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.