Friday, 19 January 2018

This week at Valley Press, #88: 'Meet the REO'


It’s Wendy Pratt here, I’m one of the Valley Press authors (see more about my book, Gifts the Mole Gave Me, here) and I’m also the newly appointed Reader Engagement Officer for the wonderful Valley Press. Part of my new role is to keep the Valley Press social media accounts full of interesting book-related stuff for you all to enjoy, which is fun for me as I now have a reason for spending so much time on Twitter. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, or all three if you want the full Valley Press experience. I also field enquiries from the general public, so if you want to get in touch (head here) please do, we’d love to hear your views and reviews. Let us know what you love and what you don’t and we’ll always try to answer. One of the best things about being the Reader Engagement Officer is that I get to spend time promoting books, authors, events, festivals and reading in general. My love of books is why I became a writer in the first place, so this is something akin to my dream job. Plus, the office is in the beautiful Woodend Creative Arts Centre which is abuzz with creative people doing creative things on all levels. They have a gorgeous little shop there too, well worth popping in if you’re passing.

I will try not to bang on too much about how brilliant Valley Press are, but I did want to say a couple of things. We don’t celebrate small publishers enough, in my opinion, which is why social media is such a great platform for spreading the word. There are some smashing small publishers out there and I have been lucky enough to work with several. One of the things that has impressed me the most about Valley Press is their way of working; it’s a mix of kindness, professionalism and enjoyment. The office always feels like it’s full of people who genuinely love books and love to see people reading. And it’s fascinating to be on the other side of the submissions portal and see how the team work to bring new titles together. All the submissions are read diligently, and with an open mind, which is why the turnaround time can be quite a long one.

If you do get a rejection, why not drop me a line and I might be able to help point you towards mentors, courses and helpful websites that will help you polish up your work. Try not to be put off, rejection is part of the writing life, I’m afraid, but it’s not personal. I’ll never forget the day I got the email saying Valley Press were publishing my book. It came at a time when my confidence was a bit wobbly and it just felt wonderful to be given a chance by them. I’d bought a few of their titles before and was always very impressed with the aesthetics of the covers, the tactile feel of the books and the details in the typeface and layout. From being on the other side (of the office door, not death) I can see how much thought is put into each one, and that’s because they want the experience to be a good one for the writer and the reader. So bear with us, if you’re waiting to hear; it won’t be long. We’re expecting to have decisions on all outstanding submissions by March, and the next submissions window will likely open soon after (if not before).

Enough of the sentimentality, you’ll be wanting some actual news I imagine, and here it is:
  • We were incredibly excited to hear that BBC Radio 4 will be featuring a poem by Valley Press author Norah Hanson on Poetry Please! You can hear Norah’s wonderful poem ‘Grafters’ on Sunday 28th January.
  • The official Chinese launch of How Old Dan Became a Tree by Yang Zhengguang was held in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province (apparently in China’s biggest bookshop – see header image for a sense of scale). Several hundred members of the public attended the event, and we’re told some enthusiastic readers queued for more than an hour to obtain the author’s signature!
  • And our latest anthology Verse Matters had a brilliant write up in the Yorkshire Post.

What a week!

That’s it from me, I hope I’ve not bored you with my sickeningly positive appraisal of Valley Press. Do check into social media, we have a few lovely new regular features coming up which you won’t want to miss.

Have a bookish weekend


Friday, 5 January 2018

This week at Valley Press, #87: 'Old Dan'

Dear readers,

Happy new year! I'm writing on behalf of your favourite Scarborough-based publishing company (remember us?), where we're starting the year as we mean to continue; just five days in and already a new title is on the shelves.

First up for 2018 is How Old Dan Became a Tree, the second in our 'Shaanxi Stories' series published in association with Northwest University, Xi’an (if anyone from there is reading, happy new year to you too... for February, of course). If this is the first you're hearing about the Shaanxi series, don't worry, you've only missed one title – the sublime Mountain Stories – and you can read about the genesis of the project here.

I thought Mountain Stories was the perfect introduction to Chinese literature in translation, and this new book (by Yang Zhengguang) is a fairly suitable next step – though it is definitely a challenging read. Even in China these stories are considered boundary-breaking, with no shortage of sex and violence (consider yourselves warned). I had various interns proof-reading the text last summer; they would frequently stop, read out a toe-curlingly outrageous bit of prose, and I would reply: 'good grief!' But then they would quickly say: '...but I'm really enjoying it, I'm gripped.' So there you go. (Did you ever hear about the publisher who went broke peddling tales of lust and revenge? No, me neither...)

If you fancy something more local, York-based poet Ian Stuart has recorded an audiobook version of Quantum Theory for Cats, which you can pick up here (or from your preferred audiobook seller) for just over £3. Besides working as a Ghost Trail guide, Ian is also a professional voiceover artist, so the quality of this production (polished in the studio by Scarborough hero Tom Townsend) is second-to-none. Our Arts Council grant for 2018 included funding for audiobooks, so expect quite a few more before the year is out.

There was no newsletter last week, but my typing fingers weren't idle; I sketched out a brief business plan for a one-person publishing company (that's the kind of thing I do for fun these days) and posted it here. Afterwards, my inbox was filled with questions and comments about the featured figures, so I'm now working on a follow-up piece to answer them. Stay tuned for that soon...

...but not next week, as I've decided to make this newsletter a fortnightly event in 2018. The hope is that I can redirect some creative energy to write the 'ten years of Valley Press' memoir, which I half-promised would appear this coming October, and also give the Emma/Valley podcast a decent go (the most recent episode is still the Christmas one).

So I'll see you in two weeks, when I'll be ready to reveal the next book (which is yet another surprising diversion from the usual programming). Stay out of trouble!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher