Books: Sticking to prime steaks
Tim Roux explains how a surfeit of 'hamburger' best sellers led him to set up his own publishing company, offering a more succulent reading experience.
The last time I got a quote to print a book from a Belgian printer in Antwerpen, it turned out it would have been cheaper to have bought Liz Taylor diamonds, so it wasn’t that obvious that a new global book imprint should be kicked off in Vlaams-Brabant.
However, and on the other hand, Belgium does produce very excellent beer, chocolates and restaurant food, so perhaps it was.
Maybe I need to explain that last statement.
For me, literature comes in three forms – prime Argentinean steak, the sort of cheap steak that requires someone competent to perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre on standby, and hamburgers.
The most popular form of literature is the hamburger, as indeed burgers are more popular than prime steak worldwide. This is what is pumped out – and that may be the right expression – by the mass publishing houses in branded packaging, e.g. Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Dick Francis, Arthur Conan Doyle etc.. These authors may mostly be dead, but they are sure as hell all still writing for an eternity to come until readers do them depart.
While I, along with most parents of small children, am entirely happy to slum it eating out at McDonalds or Quick, hamburgers are not my preferred form of literature.
Rumour in the publishing industry is that all other literature is either so highbrow as to be unsellable or made up of unchewable steak – what I call ‘Grandfather Memoirs’ – stuff banged together to … ahem … ‘entertain’ the family.
Yes, these do indeed exist, but the truth is that there are tens of thousands of superb books out there – testament to a quantum leap in global literacy - which remain either unpublished or are self- or niche- published. My big discovery of a couple of years ago was that these books are massively more interesting (at least to me) than those pumped out by the major publishing houses. Maybe they are not all Argentinean beef, but they are very often Aberdeen Angus at the least.
Thus Night Publishing was born – to publish the quality of books that would rarely be even considered by the major publishing houses because they just don’t look like they have hamburger potential and, as I keep repeating, the majors are looking for new authors like banks are looking for new sub-prime borrowers.
So what do we publish? Well, the great news for us is that the supply of excellent books is almost inexhaustible, and we have already signed up over seventy of them in our first few months.
To give you a couple of succulent tasters, here are quick descriptions of the last two of our books I have personally edited.
‘You Can’t Polish A Turd’ is a civil servants’ handbook, written by Australian public servant George Fripley, about how to survive and thrive in a government bureaucracy, or even a corporate bureaucracy I would say. As you might expect, it is a thoroughly cynical overview of the environment any unlucky civil servant is likely to find her/himself enmired in, born of a lifetime of professional frustration on George’s part. Luckily, all such jobs in Brussels are almost certainly of a different, and indeed superior, ilk but if you want to poke your nose into the daily lives of your more unfortunate cousins, and sniff and gasp at the shit they have to sit in, here is your chance.
The other book I have just edited, and which seems to have sold quite a few copies before we have even published it, is Kathleen McKenna’s ‘The Wedding Gift’ which straddles a plethora of literary categories with ease and elegance, and manages to transcend them all. My last attempt to describe it was as ‘murder mystery – haunted house – social satire – comedy’. Built around the story of a beautiful young girl marrying into a rich family where someone has just apparently murdered five of her children and her husband, it is probably one of the funniest books I have ever read. If a quiet chuckle is worth one point, an out-loud snicker ten points and a full-on guffaw twenty, then I reckon this book delivers about forty points an hour, and it has some very scary moments too.
Did I suggest that you should consider buying local? Well, that is a little tricky with our books. They are actually published globally out of the US, but they do trickle into every sales outlet in the world over time – the Book Depository is particularly good for expats in that it offers free delivery worldwide for books which are generally cheaper than on Amazon. Or, you can buy the Kindle versions or indeed you can usually download them for free for a limited period via Smashwords.
And, yes, our books are the perfect accompaniment for Belgian chocolate, Belgian beer or Belgian restaurant food, and sometimes all three.
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