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

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.