Hello!

Welcome to the May 2021 Newgen Author Newsletter.

With parts of the world opening up a bit more, I know some of you are making plans to write more or celebrate books recently released. If you have any book events planned, we want to hear about them and help you spread the word.

Some of you might have been listening to our podcast, The Newgen Pubcast, which started off as a lockdown project. We have some good news for you on that – we are in the process of planning our second series, which will start in September and will be released monthly. In our first episode back, we will be discussing diversity in the publishing industry with Aneeta Madhavan, the co-founder of Talking Cranes.

We were so happy to invite two of you on to the first series of the podcast – thanks Danièle and Matt! – and we’re looking forward to inviting more of you to join us in the second series. If you’re interested in coming on the podcast to chat to us about your experience as an author – and plug your books, of course! – please get in touch. Also, if you want to hear more of Danièle and Matt, they both have their own podcasts: The Medieval Podcast and Gone Medieval.

We have another great line up for you in this newsletter and first up is author Michèle Schindler. Michèle is going to be kept very busy writing lots of books over the next few years, so read on to learn a bit more about her experience.

Recently a few colleagues and I attended the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) Spring Conference. The IPG is a fantastic organisation that usually holds in-person conferences several times a year, but the last three have been held on a surprisingly effective virtual platform. The conferences are a great resource because knowledge is freely shared among members. Sam, our new business development manager, has written up what we took from this event.

Next up, we have a two-part look at the Education side of our business. In the last issue of the newsletter (February 2021), my colleagues Sarah and Lizzie wrote about what production in the Academic side of our business entails, which you can read here. Céline shares her top tips for Education authors and Phil goes into a bit more detail about the production process.

In each issue, we visit an independent bookshop that means something to a Newgen member. This time, Jennie has written about her local bookshop, the Malvern Book Cooperative, and Renga has written about a library in his grandfather’s hometown that he would visit each year on holiday with his family. Since bookshops have reopened in the UK, we’ve seen an outpouring of love for them, and we hope that local, indie bookshops will continue to thrive.

Finally, we have a review of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, brought to you by Newgen Book Club member Doug, and we’ve listed the last year’s book club picks. If you are using our list, let us know as we’d love to know what you think of our choices. If you have any suggestions for new book club picks, we’re all ears.

Enjoy!

Eleri Pipien eleri@newgenpublishing.co.uk

Author profile: Michèle Schindler

I am Michèle Schindler, and I am living my dream: I have wanted to be a writer since I was thirteen years old, and spent my time in boring maths lessons writing little stories for my best friend at the time.

At the time, it seemed as unlikely to become true as my childhood wish of becoming a professional football player, and, in fact, it was soon replaced by yet another ambition: being a historian.

This, finally, was a wish that stayed with me, and when I graduated from school in 2011, it was no question that I would go to university and read history. It was during my rather turbulent time at university – which, due to financial reasons, I sadly had to leave without ever properly finishing – that I rediscovered my love of writing. I was always writing something. And it was always about history.

Maybe, this is all I would have ever written, had I not discovered another passion at that time: I had followed the discovery of Richard III`s remains with great interest and delight, and I decided to swot up a bit on him. While I was doing so, I came across a mention of his great ally and friend, Francis, Viscount Lovell, and finding him to sound interesting, went to find out more about him.

And I fell down a rabbit hole I was to never leave.

My previously eclectic writing started focusing on him; the more I found, the more I wanted to know. I became active on social media, always searching for others just as interested in history as me and interested in discussing the Wars of the Roses. This was how I “met” Matthew Lewis and Nathen Amin, both of whom independently suggested that I might submit a book proposal to a publisher and write an entire book about Francis Lovell.

Naturally, I thought this was absurd. Why would any publisher want to take on my proposal? Even so, I decided to try. To my complete surprise and utter delight, Amberley Publishing said they would have it, and in August 2018, I received the contract for my first book, which was published exactly one year later: Lovell Our Dogge: The Life of Viscount Lovell, Closest Friend of Richard III and Failed Regicide.

Though the fact that I was an actual published author still seems too good to be true, I knew then that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to write. There were so much more I wanted to explore, and, in January 2020, I got a contract for another book from Amberley Publishing, this one for a book about John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and his son John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, called De la Pole, Father and Son: The Duke, the Earl and the Struggle for Power, which is hopefully going to be published this year.

From then on, everything became slightly crazy. First of all, last spring, I ventured into self-publishing. This was a spur of the moment decision, born out of a desire to help in the crisis we all found ourselves in. So I turned to the one thing I am really good at: writing. With the help of other authors, I pulled together an anthology of short stories about the Wars of the Roses, called Yorkist Stories, published on Amazon. The proceeds of this go to Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders.

Though self-publishing went much easier than expected, and this even inspired me to have another go at it and write a novella about Francis Lovell`s childhood, called The Autumn Baron, non-fiction remains my real passion, and I am lucky that I can continue to pursue it.

At the end of last year, just as I received my third contract from Amberley Publishing for a book about Alice Chaucer, I was contacted by a nice lady called Eleri Pipien, asking if I was interested in writing a book for Pen & Sword Publishing, about medieval wardships.

When I received this message, I was thirteen again for a moment, my greatest wish coming true. Not only was I a published author, but someone had actually asked me to write something – to write an actual book.

Amazing.

My conversations with Eleri proved fruitful, and somehow – I`m really still not quite sure that I am not dreaming – by February 2021, I had three more contracts, from Pen & Sword Publishing – one for a book about mental health and the myths surrounding its conception and treatment in the Middle Ages, one about fertility and childbirth in the Middle Ages and one about wardship in the Middle Ages.

So here I am – an actual author, and there is nothing I could possibly love doing more.

Independent Publishers Guild Spring Conference

Hello, my name is Sam Town, and I’m the new Business Development Manager for Newgen. This May Newgen Publishing exhibited at the Independent Publishers Guild’s (IPG) 2021 Virtual Spring Conference.

This is the third IPG virtual conference which Newgen has exhibited at in the last year – and it just gets better! Attendance over the two days of the conference was certainly healthy, and comprised of 15 exhibitors (see Newgen’s virtual booth, below), 46 speakers and 583 attendees overall.

The theme of the conference was around the future of publishing – what does it look like and how has the pandemic changed the way we all produce, sell and consume content?

The two days kicked off with a keynote session from forecaster and author Azeem Azhar about the ways in which technology has transformed many aspects of our lives and how the pandemic has accelerated the changes wrought by technology across the publishing industry, which was a thread which ran through the conference as a whole.

An interesting session with James Daunt of Waterstones, Bookshop.org’s Nicola Vanderbilt and Andy Rossiter of Rossiter Books looked at how the pandemic has changed the ways in which consumers find and buy books online and offline. The general consensus was that people had really missed bookshops during the lockdowns. Andy Rossiter noted: “People have been craving the inviting atmosphere of bookshops… they’ve realised that they need to use independents or lose them.” 

Despite the challenges wrought by the pandemic there was a real sense of optimism regarding the future of independent publishers. Although the last eighteen months have been tough, SAGE’s Ziyad Marar said, “This is an exciting and optimistic time despite the worries we’ve been through,” and Helen Kogan of Kogan Page added, “There’s never been such a level playing field between small and large publishers… or a better time to reach new markets and try new formats.”

A keynote session came from author and Costa Book of the Year Award Winner, Monique Roffey. Monique discussed her experience with the independent publisher Peepal Tree Press, the effect that major awards can have on publishers and authors and the unique strengths of independents: “Big companies are well resourced… but at indies we’re at the core of what they do,” she said. “Independent publishers are critical to literary fiction… without them our world would look very grim and monolithic.” 

Other ‘hot topic’ sessions included the big issues in Open Access for books, the terrific growth of audiobooks, diversity and inclusivity in the industry, and looking after the mental health and well-being of remote and home-working teams.

There was a real sense of industry optimism which ran through the entire event, and at Newgen we’re already looking forward to the IPG’s Autumn conference.

Top tips for Education authors

I am Céline Durassier and a production editor in the Education department. I also teach French and write exam questions for a French exam board.

If you have been contacted to write some educational materials, congratulations! It is very rewarding to see your name on a textbook, revision guide or a digital platform. However, authoring educational content can also feel challenging at times and since we have been working with (experienced and new) authors for a while now at Newgen, we thought we would give you some tips (you will see that we like bullet lists too):Your first point of contact is usually the commissioning editor. They can be someone working for Newgen or the publisher’s commissioning editor. In both cases, let them know about anything that can get on your way: short deadlines, difficult brief, issues to access platforms. Very much like in a couple, communication is key.

۰ Never hesitate to give your commissioning editor a call. You can even suggest to have weekly or fortnightly meetings to discuss your progress.

۰ During the publishing process, make sure you check your emails regularly: editors will get in touch with you regularly to ask you questions.

۰ When you want to use a specific third-party source (that the Rights and Permissions team will probably need to clear permissions for), leave a note in the manuscript. This will be helpful for the Development Editor and the Copy Editor.

۰ Speaking of Development Editors, they will read your manuscript and check that the progression of your lesson makes sense. They usually either have specialised knowledge and/or are teachers (or former teachers) themselves. They might ask you to rewrite or change some activities. Don’t hesitate to challenge their opinion if you feel strongly about your choice. However, don’t forget that they are working with you to make the manuscript better. Trust their judgement, they usually have the right experience working on educational content.

۰ Finally, if you are writing lessons that will go on a digital platform, try to browse the platform before you start writing. It is really helpful to put yourself in the student’s shoes and have a go at doing some of the activities yourself.

A brief guide to the production process in Education publishing

A few months ago, you were treated by Sarah Rendell and Lizzie Evans to a rundown of the production process as it’s experienced in the world of academic publishing (if you haven’t seen this yet then you can find this here) and this month we thought that you might be interested in learning about how education materials reach the market, too. Here in Newgen’s Education team, because we help our clients with so many aspects along the line in both print and digital projects, the ‘production process’ as I refer to it here is a fairly catch-all term referring to the life-cycle of the book or online materials. I’m using this because we can be involved right from (and in some cases before) the word ‘go’.

Commissioning and authoring

This is the earliest part of the process we’re involved in. The first job in the life of any content for education publishing is in commissioning an author to write the content for the students. Here we work with our clients to identify the key areas or gaps in the market that we’d like to create content to fill, this could be for any reason: perhaps because of a recent change in exam specification or syllabus, a reaction to feedback from teachers or students, or even, as we’ve experienced this year, a reaction to a rapid change in the way education is delivered.

Once authors have been located and signed up for the project, we then work with them in our capacity as publisher to ensure that they understand what’s being asked of them in the brief and help them to deliver the content, whatever form this might take, within the schedule and around their other commitments. As in other flavours of publishing (trade, academic, etc.) the people we’re working with may not be full-time authors and so we help to ensure this is as streamlined and as simple a stage as it can be.

Teacher review

This is a really important stage. At this point, the manuscript is sent to a team of experienced teachers who check it against the brief and specification of the course to ensure that the material presented there achieves the aims of the resource and will ‘work’ as a resource. They might provide feedback asking an author to change an aspect of the content in order to provide more narrative or structure around an area which they now learners routinely struggle with. This can be an iterative progress depending on the timescale of the project and the scope for change.

Where we’re working with content intended for a digital market this stage may also include an ID review which is performed to ensure that the content provided conforms to the realities or the platform (for example, that the author isn’t trying to use an activity or interactive that isn’t compatible with the platform).

Development and copyediting

These stages are where the vast majority of change can happen. Once the content has been signed off it is then sent to the development editor who reviews the manuscript to ensure that it’s consistent throughout and makes any necessary changes to improve lesson / teaching flow. Changes made at this stage are substantive, they’re changes that may require some input from an author – whether to check intention or understanding aligns – but what is important to remember is that they’re changes intended to make the content as good as it possibly can be.

Following this, the content is sent to a copyeditor who reviews the content to ensure that the content meets with a publisher’s house style and that it’s presented within the correct templates for the typesetters or build team. The copyeditor is also on the look out for any remaining typos or inconsistencies, they’re trying to make the content as clean as it possibly can be.

Rights and permissions (R&P), which merits a piece all on its own, takes place at this point and continues all the way up to release also. This is the part of the process that ensures that all content that an author hasn’t created themselves is permissible to be used. It can be a long process and is important to start as early as possible if an author is intending to use a wide variety of sources and asset types and depending on how the content is intending to be used.

Typesetting / digital build

The next stage, depending on whether the content is going to be used as a print or a digital resource, is typesetting or digital build. This is the point at which content is ‘set’ in the form that learners will eventually use it. This is an iterative process and authors will often have an opportunity to review the same and, even if they don’t, they can rest assured that in the course of the next step the content will be thoroughly reviewed and tested.

Review and corrections

Regardless of format, once it’s set, the content needs to be reviewed. As well as the production teams, this is done by proofreaders, fact and answer checkers and also the R&P team and their corrections are then collated together and sent back to either the typesetters or the build team to be corrected. Changes at this first stage are not intended to be substantive, they’re changes to correct errors in the setting of content. This process is repeated for the second proof stage, where changes are intended to be to correct errors made in the correction before a final round proofs are created for sign off.

In the case of digital projects, these stages also include functionality checks and other checks specific to digital builds. These checks are there to ensure that the content in the platform is working as it’s intended to.

Print / live release

Once all the checks and corrections are complete, it’s time for the content, whether it’s a printed resource or an online course, to reach the learners who will be using it. The final buttons and emails are sent and the project we’ve worked so hard on goes out into the world, either via the printers or by launching it within the platform.

If this isn’t enough for you and you want to learn even more about the education production process, Clare Owen and I spoke about the production process generally in a little more detail in episode three of the most recent series of The Newgen Pubcast. If you haven’t yet, listen to this and all of the other episodes from the last season here.

Malvern Book Cooperative

My name is Jennie Courage. As a Project Manager in the Education team, I ensure multicomponent projects deliver on time, meet quality standards and fall within budget.

I live in the Victorian spa town of Malvern, at the foot of the Malvern Hills – a nine-mile designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty dividing the beautiful English countryside of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. When I am not walking on the Malvern Hills, you will often find me in my favourite community owned book shop: Malvern Book Cooperative. Brilliant for the resident Malvern reading public and for its sizable number of visitors, book lovers in Malvern have good reason to be grateful to Malvern Book Cooperative which has kept the town well supplied with literary delights since 2012.

Located in a distinctive, Victorian building just off one of Malvern’s main thoroughfares, the bookshop has become something of a cultural centre for the town too, hosting a variety of literary events and two book clubs. You will often find me enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake with a new book in the shop’s café. Books and cakes – what’s not to like?

Who better to tell us more about Malvern Book Cooperative than one of its founding members, Mary Herbert?

  • Describe what makes Malvern Book Cooperative special.

Malvern Book Cooperative is a warm and friendly bookshop. We stock a wide range of books from many different genres. Our staff can help advise on book selection. We offer a speedy book ordering service if we have not got the titles our customers want.

  • Why did you decide to be a cooperative?

When the town’s bookshop closed, a group of us decided that a town like Malvern could not be without a bookshop. We decided to ask the local community for help and the cooperative was born. Initially approximately 120 people bought shares and that allowed us to fit out the shop and buy stock. We like the community involvement as each member has one vote and a say in how the shop is run.

  • How has the Malvern Book Cooperative adapted during lockdown?

Lockdown has been challenging but our customers are very loyal. We have adapted by offering a click and collect service via email or phone. We have been able to offer home delivery via our suppliers. Finally, our shop front on Bookshop.org has been invaluable.

Thank you to Mary for answering our questions.

The village library

பாட்டுக் கொருபுலவன் பாரதி அடா! – அவன் பாட்டைப் பண்ணொடொருவன் பாடினான், அடா!
கேட்டுக் கிறுகிறுத்துப் போனேனேயடா! – அந்தக்கிறுக்கில் உளறுமொழி பொறுப்பாய், அடா!
சொல்லுக்குச் சொல்லழகும் ஏறுமே, அடா! – கவிதுள்ளும் மறியைப்போலத் துள்ளுமே, அடா !
கல்லும் கனிந்துகனி யாகுமே, அடா ! – பசுங்கன்றும் பால் உண்டிடாது கேட்குமே, அடா!

– “கவிமணி” தேசிக விநாயகம் பிள்ளை (“மலரும் மாலையும்“)

Bharathi, a poet incarnate!

Insanely enthralled, was I

upon hearing an elegant rendition of his song,

Bear with my jabber, I entreat you

as the allure of the lyrical words intensifies,

while the song capers like a colt.

Even stone ripens like a fruit,

and makes a feeding calf stop to listen to it.

– “Kavimani” Desika Vinayagam Pillai (Flowers and Garlands) [1]

Theroor, a picturesque village in Kanniyakumari District, is eight kilometers from Nagercoil on the way to Kanniyakumari. Along with the Suchindram Lake, the Theroor Lake serves as a bird sanctuary for migratory birds that come all the way from Siberia. One of the famous sons of Theroor was Desika Vinayagam Pillai (1876–1954), a poet noted for children’s, nationalistic, and devotional songs and poems. He worked as a teacher of Tamil in a school in Kottar, Nagercoil, and later as a professor of Tamil in Thiruvananthapuram. In 1940 the Tamil Sangam at its 7th annual conference held at Madras honored Desika Vinayagam Pillai with the title “Kavimani”. He also translated Edwin Arnold’s Light of Asia and Omar Khayyam’s Rubbaiyat into Tamil. The library, established in 1956, in Theroor is named after him. He was commemorated on a stamp issued by the Indian Postal Service in 2005. Recently, the government announced to expand the memorial and the library at a cost of 1 crore.

Kavimani Desika Vinayagam Pillai Memorial Library, Theroor

During the summer, our family used to take a 13-hour bus ride to Theroor, our native village, where our grandparents lived. Sometimes, cousins along with their families would join us in Theroor. The mornings would be spent lazing around, playing cards, or running off to the brook nearby, fed from the lake that nourished the major crop in the village – paddy. Bathing in the brook was something we all looked forward to because we were allowed to go unchaperoned. Bathing in the lake was a different matter altogether, regulated under strict supervision – not only the moss-ridden steps on the lake were slippery but the lake was too deep for no one of us could swim.I, in particular, used to eagerly await the afternoons because after lunch I was allowed to go to the library. Kumaresa Pillai, the librarian, was an old but active man, a friend of my grandfather’s, and who had, from my distinct memory of him, thick iron-like arms. The reading hall was huge for a village library, and one could see a few people at the reading desks with newspapers. A passage from the librarian’s room lead to another room where the books were arranged on both wooden and metal racks. The library contained around 10,000 books. I mostly read children’s books but would pore over collections of the Illustrated Weekly of India in thick binders. Books for borrowing were not allowed, but Kumaresa Pillai made an exception for me after duly noting down the books borrowed in a notebook. Sometimes I returned the books the next year when I returned for the summer. A few I never returned although I don’t remember which books these were.

The buffalo pond behind the library

My grandparents died a long time back and so did Kumaresa Pillai, but I still visit Theroor occasionally. But whenever I visit, I always go see the library. I don’t know who the current librarian is, but my love for reading started here. I hope to pass on this fondness for reading to my children, but who knows what path lays ahead for them in their world of reading devices and apps!

[1] Translation credit goes to Kondappan Sathiaseelan.

Newgen Book Club review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

The Newgen Book Club chose to read Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet in April. We seem to be collecting winners of the Women’s Prize for Fiction (and I’m excited for July, to see who the 2021 winner will be)! Hamnet has been incredibly popular and critically acclaimed since its release last year, so our group were looking forward to reading it.

Hamnet is a story about love, life, death and, above all, what comes after death for those still living. Facing one of the worst losses, in the death of a child. This is presented very early on in the book (even on the back cover), so the reader knows that the story is not going to be light. It’s to the author’s credit that there is levity sprinkled through some very dark material – facilitated through much of the book by the interweaving of two very different timelines.

The portrayal of a grieving mother is incredibly powerful, well-written and compelling reading. However, our group had mixed reactions upon reaching the end of the story. Almost in a nod to O’Farrell, I haven’t yet mentioned that the family she writes about is that of William and Agnes Shakespeare. This is overtly referenced, throughout the book, but is never acknowledged by name – something that often feels incredibly affected. Neither ‘William’ nor ‘Shakespeare’ are ever written, and the efforts to avoid mentioning William by name (‘the husband’, ‘the brother’, ‘the playwright’, etc.) often seem obtuse. We certainly know who the author is talking about! By not mentioning his name, in an effort to make the book about his wife, he almost becomes a much more powerful presence than I assume is intended.

It’s almost as though the author wanted to write Agnes’ story, alone, but almost needed a hook to ‘get people in the door’. That hook was Shakespeare, but perhaps it wasn’t needed. I would have been interested to read a story about Agnes as a woman and a grieving mother without a famous husband, where her story was allowed to be her own.