Tuesday, 30 March 2010


The April issue of Words with JAM is out now. Subscribers will receive their copy by email any time now. Non-subscribers only have themselves to blame for missing out.

Monday, 22 March 2010

60 Seconds with Toby Litt

Toby Litt will feature alongside Tracy Chevalier in one of our 60 Second Interviews in the next issue of Words with JAM ...

Toby published his first book, a collection of short stories entitled Adventures in Capitalism, in 1996.
He is the author of the novels: Beatniks: An English Road Movie (1997), a modern On the Road transposed to middle-England; Corpsing (2000), a thriller set in London's Soho; and Deadkidsongs (2001), a dark tale of childhood. Exhibitionism (2002), is a collection of short stories that explore the boundaries of sex and sexuality. Finding Myself (2003) is the story of what happens when budding author Victoria About gathers together ten friends for a holiday in Southwold in order to write up the ensuing events. His latest novels are Hospital (2007) and Journey into Space (2009).

In 2003 Toby was nominated by Granta magazine as one of the 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'. A new collection of short stories, I Play the Drums in a Band Called Okay, was published in 2008. He lives in London.


Friday, 19 March 2010

Fourteen Years of Mild Irritation

Pets. What’s the fucking point, eh? The dog, for example. Fourteen years of mild irritation terminated by an ephemeral burst of sorrow. I mean, come on, you could simply gouge yourself on the thigh with a steak knife every day and get the same result without having to go out walking in the rain or clean liquid faeces from the sofa. And it’d be cheaper, too. Put it this way, if they ever re-make Ring of Bright Water, I’ll be the guy with the spade for only a minimal fee.

Because look what we spend on the buggers. We spend more pampering our pets than the combined GNPs of the world’s forty poorest countries (Figures from guilttrip.com, correct at the time of going to press). Do we contribute to a charity that will provide a fresh, renewable supply of water for eighteen million fly-blown Africans, or do we pop down to Pets-R-Us for some hamster-bedding?

Again, what’s the point? Fuck it, they’re going to die in the end anyway. Pets, I mean, obviously ...

Read Perry Iles' full rant in his column Feeble Excuses, Procrastination and Displacement Activities in the next April issue of Words with JAM.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Blogs Part 2 - Ever feel like you’re talking to yourself?

OK, now you have a wonderful blog. It looks amazing. What you’ve written is groundbreaking at the very least, and you are managing to produce content of a similarly high standard at least twice a week.

But still you haven’t had “the knock”. In fact, you haven’t had a comment. Well, aside from that one your best mate Carol sent you saying “oh how lovely” because you kept telling her about it over spritzers. It’s pretty dispiriting. We’re often led to believe that having a blog is the key to success, but it isn’t. It’s the first step of what may well be a road to nowhere. “If you build it, they will come” may work for baseball pitches, but sadly it doesn’t for blogs. On the other hand, there are things you can do to get people reading. And don’t forget to keep up producing great content!

It’s time to think about the second stage of blogging ...

Read the full article by Dan Holloway in the next issue of Words with JAM. For Blogs Part 1, subscribe now and receive the last issue directly to your inbox, absolutely FREE ...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Submitting a Non-Fiction Proposal

We hear so much about what to include and how to submit novels to agents and publishers, that it’s almost a case of information overload. However, for writers of non-fiction books the information on what to include and when to submit it is much harder to find. You’d be forgiven for thinking there couldn’t be much difference between the two forms of submission, but that isn’t the case at all. If you have a non-fiction book idea, you need to forget almost everything you’ve learned to do with submitting novels and start again from scratch.

Full article by Lorraine Mace on how to submit a non-fiction proposal in the April issue of Words with JAM.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Is Your Book A Whisper Book?

Whisper books are the holy grail of the publishing industry – a book which, without any particular ‘hyping’, appears out of nowhere to become a runaway bestseller. A book which people buy and read just because someone else tells them how bloody marvellous it is.

The example everyone will quote is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Hard though it is to imagine at this remove, back in 1997, Bloomsbury had just taken a punt on an unknown writer and a manuscript eight other publishers had rejected. They presumably expected to make a respectable number of sales with it but no one imagined it would become a worldwide phenomenon. Certainly, it didn’t have any massive publicity machine behind it. But children started reading it – and they started telling other children about it. And like the perfect meme, the news spread.

Of course, the whole point about whisper books is that they are essentially random. If it were possible to predict just what combination of zeitgeist and great writing would cause this kind of reading explosion, every publisher in the business would be saving themselves a fortune in marketing. On the other hand, it can’t hurt (can it?) to maximise the chances of your book being talked about. But what can you, the author, do?

Read the full article by Catriona Troth in the next issue of Words with JAM ...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief ...

By Gillian Hamer

There’s not many people who wouldn’t know the author of Harry Potter if you asked. And most readers know the name of the author of His Dark Materials. Many of us know that Stephanie Meyer is the latest big name in young adult novels, behind the massively successful Twilight vampire series.

But how many of you have ever have heard of Rick Riordan?

Be honest. Because I hadn’t.

But once the latest teen flick hits the screens later this month, Rick Riordan is likely to become a household name, in much the same way as JK Rowling and Philip Pullman.

The Lightning Thief is the first in a five book series: Percy Jackson & the Olympians. The series takes the concept of ancient Greek mythology and places it in a modern day setting, with up to date characters, and a highly paced and often humorous style.

Percy is an action adventure hero, along the lines of Harry Potter. Like Harry, he has his share of issues - he’s accident prone, suffers from dyslexia and ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder.)

Instead of discovering he’s a wizard, Percy discovers that his real father is Poseidon, god of the sea, which means Percy is a demigod – half human, half god. At the same time, Zeus, the king of all gods, has accused Percy of stealing his lightning bolt … the original weapon of mass destruction.

Read the full article in the next issue of Words with JAM ...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

100 Stories for Haiti by Guest Blogger Greg McQueen

This might be a first! No, I am not talking about the fact we managed to get an 80,000 words book together in six week -- although, it might be! I am talking about guesting on Jane’s lovely blog, except, well, I am going to hand you over to a guest-of-the-guest.

Gill James recently blogged about her experience from a publisher’s perspective of getting to 100 Stories for Haiti from concept to print. She kindly gave me permission to share her post.


100 Stories for Haiti - a publisher's perspective

An extraordinary chain of events lead us to becoming the publishers of this rather amazing volume. Three of the four partners are also writers, two of them seriously so. And somehow, we can’t actually remember how, but no doubt as a result of the usual networking we all have to do, we learnt about Greg McQueen’s project and two of us submitted stories.

Then we followed the project. It just happened to be one of those days when I was feeling bold and cheeky. You know the sort of mood you have to be in to phone an agent or editor rather than hide meekly behind email or snailmail? I was feeling like that when I read that there was going to be a paperback edition BUT that it was only going to be sold on-line.

Ah, so no ISBN I thought. If you issue an ISBN and bother to register with Nielsen’s – well you have to really – at some point a bookseller – including our lovely friend Amazon - will want to order it.
Greg confirmed that the hard copy would have an ISBN and I found myself offering to distribute on behalf of the original publisher, also a small indie like us, and wondering what our very efficient administrator was going to say about the amount of work that might come her way.

Of course, we’re encouraging everyone to buy direct from us as more then goes to Haiti. But a presence in online book stores is welcome. There are also just a few people who would rather order through their local bookshop, and the book will still make a profit, albeit tiny.

Then on the 5 February Greg was desperately trying to get hold of me. Bridge House was at the time extremely busy – we were doing some important work for our own charity book and we were also holding our AGM.

He got us eventually The other publisher had had to pull out. Could we help? Could we heck? Of course we would. Bridge House loves a challenge.

Bridge House normally operates on a profit share with the authors. The authors get 50% of any profit. The partners and the company get the rest. We haven’t actually paid ourselves anything since we became a partnership almost exactly a year ago. We did get a free lunch once, I think. We have made a profit, but we’re leaving the money in our bank account to aid cash flow. Normally we need to sell about 150 books before we start making any profit on a particular title. However, this allows for a commissioned cover for which we pay £250 – a little under the going rate and our artists are wonderful in that they will wait until the book covers the cost before we have to pay them, though we’ll often pay them out of what is actually the company’s or partners’ but never the authors’ profit. We’ve always got it back – eventually. In the case of 100 Stories for Haiti we didn’t have to pay for a cover as Greg had a basic design and out technical designer was able to tease it and the inside of the book into shape. No one at Bridge House or in Greg’s team are taking a penny from this venture.

We didn’t have to do much editorial work at this point – probably only what I’d call third level – copy edit and design matters as well as getting the script into house style. There was probably no first level editing – reshaping of stories, strengthening of characters, restructuring, adding and subtracting scenes, changing pace and drama. The stories which had faults in those areas had probably been weeded out by Greg’s team of reader / editors before they came our way. The second level of editing - checking the flow, seeing that characters were consistent, making sure it all made sense, making sure no one had left in darlings that needed killing had all been done and the script for the whole book had been put together by Amy Burns, an independent editor. She also worked completely for free.

The script arrived with us on about the 8th of February. It was not quite as ready for the designer as scripts are when the editorial team at Bridge House pass them on but it wasn’t far off. It is our designer, Martin James, aka my husband, who did most of the work. Proof reading of the PDF was assigned to Greg’s team, though Martin also skimmed the script as he does have an eye for these things. I kept my eye on the total process, and Nicola, our administrator, set up a logical system for taking payment and making sure plenty of profit could be made for Haiti. She’s also made sure we are completely transparent and is sharing information with the Red Cross and 100storiesforhaiti.org Debz and Ollie, our two publicists, gave a light touch to the marketing – they have to devote some of their time to our other projects – though as Debz and I are also published in the book, we are making the usual Bridge House effort that all of our authors make to get our books out there. And there are a few more names on that amazing cover that are already familiar to Bridge House. They all know how to make books sell. Ollie has been great at getting the wording exactly right for our point of sale copy.

We managed to be able to load the bibliographic date up to Nielsens by the 14 February, lunch time, and later that day the camera-ready cover and script were uploaded to our printer. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Normally we have a proof copy within about four days, sometime less.

We were partly a victim of our own haste. We’ve learnt with our printer to say the book is released the day we upload it. Having just indicated 4 March as publishing date with Nielsens, we repeated it. So it took a couple of phone calls to kick start them. Then there were problems with the cover. It wouldn’t bleed correctly and they couldn’t balance the white space around the top and bottom properly. Also, we were getting unwanted white space on the lefthand side of the back cover. We’re into quantum physics and relativity now. Even though the measurements are exactly the same to fractions of a millimetre on our two dimensional PDF as on their three dimensional proof copy the cover just wouldn’t look the same. The design team at the printers had to make an adjustment.

We never phone the printers. We had to this time, and we have to take thank to Kelly Guy who nursed the whole project through and kept everybody on the ball. She must have felt as if we were constantly nagging her. I’m pleased to say the first print run is now running.

There is one great advantage of being the founder of a publishing company. The first three books I did completely on my own though always Martin designed them. Another time I’ll give you the full Bridge House story. But more especially because I’m married to the designer I get to see the proof copy. So, I now have 100 Stories for Haiti right by me on my desk as I type. It feels and looks lovely. I’ve already read up to the end of The Beautiful Game. So far so good. Damn good read apart from anything else. I’m so glad I got involved in this project.

You want to do something. But I’d be no good at digging through rubble or helping the people who no longer have a roof over their heads. There are others who can do that sort of thing better than I can. And sure, I can put my hand in my pocket and pull out a fiver. But that won’t go far. I can write and I know how to get a book out fast. That might be the best I can offer.


Thanks Gill! And, thank you, Jane!

100 Stories for Haiti is OUT NOW! Available online and in bookshops. The paperback edition costs £11.99 + P&P. You can preview part of the book here: http://www.100storiesforhaiti.org/read-an-extract/

Thank you to Greg and all the wonderful team who have worked tirelessly to get this project where it is today. You can read more about 100 Stories for Haiti in the next issue of Words with JAM.