Kevin Duffy of Bluemoose Books started as a sales rep for HEADLINE in London in 1986 and had always written in his spare time. Then in 1998 he won a national writing competition with a Sunday newspaper. He was whisked down to London to meet and have lunch with an agent from Curtis Brown and the publishing director of Macmillan at The Ivy. It didn’t go well - Kevin nearly got thrown out for trying to re-appropriate a hand towel from the toilets!
Kevin continues, "They didn’t like the final manuscript. Two years later I read in The Bookseller that all the big money advances were going to young Irish writers, so I changed my name to Colm O’Driscoll and fired of the first three chapters and a synopsis to Darley Anderson, who loved it. Although for a year I had to pretend to be Irish. He wasn’t too upset to find a portly, middle - aged Mancunian on his doorstep with perhaps too much hair. I signed a contract for my novel ANTHILLS AND STARS. It looked like Hodder were going to publish but it all went pear shaped when the marketing boys didn’t think they could sell comedy fiction. After two years I got the rights back from my agent and moaned. A lot. Until 2006 when my wife, Hetha, told me to do something about it, so we remortgaged the house and Bluemoose was born, fuelled by anger and bile to show the ‘London’ publishing houses that there is a market for humour."
Bluemoose published Anthills and Stars plus ‘A Bridge between’ by Canadian author Nathan Vanek. Since then they have sold three of their books to Russian, Hungarian and Romanian publishers. (KING CROW by Michael Stewart, GABRIELS ANGEL by Mark Radcliffe and FALLING THROUGH CLOUDS by Anna Chilvers.) Two books are now set texts on MA courses in the UK, THE ART OF BEING DEAD by Stephen Clayton, MA in Contemporary Literature at Leeds Metropolitan University and PIG IRON by Benjamin Myers is a set text on the MA in Creative Writing at Greenwich University. KING CROW has won The Guardian’ Not The Booker and two are being read by Hollywood. KING CROW was chosen by multi-award winning author David Peace as a recommended read for WORLD BOOK DAY 2012, who said that KING CROW was ‘brilliant, and one of the best debut novels I have read.’
What are the editorial objectives or mission statement for yourselves as publishers?
Bluemoose is a company of readers and writers and we want to publish great stories that engage and inspire the reader. Unlike the bigger publishers, we take risks, publishing on the whole has become risk averse and this is apparent in what is being published today. Celebrity cook books and generic fiction.
How many titles do you publish annually and how do you chose what to publish?
We publish 3 – 4 titles a year. If the four people involved in Bluemoose all love a particular book, then we’ll publish.
What/who do you see as your primary market?
Readers who love stories that are beautifully written and who are not afraid to read something different.
What are the main challenges and opportunities you see at the moment for independent publishers?
The main issues facing independents, as always, are getting your titles into bookshops and into the hands of your readers. The discount structure on the high street and online is proving extremely challenging and that’s why the bigger names are getting more and more of the ‘shelf ‘space. Their celebrity is deemed as a safe recommendation. The devaluing of the book with 20p ebooks and giveaways. The psychological effect this has on the consumer means one thing only, they want something for nothing and writing is more important than that.
Which books are you most proud of having published?
I am proud of all the books that we have published because we’ve managed to get some great stories by some very gifted writers into the hands of readers. If we hadn’t, chances are they wouldn’t have seen the light of day.
What have you published most recently, and what do you have coming out soon?
We have just published NOD by Canadian writer, Adrian Barnes and it is getting rave reviews. Here’s one from Costa shortlisted author, Stephen May.
'Nod is an amphetamine-fuelled nightmare ride that will leave you breathless - as well as sleepless. Full of narrative verve and linguistic daring, this book is propulsive, explosive and merciless. In Adrian Barnes Canada may have found her 21st century John Wyndham.'
PIG IRON by Benjamin Myers is also attracting cracking reviews and tells the story of John-John, a traveller, who has never travelled, trying to escape his violent father, Mac Wisdom, a bare knuckle boxing champion and King of the gypsies. Ben’s poetic and lyrical writing and his understanding of ‘the green cathedral,’ the countryside around Durham, is just brilliant.
Thanks very much to Kevin Duffy for answering our questions. You can find out more about Bluemoose Books on their website or follow them on twitter.