About Me

Wales, United Kingdom
Cinnamon Press is a small, independent publisher based in Wales & publishing the best new poetry and fiction with occassional non fiction and cross-genre titles. Books come from Wales, the UK and the world. We run writing competitions twice a year to find new voices in poetry and fiction with three categories (novel/novella; poetry; short stories) - each category has a cash prize plus publication. You can find our excellent list of titles at www.cinnamonpress.com

Friday, 25 April 2008

More launches :)

Back from our latest launches, which were lots of fun. Wednesday at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea for the launch of Lloyd Rees's latest collection Simple Arithmetic. Lloyd's reading was great as was the hospitality of David Woolley and the regulars at the DTC monthly poetry in the bookshop. The open mic session had some real gems, especially from younger readers and the atmosphere was superb.

Thursday saw us at the Wales Millemium Centre for the launch of two brilliant books. Arriving to find the stage occupied by a flamboyant drag artist singing with gusto certainly made a different start to the evening, but these two authors could follow anything. It was great to hear readings from Kate North's multi-genre novel, Eva Shell, and Holly Howitt's unique collection of microfictions, Dinner Time.

Both authors are young women who've studied creative writing in Cardiff - Kate completing her PhD there and Holly currently working on her PhD. Both authors have the kind of distinctive voices that make their work utterly compelling. Both will be appearing with Mike Jenkins at the Hay festival on May 29th - so if you're planning a visit to Hay don't miss this event - it will be an absolute treat.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Keeping Busy

Just back from Cambridge where we had the launch of Dan Healy's excellent debut collection Winter Lines. Heffers was a great place for a launch - well attended, with an audience who really appreciated poetry. Dan's reading was excellent - complete with short, dry introductions that were exactly suited to his crisp, pared down poetry.

It's a book that deserves to sell well. Of course they all are - they're my babies, every precious one of them - and, as a mother of four in real life, I can honestly say that 52 babies and counting is a lot to feel responsible for, but it does bring a certain warm glow as well.

Being away from the desk means that things pile up so I returned to tackle the mounting slush pile of submissions to the poetry journal - Envoi. I recently did a feature on Envoi for Poetry News and worked out that we get aroudn 8,000 poems a year from around 2,000 poets. We have the space to keep about 4% of what is submitted. That's a lot of rejections. Some of the poems sent are so close to that elusive criteria of 'what I'm looking for' that I feel like an axe murderer for saying no, but the majority, sadly, are from people who never read poetry - or not since they had Humpty Dumpty read to them as infants.

There seems to be a huge, flourishing industry of therapeutic writing, which I have no doubt is a powerful tool for self discovery, expression and even healing and resolution. What seems less healthy is that bucketloads arrive at my door - twelve year olds who want to cut themselves; long term mental patients, a regular submission from a schizophrenic who has been sending me poetry for three years and insists he will not take no for an answer; a rather abusive young man in the States who emailed me ALL of his thoughts on the vileness of womankind when I wished him well with his writing.

I'm sure some of these people search out magazines for themselves, but the steep rise in such submissions leads me to wonder whether counsellors and therapists are suggesting that publication is possible as part of the process. I'll never know, but if I'm right it's an unwittingly cruel suggestion in most case - one that will only lead to rejection.

Submissions pile wrestled into shape, I can get on with some editing - the best bit :)

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Musing on literary prizes

It's a real boost when a book from a small press gets short-listed or even wins a literary prize. At Cinnamon we're thrilled with Jane McKie's success in the Sundial Scottish Book of the Year Prize in the category of best first book and similarly it was great to see Ruth Leader's collection, The Peacock Room, short listed for the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize last November and Bill Greenwell's collection, Impossible Objects short listed for the best first collection in the Forward Prize.

As a small press we take great care in the selection of the books we publish and it's encouraging to see that other people in the literary world think we're making the right choices.

But, sadly, not all prizes are as open to small presses as they appear. Prizes like those mentioned above ask presses to send in a few copies of the book as part of entry - enough to allow the judges to see copies. Others ask for a fee - and this can be just the first prohibitive hurdle for small presses exising on shoestring budgets. Several major prizes ask for large numbers of books for free - well, fair enough - this might deter presses from submitting books casually and give pause to see how much investment a press has in a particular book. But given the sales figures of books from small presses, particularly poetry books, it can also be a real deterrant.

The Sunday Telegraph (27th January 2008) recently published the sales figures of the TS Elior prize short list - well known poets with established writing careers for the most part and shockingly low figures. Only three had sales of over 340 books out of the ten listed, most were in the 270-340 range and one made only 36 sales.

With figures like these even after being short listed for a prestigious prize having to supply a prize organiser with 80 or more free copies raises questions of whether entry is in the interest of the press. But it doesn't stop there. Many prizes require substantial payments from the publishers of short listed works towards publicity - often in the range of £2,500 or more with further money required if the book actually wins.

For a small press the maths simply doesn't work - by the time a fee is paid, copious copies supplied and perhaps £3,000 to £4,000 shelled out in marketing contributions the chances of selling enough extra copies of the book to so much as cover costs becomes vanishingly rare. The top seller in the TS Eliot shortlist was Sophie Hannah's Pessimisim for Beginners with 986 sales. Assuming a prize could boost our poetry sales to such figures, after costs for printing, distributors and royalties we'd still make only a modest profit and this would rapidly turn into a significant loss if we contributed thousands towards publicity costs to a prize organiser.

There are some excellent literary prizes that really do level the playing field between all sizes of press - prizes like the TS Eliot, the PBS prizes, the Forward prize, the Jerwood Aldeburgh prize, the Wales Book of the Year and the Sundial Scottish Book of the Year prize, but many others effectively have their doors shut to small presses. Some, of course, carry the chance of boosting sales well beyond the contributions asked for, For novels, for example, this could be the case, but it is still a risk and, in any case, many small presses don't have that kind of 'spare' cash with which to gamble upfront.

All the more reason, I suppose, to celebrate the prizes that truly are open to all on literary merit alone.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Congratulations to Cinnamon Author Jane McKie

A huge congratulations to Jane McKie, whose debut poetry collection, Morocco Rococo was yesterday announced as the category winner of best first book in the Sundial Scottish Arts Council book of the year awards. Jane will be awarded a cheque for £5000, and goes forward to be considered for an additional prize of £20,000 (an overall prize of £25,000). The overall winner will be announced at Borders Book Festival in Melrose on 20 June 2008 at an event hosted by writer and comedian Rory Bremner. Morocco Rococo was originally winner of the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award and we’re thrilled at Cinnamon Press to have our choice so resoundingly confirmed. If you haven’t got a copy, now is the time to take advantage of our special offer on this fantastic title – just £6 inc p+p in the UK by cheque to ‘Cinnamon Press’ or on the website.

Delicate, layered images distilled to their visceral essentials characterise Jane McKie’s award winning poetry. She takes her readers on journeys – to the desert in the footsteps of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, to magical places from Scotland to Sussex or to the heart of the myth. Whatever the landscape we are let into a world where the senses are alive, where the same vivid acuity pulses on the page delivering sounds smells, tastes and sights as we have never known them.