Book Review: The Sweary Lady has something to say

By Stephanie King, on 25 May 2016

Continuing on with the UCL Centre for Publishing’s partnership with the Desmond Elliot prize, I will be reviewing one of the three novels shortlisted for the award: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney.

The Glorious Heresies is told through the stories of five outcasts in modern day Cork, brought together by one crime. The opening chapter launches immediately into the visceral, gritty, and sense-filled descriptions that make McInerney’s writing so enticing. First love and first murder are juxtaposed one right after the other, two matters of the flesh and primal human compulsion weaved together by McInerney’s lyrical, pithy prose; while schoolboy Ryan loses his virginity to the girl he idolizes, Maureen is busy killing a home invader with her Holy Stone. She is then forced to employ her gangster son Jimmy to clean up the scene of the crime, who in turn recruits Tony for help, who happens to be Ryan’s father. Meanwhile, Ryan is dealing drugs to Georgie, the girlfriend of the man Maureen killed, and the web just gets more and more tangled.

And yet none of this feels like coincidence. Perhaps it is the looming presence of the Catholic Church in the story, but it feels as though these people were meant to be brought together, not to save each other or to make each other better, but to rage against the society of, as McInerney puts it, ‘the arse end of Ireland.’ Survival trumps salvation in most of the characters’ situations, so scenes of coke getting snorted off of Bibles does not feel out of place.

It is pointless to try to boil this work down to fit it neatly into one genre; you’d have to bash it in with a Holy Stone to describe it just as a teenage romance, a gangster thriller, or a redemption story. It is all these and more. McInerney’s background in blogging in no way inhibits her ability to tell a well-formed story, and aids her in the creation of punchy sentences that can easily be pulled out of the book and slapped into a tweet. In her personal blog she almost gleefully admits, ‘I’m much better on page than in person. I hate phone calls. I hate meetings. I love emails, tweets and texts. I don’t love letters, because writing anything by hand makes these digital digits feel like they’ve spent an entire victory parade attached to the wrist of Queen Elizabeth II.’ This is the kind of sentiment you can find all throughout the book as well. A personal favourite quote is ‘That was the truth and the truth had fuck all respect for Sir Issac Newton and his axioms.’

Unabashed, loud, tender, sweary, edgy, beautiful, funny, brilliant: The Glorious Heresies is a must-read, and McInerney is a bright new talent on the literary scene that will not be extinguished soon.
The other two shortlisted titles for the 2016 Desmond Elliot Prize are The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester, and Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea. You can check out twitter reviews of these two fabulous novels by fellow cohort members @zoesharples and @HaReIllustrate. The winner of the 2016 Desmond Elliot Prize will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 22nd June, where he or she will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.

Marketing: How to Break Through the Noise

By Elisabeth N Wilkes, on 18 May 2016

In 2014, the UK officially published more books per capita than any other country in the world, with over 184,000 books published in just one year (Flood). This is great because who doesn’t want a world full of books? It also, however, poses a big challenge to making a book stand out. This isn’t just little fish in a big pond. This is little fish in an ocean, making it seem as hopeless as Marlin’s quest at the beginning of Finding Nemo.

This challenge has been met with a slow shift in publishing to put a lot of focus on discoverability, which has made Marketing become a much bigger player in the process than ever before. It is a field that requires as much creativity as the books they are selling, and where some of the most exciting advancement in the industry are coming from.

In last month’s blog we talked about how Publicity works to bring this book to the readers, but Marketing does this in a way that requires slightly different skills. Here are just a few:

1. Know how to budget– You will have more money to work with than Publicity, but not much more. Unless you are a big publishing house working with a brand name author, you will be expected to do a lot for a book with very little funding. So if you have expensive taste and wild expectations, you might want to learn how to tone them down a touch.

2. Be a good researcher– Because you will be given money, you will have to be able to justify your plans to many people along the way. You might have a wonderful plan that looks great on paper, but you have to be reasonably sure it will reach the right people and will encourage them to act. So be ready to back up everything you suggest to the finance team.

3. Understand the reader– It used to be that the main selling relationship was between the publisher and the bookseller, who in turn would know how to sell to their customer. Now that more direct publisher to reader interaction is viable, due mainly to the introduction of the Internet, it is much more important to understand the readers directly. Your marketing plan will have to reflect reader’s behaviour and likes and dislikes, so knowing them is crucial.

4. Have a good head for planning– Like many sections of the industry, you will not be working on one title at a time. Perhaps a big name will force you to put a lot on the back burner, but most of the time you will be juggling many campaigns at once. Not only will you have to keep all of your projects straight, but you will have to be able to give them each their due amount of energy. So be ready to have multiple checklists and find some helpful apps to keep everything straight.

5. Be creative and innovative– You cannot do what everyone else is doing or even what has always done. First, each book has its own purpose, audience, and voice, which would make any cookie cutter marketing plans forced. Second, we are bombarded by advertisements and other marketing ploys everyday, and it’s not just books competing for our attention. If you are bland or safe, your book will just become part of the background. Finding different angles that fits what your title is and how to inform the people who would care about it is key to discoverability.

For those who also have the skills above, you really should consider this segment of the industry. If not, check out what will be the final blog in this series, International Publishing and Licensing!

The Publishing Project, Group 5: Reaching the Finish Line

By Camilla G Lunde, on 11 May 2016

For seven months, the publishing project has been such a big part of my academic and personal life that it feels a little strange to know we are so close to the end of it. It is something every member of my group has worked on tirelessly, both collectively and individually, and we couldn’t be more proud of what the final product is shaping out to look like. We sent off the final manuscript to print at the end of April, and hopefully will be receiving the books from Clays in the next couple of weeks.


So, what is left to do now that the manuscript is finished and has been sent off to print?


A few things, actually.


The major one for Works In Progress is shipping. Every author and illustrator who contributed to the work is owed a copy of the book as payment, and a total of thirty-four of the people who donated to our Indiegogo campaign gave enough to cover the cost of a physical copy of the book as well as shipping. That means we need to ship a total of sixty-two books around the world, which is going to cost us approximately £400 via the Royal Mail. Luckily we have the funds for it.


Additionally, there are a few things left to do that is unique to the Works In Progress project: creating an Epub version of the book, planning a launch party, finalise the musical component of the project, launch the official website, and make sure that those who purchased additional perks from our Indiegogo, such as prints of the illustrations, receive these along with the book.


Finally, there are a couple of things every group has to do before the publishing project is well and truly over.


  • Each group has to create a portfolio where they include:
    • Brief outline of the group’s project — what the group worked on, how and why the group conceived of it and how the group divided up and handled responsibilities
    • Working documents (budgets, schedules and other management files)
    • Minutes from meetings
    • Correspondence with printers
    • Correspondence with contributors
    • Design and Development Documents
    • Curated selection of the group’s marketing and promotional efforts
    • Any other specific documents that are relevant to the group’s project (materials for judges, website links, link to audio files, photography, etc.)


  • Every student has to write a 2500-word reflection piece (individual of the group) where they include:
    • The student’s contribution to the group
    • What skills the student has developed and learned
    • What the student feels went well and what they might do differently in the future


When these tasks have been completed, so has the project. At this point, it’s all about time management and making sure you get these things done while completing your internship, working on your dissertation, and preparing for the end-of-the-year-exam.


It’s a lot, but worth it in the end, especially as I know that I’m nearly at the finish line.

Tackling a Dissertation: The Beginning

By Sarah L Osborne, on 4 May 2016

Photo by skdevitt | Flickr

Photo by skdevitt | Flickr

It’s May and preparation for the dissertation and final proposal begins! Below I will describe the steps to take to feel confident in the next part of the process.


1. Re-read your dissertation topic.

Having the Easter break off from studying, I know all too well that it’s easy to forget your exact dissertation title. Therefore I suggest going back to it, reading it, analysing it, and trying to get as much as you possibly can from it. By this I mean cutting it into smaller, more specific questions that you seek to answer.

2. Look at past dissertations.

You may know how to write an essay, but you may not know how to tackle a 12,000 word dissertation. Therefore you need to go to the library (or online) and find dissertations that explore similar topics. I personally am going to read a few of them and pick out any that resonate strongly with me, highlighting points and making notes in the margins about the author’s structure and approach.

3. Figure out your focus.

A 12,000 word limit makes it easy to waffle so it’s important to find a focus and discover what you truly want to find out. Make sure you know the content well enough so that you can build a strong argument. For example, my dissertation focuses on Young Adult films and their relation to their book counterparts. I need to figure out WHAT FILMS and WHAT BOOKS. Should I vouch for ultra successful books such as The Hunger Games? Or others that did not take off so well such as The Mortal Instruments? Or maybe both?

4. Find sources and READ them!

I, like many have a bad habit of skim reading most things I come across and we need to avoid this temptation and actually read everything carefully this time so that we know exactly what the source is saying. Set up a word document and MAKE NOTES under specific categories and subcategories (and remember to include their page numbers)!

5. If it’s a good source, look at the bibliography.

If you find a relevant source then the bibliography is the fountain of knowledge. Check out these sources too and see if any of them also tie in with your work.

6. Consider your survey/interview/test, etc.

Although this may not apply to all dissertations, for mine I’m planning on conducting a large survey and I need to consider how I’m going to reach those people. Ask yourself what you want to know from the research. Are you going to offer an incentive? (e.g. an Amazon voucher in return for their participation). Can you actually reach those people? Who do you want to target most? What do you want to find out? How do you make your results unique compared to data already gathered elsewhere? What questions should you ask?

I’m going to spend a lengthy amount of time on this section! I know that I need to get the survey out ASAP if I want stronger representative and bountiful results but if I don’t have the correct questions then what would have been the point?

7. Start planning the structure.

Introducing a 12,000 word essay succinctly is going to prove a challenge so you need to refer back to those specific questions singled out at the beginning and use them to build your introduction. You do not want to go into the essay full force too quickly so you also need to decide how you’re going to set it up. I think the most suitable approach would be to first define what you are studying. You don’t want to confuse your readers from the outset! I also suggest detailing bullet pointed notes and sources under sub-headings.


Stress, confusion, doubt. You need to get confirmation that what you’re doing sounds good. You definitely shouldn’t start writing it until you know that you’re not wasting your time.

9. Get confirmation. Breathe. Begin.


I know this step-by-step guide makes dissertations seem too simplistic, but it does help in recognising that this is something not to be rushed. I know a common student lifestyle choice is writing essays a few days before the deadline, but 12,000 words (in my case worth almost half my degree) cannot be rushed and you must power through! Stock up on coffee and chocolate (for those teary days) and maybe when you get through these first steps and write your first word you’ll start to realise it’s not all that bad.

History of the Desmond Elliott Prize

By Stephanie King, on 27 April 2016

Today I will be taking a short break from The Publisher’s Atlas to look into one of the most exciting literary prizes in the UK today: The Desmond Elliott Prize!

The UCL Centre for Publishing is teaming up with the Desmond Elliott prize to help promote their 2016 longlist. The award, along with £10,000, is given every year to the author of a first novel written in English and published in the UK.

The award gets its name from literary agent and publisher Desmond Elliott, who honestly should have his own mini-series by now. Though he was bright and even won a scholarship to Trinity College Dublin, he instead interviewed with and earned a job as an office boy at Macmillan in London when he was just sixteen That launched him into the world of publishing and a career that saw Desmond represent or publish big names like Sam Llewellyn, Penny Vincenzi, Linda Lee-Potter, Derek Lambert, Richard Doyle, Candida Lycett Green, and Claire Rayner.

His approach to publishing reflected his waspish and witty nature. He once said, “I believe it is really important to have one or two really influential enemies. They tend to talk about one to all the right people.” As an agent, he believed it was necessary to be “Machiavelli and Elizabeth Arden rolled into one.”

His success only heightened his charisma and appeal, and helped fund some of his more excessive and eccentric hobbies. Desmond threw lavish parties, drank only champagne, and even had a trapeze installed in his kitchen. He met Jackie Kennedy, and introduced Tim Rice to Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Without Desmond Elliot, there would be no Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Just think about that for a moment.

Before his death in 2003, Desmond Elliott stipulated that his estate should be invested in a charitable trust that would fund a literary award “to enrich the careers of new writers.” The Desmond Elliott prize has been doing just that since 2007, with its inaugural award going to Nikita Lalwani’s Gifted in 2008. Just like the man who gives his name to the award, authors are self-made people. Many of them, especially first-timers, struggle to make a living even though they help enrich the world of literature for everyone. The Desmond Elliott prize helps to promote and reward talented first-time authors whose talents may otherwise be overlooked in favour of previously established and bestselling authors.

The complete longlist for the 2016 Desmond Elliott Prize is:

  • Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume (Windmill)
  • The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon (Borough Press)
  • The Honours by Tim Clare (Canongate)
  • The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis (Two Roads)
  • Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh (Canongate)
  • Disclaimer by Renée Knight (Doubleday)
  • Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea (Scribe)
  • The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray)
  • The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester (Viking)
  • The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan (Galley Beggar Press)

Please be sure to check out these incredibly talented authors, and stay tuned for more Desmond Elliott news as we approach the announcement of the winner on June 22nd!