News

Publishers confess to coveting Smith

Zadie Smith's N-W (Hamish Hamilton) is the book other publishers most wish they'd brought out in 2012, according to a feature in The Guardian.

Both Granta/Portobello's Philip Gwyn Jones and Bloomsbury's Alexandra Pringle named the novel as the one they wish they'd been able to get their hands on this year. Pringle said it was because Smith "is, quite simply, the bee's knees", while Gwyn Jones commented that the author is "by far the most natural and most challenging contemporary novelist Britain has at hand."

Other wishlists included Simon and Schuster's Suzanne Baboneau yearning after "one-of-a-kind" thriller Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), while Richard Beswick of Little, Brown and Abacus wanted John Lanchester's Capital (Faber), and Fourth Estate's Nicholas Pearson regretted not having the nerve to secure Kevin Powers' The Yellow Birds (Sceptre) in a "vicious" auction.

Books publishers felt had had less than their due of success included Roland Phillip's tip from John Murray,  Manu Joseph's The Illicit Happiness of Other People, while Penguin Press' Simon Winder lamented that the portrait of a "disgusting nazified honeypot" in Nicholas Lezard's The Nolympics had been unexpectedly derailed when the letters NHS flashed up in the Games opening ceremony. "This so completely disoriented liberals that they suddenly fell into line and went all Leni Riefenstahl for two weeks," Winder said.

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On Amazon you can read the first couple of chapters of any book free online. Having read the article, with good heart, I thought I’d learn Zadie's trick and what publishers deem to be good writing. Using Kindle Reader on my Mac I checked out Zadie Smith's A-Z.

What I found was a series of broken phrases and very unconventional punctuation, dashes instead of speech marks etc. It was reminiscent of fifties poetry in a hip style that, wearing a beret, Tony Hancock might have lampooned in 'The Rebel.'

I found it unreadable, which is a pity because if Zadie has anything interesting to say, I couldn't be bothered to read it. I'm all for breaking rules but when convention does it better, why mess with convention? However my experience is a good illustration of why good formatting is so important.

Formatting for Kindle is a nightmare and requires some devious tricks to create no indents for first para chapter lines and then indents for the rest. The result is you can tell amateur uploads. They often have just a line space for a para or a first line indent for the first para or both. Poor formatting unwittingly gives the reader little confidence and, with so many ebooks out there, you just zip along to read the intro to the next one.

In Hollywood this is even more extreme when it comes to screenplays. They are still written in Courier, a monospace typewriter face. This is partly historic and partly so each page has approximately the same amount of letters to equal a minute of screen time.

They are laid out formerly to a single convention to make easy reading by those who have to read them for a living. Any longer than 115 pages either makes them the work of amateurs, or the extremely successful. US punched paper is not A4 and has three holes. If you submit with three brass brads in the three holes, nobody will take you seriously. No professional would waste money on that extra brad, two is enough. This may seem silly but if you work for a studio and given a script to read over the weekend with three brads, you won't take it seriously. You'll briefly skip through it, enjoy your weekend and give it the thumbs down Monday morning.

JK Rowling made the same mistake I did, many years ago, with my first pitch. She jazzed up Harry Potter in a flashy presentation to get it noticed, with the result it was dumped in the slush pile. Luckily for her a junior who didn't know the rules, pulled it out because of the jazzy presentation.

So it will be very interesting to see if Zadie Smith's unconventional approach makes it to paperback, I wish her luck and, keeping an open mind, I will look out for its progress and sale of the film rights. If it gets to the screen I'll watch it, but I'm old school, I prefer a sentence which starts with a cap and ends with a dot.

http://www.darcyblaze.com/

On Amazon you can read the first couple of chapters of any book free online. Having read the article, with good heart, I thought I’d learn Zadie's trick and what publishers deem to be good writing. Using Kindle Reader on my Mac I checked out Zadie Smith's A-Z.

What I found was a series of broken phrases and very unconventional punctuation, dashes instead of speech marks etc. It was reminiscent of fifties poetry in a hip style that, wearing a beret, Tony Hancock might have lampooned in 'The Rebel.'

I found it unreadable, which is a pity because if Zadie has anything interesting to say, I couldn't be bothered to read it. I'm all for breaking rules but when convention does it better, why mess with convention? However my experience is a good illustration of why good formatting is so important.

Formatting for Kindle is a nightmare and requires some devious tricks to create no indents for first para chapter lines and then indents for the rest. The result is you can tell amateur uploads. They often have just a line space for a para or a first line indent for the first para or both. Poor formatting unwittingly gives the reader little confidence and, with so many ebooks out there, you just zip along to read the intro to the next one.

In Hollywood this is even more extreme when it comes to screenplays. They are still written in Courier, a monospace typewriter face. This is partly historic and partly so each page has approximately the same amount of letters to equal a minute of screen time.

They are laid out formerly to a single convention to make easy reading by those who have to read them for a living. Any longer than 115 pages either makes them the work of amateurs, or the extremely successful. US punched paper is not A4 and has three holes. If you submit with three brass brads in the three holes, nobody will take you seriously. No professional would waste money on that extra brad, two is enough. This may seem silly but if you work for a studio and given a script to read over the weekend with three brads, you won't take it seriously. You'll briefly skip through it, enjoy your weekend and give it the thumbs down Monday morning.

JK Rowling made the same mistake I did, many years ago, with my first pitch. She jazzed up Harry Potter in a flashy presentation to get it noticed, with the result it was dumped in the slush pile. Luckily for her a junior who didn't know the rules, pulled it out because of the jazzy presentation.

So it will be very interesting to see if Zadie Smith's unconventional approach makes it to paperback, I wish her luck and, keeping an open mind, I will look out for its progress and sale of the film rights. If it gets to the screen I'll watch it, but I'm old school, I prefer a sentence which starts with a cap and ends with a dot.

http://www.darcyblaze.com/