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NewCon 5

This coming weekend of Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th October, Newcon 5 will take place at it’s old venue in the Fishmarket in Northampton town centre.  It had to be postponed last year because of uncertainties about the venue, but I am delighted that it’s back this year stronger than ever.

The guests of honour are Paul McAuley, Pat Cadigan and Paul Cornell and there are loads of other authors attending along with fans from all over the country.

I shall be reading at 11:00 on Sunday along with Juliet E McKenna and Keith Brooke, of which my only regret is that I shall miss the panel with Paul McAuley talking about Space Opera.

It looks like a great weekend, and if you’re coming along, please do come up and say Hi.  Newcon is a wonderful place to meet authors and we don’t bite.  Well, most of us don’t.

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How to Sign an eBook

As you may know, I spent the weekend at FantasyCon and had a fantastic time meeting fans, authors, publishers, editors and artists, gathered for the British Fantasy Awards and a lot more besides.

Firstly, many congratulations to Kari Sperring for winning the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer with her fantasy novel Living With Ghosts.  I sat and listened to Kari reading from the sequel to this at FantasyCon 2009 and I was immensely pleased when this well-deserved award was announced.  She is a rising star of Fantasy, a wonderful novelist and a very nice person too. Go buy her book.

Congratulations to all the award winners, there are too many to go into here, but the British Fantasy Society have helpfully updated their site with the full list of winners.

Adam Christopher and his 'signed' iPad

Meanwhile I was with Andy Remic and Colin Harvey at a joint signing session in the Dealer’s Room when Adam Christopher – friend, writer blogger and man of many talents – came up with his iPad and declared that he would love to get his books signed, but he had the digital versions.  This is the first time I’ve seen the digital version of The Road to Bedlam and I have to say, it looks gorgeous on the iPad.

Consequently, I am ashamed to tell you that there were a number of offers to engrave his pristine machine with various epithets using a sharp implement (it was far too shiny) but he resisted until I produced some stickers I had acquired for just this purpose.

Here’s a photo of Adam with his newly signed iPad, showing signatures from all three authors.  In the age of the eBook, will this be the future?  Will fans adorn their technology with custom labels in the way that travellers used to cover their suitcases with stickers from foreign places?

Has anyone else come up with a really good way of signing eBooks?  I would love to hear comments, ideas and stories on this subject.  We are on the cusp of the age of digital publishing – so what’s the best way of translating the signed copy into the virtual world?

Comments, please.

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Angry Robot Podcast 3

Angry Robot Books

There was a new experience for me this week.  As part of a series of podcasts for Angry Robot Books, Dan Abnett and I were interviewed by Mur Lafferty on the subject of history, research and writing, and how two very different books can emerge from a lot of common ground.

The link to the interview is here.

Dan’s book, Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero has been a recent read of mine.  It’s a fun book, but as Dan expains, a lot of research went into it and I think that comes through.  London as a city features very strongly in his book too, and there are some very subtle jokes in here, apart from the complete romp of a plot.  Like many Angry Robot books, it’s hard to pigeon-hole but entertaining nevertheless.

On Angry Robot’s Website there are also links to last month’s interview with Kaaron Warren (Slights and Walking the Tree) and Lauren Beukes (Moxyland and Zoo City), as well as an intial interview with Marc Gascoigne and Lee Harris of Angry Robot Books.

Overall, a fun experience.  Thanks to Mur for being such a brilliant host.

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FantasyCon & US Reviews

FantasyCon 2010

We’re mere days away from FantasyCon, and I’m really looking forward to heading off to Nottingham.  It’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.

I’ll also be signing copies of The Road to Bedlam on Saturday from 12 until 1pm in the Dealer’s Room along with Colin Harvey, who will be signing copies of Damage Time and Andy Remic who will be doing likewise with Soul Stealers.  At 3:30 I am booked to do a live reading – just after Ian Whates, so it’s worth coming along for the hour.

In the meantime, reviews of Sixty-One Nails have started to appear in the United States – this one hot off the presses: ~

Shevdon’s blend of history and folklore creates a rich picture of a London that is both real and full of magic. The plot is quick and though the book is a little hefty, I finished it in all of two days (and that was with a movie break to watch all three parts of the Red Riding trilogy, too!).  The Courts of the Feyre is a world that I happily got lost in and can’t wait to return to. Really and truly amazing stuff, folks. I just can’t recommend this book highly enough.
~ No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thanks to Becky for the great review – I hope she likes the sequel as much.

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Alt.Fiction and After

Given that Alt.Fiction is a one day convention, it is amazing just how much can be packed in.  Obviously the team from Writing East Midlands had worked really hard to put together an interesting and exciting programme, complemented by the staff at QUAD, who managed that difficult line between friendly and organised.  It’s a really good venue for something like a convention and having the cinema layout seating made attending the various panels and discussions both interesting and relaxing.

At the signing I was next to Steven Erikson of Malazan fame who turns out to be a really nice guy and we chatted about odd things which inspired stories.  I did the Angry Robot Reading with Ian Whates, Gav Thorpe and Andy Remic to a select audience, which went well, and I went to the reading by Mike Carey of his short story “Face” which appeared in Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy – a really interesting and fascinating piece about a society where one ethnic group has a custom of removing girls’ faces, so that they are blank until they are married – throwing all sorts of contrasts and comparisons with our own customs and conceits.  That is definitely a recommended read.

The only down-side was that there simply wasn’t enough time.  I did manage to spend some time catching up with friends but there were people I only saw briefly and would have loved to spend more time with – the downside of a packed programme, I suppose.  Apologies to those I missed in what proved to be a hectic but fun day.

They do say you should leave them wanting more and so Alt.Fiction is definitely in my diary for next year.

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Alt.Fiction 2010

For those of you in the Midlands, I will be at Alt.Fiction this Saturday 12th June, which is being held at QUAD in Derby.

This is an excellent opportunity to meet writers, fans, editors and publishers from the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. There is a full programme planned covering everything from sci-fi and dark fantasy to social media and podcasting, with discussions on the trials and tribulations of getting published to the state of the book trade.

I will be signing books at the Fantasy Book Signing at 11am and then doing a live reading at 2pm in Cinema 2, so come along and listen to that.  I shall be around for the rest of the event, listening to panels and chatting with people.  Feel free to come and say Hi and introduce yourself – I’m always happy to meet new friends and, if you want your copy of Sixty-One Nails signed, don’t forget to bring it with you.

Hope to see you there.

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Angry Robot Redux

The UK election results have dominated the news for the last week, with the resounding failure to give any one party the mandate to govern and the potential dawn of a new era of consensual politics.  With the ink on the coalition agreement still wet, we all wait to see whether the politicians, media and the people can adjust to this change in circumstance, or whether we’ll be back to the polls within twelve months.

As is the way of things, that news overshadowed other news, and there was one thing which was particularly relevant tucked into pages of magazines such as The Bookseller and Publishers Weekly.  It was a story about my publisher, Angry Robot Books, and I thought I would share my personal take on recent developments with ARB.

I joined Angry Robot almost before it existed.  I met Marc Gascoigne at NewCon 4 in October 2008 where we got chatting about the new imprint he was setting up and he allowed me to pitch my book.  I can’t have messed that up too badly because he offered to read the manuscript and subsequently he and my agent, Jennifer Jackson, got together and carved out a two-book deal.  The deal was signed with HarperCollins, though, not with ARB directly.  Angry Robot was an imprint and part of the HarperCollins organisation and all the deals went through HarperCollins corporate lawyers.

It was great to have a world-renowned publisher behind my books.  Their global reach and reputation did me no harm at all and it meant that mainstream booksellers took all the ARB authors seriously.  It gave me presence in Australia and New Zealand and meant that ARB had some weight behind it when it launched in June-July 2009.

There were two sides to that coin, though.  Being a mainstream publisher, I was never quite sure that HarperCollins got the Angry Robot business model.  HC are a naturally conservative organisation focused on selling big-name authors into the best-seller lists.  While I would love to be part of the best-seller lists, I have to be realistic and accept that we may not get there in one step.  It takes time, effort, investment as well as really good books.

Angry Robot are much more experimental in their approach.  They are part of the new wave of publishers who are into social networking, eBooks, genre-crossing and a host of other things that do not, perhaps, sit easily with a large corporate mainstream publisher.  As a writer of urban fantasy historical action-adventure mysteries, this innovative approach was one of the things about ARB that appealed to me as an author.

In difficult times, conservative organisations tend to retrench and go back to their roots rather than experiment and innovate.  It’s a trend I think you will see carried through in the major publishing organisations over the next year or so.  Innovation requires investment and the majors have a great deal invested in the existing business model.  It is not in their interests to change the game now.  Change is in the wind, though, and change brings opportunity.

Last week it was announced that Angry Robot Books would no longer be part of HarperCollins, but would be re-launching as an independent publisher with the backing of Osprey Publishing.  The new company would be managed by the same team, led by Marc Gascoigne, with Lee Harris as Editor.  This means that that while I would still be published by Angry Robot Books, they would no longer have the HarperCollins name behind them.  They would be out on their own.

If that had happened twelve months ago, I think it would have been difficult.  Launching a new imprint into a crowded market is never easy and  without the reputation of HarperCollins behind it, it might have faltered, but a lot has happened in the last twelve months, and ARB now has a reputation of its own.

Gillian Polack, an Australian writer and editor commented:

“Angry Robot is rapidly becoming that rare (and almost old-fashioned) kind of imprint where you can look for the logo and trust their taste to guarantee a good reading experience.”

Over the past year, Angry Robot have published more than twenty books and received excellent reviews.  Where before the name was an unknown quantity, as Gill Polack says, it has become a name with an expectation of great reads behind it.  This hasn’t happened by accident as both Marc and Lee have worked extremely hard to create a brand that people trust.  There have been hiccoughs and challenging moments, but they have come through to a position where they no longer need a large corporate publishing house behind them.

Being independent also brings new opportunities.  The re-launched Angry Robot may be less constrained by corporate concerns, though I think they will be keen to maintain the momentum of the past year.  I know a lot of the ARB authors have new releases in the wings, so there’s much to look forward to.

And speaking of releases, there will be some delays.  Marc Gascoigne has been keen to commit to the schedule, but with a couple of months delay while all the elements that used to be handled by HarperCollins are sorted out.  This is only natural in the circumstances, but it does mean that Sixty-One Nails won’t be released in North America until the autumn, probably September or October.  The Road to Bedlam will also be delayed, with the release for the UK, international and North America editions delayed until the autumn, probably October – November.  As soon as I have confirmed dates for the revised schedule I’ll post an update, and I’m sure the Angry Robot team will too.

So the LibCons or ConDems, whatever you want to call them, are not the only ones with a new start ahead of them.  I wish Angry Robot Books a bright and successful future with a wave to HarperCollins for a fine start.  I think we will see some fabulous books from ARB over the next twelve months and I wish Marc and Lee every success.

Let’s see what they can come up with.

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