Editorial

Hello!

Today, 26 November 2020, is our second birthday as Newgen Publishing UK – we hope an auspicious day to release this, our first ever Newgen newsletter. Welcome, come on in!

My name is Eleri Pipien and I am the commissioning editor for Newgen Publishing UK. I joined Out of House Publishing, as Newgen was then known, five years ago as a production editor and immediately fell in love with the friendly atmosphere of the company. Since then, it has grown hugely, been welcomed into the global Newgen family and expanded beyond production, which we are still best known for. In September of this year I returned from maternity leave to my new role as commissioning editor and wanted to set up this newsletter as a place to welcome our community of commissioned authors, talk about who we are as a company and share information about the things we love the most (namely, books!).

I work with an extremely talented bunch of individuals who have kindly contributed, so it is my pleasure to introduce what we’ve got in store for you.

The first issue would not be complete without an introduction to Newgen Publishing UK from the very man who set it up many moons ago in his basement, Jo Bottrill.

You’ll be pleased to know that we’re not still in that basement. We’ve not only grown in numbers but also in what we can do. There are some exciting new things to share with you in our ‘What’s new?’ section.

Each issue will feature one of our authors, and for this issue, we have the very first author I ever commissioned, Matt Lewis. I have worked with Matt for years and have watched in awe as he has become a successful author and documentary presenter.

One of our production editors, Nicola, is also a copy-editor and proofreader. She shares her top tips for authors on making sure language is inclusive.

We have recently set up a staff book gang and we hope you will read along with us! Phil has provided a bit of background on how it works and the books we have read so far. Sonnie has chosen the latest book and she goes into what she chose and why. You can share your thoughts about our choices on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #newgenbookgang.

We are big supporters of independent book shops, and our office in Stroud, Gloucestershire, is lucky enough to have several in the surrounding areas. A lot of us choose to work from home normally (of course, we are all working from home currently) and Tamsin tells us about her favourite local bookshop in Crediton, near Exeter.

And finally, independent book shops have had some lovely news in these difficult times with bookshop.org coming to the UK after their success in the US. Who are they and why have they been described as ‘the Rebel Alliance to Amazon’s Empire’? Annie explains.

Enjoy!

Introduction to Newgen Publishing UK

At Newgen we help content owners publish. It’s our single-minded focus on this core purpose that leads us to work with some of the largest publishers in the world while at the same time supporting self-publishing authors and small independent presses.

We aim to improve outcomes at every step in the publishing journey, both for the publisher and the end-reader. We partner with our customers to optimize the cost of publishing, to open new markets, and to develop innovative products.

Throughout our 25-year history, we have brought together people and technology to build services with a heart, solutions that make a difference to the lives of the people we work with. I founded the UK-arm of Newgen back in 2007. We brought together the best in editorial and project management expertise with the efficiency and outstanding technical know-how that our offshore teams offered. Now our business is truly global, but our focus remains the same: improving the outcomes for the publishers, authors, readers and learners we support.

Author profile: Matt Lewis

My name is Matt Lewis, and I’m an author. There. I said it. Does that count as Step 1? Acknowledging the sickness that has taken a grip on my life. Mind you; I’m not sure it can be called a sickness when it’s what you’ve always wanted.

I studied law at university, and although I can’t say I enjoyed the course, it teaches some valuable transferable skills around research, structuring and presenting an argument, dealing with counterarguments and public speaking. I could hardly have known the way in which it would prove most useful, but they are skills I have been able to apply throughout my work life. I’ve had an eclectic career history. Studying law put me off working in it, and I never really settled into any particular career. I worked in product management, customer service management, project management, IT, and ran my own business, a boarding kennel and cattery, for twelve years.

During that time, I never lost my interest in history. It began at A-level, largely due to a fantastic teacher, and I almost took a history degree before switching to law. When we studied the Wars of the Roses, it grabbed hold of my imagination and has yet to let go, more years later than I care to count. I was particularly fascinated with Richard III, and in my spare time over about ten years, I wrote a novel about his life, really just for fun. When some friends read the finished thing they suggested I send it to publishers, but I ended up self-publishing it, mainly to show everyone how badly it would do. For the first six months, it sold hardly any copies. I could smugly tell everyone I’d told them so while I cried inside.

After those six months, Richard III’s remains were unearthed in Leicester. It was the kind of publicity I couldn’t have paid for, and suddenly the book sold a lot of copies. With all the hype surrounding Richard III at the time, a lot of which was factually incorrect, often wildly so, I started a blog to try and set the record straight where I could. If got some traction, and then a commissioning editor emailed me through my blog to say they liked the way I wrote, and would I want to write a (real, proper, traditionally published) book for them. After checking if it was a joke several times and picking myself up off the floor, I jumped at the opportunity.

Since then, I have written several non-fiction histories. The first was a history of the Wars of the Roses. I have also written biographies of Henry III, Richard Duke of York and Richard III, as well as an account of The Anarchy. I have also contributed a couple of short histories to a series as well. All in all, it’s been a hectic but productive eight years. My next book due for publication is a joint biography of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine due for release in July 2021. I am currently working on a book on medieval rebellions, and amongst those I have contracts for is a biography of Warwick the Kingmaker. The legal training has definitely paid dividends in this career lurch. I also had the huge honour to recently present two documentaraies of History Hit from the Tower of London, one on the Princes in the Tower and one on escapees from imprisonment there. It was a mind-blowing experience which I hope to be able to repeat.

Part of trying to make a success of writing is being active on social media. I’m often (too often? I should be writing!) on Twitter @MattLewisAuthor, I have a Facebook page with the same name and am on Instagram @MattLewisHistory. If I am asked for advice for aspiring writers, it is simply to write. Practice and refine the skill, and tell stories that people will want to read. If you’re like me, you will never believe what you write is any good. That’s when someone like Eleri at Newgen, who was that first commissioning editor to contact me, is so valuable. They will see beyond modesty or a lack of self-belief and help direct you towards success. I told Eleri the other day she had created a monster, and it was all her fault. And it is, because without her belief and guidance, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

A selection of Matt’s books

Top tips for authors: how to write inclusively

I recently joined Newgen Publishing UK as the Deputy Team Leader for the Taylor & Francis account. Previously I worked for several years as a freelance copy-editor and proofreader and am a professional member of the CIEP. I studied foreign languages at university and have always been fascinated by the intricacies of language and how we use it to communicate.

When we write, regardless of what we are writing, we want to make sure that no one who reads our work feels excluded or sidelined, either on account of their race, religion or gender, on which I focus here. This is known as writing “inclusively” and there are a lot of things we can do to make sure that the language we are using is as inclusive as possible. Here are a few tips.

Avoid using examples that reinforce gender stereotypes. This includes offering too many examples of, for example, a male politician, a male doctor, a female nurse, etc. This reinforces the idea that these roles are more suited to one particular gender than another, sidelining the many female (or transgender) politicians, female doctors and male nurses in the world. We should also avoid stereotyping people by assumption, such as referring to the “male” therapist and the “female” patient. If in your writing you are using case studies that refer to specific, gendered individuals, try to provide a balanced picture of people of all genders fulfilling these roles.

Think carefully about how you refer to unspecified individuals. In recent decades, “he or she” or “s/he” have been used as acceptable ways to describe an unnamed, unspecified person. But we should now consider whether this practice is still fit for purpose, if it excludes those that do not identify as either male or female. To be fully inclusive, we could instead use the singular “they/them” pronouns to refer to people without making any reference to their gender at all. Some sources will tell you that this is ungrammatical, but I think we need to ask ourselves which is more important: grammatical pedantry or honouring and respecting the feelings and rights of all individuals?

Avoid “othering” one group in particular. One example of this is the practice of categorising sports as relating to either “Football” or “Women’s Football”, and “Cricket” or “Women’s Cricket”. This clearly defines the male format of the sport as “the norm” and the female format as “the other”. In other sports in which women’s participation has typically received greater public attention, such as tennis, gymnastics and figure skating, such distinctions are not generally used. How can we expect today’s young women, or transgender individuals, to aspire to a career as a professional footballer or cricketer if the media are feeding them the narrative that such aspirations are abnormal?

Respect other people’s identities. It’s fair to say that there are a number of different terms that people use to define their gender identity – transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, to name a few – and what might be right for one individual may not be right for another. But we can ensure that we refer to everyone inclusively by respecting the terms that people choose to describe themselves and by making an effort to understand the meanings behind these terms and how they should be used. So if you are working with an individual who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, make sure that you always use these pronouns when referring to them.

Use ungendered terms. It’s interesting to note how much gender bias is present in our everyday language. Consider the following terms: freshman, policeman, mankind, chairman. Many of these terms have better, ungendered alternatives we could be using instead: fresher, police officer, humankind, chairperson. Consider also dropping the use of female-only terms such as stewardess, actress and heroine. Why can’t we just be stewards, actors and heroes, regardless of our gender?

Be an advocate of gender-inclusive language. In the Newgen Publishing UK office, many of our staff are now choosing to include their preferred gender pronouns at the end of their email signatures. This helps to normalise the practice for those whose preferred gender pronouns may not obviously match their given names. Consider changing the language you use in everyday speech as well, such as referring to “all genders” rather than “both genders”.

Crediton Community Bookshop

Hello readers, my name is Tamsin Ballard and I’m a relatively recent recruit to Newgen Publishing. Despite being based a shade over 100 miles from the office, I have received an incredibly warm welcome from a close-knit team and become quite adept at video conferencing. My role as a team leader is fairly self-explanatory: I head up two teams of project managers who produce books and journals. I am also an account manager for two leading academic publishers ensuring smooth running of production on their titles and working with them to produce great content.

While writing the above the postman rang my doorbell armed with two parcels of books and I confess I abandoned my task and immediately started tearing them open. Inside, carefully wrapped in pale blue tissue paper and sealed with colourful stickers were my Christmas orders – a stocking filler for my youngest, two new crime novels for my thriller-fanatic mother-in-law and a little treat for me. I find choosing books for other people terribly hard so bookshops with knowledgeable staff and a well-curated selection are lifesavers – you can never trust those pesky Amazon reviews! And so, having buried the lede, I come to my indie bookshop recommendation: the inspiring and friendly Crediton Community Bookshop.

Located in Crediton, Devon, you don’t need to be local to make the most of their expert staff and volunteers. In addition to being members of Bookshop.org, they have a great website, are regular posters on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and will also happily provide reading recommendations by email (see below for links). In these times of Covid their innovative thinking has enabled their customers to stay topped up with good reads throughout lockdown. You can arrange a private browsing session to shop in safety, have your order delivered by bike and during November they have waived delivery fees for all postal orders (so get cracking with your Christmas shopping folks!).

Doing exactly what it says on the tin, Crediton Community Bookshop has been owned and run by community shareholders since 2013. The staff and volunteers work tirelessly to promote literature and run fantastic events such as author readings and visits to schools; story time for pre-schoolers; book fairs; writing, literacy and creative workshops and reading and discussion groups to name but a few. And remember that free shipping offer? You can choose to donate that cost to Crediton Foodbank – you don’t get that with Amazon Prime!

URL: www.creditoncommunitybookshop.co.uk/

Twitter: @Credbooks

Instagram: creditoncommunitybookshop/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CreditonCommunityBookshop

Crediton Community Bookshop
The children’s section being enjoyed!
Inside the bookshop

Book club

There have been several attempts to start up a book club at Newgen since I’ve been here and each attempt until now has been as unsuccessful as the last. In the end, it took a global pandemic and all staff being locked in their homes for us to get it up off the ground. However, get if off the ground we did, and we’ve now been meeting (almost) every month to speak about and share our enjoyment (or otherwise) in the books that each other pick.

There are fourteen of us in the newly minted book gang, our ranks having swollen by the recent arrivals to the Newgen UK team. As book clubs go it’s a reasonably conventional one in that our time together is split evenly between reviewing books and talking about nonsense, though we do try to stay focused most of the time. We’re fairly democratic in our book choosing, using the now-popular method of voting and picking the book that received the most legal votes. Each month, one person is arbitrarily selected to be the host of the next month’s meeting and they get to select three titles to put to the group and the most popular book wins. This has proved to be a pretty successful method so far, with only one book having required a recount.

We’ve met twice so far this year and the books that we’ve discussed have been Bernadine Evaristo’s Booker-prize winning Girl, Woman, Other and Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen’s mystery-in-translation The Rabbit Back Literature Society. I wrote ‘or otherwise’ earlier and the truth is that I was being a little disingenuous as, so far, we’ve all been fairly pleased with the books that we’ve read. It’s been really interesting to hear how similar our opinions have been up until now and I’m looking forward seeing whether this trend will continue, especially with regards to the next title.

Our next book, picked by Sonnie Wills and unanimously voted for by the rest of the book gang, is M.R. Carey’s surprisingly uplifting The Girl With All The Gifts, which is a story under whose influence we don’t recommend people operate a pandemic. But I shan’t say too much more about it as you’ll be reading more about it from Sonnie.

Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo
The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen
The Girl With All The Gifts, M. R. Carey

Book club pick: The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey

I work as an Editorial Project Manager at Newgen UK for the Pearson team, managing production from manuscript to final release, working with freelancers and ensuring quality. I live in the South West and when I’m not out walking at the beach or in the countryside, I am normally either gaming or reading.

I suggested the sci-fi dystopia The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey for the November NUK book club. Dystopian fiction is generally my favourite genre and as this one has been on my TBR pile for quite some time I thought this would be a good opportunity to finally pick it up.

The book centres around a young girl, Melanie, living in a post-apocalyptic Britain infested with ‘hungries’ – this book’s particular moniker for zombies. It quickly becomes clear to the reader that Melanie is not a normal child and is being kept on a research/military base with her behaviours closely monitored and controlled. The empathy of one of her teachers leads Melanie on a path that sees her leaving the base and finding out what has become of the world.

The book is quite a quick read, avoiding overly-flowery language and instead keeping a fast-paced plot that it’s easy to get caught up in. There are some pretty graphic descriptions of gore in parts, which may be uncomfortable for some readers, but as comic-book style gore is a staple of zombie fiction this helps the book feel right at home in the genre. Though this book isn’t really pushing any boundaries in terms of character roles or landscape, it’s an enjoyable dive into a classic dystopian style.

Despite not being literary or pretentious, the story still poses certain philosophical thoughts to the reader, concerning the validity of survival for the sake of survival, the importance of your own personal moral compass, and whether your own sense of right or wrong should ever overrule ‘the greater good’. Reminiscent in some ways to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, I really enjoyed this book as, though it fits very snugly into the zombie genre, it feels fresh and engaging. I will certainly be reading the sequel.

Bookshop.org

As a Project Manager at Newgen Publishing UK, I manage the production process for a range of different titles. I usually work mainly with Bristol University Press titles, and I love them because, among many other things, they’re so deliciously socialist and left-leaning – a bias I uphold shamelessly – and the topics are so relevant and fascinating. For example: we have just completed Body Count, a highly sobering overview of Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion in 2003, and have been working on their fast-track COVID-19 collection of titles, most of which have the ‘build back better’ ethos at their core.

Speaking of the ol’ pandemic, hands up who else can add ‘guilt surrounding excessive financial contribution to unscrupulous online behemoth’ to the many, many anxiety-inducing things about 2020? Fellow Amazon-Primers, hello. You know how deep the Amazon ‘You might also like this’ algorithm rabbit hole goes for books in particular, I can see it in your eyes. If you’re anything like me, you may have simply been living with this guilt but I am here to tell you that something brilliant has happened and you no longer have to.

Bookshop.org is that special and rare thing where something people have been saying would be really great for ages but thought simply wouldn’t be possible has proven to be actually possible and is now alive and well on the interwebz. As we learned at the autumn 2020 IPG conference – Newgen is a big supporter of IPG and attends annually – Bookshop.org provides a central location for any and all independent bookshops who want to sell their books online but don’t have the resources to do so. Each bookshop gets its own online ‘shop front’ and can provide information about themselves and present title selections.

The particular beauty of it is that Bookshop.org also manage the customer service and the shipping and require no financial investment by the bookshops themselves, and bookshops take home the full profit margin (30%). Here in the UK, they have partnered with distributor Gardners and can pass on a small discount to customers, made possible by the fact that Bookshop.org can deal in bulk, whereas individual bookshops cannot. The site met with success upon its launch in the US in January of this year, and the founder – writer and co-founder of Literary Hub Andy Hunter – expedited the UK launch once the pandemic hit and it became apparent that independent bookshops across the country were in especially dire need of some help.

And it’s really, really good! Bookshop.org have actual humans doing the curating. So you find great book categories, akin to those you would, you know, stumble across in your local bookshop, lovingly devised by its dedicated staff; from the delightfully-specific-on-a-website-which-caters-for-the-whole-country ‘Mystery and Thrillers set in Devon’, to the inspiring, ‘If it’s not good enough, change it’, and the reassuring, ‘Comfort Reading to Pretend We’re Not Living in 2020’. And you get to see the total amount ‘raised for local bookshops’, set as part of the header on every page, steadily increasing which is truly heartening. It may not be an equal match to Goliath, but gosh if the slingshot hasn’t increased in size and its aim improved significantly.

Living in Stroud as I do, I was initially rather perturbed to see no evidence of Stroud Bookshop on the site, but am pleased to say that they have since sprung up which, incidentally, is the exact opposite direction to where my bank balance has headed since finding them there, sigh. Stroud Bookshop is a lovely, uncomplicated little local bookshop, overstuffed and slightly hallyracket, as all the best ones are. If I can’t shuffle along its closely stacked shelves with that slightly overwhelming giddy sensation I always get when that close to so very many new books, Bookshop.org is a happy, gratefully received substitute.