Monday, 22 February 2010

Books, Books, Books!

HALLATROW, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 12:  Book...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
I have written about Dragon International Independent Arts before. Dragon was founded out of frustration at Harper Collins' authonomy, one of a number of initiatives to have been born out of the great coming together of writers that authonomy has caused. Strangely, I believe these grassroots movements of writers are doing more to define the future of publishing than companies like Harper Collins, still mired (as is much of the publishing industry) in offline thinking. And I am pleased to be able to tell you all that Dragon, for one, is doing very well indeed, thank you.

Founded by SarahJane Heckscher-Marquis, Dragon set out to establish a viable small independent publisher that would give people access to books of quality that had been overlooked by 'the machine', breaking down the barriers between readers and the books they want to read - as Dragon itself has it, 'Books for people who love books'. Sarah's brave move saw a number of the more interesting books on authonomy get put into print. Check them out:

Paul House

Set in wartime Hong Kong under threat of Japanese invasion, this is a lush period piece and one of the many books on authonomy that I'd have bought if I had the chance. And now I do - you can buy the paperback here and the good news is that delivery to the UAE (or anywhere else in the world) is free!

M.M. Bennetts

Now I'm going to come right out and say it: this isn't my kind of book. It's a huge historical novel set in the middle of the Napoleonic wars - but it's flawlessley written: I can remember one review on authonomy that made the point that there wasn't a single word out of place in the book and the Historical Novel Review called it 'compelling' and 'vivid'. If you 'do' historical novels, you can buy the paperback here.

Pistols for Two, Breakfast for One
Matthew Dick

Matthew Dick's a silly bugger and much of his silly buggeriness is evident in his excellent book. I remember first reading this book on authonomy and enjoying myself immensely. It's engaging, funny, swaggeringly well-written and redolent of the rather wonderful Terry Thomas school of absolute caddery as it follows the cowardly career of Hugo Hammersley, devious swine and serial womaniser. Buy it here.

Who must I kill to get published?
Jason Horger

There are 10,000-odd manuscripts languishing in the great online slushpile that is authonomy, so it's a dead cert that there are 10,000 people out there asking themselves this very question. A wannabe author finally finds an agent interested in his book only for the agent to turn up dead. Again, a book that was widely admired in its time on authonomy and a very popular one, too - perhaps because it's written with flair and a light, deft touch that is eminently readable. It's also funny and buyable here.

These first four Dragon titles were released in November and are available to bookshops throughout the UK thanks to a distribution deal that Dragon has done with Central Books - and, of course, globally online as the links above prove - don't forget that free delivery now!

Kindle versions will be available from April, too.

Now there's news that Dragon is to publish a further two titles - Heikki Hietala's Tulagi Hotel and Greta van de Rol's Die a Dry Death. Again, both books were popular reads on authonomy.

In fact, SJ has done a neat job of cherry-picking some of the better books from the authonoslush, books that bobbed at the top of the 10,000-odd hopefuls and that stood out because they had that 'something' that makes you want to read the damn thing.

I had originally seen authonomy as a fascinating exercise in democratising publishing through the crowdsourcing that many companies are now finding is an important asset - listening to customers in order to define products and services that better suit their requirements. It's a great use for social media, for instance.

Fed up with being offered discounted copies of Katie Price's ghost-written pap and worse, I had thought the idea of actually selecting books through a filter of peer-review could shake things up a little. That wasn't authonomy's aim, as it turned out, but it is Dragon's and the fact that the company has not only survived but is expanding its list (they're also getting involved in non-fiction and possibly even film) to other media is something I am following with great interest and a raa raa for the li'l guy.

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Mita said...

I wish you'd published this blog before Xmas - a friend loves historical novels - wrote one himself and would have loved a copy of 1812 for Christmas.

Bill Kirton said...

Your remarks about the quality of many of the submissions to authonomy are spot on - and it's an indictment of the publishing system which puts profit before quality. That same system is responsible for not relating the two elements more closely, too. It's great that DIIA is prospering. Long may that continue.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

right on! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!! Self publishing IS the answer, folks!

I can't wait to publish my novel after I'm satisfied with the new edited version.

Heikki Hietala said...

Woo hoo :) thanks for the plug Alex! Can I just ask one tiny change, as the name is spelt Hietala (the ie dipththong is very hard for Anglophones.) I hope your eventual review is positive too.

alexander... said...

Sorry, Heikki! Fixed now!

You should see how many times I have to re-type SJ's family name before I get it right!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heikki Hietala said...

Can I suggest a teensy weensy re-edit? I know I am being a pain in the gluteus maximus, but I also love nit-picking beyond anything bar Chicken Tikka Masala :P

alexander... said...

No, no, Heikki, you're absolutely right to insist it's right.

It is now. I hope! :)

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