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Radio Blaa Blaa by Brian Kennedy

Brian Kennedy’s first book, Confessions of an Exeter City Nut, was self-published before being taken up by a small publisher in England. His 2011 book, Just Follow the Floodlights was published by Liffey Press and went to No.1 on Amazon’s English Football League Bestseller List on 4 different occasions. I caught up with Brian to talk about his new memoir, Radio Blaa Blaa.

Brian was a man born with a pen in his hand: “I’ve always been writing one thing or another from an early age. I used to do a football magazine called ‘Blow It Up Ref!’ for my Waterford Junior League Division 4 Club, Kilbarry Rangers. It always gave the lads a laugh, which helped after the beatings we used to get!”

So how long has Radio Blaa Blaa been in the works? How did it begin? “I wrote it in about six months,” Brian says, “When I put my mind to something, I keep at it until the project is finished. ‘Radio Blaa Blaa’ was no different to any other publication of mine in that respect. I started the project, set a date to finish and worked within those boundaries.

“It was a disc jockey who had inspired me to write the book. Colin Kennedy is a family friend and happened to have been part of the whole pirate radio scenario in the early eighties. I was a bit iffy about whether it could be done, let alone successful, but to date it’s my fastest selling book ever!”

I asked Brian what he enjoyed writing the most in his memoir and why: “Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. It’s the file that takes the rough edges off of yesteryear. It’s something everyone goes back to time and time again. Sometimes all we have is the past when the future looks bleak. It was for this reason I really enjoyed writing the book, going back to a time that’s brought many, many wonderful memories.”

Brian is no stranger to self-publishing, but I was curious as to why he chose it again. “For Just Follow the Floodlights, I had a publicist, graphic designer and a book distributed all over Ireland by Gill & McMillian, but I actually enjoy the self-publish route just as much. That way you’re judge, jury & executioner on everything.

“To be honest I knew the chances of getting published at first where Bob Hope and No Hope! I just wanted to get my books on the shelf of my local bookstore. I think self-publishing is a lot of fun. You’re dealing with the front cover on your own terms , the content on your own terms, without an editor to say ‘Take this, that, and the other out’. Nobody knows better than the author themselves I feel. Yes sometimes they need a guiding hand but I never liked anyone telling me the way to go. I had a good publisher in Liffey Press who listened to me about the front page, the content and the price. I didn’t budge on a single thing! And it worked as I got my way, which has proven a success.”

So why self-publishing in the first place? “To be honest at first it was a step into the unknown. I’d either had my books published or had used my local printer and that had been a happy union. However, money became an issue which brought me to the lads at Selfpublishbooks.ie. I’ve got an astounding piece of work made, more so for the price which is simply the best in Ireland and trust me I’ve checked. The quality is fantastic.”

Was a writing career always on the cards for you? “I’ve never been to a writing class, barely passed English in my Leaving Cert and hardly ever go to book launches. I don’t run in those circles. It’s just never interested me. I laugh sometimes at the grants handed out to some writers – I remember three Irish writers getting a combined grant of €30,000 euro between them for Irish language books a couple of years ago and selling exactly 64 books between them. There a lot of pompousness involved. There is this need of acceptance. That getting a publishing contract means they have ‘made it’. Did I make it when I got my publishing contract? Yes I did….for 2 euro a copy! That’s the reality.”

I asked Brian what’s next – or has he had enough of writing? “Well if I finish a book before 2014 it will have been 10 books in 10 years. Mind you I’m running out of subject matters! Yes I get tired of writing, and I can’t see myself doing it forever, but when I see the joy it brings to people, who tell me so, then it makes it all worth while.”

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Maureen Fox: Memories & Articles

 

Maureen Fox was a journalist with the – then – Cork Examiner, now the Irish Examiner. At 15 she was expelled from school, her headmistress predicting that she would come to no good in life. After she joined the Examiner, in 1970, she became within a few years one of the most popular journalists in the South of Ireland, imaginative, creative and with great skills of communication.

She was glamorous, perfectly made up, wearing beautiful silk suits and towering high heels and often drove around in a bright yellow Triumph Spitfire sports car. In her writing she was open, direct, often controversial. She supported feminism and staunchly defended peace in Ireland and in the wider world.  She cared for the needy, the disabled, the elderly and many more. Animals were her dearest friends. She died in December 2010 in France. After her death one of her readers wrote to the Examiner, “There must be very few people who did so much good in their lives and left such a legacy of love and goodness to those in need.”

This book contains chapters about her exciting life and her journalism and offers a selection of her most characteristic and often controversial articles, written between 1971 and 1995. A special chapter deals with her immensely popular columns Paws Awhile, allegedly written by her dog Ponsonby.

The book has been compiled and written by Jan van Putten. He was an award winning journalist in The Hague before becoming a professor of political science in Amsterdam. Jan and Maureen met in Moscow in 1987 and married two years later. Jan moved to Ireland in 1990. Between 1991 and 2006 the couple lived near Lismore, Co. Waterford. As “Himself”, Jan figured in many of Maureen’s columns.

Maureen Fox: Memories & Articles is printed by Lettertec, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork and is published on a self-publishing basis.

 

The book can be purchased on-line through www.amazon.co.uk

or

by sending your order with your cheque to: “Puttenfox”, 9 Rue Haute Notre Dame, 56130 La Roche Bernard, France.

or

by sending an e-mail to puttenfox@orange.fr and setting up an electronic transfer. The price of the book, if ordered through “Puttenfox” is €11.95 including postage and packaging.

“Maureen’s writing, the issues she dealt with and the sincerity of her opinions touched a chord with many thousands of daily readers in a way that was entirely exceptional. In these Memories and Articles Jan van Putten savours a selection of her output and deals with her life in a way that reflects the honesty with which Maureen always approached her subject. There is joy and sorrow, triumph and failure, lightness and, above all, Maureen’s inimitable laughter and deep appreciation of life and everything that goes with it.”
Des O’Sullivan, Journalist.

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The Emancipist by Veronica Sweeney


(This article is also featured on Writing.ie)

Veronica Sweeney has been a published novelist for twenty-eight years. She wrote her trilogy, The Emancipist, after nine and a half years of research. It was first published in one volume by Pan MacMillan in 1985 and reprinted consistently for twenty years by publishing houses such as Century Hutchinson, Simon & Schuster, Avon Books, Bantam and HarperCollins. It is now being printed by Selfpublishbooks.ie as a trilogy.

“I was surprised that the publishers didn’t want a trilogy,” she says, “It was published as one book, which I had to cut in order to make the single large volume … much was left out, and I was very happy to discover Kindle, so the eBook contains material left out of the original.”

 

I ask Veronica which books or authors inspire her. “I like the works of Ruth Rendell and PD James – they produce great stories with fine writing. I love Terry Pratchett, clever writing with a heart. Other than these I read everything from Jane Austen to Eric Fleming. No Fifty Shades fan here, then? “Not much into modern romances,” she replies, “too predictable!”

 

Veronica expands her answer, revealing a characteristic charm of her work: “Publishers have always complained that my work is ‘quirky’, and I like books that are slightly different and have the author’s own voice without being too formulaic. I love it when I want to read a sentence twice because it’s so clever or insightful. I like having to admit, ‘Jeez, I wish I’d written that!’”

 

As for inspiration, Veronica names only one thing: “My mother read to me all through my childhood – following the words on the page meant that I could read at the age of three. She also read me poetry – there were loads of books of poetry in the house. So I think I grew up with the cadence of words, and their power. She bought me a book on stories from Shakespeare, which inspired me to read the originals. I read all the plays of Shakespeare at thirteen and I think … that this was a pivotal time for me, the inspiration of a rattling good yarn beautifully written. Something to aspire to, but unattainable of course!”

 

Veronica is an established novelist with an international reputation, but when she recently made the switch from traditional publishing to self-publishing, she knew she was taking a risk. “But I needn’t have worried,” she said, “It’s been fun … and – I can’t stress this enough – to be able to choose my own covers and design after twenty-eight years as a professional novelist has been the best part.” Lettertec, the printing press in County Cork with a self-publishing imprint Selfpublishbooks.ie, is producing The Emancipist in three separate volumes this year.

 

I ask Veronica how self-publishing caught her eye: “Amazon Kindle first of all – it’s levelled the playing field for writers at last. We’re back to the early days of the printing press, like Erasmus! Get a good idea and take it to the printer – before publishers and agents became involved!

 

“The whole process was very speedy,” she adds, “I think it took about two weeks, and that was mostly me being very fussy about the cover.

 

Any other reason? “Despite the advent of reading devices such as Kindle and Nook, so many people really like the physical feel of a book, and The Emancipist was the obvious choice, as it’s my favourite of all my work, the one people are always asking me about – and complaining because it’s the size of a house brick! The new version from Lettertec, being in three volumes, solves that!”

 

I also asked Veronica if she had any advice for writers thinking of self-publishing. “Anyone going the way of self-publishing for the first time really should pay the bit extra to have their book checked by a professional editor … The way I work is to finish the seventh, eighth, ninth draft, then put it in a drawer for several months and then come back to it. Self-publishing is no place for wishful thinking … the writing has to be tight and professional, or no one will buy your book but your family.”

 

How was the printed product? “Far better quality than any book I’ve had published. Some paperbacks seem to be printed on newspaper. This version of The Emancipist is a real collector’s copy, limited edition. The first run of Pan MacMillan’s was 100,000 copies! But I’m very proud of my limited run Emancipist – it’s the book I always wanted to see.”

 

Every author has her favourite. Veronica happily imparted hers: “Shannonbrook [Book Three of The Emancipist] … by then Aidan is in middle-age, and very much a product of all that has happened to him. He’s successful, but still believes he can control his environment. … When I did the book tour of Australia, half the women I spoke to said he was a thorough rat and a rogue, and the other half said he was so real that he must exist!”

 

She gleefully adds: “It was fun to create his children, who give him a great shock in refusing to be what he expects.”

 

What’s next, Veronica? “Editing – again – Books Two and Three before sending them to Lettertec, and after that I’ll be uploading my Australian thriller, Dark Obsession – though the title will now be His Dark Obsession – to Amazon Kindle. But there’ll be more books printed by Lettertec, deciding on which ones depends on which ones my readers ask for!”

 

Book One of The Emancipist – titled The Big House – is available now. Books Two and Three will be available in early December, ready for Christmas.

 

To find out more about Veronica and The Emancipist, check out her website veronicasweeney.net

 

 

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Sock-puppet reviews condemned by authors everywhere

Last Thursday, on our Facebook page, we posted a link from GalleyCat explaining fake Amazon review charts and how to spot them.

The whole debate began when the New York Times wrote an article on August 25th this year exposing the ‘book reviewers for hire’ industry. How do authors get away this? Essentially, “The Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines stating that all online endorsements need to make clear when there is a financial relationship, but enforcement has been minimal and there has been a lot of confusion in the blogosphere over how this affects traditional book reviews.”

Just two days ago, the Bookseller reported that writers including crime writer RJ Ellory, John Locke and Stephen Leather all admitted to giving their own work 5-star reviews and slamming rival authors on Amazon — a practice damningly referred to as ‘sock puppetry’. The Guardian reported the practice in more detail.

The entire controversy was heightened after Ellory was exposed by rival penman Jeremy Duns on Twitter. Ellory’s publisher, Orion, declined to comment.

On its website, the Crime Writers Association states: “The CWA feels [sock puppetry] is unfair to authors and also to the readers who are so supportive of the crime genre. […] At present we don’t know how widespread the practice is. However we will be taking steps to set up a membership code of ethics, and considering if other steps may be necessary from us as an authors’ organisation.”

The Guardian and The Bookseller described the denunciation of sock-puppetry from other authors, of which a large group (see below) have signed up to a group statement condemning the practice.

The group statement from the authors states:

“These days more and more books are bought, sold, and recommended on-line, and the health of this exciting new ecosystem depends entirely on free and honest conversation among readers. But some writers are misusing these new channels in ways that are fraudulent and damaging to publishing at large. […] Your honest and heartfelt reviews, good or bad, enthusiastic or disapproving,  can drown out the phoney voices, and the underhanded tactics will be marginalized to the point of irrelevance. No single author,  however devious,  can compete with the whole community. Will you use your voice to help us clean up this mess?”

The signatories are: Linwood Barclay, Tom Bale, Mark Billingham, Declan Burke, Ramsey Campbell, Tania Carver, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, N J Cooper, David Corbett, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Stella Duffy, Jeremy Duns, Mark Edwards, Chris Ewan, Helen FitzGerald, Meg Gardiner, Adèle Geras, Joanne Harris, Mo Hayder, David Hewson, Charlie Higson, Peter James, Graham Joyce, Laura Lippman, Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, Roger McGough, Denise Mina, Steve Mosby, Stuart Neville, Jo Nesbo, Ayo Onatade, S J Parris, Tony Parsons, Sarah Pinborough, Ian Rankin, Shoo Rayner, John Rickards, Stav Sherez, Karin Slaughter, Andrew Taylor, Luca Veste, Louise Voss, Martyn Waites, Neil White and Laura Wilson.

These authors warn that Ellory, Stephen Leather and John Locke have all made use of “sock-puppet” or paid for reviews. They state: “These are just three cases of abuse we know about. Few in publishing believe they are unique. It is likely that other authors are pursuing these underhand tactics as well. We the undersigned unreservedly condemn this behaviour, and commit never to use such tactics.”

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Bin Laden book to come out early

Only five days ago this blog reported that Mark Owen’s account of his Navy SEAL mission to capture Osama Bin Laden was a bestseller, due to be published on 11th of September. However, Penguin’s Dutton imprint has moved up the publishing date.

GalleyCat says: “Originally slated for an October release, No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden was then supposed to come out on September 11th, but will now be out on September 4th.”

Publishers Weekly has more:

Dutton announced the additional publication change. In a statement, the publisher said the publication was moved up “in response to the overwhelming excitement in the marketplace,” and Dutton “now feels it is important to put No Easy Day on sale and let the book speak for itself.”

The book is getting coverage all over the country for the new details it reveals, including that Bin Laden was already dead when the SEALs entered his bedroom in the compound. The publisher and author have also been criticized for not providing the government with a copy of the book before announcing it on August 22.

The first printing of the book is now 575,000 copies, up from the original 300,000.

The book is still No. 1 on the Amazon Bestselling Chart.

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Unpublished Bin Laden Raid story already a bestseller


Penguin is set to publish a first-person account of the mission which killed Osama Bin Laden, the Bookseller announced yesterday.

The book is titled No Easy Day: The Only Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden, and is written by the pseudonymous Mark Owen, a Navy SEAL who was among the first to enter the Abbottabad compound where Bin Laden was hiding.

It will be released on September 11th. Penguin describes it as “an essential piece of modern history”.

Despite the anonymity of the author, Fox News reported that they discovered his real identity — a 36-year-old from Alaska. The US Penguin imprint Dutton, which will be simultaneously publishing the book there, asked the media to withhold his name claiming it risked his personal security. US Military officials confirmed they had not vetted the contents of the book before its release was announced.

GalleyCat reported that the title is already shooting up the charts from presales: “It is currently the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon, ahead of all of the Fifty Shades of Grey titles and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.”

According to Amazon, “No Easy Day puts readers alongside Owen and the other handpicked members of the twenty-four-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives. The blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen’s life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death, is an essential piece of modern history.”

Pre-order it here.

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Digital sales and lawsuits


Today, Amazon UK announced that since the start of 2012, for every 100 print books purchased on their site, customers downloaded 114 Kindle books. Amazon said the figures included sales of printed books which did not have Kindle editions, but excluded free ebooks.

An article in the Guardian outlined that “much to the consternation of the publishing industry, Amazon has refused to release audited figures for its digital book sales, something it does for printed books.” It told the Guardian that the company “would not discuss future policy on the matter.”

Ebook sales have been given a boost by the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, which has sold two million copies in the past four months.

Over the past year, the site has seen a more than 400% increase in UK authors and publishers using the self-publishing tool Kindle Direct Publishing.

Jorrit Van der Meulen, vice-president of Kindle EU, said: “Customers in the UK are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books, even as our print business continues to grow. We hit this milestone in the US less than four years after introducing Kindle, so to reach this landmark after just two years in the UK is remarkable and shows how quickly UK readers are embracing Kindle. As a result of the success of Kindle, we’re selling more books than ever before on behalf of authors and publishers.”

Less favourable news came for Google Books today, with Publishers Weekly  reporting that the multinational corporation could incur damages exceeding $1 billion, if the Authors Guild prevails in its legal battle over Google’s library book scanning program.

Publishers Weekly said: “The Guild asked the court for summary judgment in its favor, and the minimum statutory damage award—$750 per infringement. With as many as four million of the estimated 20 million books scanned by Google thought to still be under U.S. copyright, the damages could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars should Google lose, depending on the ultimate size of the class, and assuming that copyright holders come forward and prove ownership.

“From the beginning, Google has portrayed the scanning program as a public good. But, in its brief, the Authors Guild portrays the scanning effort as a purely commercial venture designed to give it an advantage over competitors like Microsoft and Amazon, which had both launched book scanning projects that asked permission of the copyright owner. The brief cites internal Google documents citing Google’s desire to cement an advantage over its rivals, and notes that Google has invested nearly $180 million in the scanning program. It also notes that Google was making progress with its partner program, signing up publishers for its corpus, when it decided to scan library books.”

For the full low-down see here and The Guardian article here.

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