Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Macmillan New Writing has been a controversial imprint since its launch in 2006, attracting howls of outrage and passionate defence in equal measure. David Isaak surveys the arguments in such detail that any further analysis on my part is redundant.

I can speak only for myself when I say that my experiences of MNW have so far been uniformly positive. A couple of weeks ago I met my editor, Will Atkins, a reader of eclectic tastes and seasoned judgement. Since he chose The Dog of the North for publication, I can add “discerning eye” to his list of virtues.

MNW publishes only first (and on occasion, second) novels, but its definition of first novel is a broad one. It excludes unpublished drafts lurking in drawers, and, happily foe me, also excludes self-publication. My previous novels The Zael Inheritance and Dragonchaser, self-published with Lulu, have therefore not debarred me from MNW. Even The Dog of the North has had a limited self-publication (the only negative consequence of which is that we may need to change the title before publishing with MNW). I understand from Will that Dog is the first self-published novel MNW has picked up. If you want to know more about those two previous novels, why not have a snuffle around my website?

Many novels that find their way into publication do so only after multiple rejections. This hasn’t been my experience. I couldn’t find an agent to take on my first two novels, and for The Dog I did not even try. Most of what I wanted to get out of writing I got from self-publication: the joy of creation, the existence of a physical artefact, and the praise of a discriminating (if small) readership. I had no real thought of commercial publication, having come to believe that my work was resolutely uncommercial. I had long ago accepted that I wasn’t going to make a living from writing. It was only the unusual nature of MNW that led me to submit there—and I found it most unlikely that they would be interested in a fantasy novel. Shows how much I know… Indeed, I would not even have submitted to MNW without the recommendation of Kate Mosse, who know the industry from both sides and sees MNW as a great opportunity for new writers.

So what happens next? Will putting together some suggested changes over the next month or so. This in itself is a fresh experience for me. Will understands what I am trying to do with the book, and likes it enough to want to publish it, so I am working with someone on my side: but it is still a little unsettling to have to share something as uniquely personal as a novel with someone else. MNW writers have uniformly lauded the experience of working with Will so, natural qualms aside, I’m looking forward to it.

Once Will and I have agreed the final version of the text, Macmillan will copy-edit and produce a set of proofs, probably by the end of the year. And then, it seems, we wait, and after a suitable gestation period a new book will be born in July.

Meanwhile, the omens are favourable on paperback publication. The Pan Macmillan empire includes TOR, a major science-fiction and fantasy house. Initial indications are that the TOR editorial staff like The Dog too, and we are tentatively looking at a paperback edition in 2009. I am told from several sources that such early consideration of the paperback route is highly unusual and a good sign. And as a Jack Vance bibliographical scholar, who can list all the Vance titles published by TOR, it’s a delight almost beyond comprehension.

I’ve also given Will a copy of Dragonchaser to look over—unpublished it may be, but it’s a story I have great faith in. If nothing else, it illustrates the consistency of vision I have for Mondia, the continent on which both The Dog and Dragonchaser take place. And one thing I've learned from the MNW experience is that you have to put the work out there if you want anyone else to see it...

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