SUNDAY AFTERNOON will take place at Borders Team Valley on Sunday 29 March, 1pm.
Present will be Tonto writers Stephen Shieber, Roz Wyllie, Sarah Shaw and Nik Jones. They will be reading from their recently-published works, talking about them, answering your questions, signing books, drinking coffee and eating some delicious cakes.
The event will be relaxed and a chance to meet authors in an informal atmosphere upstairs in Starbucks Coffee Shop. Special offers will be in place on Tonto titles on the day.

And as a nice Sunday contrast, please take the time to watch Tonto author Ashley Hames on this video feed. This was recorded at his recent (second) appearance at Cambridge Union Society where he took part in a debate titled This House is Overworked and Undersexed.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Sarah Shaw's Borders Silverlink book signing had to be cancelled at short notice today. Apologies were sent early this morning as Sarah couldn't attend.
No need to panic though - it will be rescheduled at a later date.

Other news just in: I'll be at BBC Radio Newcastle on Friday 20 Feb to record an interview for Alfie Joey's show. Hmmm... I'll have to ask him about his previous job as a Jack the Ripper tour guide.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Round up of events so far for March for your diary:

Friday 20 March, 7pm, Borders Edinburgh: Sarah Shaw author event.
Saturday 21 March, 12pm, Borders Edinburgh: Sarah Shaw author signing.

Tuesday 3 March, 6.30pm, Team Valley Borders: Nik Jones 9987 launch and author event as part of Murder March.

And the following night, I will be part of a panel of true crime writers at Borders. There will be a chance for you to buy one of my books and have it signed! Or just buy a Tonto book - I don't mind.

That's all events for March and I'm sure there will be more to come. There's also events lined up for April and throughout the year. Maybe an event calendar on the new website is called for.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Many of the emails I get ask for advice on how to get published. There are also the ones who ask about self-publishing.
So - you've published your own book and then you need to get it stocked. There are so many avenues into bookstores and it is that bit harder if you are a self-published writer, but being a publishing company is no bed of roses either.

One of the best ways into a store (yes, through the door, I know) is by setting up events. You can sell direct to them and probably sell at a lower discount than wholesalers would demand anyway. Borders are the most receptive store in my experience, and I know they hold events for writers who have gone out there and done it themselves. It's a good start. A store may take anywhere up to 40 copies of your book on a sale or return basis - then its down to you to do your bit. Signings work well, author events work well - and by doing your bit I mean you have to be approachable and talk to shoppers about your book. People love meeting authors! And they'll enjoy chatting to you about it and will want a signed copy... KER-CHING! There's your first sale.

Set up a launch for it - get on mailing lists and entice people along. Again, audience = sales and you are on your way to making a profit.

You need to know that selling books to 'book buyers' - on a national level - is difficult. I often wonder how they justify their job title. If you start locally there's no reason why this won't work. I've had books sent in by writers who have sold a staggering amount of self-published work. One thing you need to do though is invest in a decent cover. I mean, you wouldn't go out to the local disco in shabby attire, so why dress your book and all your words in such a bad way? A good-looking cover will always help get your foot in the door.

A great philosopher, Mr N. Gallagher once said: 'You gotta make it happen'.
That's the best advice in the world.

And now I'm off to build a snowman.

PS - GET VOTING!! >>>>

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How not to...

I just had a look at Caroline's BubbleCow blog and saw that on the same day we both wrote an 'Oh, what's occurring?' post. What a co-inky-dink, eh? Reminds me of listening to the Scott Mills show after a long day, stuck in traffic, driving home from the coldness of Tonto Towers. Ah, such memories.

Anywho... it also reminded me that I haven't had a 'how not to' rant in probably a couple of days. How could this be? Well, as some of my recent posts may suggest, I've been stuck in invoice-chasing hell. So that takes up most of my working day, but it is almost all done.

Over the years, we've had one emailer in particular who would send rambling messages about ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL, yet with a vague reference to writing. As they progressed, Paul replied to a few more and she began to address them to him, but then started to call him John. When Paul left the company and I received another email to Paul/John, I had to reply and put a stop to it all. And now I miss them. After weeks of shouting down the phone at incompetent accounts people, it is nice to have a baffling email or two to mention to the cat at lunchtime.

Here's a 'how not to' for the archives - it came in a couple of weeks ago:

Two chapters from my novel are attached.

Dhamma is an early chapter; Pirates opens the second part. These chapters, and others in the book, stand on their own as short stories.

Novel is near finished. Wonder if you're interested

Needless to say - I wasn't interested.

Flattery always works:

Hello Tonto guys - I've looked on your fine website and noted with great interest that football has featured in your books in the past. I'm sure you're all Newcastle fans there but would you be willing to consider a Leeds (United) author? After all, you've taken some of our best players over the years, how about taking one of the city's best authors?
I would be chuffed to talk to you about my latest novel XXXXXXXX, which I think is my best work to date - much more detail is on hand at the website www.XXXXXXXXXX - please take a look.
I hope you're interested but if not, I wish you only the best at Tonto, it's one impressive set up you have there.

It shows that enquiry letters don't always have to be the standard ones that you find in the Yearbook.
Use a bit of humour.
Get them on board with a bit of flattering but don't overdo it.
Get to the point in a way that isn't pushy.
Don't send unsolicited material - instead, ask nicely if they'd be interested in seeing it.

Of course, the new website will have submission guidelines but I think it is essential for an indie publisher to have a 'quite' open door policy in that people should be keen to approach. And I am keen for people to approach Tonto with submissions. There have been some amazing non-fiction submissions in 2009 so far and it is all very encouraging. Even when Tonto reaches such dizzy heights that I'm lighting cigars with £50 notes, or posing in the back of stretch limos quaffing vintage champagne, I will always welcome the kind of query letters I'd send to other publishers. And remember - other publishers might not like this approach. Find out about the company first... if they are a bit quirky, then you can be. You need to do a bit of research.

It's all in the approach! The manuscript could be the best in the world but it won't get read unless you get your query letter right. And get your synopsis right.

Oh, and GET VOTING! It's neck and neck between Make It Back and 9987 in the poll.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It always happens...

From the recent newsletter:

And before you ask... submission windows for fiction are still under
review. Tonto simply can't publish fiction all the time, but is
planning to so something fictiony this year. It will be made clear
when that will be with plenty of notice.

It seemsed easy enough. Indie publisher, interested in supporting new fiction, can't always do it because new fiction is almost impossible to sell to 'book buyers', but likes to try anyway.

And then my inbox is full of 'When are you looking for submissions?' enquiries. Grrrrr. I've stopped replying to them in case I can't read the comedy tones in them and in turn sound like I'm going mad.

The simple answer: How long is a piece of string? Or to put it another way 'When will Borders/HMV and several other smaller chains pay their invoices?'

I'm just waiting for the poetry enquiries to come in...

Don't, I'm joking. Really. Don't. Vote for fiction over there instead >

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Sarah Shaw will be at Borders Team Valley today from 12pm to sign copies of MAKE IT BACK.

Nik Jones will be there tomorrow to sign copies of 9987.

Both novels are Tontotally brilliant and are selling splendidly. Remember, you can buy these and Everything You Ever Wanted by Roz Wyllie (all temp out of stock on amazon) on the Tonto website - as well as every other book Tonto has published.

And while stock lasts: Signed copies of Sin Cities and Paralympian are still available.

VOTE VOTE VOTE for your fave current fiction title over there on the right. Why? Well, it will be available for free in electronic format next month AND the winner will also be available for HALF PRICE!!!
That's why.

More exclusive Tonto news tomorrow, if you can wait...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


In a similar posting to yesterday - Everything You Ever Wanted has been selling extremely well on Amazon recently and is temporarily out of stock. A new order will be going out this week and normal service will resume by next week.

Don't forget you can order direct from the Tonto website if you can't wait that long. Or vote for it over there on the right for your free PDF version and chance to buy it half price next month!!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


For all those who have emailed about Make It Back and 9987 not being in stock on Amazon.

This is just a temporary out-of-stockness... and down to huge demand for both novels. It looks like everyone was taken by surprise and initial stock orders were not sufficient to fulfil those placed by Amazon buyers.

Fear not - they will be back in stock this week. Thanks for your patience and thanks even more for your support on these two titles.

If you can't wait - you can order direct from www.tontobooks.com.

Today I will mostly be...

Sorting boxes of paperwork
Sorting piles of paperwork
Reading through piles of paperwork
Chasing unpaid invoices
Resending unpaid invoices
Chasing bookbuyers (not literally, but I'm sure the day will soon come)
Reorganising furniture
Putting shelves up
Arranging phone connections...

Oh what fun it is to set up a new office and have to be phoning and emailing people about issues you phoned and emailed before Christmas but they didn't action and now have no memory of said issues.

Still, it's not all bad. Tonto will have some more rights acquisitions to shout about in the next few weeks, all being well.

The soundtrack to all this:

Return of the Iron Monkey by Trio Valore - it helps to move quicker when yer diggin the jazz.

Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes - it helps to move slower when it's time to relax.

I've got a meeting with top events blokey, Simon at Borders Team Valley tomorrow to sort out some exclusive Tonto events in the coming weeks... watch this space.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oh, what's occuring?

What a week for Tonto Books!
With one of Tonto's best weeks for media attention to date, here's a round-up of what's been going on:

Sunday/Monday/Tuesday: Raymond Scott featured on Look North and in local and national press the following day.

The Telegraph feature.

Sunday Sun feature.

(also hoping for s Sunday Sun feature on Raymond tomorrow)

Thursday was launch night for Nik and Sarah's novels. We enjoyed a brilliant night of readings and prize giveaways.

Friday: The Crack magazine name 9987 as book for the month.

Friday: Tonto's latest signing, Charlie Walduck, is featured in the current edition of industry mag, The Bookseller.

Not bad at all.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Last night was the launch of 9987 and Make It Back at the Opera Bar, Newcastle.
The turnout was fantastic, the atmosphere was amazing. Of course, my photos from the night are so dark and don't do the event justice, so if anyone has any to pass on, please do so.
Caroline Smailes passed on a message to be read out for Nik on the night as she was unable to attend, the readings went down a storm and another point from the night to bring up... 9987 is not based on Nik's life whatsoever. I'm sure that will soon become his catchphrase - and one he can put into practise this Sunday at Borders Silverlink when he will hold his debut signing session! Nik will be there from 12-4pm to sign books and answer any questions about the book (and DVD rentals?).

9987 is also BOOK OF THE MONTH in The Crack magazine this month. No money was needed to get such a review - all that was needed was a brilliant debut novel, and luckily it is.

Remember you can vote in Tonto's March giveaway:
To celebrate the end of Tonto’s 'New Discoveries in Fiction' initiative, readers are able to vote for the title they'd like to see given away for free on 2 March - just in time to arrive in your inbox for World Book Day. PDF excerpts of each book can be obtained by emailing contact@tontobooks.com with the title of the book in the subject line. Voting is via the blog over there on the right...
Whichever title receives the most votes will be made free throughout March 2008 in PDF format and the paperback version of the winning title will also be half-price throughout March.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Media

More material on the Raymond Scott case. This was on Look North tonight. Not sure how to edit down, but the news item is just under 12 mins into the programme.

More updates as they come in...


Raymond Scott made an appearance at Durham police station today with regards to the on-going saga of the Shakespeare Folio. Armed with a vintage bottle of Champers, Cuban cigar, trademark Tiffany sunglasses and erm... a Pot Noodle, Raymond was mobbed by press, photographers and TV crews as he stepped out of his low-key 16-seater Hummer.

Media interest in Raymond has been worldwide. He signed recently to Tonto Books and is in the process of writing a book about the his mysterious life and the curious case of the 'missing' folio. Look out for Raymond (and his publisher) on the news over the next few days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some interesting links

After yesterday's long posting, I thought I'd send some links while I catch up on work.

Being Normal: The Movie

Facebook, eh? That'll never catch on. As you may know, I'm a Paul Weller fan. And for all Weller fans in Newcastle, part of his group will be playing at The End Bar on Wed 18 March. Trio Valore are Whitey, Damon and Seamus. Small venue, brilliant band.

Keep up to date with what's going on in publishing at The Bookseller website.

Bubble Cow - helping writers to write is a blog well worth following.

Always one to give a mate a mention - check out the Lego Trailer for Doomsday. Amazing attention to detail. And watch it in comparison the the real time trailer.

And if I carry on with this post, I really won't get any work done today. As if you need reminding, get along to the 9987 / Make It Back launch on Thursday 29 Jan. Opera Bar in the Gate, Newcastle, 7pm.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tonto Facts and Fiction

As you know from Newsletters and updates, Tonto Books initiated new fiction err... initiative in 2008 which will culminate more or less on Thursday this week when the two New Novelists competition winners are launched.

It doesn't just stop there. Tonto was supported by Arts Council England through Lottery Funding, and love or hate ACE, their support enabled us to do a lot for writing in the north east. Not only have those writers been published, but they were mentored through to publication, have been promoted and will always be promoted as long as their books are in print. Rosalind Wyllie and Stephen Shieber have had almost as much press as Victoria Beckham would if she ever entered a pie-eating competition (OK, slight exaggeration) and now Nik Jones and Sarah Shaw are about to launch their books with signing sessions being pencilled in by the day.

This isn't an own trumpet-blowing rant by any stretch. From my point of view, it is important for publishers to support and nurture their writers and offer them the best deal possible. Of course it doesn't always happen like that. Tonto can offer that because it is an independent and often needs to diversify and rethink strategies in order to survive.

Tonto Books is keen to keep running such projects for writers, but it is not always possible. The company is not regularly funded - it is a business that seeks commercial titles, just like any other publisher, to generate an income. In that respect, any titles commissioned are very select. Budgets are limited, credit is crunched and so on. We've always been sent unsolicited manuscripts - that's the nature of publishing. Even when we said our submission window is closed, the same day we'd get emails saying 'I know your window is closed, but I thought I'd send you my manuscript'.

So... the plans are to still support fiction. As the website goes into redesign, details will emerge as to the direction of this. It may be new anthologies, it may be a new novelist comp, it may just be a window for novels. To keep up to date with Tonto News - please sign up to the newsletter on the website, visit the Facebook page and keep reading the blog. To find out what Tonto publishes, come along to the launch on Thursday 29 January and meet some of the authors (before they get too drunk) or even purchase from the website. The sale is still on! It's Open Season! Take advantage of it before the new web wizard gets his hands on it.

Submission Windows: For the sake of giving me more material for a 'how not to approach publishers' rant, I'll leave it up to you to call it. At the moment, three new authors have been signed to Tonto and all are non-fiction. The window will open officially at some point this year. Please be patient.

*Next Tonto Signing Sessions*

Nik Jones: Borders Silverlink - Sun 1 Feb
Sarah Shaw: Borders Silverlink - Sat 14 Feb

Sarah Shaw: Borders Team Valley - Sat 7 Feb
Nik Jones: Borders Team Valley - Sun 8 Feb

All signings from 12-4pm

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where for art thou, Folio?

News in today's Sunday Sun newspaper of Tonto's latest signing, Raymond Scott. Raymond's story is a fascinating one and one that has had so much media attention in recent months. 'Shakespeare And Love' has just been signed and full details will be posted up very soon.

Also in the news is/or may be Stephen Shieber. A local newspaper photographer was at Stephen's Gosforth library event yesterday, so if any eagle-eyed readers spot Stephen in the news this week, please drop me a line. The library gig went down a storm and was a great success. I've now got some great new 'expert testimonials' to go on the cover of the reprint too!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stephen Shieber Author Event

Stephen will be reading from Being Normal today at Gosforth Library, Newcastle. The event will run for around two hours and there will be an opportunity to ask questions and to listen to Stephen talking about the process of putting his first collection together for publication.

And of course you can buy a copy of the book and have it signed by Stephen. It's worth a trip to Gosforth just for that!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I want THAT one!

To celebrate the end of Tonto's 'New Discoveries in Fiction' initiative, readers are able to vote which title they'd like to see given away for free on 2 March 2009. PDF excerpts of each book can be obtained by emailing contact@tontobooks.com with the title of the book in the subject line.

Voting is via the blog... just over there on your right. No, right a bit more... there!
Whichever title receives the most votes will be made free throughout March 2008 in PDF format. The paperback version of the winning title will also be half price during March... your vote counts... get voting!

New Tonto Signing

New Year, new signings...
It gives me great pleasure to announce that Charlie Walduck has signed up with Tonto to release his biography later in the year. Charlie's story has been an inspiration to the millions of viewers who have followed his journey on ITV1's 'This Morning' show. Charlie weighed close over 44 stones when he first appeared on the show and with the help from Dr Chris Steele, the record-breaking slimmer got that weight down to 14 stones in two years.

Charlie recently featured on Extreme Slimmers on ITV1.

Publication date is to be confirmed.

There's another Tonto Author event happening this weekend. Stephen Shieber, of Being Normal fame, will be at Gosforth Library in Newcastle on Saturday 24 January from 2pm. Stephen will be reading from his debut collection and talking about his work.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tonto Author in Cambridge Union Society Debate

So, although Ashley Hames and I visited Cambridge at the end of last year and had a monumental night out that lasted until 5am and woke up with total 'beer guilt', it seems we didn't upset as many people as we imagined.

Ashley will return to Cambridge Union Society next month to take part in a Sex Debate titled 'THIS HOUSE IS OVERWORKED AND UNDERSEXED' (yes, really)

Joining Ashley in the line up will be tabloid sensation Jodie Marsh and north east agony aunt, Denise Robertson (Tonto Link Trivia: Denise provided a testimonial for Pete Tanton's novel, Johnny Lonely)

The event:
JODIE MARSH, first evictee from the 2006 edition of "Celebrity Big Brother"
ASHLEY HAMES, author of "Adventures of a Sex Reporter"
DENISE ROBERTSON M.B.E., agony aunt for "This Morning"

Venue: Chamber

Date: Thu 12th February, 2009 at 7:30pm.

I had a sneak preview of Ashley's script yesterday and I think Cambridge is in for a treat. My main concern is the night out after the debate as I'm not so sure Hames and Marsh will be able to keep up with a Sunderland lass. I'll keep you posted on the outcome.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Two New Tonto Titles

9987 by Nik Jones and Make It Back by Sarah Shaw are officially released today.

For those that have been following these titles throughout their journey to publication, it now means that you can come along to the launch party on Thursday 29 January, Opera Bar, The Gate, Newcastle, to congratulate both writers on their achievement.

Since winning Tonto's New Novelists competition last year, Nik and Sarah were mentored by Caroline Smailes and Wendy Robertson respectively. It has been a joy to work with all writers on this project, not forgetting Rosalind Wyllie and Stephen Sheiber who were published in 2008 as part of the project.

"I've always been writing. Always. First thing I remember getting in trouble at school for was for not putting my 'writing book' away. Getting published is all I've ever wanted. I'm thrilled," said Nik Jones.

The project shows how rich the north east is in writing talent. We had hundreds of entries into the New Novelists competition and the writers I see constantly breaking into the lit scene backs this up. The north east now has four new editions to that scene... four new writers with a track record in publishing, sales, events, signings, reviews and media features.

All I need to do now is give my big Radio 1-style shout outs: Roz, Stephen, Nik and Sarah the writers, mentors Caroline, Wendy and Laura Hird, Arts Council England, Tonto Paul and Editor Jill for all direct input.

Both of these new titles can be purchased from the Tonto site or on Amazon.co.uk, as can Roz and Stephen's works.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year!

Ahhh, 2009!
I hope everyone has had a great holiday and peaceful New Year. As you'll have read on Paul's last blog, there's been a few changes going on at Tonto Towers in recent weeks. Never fear... it is business as usual. Tonto continues and will still be publishing, will still be looking for authors, will still be promoting existing authors. Paul and I will no doubt still be working together from time to time on various projects.
So really, it isn't quite like when The Jam split in 1982, or as shocking as when Whitey left the Paul Weller line up last year.

And just to keep spirits up - there's going to be a party! Not just one in fact, but two in one! On Thursday January 29, 7pm, we'll be having a double launch party for Nik Jones and Sarah Shaw with '9987' and 'Make It Back' respectively. Regular blog readers will know that Nik and Sarah were the winners of our New Novelists competition last year. Nik was mentored by Caroline Smailes and Sarah by Wendy Robertson.
The books are officially released on 19 January.

The launch will be held at the Opera Bar in The Gate, Newcastle. There will be an opportunity to meet the authors and get books signed on the night (and importantly, everyone will be able to buy Paul that farewell drink they promised).

Look forward to seeing you all there.