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Posts Tagged ‘Stef Penney’

UK Publishing Co-Op Revealed

The Times obtained a confidential memo from Waterstone’s which sets out what it expects publishers to pay if they want their books to be well promoted in its network of more than 300 stores this Christmas. The most expensive package, available for only six books and designed to “maximise the potential of the biggest titles for Christmas”, costs 45,000 pounds per title. The next category down offers prominent display spots at the front of each branch to about 45 new books for 25,000 pounds. Inclusion on the Paperbacks of the Year list costs up to 7,000 pounds for each book, while an entry in Waterstone’s Gift Guide, with a book review, is a relative snip at 500 pounds. Similar packages are available at other bookshop and supermarket chains, too.

Anthony Cheetham, the chairman of Quercus books, a small independent publisher, said: “It’s not a system you can opt out of. If Smith’s offer you one of these slots and you say no, their order doesn’t go down from 1,000 copies to 500 copies. It goes down to 20 copies.” Which is why he’s rather dismayed at having to pay for steep co-op for Costa winner Stef Penney‘s THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES because it will not make the booksellers’ Christmas selections unless Quercus pays the going rate,

Neil Jewsbury, the commercial director of Waterstone’s, defended the charges and said that the quality of books chosen for books-of-the-year lists and other promotions was not compromised by money changing hands. “Our expert booksellers, with years of experience, decide on what the best books of the last year are,” he said. “It’s only after that that we enter into a confidential commercial agreement with the publishers to decide how best to feature and promote these titles.” Well, it ain’t so confidential anymore, and it remains to be seen whether consumers, er, readers will care about co-op practices. Maybe in another world we’d see a scandal along the lines of the early 1960s payola days, but it’s not exactly the 1960s anymore, now is it?

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The Orange Broadband Prize Longlist

Have to remember to write in that “broadband” in the official title, but the UK’s award for best novel by a woman has announced its longlist, which includes Booker Prize & NBCC Award winner Kiran Desai, Costa Award winner Stef Penney, Jane Smiley, M.J. Hyland, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, Anne Tyler and Jane Harris. In total there are nine British authors on the list, four Americans, two Australians and two Canadians. The other three are from China, India and Nigeria.

“This year’s Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction longlist is an absolute delight given the diversity and quality of the work,” commented Muriel Gray, Chair of Judges. “Our decision has resulted in a spectrum arching from several new novels of outstanding merit, to exciting new books from important and established authors. Subject matter varies from the minutiae of personal experience, the exuberance of free thinking, the thrilling and entertaining epic, to the witty, the highly political, the challenging and enlightening.”

Costa Success for Quercus

While Stef Penney got all the accolades in the media for winning the Costa Book Prize last week, the real beneficiaries of hosannas is her publisher, Quercus. the Financial Times profiles the small press that’s found its way with an unusual path – combining “contact” publishing (or packaged books) with trade books such that the money made from one sector allows editors to buy within the other. “Modern technology has given small publishers an access to the marketplace they never had before,” said chairman Anthony Cheetham, who helped found Quercus in 2004. “Selling a book on Amazon.com, for example, is a democratic process: it doesn’t cost any money to get the book out there, and you have just as good a chance of access as the largest company on earth.”

Crucial to the small houses’ marketing power, however, has been a consortium called the Independent Alliance. It combines the sales and marketing efforts of seven small publishers, including Faber and Faber, Canongate and Profile, to achieve competitive scale. Consolidation among British booksellers means that with such marketing muscle behind them small publishers can gain wide exposure for a book if it is picked up by just one of the large retailers such as Waterstone’s. “Without the alliance, we never would have had the reach or visibility for [Tenderness of Wolves] that we had before the award,” said Mark Smith, Quercus’ CEO.

Or without some luck. “[Cheetham's] ex-wife, Rosie Cheetham, was a literary agent working for Time Warner at the time,” said Mr Smith. “She loved the book and tried to buy it, but they turned it down. So she passed it on to Anthony, and he loved it too.”

Stef Penney’s Surprise Costa Win

While some punters bet heavily on William Boyd to take the prize, while the William Hill crew bet on Brian Thompson‘s autobiography KEEPING MUM, the overall winner of the Costa Book Awards turned out to be Stef Penney, who had taken the Debut prize for her first novel, THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES. Penney’s win is all the more remarkable, the Telegraph reports, because she revealed to the paper last month that her book was rejected by “quite a lot” of publishers before being bought by the small new publisher, Quercus. Then there’s her much-discussed agoraphobia that prevented her from travelling to Canada to research the book – instead, she did much of her work at the British Library. “My first hope was that the Canadians wouldn’t shoot me,” she said before collecting her prize.

But the 10-strong judging panel, including chairman Armando Iannucci, broadcasters Kate Adie and Clive Anderson, and Carol Thatcher, daughter of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, took little more than an hour to pick Penney’s novel. “We felt that it was not just an extraordinary first novel but an extraordinary novel,” said Ianucci. “It was an amazingly ambitious undertaking which was achieved completely.”

Boyd, Penney Among Costa Book Award Winners

The awards formerly known as the Whitbread Prize – now the Costa Book Awardshave been given out in individual categories. William Boyd (left) took home best novel honors for his espionage tale RESTLESS, while Stef Penney was the expected first novel winner for THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES. Other winners included John Haynes (poetry) Brian Thompson (biography) and Linda Newberry (children’s). Each winner will now compete for the overall Costa Book of the Year prize, slated for announcement on February 7.

More coverage by way of the Times (London), the Guardian, the Telegraph, Metro UK, and Bloomberg News.