Sexism in the Publishing Industry

August 3, 2009

Good to see that sexism and gender-bias in the publishing industry are alive and well.  Consider the evidence.  First came the slightly odd but charming DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS, which reminded me of an old book that I adored when I was young called, if memory serves, “The Big Weekend Book”, which was a thick, dusty hardback with a mottled green cover.  In it there were suggestions for putting on shows, stories, puzzles, and directions on how to make stones skip across water, start a butterfly collection, and other useful things.

dangerousMy son has a copy of THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS.  He dips into it occasionally, although I don’t think he has quite recovered from his disappointment when he discovered that I wasn’t going to be able to knock together a tree house with hot and cold running water and a working elevator during the course of a Saturday afternoon.  Such is his painful lot in life, to have an utterly useless father when it comes to the important stuff.

Anyway, the book is fun.  It’s terribly old-fashioned – not quite jolly hockey sticks and lashings of ginger beer, but not far off – but that is exactly the point, and indeed its whole commercial appeal.  Parents watch their children leaf through it and the accumulated guilt of all those Gameboys, PlayStations and DVDs lifts, just a little.  This is what we should have been doing all along, they tell themselves – at least until their son looks up and asks if he can have a treehouse.

Of course, it was inevitable that those clever publishing types would try and replicate this winning formula for girls.  daringHere’s where it gets perplexing, though.  Did they produce THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR GIRLS?  No.  Take a look at the cover on the right.  See?  I’m curious about the distinction.  Perhaps these days “Dangerous for girls” means forgetting your diaphragm or leaving your facebook page unattended, and since we are performing a collective leap back to Enid Blyton times, something more wholesome was needed.  I’m probably reading too much into all this – imagine that – but the fact that girls get to be daring implies a measure of finesse that us boys are, by inference, incapable of.  We just blunder off into the sunset, heroic idiots, whereas the ladies have the smarts to calculate the odds and use their heads.  Yawn.  It’s brains versus brawn, yet again.  Well, I suppose if the publishers were trying to be old-fashioned, they were right on the money.

But why can’t girls just do dangerous things, too?


Next hurdle jumped

July 27, 2009

Big news today.

We heard from Emma Sweeney, the US literary agent in New York who has been reading the manuscript of Paradise.  She was on holiday last week in Maine.  What was she doing in Maine, you might ask?  (Well, you might.)  I’ll tell you: apparently she was reading my book, and apparently she liked it.  Bruce has written from London telling me that she is very enthusiastic about the novel and is looking forward to representing me.

This is, needless to say, a huge relief.

As regular readers will know, I was worried about whether or not Bruce would like the book, but in some ways getting a US agent on board was going to be an even bigger struggle – since, you know, it’s set in America, an’ all.  Anyway, it seems as if Emma gets the book and what I was trying to accomplish, which is in itself very gratifying.  It will be interesting to see how we go from here.  Bruce is proposing an auction for the UK rights and has his eyes on various of the big UK publishers.  We may wait and see how it fares in the US first.

Christina and I went out for lunch to celebrate and cast most of the film while we were waiting for our food to arrive.  High spirits.  Right now I’m very pleased, although I do have to keep reminding myself that we haven’t sold a thing yet.

If it’s not one thing…

July 24, 2009

… Having resolved the knotty issue of what to call myself, we move seamlessly on to the question of the novel’s title…

BtA likes “Paradise”, as do I, but we know there’s something better out there. Just gotta work out what it is.
I have volunteered to trawl through barbershop lyrics in search of the perfect title. If you’ve ever actually listened to the lyrics of a barbershop song, you will know how much this means to me. It will be torture.

A New Man?

July 24, 2009

I feel like a new man.

Not sure if anyone remembers this post, but after much thought and deliberation, it has been decided by the powers-that-be that henceforth I shall be A.H. George. Not exactly an earth-shattering difference. Still, I like the initials. And it is still me.
(Although I did like someone’s idea of using the very rock n’ roll Axel George.)
In other news, the American literary agent has been on vacation in Maine, which is why we have heard no news from that quarter. Soon, we hope.

Movin’ On

July 2, 2009

Just a quick note to announce that a new website, and new blog, are in the works. I have been spending the last few weeks polishing the manuscript and it’s about ready to go back to Bruce the Agent, and out to publishers.

Also, we’re off to France for two weeks as of tomorrow. Am debating whether or not to blog about that. We’ll be meeting up with my parents, my sisters, and all their kids. It will be the first time we’ve all been together in some years. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Doesn’t it?

Blast from the Past

June 20, 2009

I received this in my inbox this morning. Hard to believe that the offending book was published ten years ago now. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I think maybe she had a point.

Hi Alex

This is the first time I have ever been inspired to seek out an authors email address to comment on their work but here goes.

I understand fully the need for modern humour to be sharp and verging on irreverent at all times. Personally I am a fan of sarcasm despite it being the lowest form so I have no room to talk about what other people deem amusing.


I started your book which opening lines were concerning a wee in the toilet which was ironic considering I was reading it while sitting on the throne myself. However when I got to the stuff about the cat I stopped smirking and started hurting. By page 9 line 20 ‘only a cat after all’ I had seen enough.

Sorry to be boring but I have to say there is too much cruelty against animals especially cats who have suffered greatly at the hands of humans over the centuries. Just as I would not want to read a humorous portrayal of child abuse or starvation or any other act of cruelty, violence or abuse of humans or animals I really struggle to laugh about a cat laying in a pool of blood after your hero had bashed it’s head in then proceeds to kick it into it’s grave and dance a victory jig on it.

I am sure however the book and others by yourself are wonderfully amusing – but for me I can read no further.




June 9, 2009
Much frenetic emailing between yours truly and Bruce the Agent. BtA had a couple of technical issues he wanted to see addressed. (I’m guessing he had some traumatic encounters with Baptists at some point in his life.) All good points, though, hopefully accomplished without too much pain. Some issues have proven a little knotty to nail down – one of the difficulties about doing this stuff over email. But overall I think we’re pretty much in agreement. We both want the book to be as good as it can possibly be before we start sending it out.
Tomorrow brings coffee with my friend Allison, who has gamely read the whole thing from start to finish (good) and has promised to be absolutely honest about it when we meet (maybe not so good.) Naturally I’m apprehensive. So far the response to the book has been pretty positive but Allison is a writer and a poet, whose opinion I respect and value greatly, and I know that she will call this exactly as she sees it. She’s also the first person who’s read the book in more or less final form who doesn’t have a professional interest in it. So wish me luck. I shall report back.