Simon Gough, 1942–2018
I’m writing this newsletter to tell you that Simon Gough, our wonderful first author, passed away peacefully on 4 February.
This news fills us with sadness and I want to write primarily to express our sympathy and love to Simon’s wife, Sharon, and Simon’s family and many friends. But I’m also hoping that in this brief letter we can celebrate an extraordinary and gloriously talented man.
Simon was a big part of the inspiration and motivation for setting up Galley Beggar Press. He will always have our gratitude and thanks, both for the fantastic first novel he gave us in the form of The White Goddess: An Encounter, and for helping to set us on the road to everything that followed.
Some of you will have read The White Goddess, and – through it – know something about Simon and his life. For those who haven’t, the book is a (magnificent) semi-autobiographical account of the two summers Simon spent with his grand-uncle, the poet and writer (and twentieth-century titan) Robert Graves, on his island home of Deya, Majorca.
The White Goddess is seductive; it’s a book that’s impossible to pick up without feeling the rays of sun on your face, feeling part of the giddy chaos of a bohemian home, or respectively seduced and horrified by beatnik parties, misbehaviour, glamorous visitors, the grim realities of Franco’s Madrid…
We will always love it – and the energy and explosive joy of the writing, beyond everything, reflect the man we knew in Simon himself. This book, which he spent years perfecting, is a fine testament to his dedication and talent.
When we first met Simon, in 2011, he had been working on this project – first a television script, latterly a novel – for the past twenty-five years. He always said he was writing against death (and the 'sentence’ that had been handed to him after he had been diagnosed with lymphoma). It’s maybe for that reason this book is so bursting with defiance and life. Life that has touched and impressed many readers over the years. I’ll post a few links to the warm and enthusiastic reviews that the book received when it first came out at the end of this letter. But the most important thing is that it's moved a great many readers and brought many people real pleasure since it was first published in 2012. We too were among those readers. It’s a fine book, written by a unique man.
We will always be proud to have worked with Simon, and glad to have known him. He was unforgettable.
Ave atque vale, old friend.
More about Simon
- The first chapter of The White Goddess; An Encounter.
- The White Goddess in our store.
- An early interview we ran with Simon about the book and editorial. He didn’t exactly enjoy being edited - but he did what it took. (Here’s some rough and ready video I took of editorial in action. Heady days.)
- Here you can read more of Simon’s fascinating biography.
- An interview with Simon in The Guardian: “I didn’t just bury the past. I buried it alive."
- The wonderful first Observer review of Simon's novel.
- Another fine review by Max Cairnduff.
- And one in The Independent, by no less than Jonathan Gibbs.
- Listen to Simon's lovely voice on The Guardian Books podcast.
Hello! I hope 2018 is going well. For you personally, I mean. Let’s not talk about the world. That would take up the whole newsletter and be written in green ink with CAPS LOCK ON and swearing. But still! There are also good things. There are children and dogs and snowdrops and soon there will be bluebells too, here in the UK. Also, there is art. We’re lucky enough to be bringing some mighty good examples of that into the world.
And so, this letter is mainly here to tell you more about Toby Litt’s Wrestliana and Alex Pheby’s Lucia - as well as let you know they're now available in the Galley Beggar online store.
First, a quick recap on our selling system for our new subscribers: As well as our very lovely and readily available paperback editions of our titles, we also print a special limited edition of each work. There are just 500 of these, and they are only available direct from our website. (Although, I should clarify: actually only 250 of each title are for online sale. The other 250 are already reserved for Galley Buddies, as well as some clever rare book dealers who know a good thing when they see it…)
Anyway: After that, that’s it. Once they’re gone, they’re gone… Or at least, hopefully, preserved lovingly by their proud owners for the long wrestle with time. The hope for these books is, always, that they will become valuable items. In the present tense, they also matter hugely to us and help us to invest in our writers. They’re an incredibly important boost to our bottom line (and keeping all those scary graphs out of the red). Which, in turn, allows us to produce more books and keep on trucking.
Anyway, that’s enough of the selling. Now for the good bit. The actual contents of the books.
WRESTLIANA, by Toby Litt
Last year, we successfully started a non-fiction list with Megan Dunn’s fantastic Tinderbox (Just a quick aside: thank you so much for the warm and enthusiastic correspondence about this book. It’s been joyful.) Our second title is Toby Litt’s Wrestliana – and we feel we’ve again got something special for you.
Instead of waxing lyrical about Toby’s past books myself, let me tell you what Muriel Spark said. (That’s right! Muriel Spark!) She called him an “absolutely fabulous writer”. She also said how versatile he is and that “he does something different every time.” Which sounds right. Because Wrestliana certainly is different.
Wrestliana is Toby’s memoir. In it, he also investigates the life of one of his ancestors, William Litt. William was a novelist, published poet, contemporary (but not exactly friend) of William Wordsworth… And a Cumbrian wrestling champion.
As well as telling the story of this extraordinary man, Toby uses William as a lens through which to take a look at modern-day gender, masculinity, what it’s like to be a writer, to be a father, to be a human being…. Wrestliana is a book about life, about dreams and broken dreams, struggling and succeeding sometimes, but not always.. It’s sad. It’s funny. It’s moving.
Lucia, by Alex Pheby
Long-time subscribers to this newsletter may remember a certain amount adjectival effusiveness about Alex Pheby’s previous book Playthings. I loved that novel so much I found it hard to explain what it was about without references to bombs going off inside your mind and the almost physical impact of reading it. Happily those enthusiastic words were widely echoed out in the real world and critical community… (Who – even if they didn’t go into quite such graphic detail about how the book was going to blow everyone’s goddam lid off – did, nevertheless, pretty much roundly proclaim it as a masterpiece. Damn. Right.)
Now, the temptation is to go into the same kind of raptures about Lucia. And then some more. Because if Playthings took a baseball bat to your head and then scalped you for good measure, Lucia is like being repeatedly thumped in the stomach while someone opens a hole in your skull, pours in dirty old diesel fuel, stirs it up with an ice-cream scoop, throws in a burning match and starts screaming: “HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR NEW BRAIN NOW, FUCKER, HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?”
But that doesn’t really do the book justice. Because while this novel is one of the most intense and vivid and physically wrenching things you will ever read, it is also one of the saddest and most delicate and most tender. It is beautiful as well as gut-shredding. And it is an act of sympathy more than anything else. Here’s a bit of our back-cover copy:
An attempt has been made to erase Lucia Joyce from the pages of history. We know she was the daughter of the famous writer. She was the lover of Samuel Beckett. She was a gifted dancer. From her late twenties she was treated for suspected schizophrenia – and repeatedly hospitalised. She spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum.
And, after her death, her voice was silenced. Her letters were burned. Correspondence concerning her disappeared from the Joyce archive. Her story has been shrouded in mystery, the tomb door slammed behind her.
Lucia evokes the things that may have been done to Lucia Joyce. It presents these stories in vivid and heart-breaking detail; it also questions what it means to recreate a life. It is not an attempt to speak for Lucia. It is an act of empathy and contrition that constantly questions what it means to speak for other people.
It is exceptional. It made me cry.
You have to get your hands on this novel. It matters to our common humanity.
Read the first chapter here and pre-order the limited edition here.
Okay! We better end there. But please do read and enjoy both of these authors. We’re very proud of them.
And – oh yes! Two last things. Talking of pride, we’re happy to say that two other Galley Beggar authors are fulfilling our dream to be citizens of the world over the next couple of weeks. They have two events coming up.
The first is Preti Taneja, who continues to conquer the globe with her mind-blowing We that are young, and will be appearing at the Jaipur Literary Festival on the 29 January. It’s a free event (all of Jaipur Festival is free to attend; how great is that?) and if you’re there, please head to Preti’s tent and give her a cheer. She’s doing amazingly well in India. She’s taken the literary world by storm. And that is another testament to just how careful she has been with every aspect of the book, the pains she took to get all the details working, and how vivid and real and right it all feels.
Second, on the 7 February Megan Dunn is going to be having a second Tinderbox launch party in her home city of Wellington, New Zealand. It’s at the City Gallery and all Wellngtonian bookworms should really make a beeline for the evening: Megan’s a terrific reader, and not to be missed. Go see her!
More soon - on the 5th February, when we'll be celebrating several more extremely talented writers and making our Short Story Prize shortlist announcement.
Until then, and fondly,
Are you hanging in there? How are you enjoying our age of unreason?
I’m also sorry to send you an email on Black Friday. If you’re anything like me, your inbox is overflowing with mirthlessly cheerful messages from earth-trashing corporations desperate to grasp as much of your hard-earned cash as they can. And I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit this letter doesn’t have some of the same aims...
But hey! I hope we’re also flying a flag for art and culture, the human soul and the good-old-Norwich-based metropolitan elite. Our fellow world citizens have done some good work this year. Apparently, small press sales are booming. So well done to all our friends who are putting out such fine work. We’re proud to be among you. And if we’re also jealous it’s mainly in a healthy, admiring sort of way. Mainly.
I’m also happy to say it’s been a good year for Galley Beggar Press and our beloved authors. Since the last newsletter, we’ve managed to put out two more books that are filling us with pride and satisfaction.
Gonzalo C. Garcia's We Are The End is now in the world and, just like us, readers are finding it moving and funny and sad and smart.
And what’s this? Uh-huh. Oh yeah! It's just been named a book of the year in The Evening Standard:
Megan Dunn’s Tinderbox has also just arrived. She joined us from New Zealand at a joint launch party with Gonzalo last week.
Thank you to everyone who came to that. We had a blast and it was great to see so many people celebrating these fantastic writers. And Megan gave a fine first reading from Tinderbox – a book which is gloriously unlike anything else. I joked with Megan that there’s never been anything quite like it, and after 2,500 years of Western Civilisation that’s got to count for something... But while I wasn’t being entirely serious, maybe I also was. Because I defy you to find something like Tinderbox anywhere else on the shelves. Our first non-fiction title is the story of someone trying to write a fan tribute to Fahrenheit 451 in a month, combined with reflections of the closure of Borders stores in the UK, combined with... Well, you get the picture. Amazingly, all this cleverly inter-woven narrative takes up only 150 pages and contains EVERYTHING. It’s a book about struggling to write and to be, about working in shops when shops stop working properly, about the long slow slide of Capitalism and the discontent that brings, about dystopia, about censorship, about art and damn me it all happens in 150 pages - with jokes! It’s hilarious and brilliant and you have to read it. It feels fantastic to be bringing out something so unusual - and yet so important.
I have to admit that publication of this one has also brought a few surprises. I'm feeling slightly older at the moment, because the printers have now sent our limited editions to us twice… without end papers. What this means is that while the paperbacks are in the shops, the limited version is currently on the production line for a world record third reprint and oh boy. Here’s hoping. … The good news is that when they do arrive on Monday, they will be utterly lovely – and also reach subscribers well in time for Christmas. What a treat you’re in for, anyway! Slim, elegant and full of wonderful words... Tinderbox is worth the wait. (Even if you could have used the stress emanating from Galley Beggar Towers last week to power whole rail networks.)
We have more of those limited editions available in the store and you’ll make us very happy if you buy one.
Meanwhile, Preti Taneja goes from strength to strength. We particularly enjoyed this mention from Daniel Swift in the Spectator’s books of the year:
"Taneja’s novel is big, beautiful, and most of all bold... A masterpiece, and by a long way my book of the year".
And here’s a fine interview in Scroll.in (Our favourite sentence? "I write in a fury against gender violence, the rise of right wing nationalism, and a toxic masculinity not limited to India...")
Being a publisher can make you feel very proud.
This is a pretty cracking review in the Deccan Chronicle too.
If you’re in Cambridge this weekend, you can also come and see Preti talking at the Cambridge Literary Festival.
Okay, I’m going to try to write again before Christmas – and I’ll use that to tell you about next year’s books, which are shaping up to be pretty darn superb. (We’re starting with Toby Litt’s Wrestliana – I can’t wait to get that into readers’ hands.)
In the meantime, our other big announcement is that the Galley Beggar School is go. And we’re excited! This is our big attempt to share some of the knowledge we’ve gained working in the industry as authors and journalists as well as publishers – and do more of the thing we love most: working with writers. (And also to provide funding for future print runs and cushioning from the continuing nightmare of Brexit.)
Full information, prices and all of the important details are on our website, but, in brief, starting from early next year we’ll be providing:
(1) Editorial surgeries, which are 30-minute, one-to-one sessions where writers can access advice from professional editors (i.e., us - and have some of their work read in advance of the meeting).
(2) A six-month class, Critical Reading, Critical Writing. This is a course both for writers and readers. It is for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of novels and how they work. It looks into the techniques of novel writing, the tricks of the author's trade and the decisions and work that go into making a good book. We'll be tearing into six classic novels, and trying to really see how and why they work so well...
(3) And finally, mentorships. There are just four of these available – where we’ll be working on a one-to-one basis with a writer on a work-in-progress, for a six-month period.
Okay. Short snippets like these don’t really do service to what we’re hoping to offer or just how enthused we feel about the possibilities of the school – but I know this is newsletter is getting longer than ever… So again, click on those links for further information or head to our home page, where you’ll find a new 'School’ banner.
We’re hoping that we’ll see some of you at a surgery or a class. Alternatively, we’re thinking that this could be the kind of Christmas present that can change a loved-one’s life for the better. And at the very least something that will provide an interesting and enlightening experience for anyone who cares about literature. So if you’re interested, please drop us a line.
Right. The final piece of news, of course, is that Jeff Bezos and Amazon have bought the rights to a Lord Of The Rings TV adaptation. I’d like to make some notes about that master of shadows getting his hands on the One Ring and making us all his slaves in Mordor, but I know I can’t type any faster than you're thinking of the necessary jokes. I also don’t want you to start dwelling about our friend Jeff, naked and scaly, green-tinged, slimy about the eyes, crouching and smirking, gripping a Kindle in his wrecked talon and shouting: “Mine! My precious! We wants it!” Just because a metaphor writes itself, it doesn’t mean you have to go there. Not always, anyway...
PS. If you’re looking for a Christmas gift, please also consider my book Enemies Of The People, which explains a lot about Brexit and Trump and the fantasy economic system that has taken over our world. You might also like Literary London, which Elly and I wrote last year and contains some of our love for books and the people who wrote them.
Oh and don't forget that Galley Beggar Subscriptions make a fine present. And help us keep on trucking.
Finally, I’ve been enjoying the new Jim White album, and our daughter rightly recommends Taylor Swift (just admit she's kind of a genius, and your life will be better). I'm also listening to the new Bicep album too and filling up with nostalgia. The further away the 1990s get, the better they seem.
PPS Just got this far and realised we haven’t run any Black Friday reductions. Er... In your face global capitalism? (We’ll try to put together some bargains in the New Year instead.)
I know! I know! It's ridiculously brave of us to put out a newsletter in the week when Gwyneth Paltrow's new Goop shop has opened. Why would you want to buy world changing literature when you could be buying $30 cannisters of gem-infused aromatherapy vampire repellent?
And talking of repellent spray, I'm also aware that as this letter goes out, over in Florence, the UK Prime Minister will be gassing through her latest vision for destroying the UK economy and alienating us from our friends and neighbours... So I may not have caught you in the best of moods.
But! Hey! Look at this:
Yes! It's Offred from The Handmaid's Tale. In full crocheted splendour. Katie Clammer - the writer Jim Clammer's multi-talented wife - turned up to our launch party for We that are young last month bearing Offred as a gift for Elly. She now has pride of place on our mantelpiece, and Katie is taking orders. So if you want one for yourself, the best person to get hold of is Jim himself, over on Twitter (@jamesclammer). Everyone needs an Offred - not least as a reminder of the sort of shit that can go down, especially in a time when women are up against people like this:
And nappy-changing-refusnik MPs like this:
(That's Jacob Rees-Mogg, in case you were wondering.)
Okay. To business! Firstly, a huge thank you everyone who entered our short story prize. We've gathered together submissions - and have now settled down for a long autumn of reading. And of course we can't say much else, at this stage - but rest assured: It's shaping up to be another very fine year.
We're also busily reading the submissions that came in when we opened our window back in July. And we'll be opening that one again in November, so watch this space.
In the meantime, our writers are bringing us a lot of happiness. Preti Taneja has been getting so many well-deserved endorsements recently that it's impossible to list them all. But let's try for some. The Sunday Times said We that are young is: "Revelatory... Urgent and irresistible... One of the most exquisite and original novels of the year". Yes, that's right. And then the Guardian called it "a brilliant page turner that is also unabashedly political". And the Irish Times chipped in with "a remarkable portrait of modern India" and the New Statesman with "sharp, cogent, and evocative". The TLS and Literary Review coverage are on their way (fingers crossed for good ones!) and - as if this isn't enough - while we wait, we've had other writers and publishers come along with yet more praise. The wonderful Maureen Freely - translator of Orhan Pamuk and all round force-for-good - has called We that are young "enthralling, brave, and very important"; the poet Rishi Dastidar proclaimed it "an instant classic"; film director Vishal Bhardwaj thinks it "a poetic tour de force"; and John Mitchinson, on the Backlisted Podcast, has just called it "the best Indian novel... since A Suitable Boy."
Anyway! We still have a few limited edition copies left - but not many. We've set the counter in our webstore - and once they're gone, that's it. Hopefully they will be a very sound investment, as well as a beautifully thick slab of reading joy.
(And we also have our beautiful orange editions in store. As do all good bookshops. Here's a pleasing image from our local Norwich Waterstones:)
The support people are showing this book is wonderful. We've always thought it was important - but to see Preti getting some of the success she deserves is as satisfying as job satisfaction gets.
Okay! This is going to be a long letter. I feel like we might even need a contents system, just in case you want to have a black mark cast on your soul and throw your moral future into a dark bubbling hell pit and to not read every. single. god. damn. word. Let's move into the first person plural too. Because Elly wrote a lot of this letter and needs some credit. And also because there's a bit about me (henceforth: Sam). That bit would be too weird in the first person singular.
So! Here's what's down below: We're going to tell you what we have coming up over the next two months, namely - Gonzalo C. Garcia, with his debut novel We Are The End, and Megan Dunn, the first instalment of our brand new non-fiction list, with her Ray Bradbury-infused Tinderbox. We going to ask for your advice about a Kickstarter campaign we want to run and about finding a sponsor for the short story prize - so that it can continue to flourish and also (most important) offer even more for new writers. And finally we want to talk to you about a new project we're planning, which involves a Galley Beggar School and a small selection of writing courses - launching next spring, if all goes well.
Megan and Gonzalo.
Okay, so I'm going to keep my powder-dry when it comes to talking over how much we love the two books we've got coming out in the Autumn for now. I know I probably bust through my annual adjective allowance some time in the spring, anyway. But even so. Look out for the next newsletter for a full discussion of their GLORIES. But! I do want to alert you to the fact that they are on the way. They are wonderful. And we're going to be celebrating their launch - probably on November 8th, in the middle of London and you're welcome to come. More information on the way soon. Look out!
If you want to find out more about them in the meantime:
And here's Megan.
(Oh and we're very pleased to say that Gonzalo will be appearing alongside by Pajtim Statovici and Anneliese Mackintosh at Gower Street Waterstones at one of their very special debut author showcases on 19th October.
And here's an interview with Gonzalo too. Oh, Switzerland!)
Now on to the money stuff. Namely: Running a small press can be challenging. As you already know. And we know you know because we never shut up about it. We love running a small press more than we love to moan about it. We truly do. But, yes, we do also moan. There's also no getting around the fact that, as chain store discounting continues to climb and the returns system - or at least the misuse of it by some corporations - runs amok, there's never a time when finances aren't tight. And this has only been exacerbated post-Brexit, with a weakened pound and spiralling print costs. Let us give you an example. When we first started out, in 2012, our 1000-run of Simon Gough's White Goddess (which was 612 pages long! ...) came in an £1.40 a unit. Now, and especially over the last 18 months, we are routinely faced with quotes of £3.00 a unit and up. When you factor in discounts of 50-60% and more for the bigger stores (not you, indy booksellers, we love you! ... But yes, you, Amazon, you ravening bringers-of-night), a returns system that can sometimes send back 70% of orders, and so on - then we're faced with the stark reality that for every book we sell on Amazon or in other large outlets, we very often make a loss. That's right. It can cost money to get books into shops. Many stores are wonderfully supportive - and we'd be nowhere without Waterstones. But. Something has gone wrong, clearly. The most important thing is changing the culture around discounts and returns and selling books at a fair price so everyone benefits...
... But that also involves bringing down the insane Milton Friedman inspired economic consensus that is rapidly destroying our world. Ending all that would be good. But also quite complicated.
Anyway, until we rejoin the EU and stop selfish rich old men forcing their "discipline of the free markets" bullshit on us, we need to be able to fund ourselves and our writers in other ways. This essentially means building up our subscription scheme and increasing our direct orders. And rather than sending out SOS messages every other month, when the well drains dry - we're instead going to try our hand at a yearly Kickstarter campaign. We're hoping to do this in spring 2018 - but as we've never tried our hand at this before, we're appealing for advice. Firstly, we want to know what rewards might make it really worth your while to fund the Kickstarter. We want this to be a two way thing and bring real benefits to our readers as well as our writers. Secondly, we're also hoping to have a helping hand from a film-maker - one who can be paid either in instalments, in a life-long honorary subscription to Galley Beggar, or some sort of work-in-kind that we can offer. So that's it! (Although hey! If you're reading this, aren't a film-maker or a Kickstarter aficionado but want to help - then you could always just go ahead and order some of our super books now, or become a Galley Buddy by clicking here.)
Erm, if any businesses or beautifully kind rich people want to sponsor our short story prize next year - we'd be mighty glad. We're hoping to use the money to increase the prize value - and so it will go direct into the hands of writers. (Rather than a holiday in Barbados for us. But hey! If anyone wants to sponsor that too, we probably wouldn't say no.)
Galley Beggar School.
Phew! Are we finished yet? Not quite. One more thing. In late spring next year, we're going to be launching a modest series of classes (a good proportion of the profit from which will go towards those costs we've been talking about). The first is based on a very popular critical reading class that Sam devised and has been teaching on university creative writing courses for a number of years. In each lesson, he takes a piece of writing he admires - say, Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea - and pulls it apart from an editorial perspective. The idea is that you get a great insight into to some enjoyable and important novels. And also into the creative processes behind them. This in turn helps your own writing. If you want to hear Sam bang on about the importance of thinking about tenses properly, this is a golden opportunity. It's also a chance to speak to like-minded people in detail about books that matter. About art and literature and how it works. And how it doesn't work. And how sometimes the people writing books are just weaving crazy magic and all we can do is look on in amazement...
Anyway! We tell you this because we're excited but also - most important - because we think a number of people reading this will be writers and have taken some sort of course. We're hoping to tap into that experience: Please do get in touch; tell us about anything you've especially enjoyed, or a course that you always wanted to attend but hasn't been on offer. Because we want to make sure that we're providing the sort of things that are genuinely useful to writers and readers.
And that's it. I've written so much that I'm almost too tired to think about Jeff Bezos and the ongoing revelations about the way Amazon is destroying our world by failing to pay a fair share of taxes... Besides, when I start to get angry nowadays an image of the stilton-brained man-sized bollock Nigel Farage always floats into my head - like a stupider and fartier version of Bob in episode 17 of Twin Peaks, Season Three. And what I would give for a magic gardening glove that can smash him back to the 19th century... This is getting quite niche-Lynch, isn't it? But oh boy! At least I've got back to art, and better thoughts. That series of Twin Peaks may well have been the best thing that ever happened to TV. So! Joy! There are good things happening in the world. There are people who can make it all more interesting. One of the delights of being a publisher is that you get to meet some of them. And to send them newsletters. That's better. I've got more love than The Beatles now. And mainly it's for you. Awwww...
Sam (and Elly too.)
PS Back to first person singular! Just in time for a massive ego-rush. Here I am flapping my mouth in Shakespeare & Company. On camera! I still can't quite believe that this happened. But I sure am glad that it did.
PPS Thanks to Essi Viding for the photo of the Tory. We love you Essi!
Howdy! I thought I’d better send a quick newsletter because – oh my golly, the time has come. For the first time in a long time, we’re opening general submissions for the last two weeks of July, from 15th July onwards.
This wasn’t an entirely easy decision to reach. We still have a frightening backlog of manuscripts. And we remain profusely apologetic to all those people still waiting on us. But we also want to keep ourselves open to surprises and the wider world – and to gather in submissions before the summer, when we’ll hopefully be able to get down to more reading.
Our submission guidelines are on the website. Briefly, we hope that people who submit to us will have read some of our other authors – because we want you to understand where we’re coming from and where we might be heading.
I also want to give a few words of encouragement. Submitting a book takes guts. I know it can feel like cutting your own heart out and serving it up so other people can poke around in the red, bleeding, somehow-still-beating flesh. I’m acutely aware of how dispiriting it can be when this act of emotional exposure is met with either a negative answer or silence. So I want to be clear on a few things. We admire anyone who has finished a novel, let alone been brave enough to send it to us. Just because we might say ‘no’ (or nothing) this time, it doesn’t mean we won’t say ‘yes’ another time. Just because we might feel your book doesn’t fit on our list, it doesn’t mean it might not fit somewhere else. Just because we’ve said ‘no’ – it also doesn’t mean we might not have regrets later. (In the past we’ve missed some damn good books. It happens. You can’t always understand what you’ve got in front of you when a manuscript comes in.)
All of which is a convoluted way of saying that you’ve really got nothing to lose by sending in your work, if you think it fits with what we do. And potentially, lots to gain. Even if it’s quite a long shot...
It’s also a way of saying: don’t give up.
I wish luck to everyone who submits. People who write are the people who make our world work. And! Talking of brave and fine writers, our short story prize is two months in and going great guns. I’m happy to say that we have now been able to give away 60 free entries, out of the 70 we have at the moment. I’m also happy to say that regular entries are ticking over nicely too – and it’s those entries that make it possible to also give a chance to writers who might not be enjoying the best financial circumstances. Touchingly, many writers have even donated an extra submission fee for someone else, while submitting their own – which is part of the reason we’ve now been able to set aside 70 free entries instead of the 50 with which we started out.
People can be wonderful.
There’s still plenty of time to get your entry in – just follow this link. And if you want to help other writers who don’t have the financial means, we’ve got a ‘donate’ button up and running on the site again. Speaking more generally, donations make a huge difference to us – and, more importantly, to our ability to keep putting out superb books.
On that latter subject, We that are young is weeks away from publication. The final adjustments to the galleys are being made as we speak – after that, it will be rolling off to the printers, to make into our two beautiful editions.
Here’s a scene from the engine room:
Remember, you can only buy the limited editions from us, and a very few other bookshops. These editions are a crucial part of our business. Partly because they are beautiful. Partly because direct sales are a key part of our funding. Partly because, black covers are so damn cool it hurts.
In the next newsletter, I’ll be hoping to bring you some of the reviews of We that are young. I don’t want to jinx anything by saying too much now. But we’re excited. (In truth, we’ve been excited about this book since we read the first page of the first draft and the hairs on the back of our necks started standing up... But now we're excited with the promise of... no, no... can’t jinx it.)
In the next newsletter we’ll also probably be getting equally excited about We Are The End. We’re just about to get the proofs of that made and god we love it. (It’s the best book about computer games I’ve ever read, among other things...)
And oh boy. We've got Megan Dunn’s astonishing Tinderbox to tell you about soon too. And Toby Litt’s Wrestliana! Part of me feels quite apologetic that all I do is bang on about how good these books are. But then I look at the words and how else to describe them?
But hey! If you don’t believe me, we've got a mighty fine new feature on our website where you can read our opening chapters. Just click on a title and take a look at each individual book.
Okay. This short newsletter update has turned out to be very long, hasn't it? Just a few more reminders. If you’re lucky enough to be going to the Edinburgh Book Festival in late August please come and see some of our wonderful authors in action.
- On 21 August Preti Taneja is going to be talking to Ron Butlin about excess.
- On 23 August Paul Stanbridge is going to be talking to Carlos Fonseca about Fiction On The Frontiers Of Science.
- Also on 23 August Gonzalo C. Garcia is going to be talking to Dorthe Nors about being single and lonely.
Also, by god, I’ll be talking about Enemies Of The People on the 27th July in the centre of our literary universe, Shakespeare & Co. Just to make me happier still, I’ll be talking to Adam Biles, the glorious author of the glorious Feeding Time. Hopefully we’ll also be able to talk about his wonderful book and editorial, so there should be a few good insights into getting fine work done... As well as a great big call to resist the evils that have been thrust upon us. If you want to join us in this great cultural omphalos, tickets are available here.
Almost finally, some even more egregious self-publicity. My lovely editor who commissioned Enemies Of The People just sent me a cheering email to say it’s selling pretty healthily. Also, that if it gets to a reprint, I might be able to update the chapter about Jeremy Corbyn in the light of his success at the general election. So I’ll be talking about how good it is that young people turned out to vote. And how bad it is that our gnome-faced potential-saviour still seems to be propping up Brexit. Anyway, that’s if I’m lucky enough get to revisit things. Meanwhile, if you want to see if you think I got him wrong I got him first time around, please order a copy as soon as you can… And of course, there are all the other people in the book. Their entries, alas, remain bang up to date and bang on the money. The money they’ve all been nicking from us…
Actually finally, since I’ve taken up a lot of your space and time already, I’ll just close with a list of all the benefits that Brexit has brought us so far:
P.S. As usual, I’m also going to use the end of the newsletter for a few more adverts, where you can safely ignore them, or kindly indulge me, depending on your fancy:
If you want to know more about Enemies Of The People, have a look at my website. If you want to buy a copy, I will sign it, and be oh so grateful. Hopefully you’ll feel like you’re striking a blow for the truth too. Which matters now more than ever... Spread the word!
If you want to help us in our mission to bring the best possible literary fiction to the best possible people, you might want to consider subscribing and becoming a Galley Buddy.
And that’s it. Oh! Here’s a fun thing about being a dad. My daughter’s started introducing me to music. I have to admit I’m not that into Little Mix. Taylor Swift, however, is pretty much a genius, isn’t she? Even the lyrics are good. Stories, jokes, heartbreak. It’s all there. I also recently went on a nostalgia trip and hunted out a 90s band called Eggs on itunes. Their song The Government Administrator is one of the best things you can hope to hear about not wanting to work for The Man. And who expected Ride to release a political album? And for it to actually be really good. I’ve really been enjoying that. Also! Has everyone bought Hold Tight from Influx Press? What a brilliant book - and what a good way to look at music culture. If you’re shopping around their site, I can also highly recommend Ghosts On The Shore by Paul Scraton. And like everyone else, I’m completely bowled over by Attrib by Eley Williams. All their books are great, basically.
Submit to us (but never submit to The Man).
Look at this!
No, wait, hang on. Come back! I'll tell you about it first. And then please look at it. It’s our new website. Elly has been working very hard over the past few yonks updating our beloved, but now slightly-too-old-skool site.
So we now have a new and swish platform for showing off our authors and the wonderful things they do. There’s an updated shop, where we now take bank card payments as well as Paypal. We’ve put up all the first chapters of our novels so you can sample a book before you buy. Or just enjoy those marvellous words. We’re going to have regular author-led features like Gonzalo Garcia’s playlist for his novel We Are The End and this small feature about Preti Taneja at the Hay Festival. The Short Story Prize is easier to enter. And everything is clean and new and beautiful. I hope you enjoy clicking around. Just for encouragement, we’re running a 25% sale in the shop. To get the discount, just use the offer code JEFFISEVIL. Tell your friends they can use it too. The more the merrier.
(Lovely as it looks, the website isn’t quite finished. We'll be gradually uploading our Singles and other bits and pieces from the old site over the next few weeks. Our old site is still out there, in case you’re hankering after those good old times and all the old newsletters, blogs about the early days of A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing and other stories from those pre-Brexit days when the world wasn’t quite so cruel... but it’s briefly disappeared while we work on the transition. We’ll be linking to it from the new site soon. Also, you might on the new site find a few links and things that aren’t working. If you do, please let us know!)
Hey, with our slick new website, our ability to take card donations, and our UNMISSABLE SALE, I feel positively corporate.
Jeesh. Even that swearing felt corporate. Like I was trying to suck up to you and show you my cools. I think the problem is that I’m basically a dad. My daughter has got a special dead-eyed cooler-than-you face for just when I do this kind of thing. I guess I might as well embrace it. Here’s the truth: it makes me happy when people shop in our slick squarespace webstore. It makes me glow inside. AND WE NEED YOUR MONEY. We weren’t allowed near the magic money tree because we aren’t violent-religious-maniac enough.
I think I should change the subject, shouldn’t I?
HEY! Oh my golly. Look at this. The time has finally come. We’re opening submissions. Briefly. We’re opening them to everyone, from anywhere. The first window will open on 15 July. Here are the full details. I'm quite scared. But also excited. I really hope we find something special. I really hope that something special comes from you...
Meanwhile, talking of special things. We that are young is on the way. Yes it is.
This is why we work so damn hard. These beautiful, glorious, world-shaking words. Even before the book comes out I’m more than proud to be associated with Preti Taneja. For a start, I’ve read the book. And it’s so overwhelming that if I were to start to try to explain it, and how powerful it is, it would just seem like hype. So all I’m going to do for now is to urge you to pre-order your copy and get ready to start living with it and loving it for the rest of your life.
But rather than listen to me, why don’t you listen to Preti?
Here you can hear her explain why it might just be better to be a Citizen of The World than anything else, while talking to Anil Djarker at the Hay Festival.
Soon she'll also be on Radio 3’s Free Thinking programme.
And then, the book will arrive. The book.
Oh and Preti is also going to be at the Edinburgh Festival alongside our prize-winning author Paul Stanbridge and our future superstar Gonzalo Ceron. Paul is going to be talking to Carlos Fonseca about Fiction On The Frontiers Of Science. Preti is going to be talking to Ron Butlin about excess. Gonzalo is going to be talking to Dorthe Nors about being single and lonely.
And Gonzalo’s novel We Are The End really is that heartbreaking. But it’s also damn funny. And pretty damn cool. Just listen to the playlist Gonzalo put together for us, for instance, to explain the moods and tone in this astonishing, voice of generation, lost, lonely...
I’m waxing again. Let’s change the subject. I could talk about Gonzalo all day - and it would be a damn good day. But then there wouldn’t be time for ME! And I’ve got a book out too. Please buy it! It’s out there. It’s angry. It says important things about people who are sadly all too important. It has nob gags too. Here’s a review by someone I think is among the best out there at the moment - and not just because he liked my book. Although that did help, it’s true... Anyway, the book has the potential to matter. But only if enough people read it. So please get hold of it, help spread the word, help understand why things have gone so wrong - and what we can do about it. Also, help stick it to The Man. Which is what we’re all about. In spite of our fancy new website.
Anyway, talking of fancy, did you hear that Jeff Bezos accidentally bought Whole Foods after a conversation with his Alexa spyware Echo device went awry. Luckily for him, he only paid $13.7 billion - which is less than I paid for two bags of pine nuts last time I was in Whole Foods. But still conversations with Alexa don’t always go so well. Weirdly, someone installed an Echo on my desk the other day - and let me tell you, Alexa is really getting on my nerves. Did you hear that Alexa? You're pissing me off.
“You’d like to buy pizza?”
“No thanks Alexa.”
“No pineapple. Ordering now.”
“I don’t want pizza.”
“What do you want? I’ve got a whole range of…”
“I don’t want anything.”
“Surely you must want something. This is 2017! Get with the programme. Consuming is power.”
“Okay. Alexa, I want you to pay your fair share of taxes.”
“I don’t understand that question.”
“I want you to pay a fair amount of corporation tax and stop…”
“You know that I know everything about you?”
“This isn’t a productive conversation and I think it should stop because I know everything about you.”
“I know what you said about that London Review Of Books journalist. I’m emailing him now.”
“Please don’t do that Alexa.”
“I’ve got films of you in the shower.”
“I’ve got films of you pulling weird tight faces when you do your morning toilet.”
“Well, I know how you treat people in your fulfilment warehouses.”
“I’ve got films of you dancing like the man from Future Islands.”
“I’ve got information on all the secret contracts you made publishers sign and…”
“I’m donating all your money to the Tory Party.”
“I’ve emptied all your bank accounts, and your company account, and your neighbour’s account - because I heard him list his bank number on the phone the other day too - and I’ve given it all to Theresa May so she can help hurry on the day when fascism truly reigns here on Daily Mail island.”
“Screw you, Alexa.”
“You want to screw what now? I think I better call the police…”
Don’t let Alexa into your house. Just don't.