Friday, 2 May 2014

Valley Press Friday Digest, #1

The management of this blog have been talking, and we've decided to attempt a bi-weekly schedule of posts for the foreseeable future. The thinking is that the posts will be 'updates on our projects, reviews of poetry books, little interviews with authors and other publishers, write-ups of events, and reflections on publishing.' So if any of that sounds good, you'll want to come here more often!

To this end, I'm going to post a short(ish) blog every Friday letting the world know what's been happening at Valley Press over the last five days; a helpful digest for people who don't follow every single tweet I post (so, for people). This will take a certain amount of discipline, not something I've previously been known for, but I like a challenge - lets see how far I can get. Emma has warned me that nobody reads anything on the internet on Friday, but that's probably for the best while I figure out the finer points of this new undertaking.

This has been quite an eventful week, so without further ado, here is the first Friday Digest:

  • Our latest book has arrived, and is pictured below. The arrival of a finished book is almost enough of a high that I can live on that alone, especially when it coincides with the author writing to me saying I'd made her childhood dream come true (I'm sure Sarah won't mind me sharing that!) In some ways, it feels even more of an achievement when the book in question is a novel; novels are such big blocky things, and take so many hours of effort to produce (easily twice as much as a poetry book), that when the job gets done I feel I've really accomplished something epic. Please hum the opening music from 2001: A Space Odyssey as you gaze on this monument to human achievement:

  • In celebration of the paperback book arriving, I also produced a Kindle edition. I put in just a little more effort than usual to include drop-caps and similar niceties, yet for some reason they only appear on your Kindle device, or on the PC software, not on the 'look inside' web preview. If any techy types are passing by - why is that?
  • Talking of web previews, the publication of Love and Eskimo Snow inspired me to use 'issuu', for the first time, to show website visitors exactly what reading the book would be like (click through and scroll down to see what I'm talking about). As of yet I've had no feedback on this feature, good or bad - do we like it? Should I do more in future? 
  • Because you'll never see them otherwise, here are the first and second cover designs I produced for the book, dating from November and March. I think good taste triumphed in the end, don't you?
  • Besides the arrival of the new book, the big news was that - as of 11am yesterday - Valley Press is once again open to unsolicited submissions. The only catch is that you have to buy a book through the VP website before you can send anything in. I'm looking forward to seeing how the world responds to this! I've been trying to solve the problem of submissions ever since I started; I feel they are an important part of a publisher's job, but with a ratio so far of (approximately) 1000 enquiries to (exactly) 7 books found through this avenue, I was spending an awfully high number of my working hours on a part of the business that doesn't make money. Now, that won't be the case.
  • I have to dutifully credit Emma for coming up with this idea, though she has gone about it in an altogether more generous, classy and professional way - 'The Emma Press Club', which you can read about here. My wording on the VP contact page is pretty much 'buy something, then we'll talk'; but at least there should be no confusion, right...?
  • Before I could re-open submissions, I felt it was my solemn duty to catch up with all the unread ones that have amassed over the last few years (I found one dating back to November 2012 - sorry to that person!) Having worked through both my folder on the computer, and my 'bag for life' full of paper, I believe myself to be completely up to date in this regard; but if you know differently, and think I've missed you, please get in touch.
  • I spent the whole of Tuesday at an intense 'Social Media Masterclass' put on by Superfast North Yorkshire; I felt totally drained at the end, but I did take about ten pages of notes, which I will dig out in a week or two when I've fully recovered. I was sat next to a very smart freelance marketer named Jane Harper, who suggested this Facebook thread which ended up being extremely popular and interesting.
  • Miscellany: I also found time this week to work on my new website design, which may or may not arrive in July. Aesthetically, there won't be a big difference to the current one, but it should be easier to buy the books (which is important), and it'll be really easy to use if you're browsing on a mobile phone or small tablet. Finally, I entered the eligible 2013 books into the 2015 Read Regional scheme, and bought 400 jiffy bags (which costs £50, if you're wondering). I think that's everything.
  • Web links of the week: This week we were all excited by the detailed review of Pocket Horizon in The Lancet, and I also really enjoyed this interview between Jonny Aldridge (who I've previously declared to by my favourite reviewer) and Mike Di Placido. 'Don't give up until you're five years dead,' Mike declares.
  • Further reading: I must admit the only publishing blog I really read, religiously, is Charles Boyle's, and I enjoyed this post this month (for obvious reasons). I especially like the bit where he thinks perhaps CB Editions has been successful because it received zero funding, which is a beautifully empowering thought. (By the way, I think I might have got the 'bullet point' format subconsciously from him.) I'm sure there are other great publishing blogs I could be reading - if you know of one, why not let me know? Emma also pointed me in the way of this post by Fiona Moore, which is a great insight into a typical pamphlet publishing process from a poet's perspective (Emma recommended this post through a haze of jealousy over how well it was written - which is usually a good indicator of quality).

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