Thursday 9 December 2010


To Oxford yesterday, for coffee with the man who runs the Albion Beatnik bookshop in Walton Street and wine at a gathering for Tony Lurcock’s ‘Not So Barren or Uncultivated’ – which is not, as he pointed out, about his allotment – and more of the same at the pub afterwards.

Most mainstream publishers would consider the potential readership for a book about 18th-century British travellers in Finland (or, say, new translations of the prose poems of Francis Ponge) too small to bother with. Which is why a small press might want to publish these books. There’s little point in me publishing a novel, children’s book, etc, of the kind that bigger places publish; there are already so many of these for readers to choose from, and the bigger places have better distribution and marketing. But for a book that may be of interest to only 150 readers in the UK, I’m your man; all 150 will want a copy; my only problem is finding them.

It’s quite possible that Tony knows personally most of the potential buyers of the Finland book, or at least knows of them. Five arrived on the website today. I wish they didn’t all live in the Finland or the US; or rather, I wish people ordering from afar would notice the thing on the website suggesting the use of the Donate button for contributions to postage.

The solution to that may be – as the Albion Beatnik man suggested yesterday – to increase the price of the books. If the 150 people interested in Finland or Ponge or an experimental US novelist really do feel they need the book, they’re going to buy it whether it’s priced at £7.99 or £12.99. But that would put off the unconverted, and ideally I want some of them too, not just the already converted.


Caroline said...

I just felt like telling you that I did a review of 24 for 3 on my blog. I really hope I did it justice. I truly admire such a lot in it. It's quite wonderful.

charles said...

Oh, this is nice. Thank you. How strange to come across the book via the German publisher . . . As for UK publishers specialising in translated books, look at, whose first books will be coming next year.

Caroline said...

Thanks for the link. I will look it up and tell on my blog. People are highly interested as it seems. And there was a certain curiosity why you chose the name of a woman. Can you tell in a sentence or two. I hope we are not too curious.

charles said...

A pen-name to disguise the original self-publishing (it's easier to enthuse about a book to booksellers when it hasn't got one's own name on it). A female pen-name because, well, the book is first-person female narration and it just seemed to fit. There are precedents for this: a 1980 book by Don DeLillo, for example (see

Caroline said...

Thank you so much for the explanation. You are right, sounds a bit odd to flatter one's own work. I didn't have a problem with the gender at all. Someone asked on my blog. I often "experiment" with gender. On some blogs I am female, on some not. I experiment with languages too. I am German/French speaking but write in English. Wouldn't we all occasionally like to be someone else? A given identity can be so limiting.
Be it as it may, I am looking forward to your next novel, no matter what name you will use. All the best.