Friday, 24 October 2008

"A Surfeit of Mandrake": The Latest

Been having a lot of fun putting together the new Fenriswulf publication, "A Surfeit of Mandrake". The title comes from a strange comic-strip submitted by Frang McHardy, featuring a gruesome humanoid plant-like being who recruits the narrator as his messiah, in what may or may not be a self-induced hallucination. I completed the story in prose, and the Mandrake character intrigued me enough to put him on the back cover as well. Short stories, poetry, little comic strips and artwork proliferate and far from being the random-access hodge-podge that I had originally feared it would become, there are actually several similar threads running through a lot of the works. Kit Marlowe the playwright turns up not only in an old and half-forgotten little play of mine, but also in one of Lesley-Anne's short stories. Celtic and Scottish references abound through all of our work. Dark quirkiness sniggers at every corner, as do some pretty brilliant and beautifully-depicted personalities.

It'll also be interesting to see how Lulu's outsourced printers handle the grayscale tone of a lot of the artwork. Frang and I have a tendency to work in pencil, so fingers are decidedly crossed on that score. I'm expecting to have to re-jig the tones on some of this following the first preview copy, but not too much, I hope. I really don't want to have to take anything out, although I have a few emergency pieces standing by to fill in any gaps that may possibly arise as a result.

Currently the basic .doc file for "Mandrake" is sitting at 150 MB, and that's without the 8-page comic strip "Godz Almighty" (a soap opera of ordinary Old Norse folk). Being drawn on big shiny art boards makes it a beggar to scan, but I reckon the results will be worth it (assuming the printed copies can do justice to our delicate biro pen work). It also happens to feature our old friend the Fenriswulf, he whose dark slobbery chops adorn this very page, and inspired the whole publishing venture in the first place - so the inclusion of this piece really was a no-brainer.

We're still most definitely on for a release of "Mandrake" before Christmas. So it's been a fairly eventful few months for the old wolf. Just keep watching this space!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

It's Not All Gone Pete Tong

Last night saw me back in Borders, dropping off copies of 'Maranatha'. Now on display (and sitting next to Alasdair Gray, of all people) on a nice big table full of interesting books. A happy conclusion to a rather cold Monday.

The unexpected task of the night was in penning (literally – with a big fat felt-tip) a bit of blurb for the nice friendly recommendations that Borders slip around many of their books. Feeling distinctly on the spot, my mind went almost blank before I managed to concoct some lumbering tag line along the tracks of “…a twisted conspiracy of magic, murder, religion and madness!” Well, let’s say I’ll never laugh again at another TV game show contestant who blurts out some ludicrous answer while in the spotlight. I guess this is why so many writers hire PR agents to do their publicity for them…

I didn't know beforehand how Borders' pricing structure worked, so was quite pleasantly surprised when we managed to haggle their commission rate as 15% (normally 30-50%, apparently). That left me in the position of wondering what to charge for copies, but we settled on 6.99 – though I get the impression this was considered to be a bit low. I don't mind breaking even on this project - it should teach me the essential hows and whys of pricing and negotiation for any future releases. (And speaking of future releases...the second release from Fenriswulf, the local writer anthology, ought to be out in Borders, and online, before the end of this year. More info on that in the next post!)

The truly great thing about POD (Print on Demand) is that one need never have to put up with stacks of books cluttering up the house, the toilet, the garden shed, and unlike G P Taylor, doesn't require a home remortgage and the sale of a prized motorbike to cover the print costs (plus, I already sold my old Yamaha XS 650 last year...). So, in the event that Borders sell out and request more, I just hit the appropriate button at and order up another bunch. And if they don't shift, then I don't have to worry about debt collectors kicking my door in next month, and I still have some books I can punt off elsewhere.

Sold a few more copies online too, it seems. This time in the US. Blimey, it hasn’t gone all Pete Tong yet…what’s going on?!

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