Thursday, 29 April 2010

Little Children, by Tom Perrotta - book review

Little Children is based in suburban America and follows the story of former-feminist and housewife Sarah, who hates the life she has fallen into, and her affair with 'The Prom King' Todd, while the whole town is disrupted by the arrival of a convicted sex-offender.

The characters are well developed and the pace hardly ever lags in Perrotta's intelligent and witty black comedy drama. We don't see Ronnie commit any of his offenses (apart from one unpleasant exposure) but instead hear only speculation and witness the town's reaction towards him, which makes for interesting reading.

The ending of the film has one major difference to the ending of the book. (Read the book first, by the way.) The film has a more dramatic ending, whereas the book has a more subtle ending that evokes a sense of empty epiphany. On first reactions, film ending seemed more satisfying as it was more climatic. But on further reflection, the ending of the novel was far more realistic and in tune with the characters.

Royal College of Nursing Congress - where I met some student nurses and Nick Clegg

Well, I'm really not updating the blog as much as I'd like. I've been completely run off my feet lately with work and Inkspill Magazine.

On Tuesday I was at the RCN Congress Student Day in Bournemouth for work (I am an editorial assistant on the Nursing list for Pearson Education). It took a while for me to get there on the train (3.5 hour there, 3.5 hours back!), but it was a good day. I was there with the commissioning editor and the marketing manager. We had our own book stall with a nice selection of our titles. Sold quite a few, and collected quite a few questionnaires for some research we are doing.

I had a wander around, and there were tonnes of stalls from health care recruitment to NHS stalls, army recruitment to food and beauty stalls. Lots of freebies (though I didn't take many). There was also a stall giving out free massages, but I didn't think that would have been quite appropriate while I was meant to be working!

The most exciting part of the day was the unexpected arrival of Nick Clegg. I jokingly said we should get him to sign one of our books, and the editor dared me to do it. So I did! He signed a nice copy of 'Becoming a Nurse' for us, which we then put back on the book stand to be sold.

It was a very long day, but it is nice to get out of the office every now and then, and to get chatting to the students we sell our books to.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Publishing is a Business

In my whole life, did I ever picture myself as a business woman? The answer is no. If I were able to go back in time and tell my 15-year-old self, 'Hey, you get to work in the book industry when you're older!' I would have said 'Cool!'. If I'd said 'Hey, you have a 9-5 desk job in a huge business office when you're older,' I would have raise my eyebrows (I can't just raise the one) and said 'You're kidding, right?'

On Thursday, I had a particularly business-like day. I was dressed smart, armed with paperwork full of computer-generated statistics and some preparatory notes, and I had my first commissioning meeting.

I'd been to commissioning meetings before, with the editors I work for. This is when we get together lots of stats, facts and figures and convince the big cheeses of the company that a book is worth publishing. Then we get them to sign the paperwork, that includes the budget and the schedule of the project, and off we trot.

On Thursday, I lead my first meeting. I had never felt more like a business woman in my life. Talking about the statistics of previous sales in the series, and budgets for the expanding series, and reasons why the book would sell. I was pretty damn nervous. Everyone I had to present to were very nice, and I'd gotten to know most of them over my six months at the company, but I really do hate having to do presentations. My editor didn't leave me high and dry, though. He knew a lot more about the book and the series than I did, and was there to back me up when people asked questions I wasn't sure how to answer.

With one amendment to the finance stats, they agreed to commission the book. So I had to re-print all the paperwork and find all the right people to sign it the next day. (I still need three signatures.)

The editor I work for bought me a bottle of wine, which was unexpected and incredibly sweet. He wants me to take over the series in the future, and it's a really good feeling knowing that he's eager to support me advance my career.

I'm still readjusting to this image of myself as a business woman. All my life I've been interested in the creative arts. And I kinda miss it.

(The Director of Salt Publishing talks about the business of publishing in an interview over at Ink, Sweat & Tears.)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

How Not to Promote Your Novel

Let me tell you a story.

Sophie and Paul walk into Waterstones. Before having a chance to shake off the rain, a man approaches with a tray-- 'Would you like a chocolate?!'

Automatically, Sophie's mouth says 'Yes' before her brain processes suspicious motives.

'My book has just been published! Look! Please, read the blurb. Have a look. No pressure, of course. If you want.' Author rocks back on forth on his heels, tight smile on face, watching Sophie politely read the blurb while munching on the chocolate (that tastes bitter now that it is tainted with deception -- she should have known chocolate always comes at a price). Sophie can't focus on what the blurb says because she is acutely aware of an expectant author's stare.

Paul eats chocolate and lets Sophie deal with the situation.

'Thanks,' Sophie mutters and she and Paul quickly scurry away as far into the depths of the bookshop as possible.

'Well that was awkward,' Paul observes.

True story.
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