Thursday, April 20, 2006

Now, why didn't PublishAmerica think of this? Oh, wait--they did.

Remember the much derided Macmillan New Writing initiative? A year or so ago, everyone was all atwitter about the effort, as well as the implications for the publishing industry. As a quick rehash, it was a new imprint of Macmillan where authors could submit their works directly to the publisher for consideration--however, the selected books would be bare bones: no publicity, little (supposedly) editing, and no advance.

Well, now the titles have been published and they are burning up the charts!

Actually, maybe Macmillan needs to go find their bellows.

A few random selections show these ranks on Amazon (UK):

NORTH by Brian Martin: 12,489
ACROSS THE MYSTIC SHORE by Suroopa Mukherjee: 76,217
SELFISH JEAN by Cate Sweeney: 36,906

These are not POD titles by any stretch. Turns out they are well-written and well-edited, the storylines are original, and the covers--though not eye candy--are easily on par with the average title produced out of New York.

There is one title produced under Macmillan New Writing that is not doing so well, though:

TRANSPARENT IMPRINT by Michael Barnard: 143,383

Who is Mike Barnard? Well, he's the guy--the Macmillan dude--who launched the New Writing initiative. What is his book about? Well, um . . . maybe I should let Macmillan's hype tell you:

But what was the real genesis of the imprint? How was the decision made to devote a list exclusively to first-time novelists? What were the terms and conditions offered to authors? How were they treated? How were the books chosen? How were they produced cost-effectively? Who are the authors? What are the books?

Publisher Mike Barnard answers these questions and responds to the original press criticism in the new Macmillan paperback, Transparent Imprint.

The book offers an intriguing insight into the intimate workings of a great publishing company and the commercial and editorial decision-making processes. It claims successes, admits failures. It’s frank, readable, and sometimes funny.

When I see something like "intimate workings of a great publishing company", I immediately think of the largest publisher in the country--then I wipe the bile off my chin.

If all (or even one) of the New Writing titles shot onto all (or even one) of the bestseller lists, there might be a story here, a reason to want to further one's knowledge of an engaging and unique business model. But all that has happened here (so far; the books have only been out for three weeks) is a publisher managed to find a way to drop six books into the midlist without paying a cent in advance.