Category Archives: Stories

My Interview with James Daunt Of Waterstones.

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James Daunt 03/10/13As a bookseller and a writer, I love the publishing world. What more could you want then being surrounded by shelves of  the most amazing  stories and creative talents pulled from very interesting minds and peoples experiences. After performing on stage for years, I’ve slowed down to combine my creative nature with the story telling world. I  can now sit at home and have the cat on my lap and a coffee beside me while working on my own. To me that is absolute heaven.

In the last few months, I’ve been taking a full time Professional Writing MA at Falmouth University, ( I’ve just passed!) and whilst working in Waterstones part-time,  I managed to interview James Daunt, Managing director for my Industry module.

I really wanted to talk about the survival of the book industry, maybe a question he’d been asked numerous times, but because I feel strongly about the physical book and so do many customers, I knew it wasn’t a question he would be bored with. I wanted to speak to the man himself and confirm what I’d been witnessing in the shop.

Me: ‘How have you managed to keep the bookshop on the High Street against the ever-growing market of the e-book?’

JD: The e-book has it’s natural place. It can be appropriate for travel, for saving space in the home, the green point of view and the digital book is cheaper, making it a finance choice for the customer. Amazon is all about pushing the digital book because they are interested in what they can sell beyond that. But publisher’s recently took a stand against the price of Amazon’s digital’s prices and took their books off the Amazon site and renegotiated, led by Hachette, Macmillan and Harper Collins, to conclude that the publisher sets the price of the digital book. This allows publishers to keep the price to a level that doesn’t distort the market in favour of digital. This is a huge significant development because Hachette had for almost six months been locked in a bitter dispute. This means the publisher has gained back some control with their sales with the physical book. Amazon still have a monopoly on many books with publishers, and we all know about the corporate tax that they avoid by registering in the EU and avoids paying the tax it should in the UK. Waterstones and other business’s have to pay a high level of rates that online businesses don’t, and it has affected many businesses not just Waterstones.

Me: What about the physical book? Are people still buying enough physical books to keep the shop and other book shops open and why would they come in to Waterstones if you could buy cheaper elsewhere?

JD: You have to make Waterstones an interesting and attractive shop. So you make people come into them more, buy books and come back. If you sell better books your customers read them quicker and come back for more. An old system that’s been changed in the way the shop looks, is that the Publishers use to pay a premium for their chosen books and Waterstones would put them in the shops exactly how the publishers dictated, Waterstones sold slots and campaigns were created. This meant the shops all looked the same. We made a huge decision to change this, it took away an incredible amount of income for Waterstones but it meant they have the decision on what’s going to sell, displayed and what gets chosen for The Book club and The Book of the Month.

I also think this gives a greater chance to other authors who might not have been otherwise selected as the chosen title with the publishers.

Waterstones has the choice of what books to campaign, and now they are selling better books, the shops are individualised to suit the market area they are in, and the bookseller is ‘handselling’ the books Waterstones decides on. It’s organic.

I asked if the publisher missed that level of control, if they were unhappy about it. But he said that because the books Waterstones are choosing are selling well, and the publishers aren’t paying Waterstones for the marketing, it’s working out for both sides. Of course, my experience of being an independent bookseller, I know that making a shop welcoming works.

I enjoyed listening to someone who obviously enjoyed not only his job but the product he sells. (Yes he earns more than me!) But I have found the human nature of the need for a physical book fascinating.

I don’t believe the book will disappear. I think they are so much part of our DNA and culture that they will always exist and there will always be a need, an appetite for them. Most of the customers I speak with are book fanatics: to hold a book is a kinaesthetic experience, and you find people buy them even if they don’t have the time to read. (Or is that just me?) This is what brings people back, encourage them to come and see and pick books that have been carefully selected and chosen for every genre on the market.

I asked James Daunt what Books he loves to read.

JD: The classics are still excellent and continue to stand the test of time, but I read quite a lot of the new literature so that I can talk to the customers about those books in the shops.

Change and evolving with the market seems to be the focus and that the bookseller is the key to saving the physical book. I’m just very glad that the book is still here. (I’m going to buy some more now!)

A Year Off to Write. Dyslexia, Jeff Vandemeer and Cornish YA.

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How brilliant is that? A year off to write my Cornish supernatural fantasy, in my own time, at home. I’m pretty lucky. Living in Cornwall is already amazing and being Cornish and having an ancestral history in a folklore saturated land inspires me.

I’m actually hoping the novel writing will be six months, as I’m already halfway through with sixteen chapters down and the last chapter finished, and pieces of chapters to fit into the puzzle. I am now starting to work through the juicy middle bits.

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The last four years I’ve been the ML for the Cornwall NaNoWriMo, (write a novel in a month). Teaching and encouraging writers to just sit and write two thousand words everyday for four weeks. But I’ve decided to forgo my role this year. I have desires to concentrate on finishing this book I’ve been telling everyone about. I’m getting that look now, the ‘when’s this so called book going to be finished?’ But that’s because I’ve been writing this idea for three years. I’ve just finished a Professional Writing MA and it’s taught me the tools to the craft. So I’m re-writing  with a better idea of how to construct all my creative ideas and put the pieces together coherently.

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I’m dyslexic. If I was to put myself on a spectrum? I’m on the ‘it can take me days to see words in the wrong order, spelling, grammar and especially my tense’ bit of spectrumI’ve become a huge re-writer due to having the extra work, and I make no understatement when I say I rake through pages of my writing. I re-adjust words in a sentence like I’m building a stonewall some days. It’s incredibly exciting and I think for every writer, the experience of when it just seems to work first time does actually happen to me too. Don’t be put off by not having that ‘academic background’ as commitment and the creative side can be the essential part of writing something interesting for the reader. Saying that, you have to work on that craft after you’ve got that creative story down. If there is one thing I’ve learnt in the last year as a postgrad student, it’s that a bad sentence stops the reader no matter how good the story. Enjoy and then work on it!

UnknownSo I shall also be hiring an editor. Yay to editors! Get one that suits your writing though. No good having a non-fiction editor for your Sci-Fi book. They might not be into it!

And finally this book, WonderBook by Jeff Vandermeer. Beautifully illustrated by Jeremy Zerfoss. Just thought I’d add it as it’s way to special not too. I use it for planning and avoiding the obvious. This book is so incredible and very inspiring. If you’re a Sci-fi or Fantasy writer, I’d buy this straight away.

Its been a while…

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Life and all its goings on caused a diversion of late, but I have dutifully continued to buy books (no, that’s not it), I have fed my addiction as per each instinctive urge that overwhelms me. Satisfied my desire to stroke the covers and sniff the pages. I don’t have time to read them all, not yet. I have my dissertation to write, I have an essay to create, but I can see them looking at me from across the room. So, just a quickie.

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I’ll start with one I couldn’t help but read straight away. A delicious Graphic Novel called Wytches by Scott Snyder.

What can I say…bloody brilliant that’s what! The story is amazing and I can’t wait for the next instalment. The story is excellent but the artwork is wonderful.

Now, this is scary for those who don’t like scary.

As it happens, I love scary and witches. Especially Wytches by Scott Snider.

Highly recommended by me and Stephen King.

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I haven’t read this one yet but it’s called the The GraceKeepers by Kirsty Logan, Hardback.

I actually bought this due to the cover and synopsis but looking at the reviews I’ve noticed its been getting loads of 5 stars. What I know of it: The magical story of a floating circus. The sea has flooded the earth. North lives on a circus boat, Callanish lives alone in her house in the middle of the ocean.She works as a gracekeeper tending the graves of those who die at sea. When a storm creates a chance meeting between two girls, their worlds change.

Now let me know if you’ve read it, just don’t tell me the ending!

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I just bought this little beauty.

Mermaids by Sophia Kingshill, Hardback.

Its stories are from around the world, meanings and descriptions. The pictures are so good and I like reading about the variations of Mermaids from different cultures. There is a lot of information in here for everyone. Includes many famous paintings and artwork. Would make a great present!

It’s a good read, a lovely one to add to my collection.

A Year of Marvellous AMAZON.indd

Now I’ve actually read this and I went to hear Sarah Winman talk about the process of writing it. It’s a gorgeous story about a woman called Marvellous Ways and it’s set in Cornwall.

A year of Marvellous Ways is full of magic realism and beautiful writing. Very poetic and I love the way the author has written this. The pace is to be enjoyed and the descriptions and Marvellous’s character are all very colourful.

I won’t tell you anymore, only say that if you read it, just take your time.

The London Book Fair, Naomi Novik, and Chocolate.

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22824_10153000528418355_4182966247499621631_n 2Last week I visited The London Book Fair. My author days are getting ever nearer, and it was time to dip into the atmosphere and get a rough idea of the way the book fair works. As soon as we arrived, my friend Judy went straight in, pitching her vegan book to any stall that had pictures of vegetables. I watched her enthusiasm, which rubbed off on the person she spoke with. Confidence about your book, and you’ll be fine.

I spent the following day giving my card to relevant publishers such as Penguin, Hachette, Little Brown and Bloomsbury etc. Without a finished manuscript I couldn’t yet make an appointment to see an agent, but I still wanted the experience of talking with them. I introduced myself and asked if they would like me to review any of their upcoming titles, I would be pleased to post them on my blog. Working in a book shop I receive many books to review and they were glad to talk about it. Book reviewer’s are undoubtedly the publishers hand sellers.

Sarah-FrontI researched publishers responses to business cards, and the best advice was to always make sure you have the genre of your writing on the card, e.g. Romance writer etc. Otherwise they don’t remember you, most of the cards go in the bin. Some people even put their photograph on theirs and that helps them to remember your conversation.

I love the book industry and really enjoyed the book fair. I got to listen to Sally Green, (one of my favourite new authors) on the fantasy panel and many other incredible useful seminars and publisher stands. Next year when I go with my finished manuscript, it will be familiar and I will get to enjoy the opportunities of meeting the agents.

UnknownNaomi Novik: UPROOTED.

I wanted to add that my recent read and one of the best fantasy books I’ve read for some time. The harmful influence of a wood and its inhabitants. The narrator, a witch, and her mentor/master, theDragon; a local wizard.

There’s a dragon in it! And a witch; it’s got to be good! Read it!

Recommended: read it whilst eating Chocolate.

 

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Pogles Wood, Castles and Watch With Mother.

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9781909829022I’ve bought a new book.

The art of Smallfilms.

Smallfilms was the work of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. No doubt some of you will know these wonderful creations. The Clangers, Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine etc, and all of them became part of the Watch with Mother series.

The book is filled with wonderful photographs of the original puppets and the pictures are fascinating.

My favourite is Pogles Wood. The first series was originally called The Pogles, and only broadcast once due to the BBC’s thoughts that the witch and the storyline rather too scary for children. It was quite dark, filmed in black and white but I remember loving it.

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My castle lamp in the garden

I had a bedside lamp in the shape of a castle when I was small. (In the garden now.) At night I was convinced tiny people came out of it while I slept. The Pogles only confirmed it was true.

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The original witch from ‘The Pogles.’

Look at these puppets! It could be nostalgia on my part, but after watching the first three episodes last night, after many years, (cough) I still think the films are remarkable. The old black and white stop motion matures the strangeness and delightful story lines. The narrative of The Pogles is odd but brilliant for a child, so natural you wouldn’t stop to think about it when you were young. Like the Teletubbies!

The magic bean was the first episode, and introduced the magic plant that came to stay with Mr and Mrs Pogle, and even though the films were old, I had to keep watching more to find out what happens.

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Mrs Pogle

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Pipin and Tog

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Mr Pogle with the magic Plant that came to stay

I can’t help looking at the puppets in the Smallfilms book, and feel a deep sense of affection for them. It’s where my love of dark and atmospheric magical story-lines began. I recommend this book for anyone who grew up with these wonderful children’s programmes.

It’s always good to go somewhere you love!

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