Friday, July 06, 2007

A rich grocer's Literary Ventures Fund

Also in today's blog

Richard Havers' comments

Two years ago, The Bookseller columnist William Boot wrote a piece headed "Hurrah for grocers". Boot had picked up a story from the Boston Globe about Jim Bildner, a former grocer who, having made his pile, was devoting himself to philanthropy, one of his targets being the publishing business.

"His Literary Ventures Fund will "apply venture capital rules to book publishing"," wrote Boot, adding, "So far, so dull; venture capitalists have been the bane of publishing for 20 years although Nigel Newton would disagree."

This made me curious to find out how the Literary Ventures Fund was faring two years on. It's a well-designed and interesting site with a list of the books they've helped to publish so far.

But although Boot wrote – "Instead of chucking all his money at unworthy chief executives, Mr Bildner is, in effect, chucking it at authors", the money is actually being chucked at small publishers, not at authors who deserve to be published but are not.

The publishers include Waveland Press, Illinois, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, and Archipelago Books, Brooklyn.

Looking at the book jackets page, my interest was caught by Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway, first paperbacked in 1980 and re-published last year. The book now has 44 reviews at Amazon US, 42 of them 5-star.



The Literary Ventures Fund mission statement page starts with this -

"Literature has a profound impact on our lives. Great books transport readers, illuminate their values, and bring meaning and context to their lives. They have the power to inspire, console, and provoke; they enlighten us and affect us long after we've put a book down. We believe that literature is at risk, as are the economic and support systems that traditionally have connected great writers to readers. In many cases these systems no longer exist, disrupted in part by consolidation and the intrinsic pressures on the remaining large publishing houses to give preference to books that sell to the mass market. LVF is built on the premise that, given a level playing field, great works of literature can thrive in the marketplace."

Is there a British equivalent of LVF? Not that I know of.

Richard Havers' comments


How many readers of this and other blogs miss interesting comments posted on earlier blogs. Richard Havers, whose blog is called Havering On, posted an amusing one-liner on my yesterday's blog.

He wrote – "Both publishers and prostitutes keep a keen eye on turnover and on profits."

But readers may have missed his comment on my June 19 blog headed – "Bookshop v supermarket customers". I might have missed it myself had I not arranged to have comments emailed to my Inbox.

He wrote – "Anne, I'm just back from holiday (a week on a boat off the west coast of Scotland - idyllic). On re-reading my post I feel I should have said "the [extra)ordinary people who get awards for doing what are really good and amazing things". Having had time to reflect on the former Mr. Rushdie's award, and having read the comment on my blog about standing up against Islamic fundamentalists as being 'in', I'm even more upset by his knighthood. I've never read one of his books, never even been tempted, but that is not my beef with this ludicrous giving of such an honour.

If indeed it is a gesture, it is both futile and silly. It's the national equivalent of thumbing a nose against many who follow Islam. I agree with you on his marriage stakes. One cannot help thinking there's a good deal more 'celebrity' surrounding the former Mr. Rushdie than is healthy. p.s. Misery memoirs will burn out, there's only so much of that stuff that people can read without over-dosing."

I hope he's right about miserylit, but I'm not sure, having just read a book about a dying teenager which is expected to have massive sales. More about that next week.

8 Comments:

At 06 July, 2007, Blogger Richard Havers said...

Thanks Anne for the plug. In our house he's referred to as 'the writer formerly known as Mr'.

To me Miserylit is, by and large, an abomination. But then again what is ML? Maybe a book about a dying teenager is not strictly ML, but of course in every marketing definition there are always books that sit on the margins. My hopes for a decline in the sales of ML are tempered by the fact that our news coverage is increasingly about all things awful and dark. Perhaps there's something in a national psyche that requires us to read and observe people who are worse off than ourselves to prop up our own slightly depressing view of how we live now.

Final thought; why would someone buy a miserylit book at the airport to take on holiday?

 
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