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

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.