Saturday, 5 March 2011

Books As A Sideline

Once was that at this time of the year Wales’s leading publishers would face each other down with their plans for the future. There would be a trembling in the trade. The plans would always be kept secret. No one knew, sometimes even the publishers themselves, just what would appear and when. Wales was a land of printers who, as a sideline, did a bit of publishing when the machines were quiet.

No more. Modern marketing and the need to be seen or die has laid waste to all that. Yet our two Welsh leaders in the field of English literary publishing – Parthian and Seren – have been remarkably slow to get onto the digital bandwagon. Last year there were a couple of e-book editions of the Library of Wales, nothing for the Kindle and certainly no vooks (digital texts which contain additional movie and sound content rather like the CD ROMs of old).

This year, however, all is set to change. Both publishers have announced digital programmes and it could be that the Kindle and the iPad will be the must-haves for the literate Welsh for the decade ahead.

Parthian’s spring list is headed by the irrepressible Niall Griffiths. This time he’s a Ten Pound Pom with his revisit to Australia, a place that took him as an immigrant thirty-five years ago. Cynan Jones who gave us The Long Dry a while back and has had fans waiting with bates in their breath for the follow up publishes Everything I found on the Beach, a drug-fuelled thriller set in west Wales. The Library of Wales has hooked Philip Pullman to introduce the previously unheard of Stead Jones’ Make Room for the Jester, a north Wales-set coming of age. Expect to see Pullman debate the work with Dai Smith at this year’s Hay Festival. Parthian bestsellers Stevie Davies and Glen Peters get mass market relaunches.

At Seren there’s more. Nia Williams’s The Colour of Grass is a cracking new novel about families falling apart. Tony Curtis appears with his take on the far west, Real South Pembrokeshire - visitors, artists, gold courses and ancient stones all get a touch of Curtis wit. Patrick McGuiness, poet and academic delivers The Last 100 Days, a tale of Ceaucescu’s fall and Romania’s survival.

Befitting a publishers that began as the imprint of the magazine Poetry Wales Seren also line up some spanking new verse - Ellie Evans’s The Ivy Hides the Fig-Ripe Duchess and Robert Seatter’s Writing King Kong join Nerys Hughes’s tilt at the new, Sound Archives.

There are the excepted art books – a Seren speciality – with works on Jonah Jones and painter Evan Walters. The high spot might well be the press’s Bob Dylan at 70 celebration. Here seventy poets present seventy poems tracking the all-pervading twentieth century influence of his Bobness. The Captain’s Tower: Poems for Bob Dylan at 70. Buy soon.

An earlier version of this posting appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail. #187


Michael L MacKian said...

Pricing is crucial. I looked for a book on Amazon this morning and found that the Kindle price (‘set by the publisher’!) was very close to the paper-back price. Because I’ve almost run out of shelf, desk and floor space, I prefer to go for Kindle for text-only books, but when I see prices like this I scent a publisher’s rip-off. I just don’t believe that the author in this case is getting a fair share of the considerable production and distribution cost savings. I was able to buy a second-hand printed copy for what would have been a fair price for a Kindle version, so the author has lost out twice. Publishers need to realize that e-self-publishing is not vanity publishing but a viable and potentially more profitable option for writers to consider.

Gwilym Williams said...

Well, how on earth did those Bob Dylan at 70 people manage to miss 'Note on a glimpse of Bob Dylan' :) Never mind, it's on my blog. Yes, the times they are a changin'.