There’s a storm brewing in South Dakota and also on this weeks bestseller charts as Lee Child’s thriller 61 Hours (Bantam) blasts in to number one ahead of Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millennium’ trilogy and film tie-in (Quercus). Following these in sixth place and seventh place, respectively, are Danielle Steel’s Big Girl (Bantam) and Ian McEwan’s Solar (Jonathan Cape). 61 Hours, Big Girl and Solar are also the three highest new entries. Nicholas Sparks’ tale of family relationships, The Last Song (Hachette), is at the top of the fastest movers chart this week–Weekly Book Newsletter

INTERVIEW: Richard Nash on why we’re at Publishing Ground Zero

Entrepreneur and consultant Richard Nash will give the opening address at the Australian Booksellers Association conference in July. He tells Angela Meyer why he’s passionate about connecting writers with readers in the ever-changing world of publishing.

You’re coming to Australia in July to give the opening address at the ABA conference. Can you share some of the things you’ll be discussing with Australian booksellers?

The key thing is community. While reading is a solitary activity, talking about books is profoundly social. Some of our most intimate social interactions are around books—books, after all, demand most of our minds so they are the most emblematic of our minds. Two people who’ve shared the experience of having a singular voice inside their heads for 15 hours have much more connecting them than two people who laugh at the same five generic sitcom jokes. In the US, Oprah is considered the saviour of books, but I think books were the saviour of Oprah. Her ratings were really just average, but she figured if she could get her core audience reading a book together for three months then she was there with them in their bedroom, during their lunch break, in their heads for all their waking hours. By being their book recommender, she could become their best friend, a status far more powerful than a talkshow host. And if booksellers and publishers and other intermediaries between writer and reader can learn to harness some of that power …

Can you tell us a bit about your background in publishing and what led to your current profession and interests?

I ran a quirky independent publisher called Soft Skull Press—part Scribe, part Text, part Spinifex. We were basically part of the first wave of the digital revolution, the production wave, or the desktop publishing revolution, where what it cost to design and typeset a book collapsed. My time in publishing, which effectively began in 2001, has been one of constant change and I realised in early 2009 that not only would the industry never stabilise, the rate of change was also increasing. And I wanted to be in a position where I could be better oriented.

Why is it important for Australian booksellers to be aware of ‘publishing 3.0’ and can you explain that term a little?

Publishing 3.0 could be called Publishing Ground Zero too. The business of publishing is the business of connecting writers and readers. Full stop. A reader pays a certain amount of money and/or time to the author, and some intermediaries take slices of that money the reader intends to give the writer for services we intermediaries have rendered. Given that the supply of books has increased so dramatically, we now need to justify again why we take out slices. The primary service we can offer is match-making because any website can offer selection. So we all—agents, publishers, wholesalers, booksellers—need to comprehend that we’re in the reader-writer connection business, or we’re out of business. Continue reading

Interview: Maggie Joel on ‘The Second-Last Woman in England’ (Pier 9)

Maggie Joel has followed up her first novel The Past and Other Lies with The Second-Last Woman in England (Pier 9, April), which received five stars in the April issue of Bookseller+Publisher. Anastasia Gonis spoke to the author.

There are strong themes, outstanding characters and various sub-stories woven together in The Second-last Woman in England. Which comes first with you: character, theme, storyline, or other?

For all three books—my previous book The Past and Other Lies, this one and the one I’m currently working on—it starts with a single image. If that image is strong enough, interesting enough, it will nag away at me until I write it down. At that point, I will have no idea of a story, but if the image that I’m describing, and if my writing down of that image seems to work, I keep going with it until a scene has been written, perhaps two or three scenes. At this point it’s time to stop and sit back and review what I’ve done. It’s here that the characters, the subsequent plot, and the setting for the story start to appear.

Although fiction, is The Second-last Woman in England inspired by real events?

The story is not inspired by any real person or events, no, but I do remember coming across some reference to a murderess being hanged in Britain in the mid 1950s, and the idea of this—of the state exacting such a punishment—really struck me. It seemed so barbaric, so archaic. If you grew up in Britain you are likely to have heard of the case of Ruth Ellis who, in 1955, was the last woman to be hanged for murder. It’s a famous case—they made at least two movies about it—not simply because she was the last, but because she was a glamorous young woman who lived what appeared to be an exciting and enviable lifestyle. The idea that the state could put her death shocked a lot of people at the time and probably went some way towards ending capital punishment for women in the UK. So I thought, well, how shocking would it be if our murderer was a very respectable, very well-to-do society wife and mother? And there was my opening scene. Continue reading

Most mentioned this week

The 50-year anniversary of architect Robin Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness (Text) has arrived, along with an anniversary edition to commemorate it, featuring a foreword by Christos Tsiolkas. Boyd was a fierce critic of Australian design and resented Australia’s imitation of all things American. The new edition received several media mentions this week. Ian McEwan’s Solar (Jonathan Cape) and Melina Marchetta’s The Piper’s Son (Viking) again continued to receive coverage. Other books mentioned this week include Anita Heiss’ Manhattan Dreaming (Bantam), Brenda Walker’s Reading by Moonlight: How Books Saved a Life (Hamish Hamilton), William Poundstone’s Priceless (Scribe) and Ron Rash’s Serena (Text)—Media Extra.

BOOK REVIEW: Sunday’s Kitchen: Food and the Art of Living at Heide (Lesley Harding & Kendrah Morgan, Miegunyah)

This is one of those gorgeous cookbooks that you want to really read, not just cook from. As much a history of Heide—the house, the gallery, the people, the art, the lifestyle, and Sunday and John Reed—as a cookbook, the beautifully designed Sunday’s Kitchen will soon be gracing many an Australian coffee table. Even those who have never heard of Heide or the Reeds will be entranced by the book, with its beautiful photos and paintings by Heide denizens Sidney Nolan, Mirka Mora, John Perceval, Charles Blackman and more. With simple dishes such as scones, madeleines, and onion pie, and ‘indulgences’ like marzipan fruits and chocolate mousse, the food aspect of the book provides a snapshot of the times, just as the actual snapshots do. They’re the recipes our grandmothers made, and they taste as good as they ever did. There’s also no wonder Stephanie Alexander wrote the foreword—the section on Heide’s kitchen garden is inspiring and fascinating. A book for foodies and art-lovers, centering on one of Australia’s greatest foodies and art-lovers, Sunday Reed, Sunday’s Kitchen is a must-buy.

Hannah Cartmel is a bookseller, food-lover and former publishing assistant. This review first appeared in the April issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

Celebrating children’s literature at Somerset

The Somerset Celebration of Literature held its annual school literature festival from 15 to 19 March 2010 at Somerset College in Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast, Queensland. Over 16,000 tickets were sold, with over 30 writers speaking and 70 schools in attendance from all over South East Queensland and Northern NSW. Meredene Hill, marketing manager at the University of Queensland Press, was in attendance and told us a bit about the festival:

Attending Somerset Festival of Children’s Literature is always a calendar highlight. The festival staff and volunteers go to so much trouble to ensure a memorable experience for everyone, particularly for the thousands of school students who attend the festival to hear their favourite authors speak.

There is always a high energy level at Somerset, even with the intermittent downpours of rain this year, as students move from one author session to the next, and catch-up on what they’ve just seen or have been reading. Regular laughter and cheering burst from the three marquees and the other school venues as authors such as Leigh Hobbs, Cuzco and Jackie French entertained the students. And dare I say, even teenagers and the ‘grown-ups’ amongst us, yes me, were caught laughing when we listened to James Roy talk about his book about boys, puberty and sex, The ‘S’ Word (UQP, July), while the book’s talented illustrator Gus Gordon drew entertaining cartoons to match.

Continue reading

Bestsellers: Larsson regains ground

Last week’s two bestsellers Clive Cussler’s The Silent Sea and Belinda Alexandra’s Tuscan Rose moved to second and sixth place respectively in the bestseller charts, while Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millennium’ trilogy regained footing. The cinema release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has caused the film tie-in version of the book (Quercus) to top the fastest movers, and Lonely Planet’s new edition of the USA (Sara Benson) guidebook has become number one in the highest new entries.

Forthcoming titles: reviewers’ top picks

So, among our reviewers’ top picks in the April issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine were: The Second-last Woman in England (Maggie Joel, Pier 9, April); Sunday’s Kitchen: Food and the Art of Living at Heide (Lesley Harding & Hendrah Morgan, Miegunyah, April); The Return of the Word Spy (Ursula Dubosarsky, Viking, May); When Courage Came to Call (L M Fuge, Random House, April); and The Hard Light of Day: An Artist’s Story of Friendships in Arrernte (Rod Moss, UQP, May).

Booksellers, had a chance to read any of these yet? What did you think?

Most mentioned this week

Ian McEwan’s Solar (Jonathan Cape), a ‘comedy about climate change’, received far and away the most mentions over the past week, but they haven’t all been positive. ‘In spite of its undeniable educational and entertainment value, this novel doesn’t really work,’ writes Kerryn Goldswothy in the Fairfax papers. We’ve heard opinion is sharply divided at Queensland’s Avid Reader bookstore, and we’re sure debate rages elsewhere too. Solar is one of the books that was discussed on the First Tuesday Book Club episode filmed earlier this month at Adelaide Writers’ Week, so we’ll be interested to hear what the likes of Markus Zusak and Jason Steger have to say when the episode airs in April. In the meantime, those who weren’t impressed by McEwan’s latest might be interested in some of the other titles receiving attention this week: Trespass (Rose Tremain, Chatto & Windus); The Postmistress (Sarah Blake, Viking); Among Thieves (David Hosp, Macmillan); and The Piper’s Son (Melina Marchetta, Viking), which is still getting column inches–Media Extra.

The week that was: Friday round-up

The longlist of that iconic award, the Miles Franklin was announced this week, with the ratio of male to female authors—that’d be nine men versus three women—troubling some (especially following the recent Australia Post author stamps controversy). The fact that a woman won this year’s regional Commonwealth Writers Prize, the announcement of this year’s Orange Prize longlist and the presentation of the Barbara Jefferis award for ‘the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society’ made up some ground. (Though this might have tipped things back again.)

There was controversy in the form of a book-related defamation case and a footballer’s memoir, a new batch of Popular Penguins were unveiled and the poms admitted we are better at cricket than they are (on the book front anyway).

The 7.30 Report took a look at ebooks (the mainstream media also having just got wind of the fact that Borders and Angus & Robertson will soon be selling them).

Oh, and an author is in the running for this year’s Cleo Bachelor of the Year ….