Tuesday, March 21, 2006

THE TRUTH THE OBSERVER DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE.


I spent a large part of yesterday reading Mike Barnard’s book about Macmillan New Writing, Transparent Imprint. Naturally, I’m interested in what Mike has to say, as I am one of the authors he is publishing.

I suppose it’s unusual for a publisher to write a book about the founding of a new imprint. But then again, Macmillan New Writing is an unusual imprint. From day one it has attracted a lot of attention, not to mention criticism. Mike does a good job of answering it all, although I’m sure it was wearisome to him to have to devote so much of his book to the task. From the reader’s perspective, however, it is fascinating to see how the story snowballed.

Looking back now at the catalogue of opinion pieces that the scheme generated, you can’t help wondering what on earth they were all getting themselves worked up about.

I do remember being affected by all the coverage at the time I submitted my novel, last May. It was round about then that Robert McCrum wrote a piece in the Observer accusing Mike of abdicating his responsibility to the culture or something. Although I didn’t take that particular charge seriously, I did worry that the literary elite would be lining up to have their prejudices confirmed when the first books were released.

At the time, I never got to see the spirited reply that Mike sent to the paper, for the simple reason that the Observer refused to publish it. You could spin a story there, if you wanted to. (See my headline for this posting.)

I’m sure part of Mike’s motive in writing the book is to set the record straight. But I think he genuinely wants to share his experiences and learning with anyone who’s interested. As the title suggests, he’s very open about all aspects of the business, including financial details such as the costs of printing, distribution and marketing, and, of course, author royalties. A good read for publishing students then - hardly surprising considering that aside from his role at Macmillan UK (which is not confined to MNW), Mike is also a visiting professor of publishing at the University of the Arts in London.

In an ideal world, anyone who feels the urge to make a public pronouncement on Macmillan New Writing should at least take the trouble to read the book, as well as some of the actual books being published by MNW. I know, I know, we don’t live in an ideal world.

4 comments:

Shameless said...

As someone who has submitted my novel to MNW, I've read your comments with interest. I must say that I never did understand the initial outcry over the scheme, and I've been reassured by your comments about MNW - and also those of Michael Stephen Fuchs, who wrote a nice piece about his experience on my blog:

htp://shamelesswords.blogspot.com/

It seems that anything that upsets the status quo, and challenges the way current agents and publishers approach things, causes ripples. Let that tidal wave come! Hopefully everyone in the industry is taking a good hard look at themselves and taking note of what others have been saying about MNW.

roger said...

It was my pleasure to have met Michael Fuchs, along with some of the other MNW authors, at an event last week.

Good luck with your submission, shameless. (A bit of shamelessness will do no harm when you come to promoting the published book, by the way!)

McThew said...

Hi Roger

Macmillan sent me a copy of the book this week, but I have yet to read it (I'm currently submerged in a novel by Michael Moorcock).
After debating this whole issue on another writing site (Writingblock) I got the same impression from other writers that they thought MNW was largely a positive thing, but because some "established" writers and agents thought it was too much competition, they had their knives out. Thankfully, I think the credible voices in the industry are no longer voicing dissent and are looking on with curiosity. I reckon the success of the imprint will rest on your shoulders, and the other five authors who get published first in April (no pressure, honest!) as the strength of the writing will prove whether or not Macmillan were right.
Obviously as I'm getting published by MNW in Jan 2007, I want the imprint to be a success too, but I reckon this kind of venture needs to succeed if only for the hundreds of talented writers out there who give up on their dreams because no one will give them a break.

roger said...

Congratulations on your own book McThew (?).

And thanks for making me feel even more stressed about this launch! (Only joking.) I do hope the first books are well received and do well, naturally, for the writers concerned and for the future of the imprint. And I mean that most sincerely. (I do.)