Inspired on The Man Booker Prize 2014 Final Part

Chelsea

Chelsea Blog (2)

Hi, I’m Chelsea, a Consultant here at Inspired Selection. Originally from the states, my love of books led me to pursue an MA in Publishing at Kingston University, before starting in my role at Inspired where I focus on working within the trade and academic sectors.
Chocolate Ice-creamBalletnews

If I had to choose three images that depict me, they would be: chocolate ice cream because I have a huge sweet tooth, the ballet because I’ve always had a passion for dance and the news as I am obsessed with current events.

Also, something that most people would never guess about me would be that growing up I was a painfully shy child – but somehow, I managed to move abroad on my own, work in recruitment and love to go to networking events and speak to people! Even though I’ve recently relocated back to Texas, I will continue to work for Inspired Selection and cannot wait to speak with you soon!

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – Joshua Ferris

‘To Rise Again at a Decent Hour’ tells the story of Park Avenue dentist, Paul O’Rourke; or rather, allows him to speak to us in this first person narrative. After a traumatic childhood event, Paul has spent a large portion of his adult life looking for somewhere he fits in, despite his prominent and prosperous dental practice. One day, he is surprised and outraged to find out that someone has built a website for his practice and opened Facebook and Twitter accounts in his name, all things he has previously scorned. As he watches the social media channels grow, he is at first angry but then begins to worry that perhaps his online identity is more interesting than the actual man. These media channels begin proselytizing about a forgotten peoples and religious sect, based on doubt, and atheist Paul wonders, has he finally found a group of people with whom he belongs?

This book addresses the disconnection that many people feel going through life and the loneliness and isolation that can result from living in such a busy society full of ‘exclusive’ groups. Paul is always obsessed with the close knit religious communities but can never fit in due to his disbelief in God which leads him to constant distress and depression. Whilst dealing with weighty topics, the book is interspersed with humour in the main form of anecdotes that Paul gives us from his daily life as well as the random tangents he has the habit of following. These things then combine to make Joshua Ferris’ third offering both relatable and readable.

Rachel

Rachel

I’m the Graduate Consultant here at Inspired Selection and the newest addition to the team specialising in entry-level and junior roles across the industry. I’m an ex-bookseller with a love of literature and as any of my friends would tell you, never get me started on discussing books because I won’t stop!

I have a bit of a soft spot for the Man Booker Prize because at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, which takes place in my home town, they hold an event every year with the Shortlisted winners which I love attending.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a poignant, insightful and moving story about an Australian POW building the Burmese railway for the Japanese. It moves between different periods of the main character, Dorrigo Evans’s life, telling the story of his time before the war growing up in Tasmania, his harrowing experiences as a Doctor in the POW camp, his celebrated status as an old man and of a love affair that burns in his mind throughout his entire life.

The language and description within this book is both exquisite and horrific, as Flanagan moves seamlessly from describing falling in love in the heat of an Australian summer to the gruelling environment and events of the POW camp. There were many times whilst reading this book that I had to pause and just think about what he had said with regards to general human existence, the meaning of life and the point of suffering. Apologies to anyone who saw a girl in a fur coat on the tube staring absent-mindedly into space, that was me…

His character development, something I feel passionately about within novels, was perfect. The different time periods showed how the experiences shaped him marking a clear progression from naïve young adult to knowing elder.

Something I hadn’t been expecting from this novel was Flanagan’s ability to highlight the cultural differences and thought processes between the Japanese and the Australians, explaining how each character came to their conclusions and their own actions, showing that in some horrific situations there are just bad circumstances and differences in cultural upbringing that result in misunderstanding.

All in all, a fantastic read and I can understand why this novel was awarded the Man Booker Prize for 2014. I’m now off to discover and read the rest of Richard Flanagan’s novels…

Inspired on the Man Booker Prize 2014 Part 2

  Abigail
Abigail

I’m Abigail, the Managing Consultant here at Inspired Selection. I have a particular focus on professional publishing, coming from a professional services background myself.

I am not alone in this industry to hold an English degree and it was a joy to read this book for the blog. If I were stuck on a Desert Island however, the three books I would take with me would be Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières, Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. From a literature background, it’s a privilege to be surrounded by publishing people in my job and I look forward to working with all you readers of this blog in the near future.

The Lives of Others – Neel Mukherjee

Reading this book left me with a vast range of emotions but none of them was surprise at this piece of literature being shortlisted for this prestigious award. The storytelling was captivating and I was compelled to turn each page.

This is a piece of prose which built boundaries and broke them down. The two distinct fonts from different narratives achieved this physically, creating a boundary between story tellers and this is a microcosm for so much more. It was a reminder of the geographical and class boundaries that define this text and the world in which it exists. India in the 60s gives us cruel and graphic images and providing this to us in text form, Mukherjee champions the notion that there need not be a boundary between text and image as the reader experiences palpable colour and movement in the written words.

Esme

Esme 2

Hello! My name is Esme and I am a Senior Consultant at Inspired Selection, I have been with the company for almost 3 and a half years now and I can honestly say it has flown by. My role at Inspired is focused on recruiting into the STM (science, technical and medical) and Education publishing sectors, working with my clients and candidates to find the absolute best fit for everyone. My background is in science communication and outreach work in schools so this is an area that I absolutely love and thrive in.

What do I love most about my job? It’s got to be the people, and don’t just mean my colleagues (they are wonderful though), it’s about all the candidates and clients I get to meet every day, it’s about digging down and finding out what the persons niche is and what they absolutely love doing and then finding that perfect fit in a new job and company that makes them happy. It’s not just about finding people a ‘job’ – it’s about their career, their happiness and making sure they’ve had the best experience possible.

Some images that depict me –

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 How to be Both – Ali Smith

I really struggled to get into ‘How to be Both’ by Ali Smith. Normally, I’m a kind of, ‘pick up a book and finish it in two days’ kinda girl so it was a bit of a shock to end up dithering over this one for the best part of two weeks.
The story is in two parts – the book started with a disembodied spirit trying to find it’s way on the earth who ends up staring at the back of a boy looking at a painting in a museum gallery, this ‘boy’ was in fact George, a teenage girl from modern day Cambridge as we find out later on in the novel. She was looking at a painting by a relatively unknown renaissance artist of the 15th Century – Francesco del Cossa, a born girl disguised as a male in order to us her talent as an artist in some of the grandest courtyards in Italy.

Francesco’s story took up the first half of the novel and ended after she had completed three wall panels each showing a month of the year – this is what present day George was staring at when the spirit saw her. Francesco wrote a letter asking the Duke for more money than the other artists due to her level of skill – and this is how George’s mother, and the rest of the world came to find out about her.

The book then flips to modern day with George – her mother had recently died and it tells the tale of her typical teenage struggles but also, the lead up to the death and the trip to Italy to see Francesco’s work. I found George’s story the one that affected me most, and perhaps that’s because it is closer to home and closer to what I know and understand today.

Saying that, it was an interesting experiment for me, an intertwining story of completely different worlds and an example of how these can subtlety influence each other. How to be both is not the most enjoyable book I’ve ever read, it was sad and upsetting at times but having had time to reflect on the story, hats off to Ali Smith – it was an interesting one at that.

Inspired on The Man Booker Prize 2014

Yesterday, the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2014 was announced and awarded to Richard Flanagan for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

The Man Booker Prize was set up in 1969 and this year celebrated its 46th year. It’s aim is to promote the finest writers in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. Judges for the prize are changed regularly and are chosen from a wide range of disciplines, including writers, academics and critics as well as actors, poets and politicians who all have a passion for the best works of fiction.

One of the main reasons publishing houses and authors alike covet the Man Booker Prize award is not only due to the cash prize of £50,000 and a designer bound copy of their book, but because it encourages a wider readership. Most authors that win or those who are shortlisted for the prize enjoy a dramatic increase in book sales worldwide. The release of the longlist, shortlist and winner for this award therefore creates great hype within the publishing industry

Inspired Selection, as big readers with a variety of tastes in fiction, decided to read to the shortlist of the Man Booker Prize award in order to discuss amongst ourselves who we thought might win this year.

Please read on to meet our Inspired Team and their thoughts on this year’s shortlist, we will post two of the team member’s reviews over the course of three days, stay tuned!

Amy

Amy

My name is Amy and I am a Senior Consultant at Inspired Selection, specialising in recruitment for educational, professional and STM clients.

 Select a few images that depict you:

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Ireland MapCork Uni

If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 books would bring and why?

1. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, because I could not live without it

2. Tender is the Night by F.Scott Fitzgerald, because every time I read it I get goosebumps

3. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, a more recent read that has haunted me bit and I want to read it again

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

This book is an exploration of sibling love, at times making you nod in frustrated empathy and at other times, provoking a profound sadness. The narrative alternates between the present and a series of flashbacks and as we get to know Rosemary, we understand her marginalisation and displacement as a character. The way in which she describes herself as a child – attention seeking, loud, unaware, too curious – trickles into our understanding of her as an adult. Despite all that is disclosed throughout the novel, it is her childhood self that we are drawn back to and this, somehow, serves to excuse the questionable things she says and does.

The book opens in a cloak of mystery as we are given snippets of what has happened to the narrator’s siblings. Without disclosing the big twist, it is hard to go into too much detail on Fern; she is Rosemary’s sister who is sent away when she is a child and is never returned to the family home. However, we find a foyle for Fern in the character of Harlow, the beautiful and uninhibited friend she makes during her university years who fascinates her but scares her at the same time. She is drawn to Harlow in an obvious attempt to replace Fern and this mix of fear and admiration that she feels for Harlow echoes her feelings for Fern. Harlow has the same restless and unpredictable spirit and provokes in Rosemary the same feelings of self-doubt and jealousy. As Rosemary searches for answers to explain Fern’s disappearance, Harlow fills the void until she too disappears from the story.

More poignant, though, is the relationship between Rosemary and her older brother Lowell who she loves without the fear and hesitation she felt for Fern. It is his departure from the family home that hits her the most and the memories she recollects of him throughout the book make your chest tighten. He was the figure she looked up to and the jealousy she feels for Fern (and Harlow) can be traced back to a constant vying for his love and attention. Over the years after he disappears, he re-enters her life now and again but there is always the feeling that he is just out of her reach, destined to eternally slip through her fingers. When she is with him, she feels safe and like she belongs to something, to a type of family unit, but when he is gone her isolation is palpable.

Towards the end, the novel sits firmly in the present and it seems that all loose ends are tied up, at least for everyone except Rosemary. All missing persons have been located and their situations explained, for better or for worse. This has to be the only disappointment in the novel; after building our understanding for Rosemary and our consequent empathy with her, Fowler leaves her where we found her – on the margins, still.

Towards the end, she tells us “My brother and sister have led extraordinary lives, but I wasn’t there, and I can’t tell you that part”. It is safe to say that neither Lowell ‘nor Fern end up in the ideal situation either but they exist in a place where they belong and I don’t think the same can be said for Rosemary.

This book is thought-provoking, and addresses issues of sibling love and rivalry, with an underlying theme of animal cruelty awareness and the protagonist’s grappling for identity and for answers. Answers are provided but the closing lines left me unsatisfied, on Rosemary’s behalf and on behalf of all characters who never quite find their place at the end.

Zoe

Zoe Sloth
I’m Zoe and I am the Office Administrator here at Inspired providing daily admin support to the team as well helping to co-ordinate all marketing and events.

Some images to depict me:

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If I was stuck on a desert Island the three books I would bring are:

  1. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk: I think I felt every emotion reading this book and even though I have read it over and over it never fails to make me think and discover something new.
  2. The Twits by Roald Dahl: A book that never fails to make me laugh.
  3. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe: Despite its bleak subject, I love to read this poem out loud as the poetic rhythm always calms me.

J by Howard Jacobson

Set in the future, in a dark world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or re-visited. This dystopian novel follows two people, who fall in love, and yet they don’t know anything about where they have come from or what the future might hold.

 As a big fan of dystopian fiction, I did enjoy this aspect of J and I liked that it kept you guessing right up until the end as to the cause of the fractured state of the world. I also really enjoyed the dry wit used throughout that was very poignant at times.

Whilst I felt the protagonists were well developed, I found it hard to connect with them on a more personal level – however I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing as it echoed the overarching theme of detachment.

The Rise and Rise of Self-Publishing. How self-published authors are creating, publishing, marketing and selling their own titles successfully.

On Tuesday night we attended another successful and interesting Tech Tuesday – run by London Book Fair – event at the delightful Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch. The focus of the event was self-publishing and how it compares and contrasts with traditional publishing.  The panel consisted of Orna Ross, both self- and traditionally published author, and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, David Shelley, Publisher at Little, Brown, and Brenda Van Camp, CMO Blurb and Andrew Crofts, Author and Ghostwriter joined the Director of The London Book Fair, Jacks Thomas, for a debate on the Rise and Rise of Self-Publishing.

The evening saw the panel debate the positives and negatives of both self-publishing and traditional publishing. The discussion kicked off with Andrew Crofts explaining that in the first instance there were storytellers, then publishers who had the money to spread the stories and somewhere along the way it became more about the money being made and pleasing the publisher than about telling your story. Crofts explained that this advent of self-publishing is handing more power back to the storytellers and getting the stories out to the people who want to read them. This was one debate of many which divided opinions about traditional publishers and self publishers…. and one of many that led to the conclusion that however you publish, the reader must be your focus.

Tech T

This direct to consumer trend was one that flowed throughout the evening and as we’re into Social Media Week, the role that social media plays in publishing (self or otherwise) was a hot topic. Social Media allows authors to interact with the readers without the channel of the publisher or agent which is a fantastic recipe for self publishing. However we can’t forget that it also allows consumers to communicate back directly to the author or brand creating a true bond between reader and the source of the story. It’s not just a “Direct to Consumer” market, it’s also “Consumer Direct to Brand” one. This doesn’t need to stop with self publishers though and traditional publishers can take away from this a key message: that engaging with the readership will make a very powerful product proposition.

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In general, self publishing can be seen as a liberating and wonderful process in its own right but it can also be viewed as a challenge to the traditional publishers, encouraging them to step up their game. Self publishing breaks down several boundaries: how to market a product, what is “publish-able” content and even what makes a “book”. Publishers can’t be complacent. We must all be better at what we do and whatever we do, make sure that we don’t lose sight of our raison d’etre – bringing stories to readers.

Byte the Book – New Print Models – How is print adapting to the shifting consumer market in the Digital Age?

On Monday evening we attended September’s Byte the Book event at the beautiful Ivy Club in Soho where the topic of the night was how print is adapting to the shifting consumer market in the digital age.  Chairing the panel this time was Lisa Edwards, Publisher at Carlton with the panel consisting of Andrew Davies, Publisher at Immediate Media, formerly BBC Magazines,  Laila Dickson, Key Accounts Manager at Scholastic, Martin Spear, Reprints Controller at Osprey Books  and Maggie Calmels, Creative Global Development Director at Eaglemoss Publishing Group. This was a lively and jovial night, with the audience engaging with the key ideas well in the follow up questions.

The topics of the night included Bookazines, Partworks, Print on Demand and Special Sales as different forms of successful Print in the digital age. Martin Spear of Osprey publishing kicked off by talking about how Osprey, specialist producer of Military History books, is currently in the process of converting 2000 books to print on demand. He explained that in the past some products wouldn’t have been print published due to little interest but now with Print on Demand, it is possible to print these products for the small numbers of interested consumers. This in turn is not only beneficial for sales but also for boosting Osprey’s brand identity and consumer loyalty, as their customers know that they can get hold of their more obscure products.

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Andrew Davies of Immediate Media spoke of the problems facing magazines with the advent of digital magazine content and it’s cost effectiveness, and explained the print option of Bookazines. These tend to be special-edition enhanced magazines that are on sale for up to 8 weeks and act as a brand extensions of other magazines such as Country Life. These products target existing consumers so are inexpensive to launch but enhance the brand with their collectable quality.

Laila Dickinson explained how different outlets like supermarkets, The Works and newsagents has meant that print can now target different audiences and so the print has to adapt to target those audiences. Products such as specialised boxsets or bookazine-type products mean that print options are still bringing in new consumers.

Collectively, the panel discussed and agreed that although the digital era and the digitalisation of print is beneficial for the industry, it is not ‘dinosaur’ to still champion print as print is still popular as a consumer product, especially niche high quality collectable products. Design and understanding your consumer is key, and that does not necessarily mean going entirely digital. Laila offered the example of children’s books which has had a huge growth in the last year, especially with authors such as Julia Donaldson who currently refuses to digitalise her products on principle and yet is still a highly successful author, showing how print is definitely not going anywhere.
ipad-ibooksIt was fascinating to listen to the debate and to find out about all the different avenues that print is going down whilst adapting to this digital era, which just shows how the publishing industry is growing and expanding into new and exciting ventures. I think perhaps most interesting was to learn how digital has actually opened up and enabled these different avenues for print – particularly in the example of POD thus showing that maybe, just maybe, the future is print and digital co-existing side by side.

ALPSP 2014 – An Inspired Summary

Last week, Inspired Selection attended the annual ALPSP conference at the Park Inn, Middlesex. The event is dedicated to exploring the latest trends in STM, Academic and professional society publishing and Esme Richardson and I wanted to find out as much as we could.

ALPSP

The conference provided the opportunity for an open and honest conversation about this area of publishing and it was oddly refreshing to hear several of the speakers ask the question – why is it so hard?

The Plenary on Cross Fertilisation, chaired by Toby Green of OECD, opened the can of Open Access worms, asking why it was taking so long to take on. The liberated worms wriggled in the direction of the reader. While we are a highly educated country, are there enough people wanting to read academic material? Does is actually increase reach and impact of the content as researchers can usually get to the article whether it’s open access or not?

In the session on Competing with the Corporates, David Maclean from Packt Publishing unashamedly acknowledged what hard work it was making a living out of the publishing business! Luckily he works very hard and is very good at it, reminding us, as the other speakers did, that size doesn’t matter in publishing. The internet is a real leveller in the publishing landscape; you are only as good as your discoverability and with the right metadata a small or medium sized publisher can be found just as well as the larger players giving us all the chance to be Kings of the Google Jungle. Of course, the content must be high quality and meeting the needs of the readers to keep business going. David talked about his alternative, data driven commissioning system which informed decisions on the type of content to be commissioned by monitoring what users are searching for online.

Google’s ears must have been burning hot red last week as the threats and opportunities that it poses publishers were mentioned several times. Martha Sedgwick from SAGE asked why it is that making academic content discoverable on library search tools is so hard when Google is so good! On one hand Google Scholar might take our researchers away from the library tools or even from the content as their attention is lost clicking around the various pages to land them in the right place. However on the other hand it can serve to bring researchers to the tools themselves, driving web traffic into our hands. Moreover, it drives us to improve our products which can only be a good thing.

What was evident throughout the conference was that despite this area of publishing actually being quite a tough gig, it is a fantastic and dynamic area to be in and it’s filled with people who are up for the challenge. This was particularly clear at the Awards Dinner sponsored by Semantico where the winners – Frontier – and runners up – IOP and JournalGuide – reminded us of the success that can come from innovation in this area. The speakers and panellists throughout the programme were inspiring as are the technology and business models that they are involved with. People often find things hard when they’re being stretched to do them really well and they care immensely about doing them well and we are very lucky to be surrounded by such people.

Improvement is Trending in Publishing

Coming out of the Book Industry Communications seminar on Monday, I felt even more excited about the future of publishing than before. After a few years of uncertainty about its direction and the big Digital Mystery was not yet solved. The seminar, held in the majestic RIBA offices, threw the spotlight on some of the fantastic clues that lead us to the conclusion that technology and innovative thinking really are enablers to our industry and not things to be frightened of.

The clues took the form of industry trends and first we must decipher what a trend actually is. Karina Luke from the BIC took us through the difference between a trend and a fad and what we are looking out for here are new developments with longevity. It can be hard in the early days to know if we are in a trend or a fad but we can make an educated guess: is it likely to catch on? Does it answer a business or consumer need? Is there a cost benefit?trnading

For example, Paul Porter from the RNIB demonstrated how Apple’s VoiceOver and Braille Display technology has enabled a huge number of visually impaired people to access books that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Accessibility to books does not just mean reading them, it means being able to search for them, choose and buy them. For the 1 in 8 adults that have severe sight problems this technology has allowed them that choice as without it they have a very limited range of books in Braille. Technology has vastly improved the access that was already there, meeting a demand that wanted to read.

Similarly, a panel discussion told us about the efficiency gains made by Auto Stock Replenishment; cheaper than print on demand, this technology keeps stock up to date and ready to go. However, this does not negate the need for good people – Inventory and Stock Controllers – it is not replacing their cognisance. Rather, it allows them to spend their time on making more strategic decisions, interfering with the ASR if their knowledge supersedes the predicted sales figures when, for example, an author event happens that a machine wouldn’t know about. Again, technology is improving an existing system; the trend towards printing improvements is a lasting one meeting a need and allows people to do what people do best – make decisions about publishing.

People are at the core of this industry as it is driven by people’s passion for publishing great content and it’s important to remember that these new trends are not threatening that. Stuart Evers from the Bookseller Award Winning NetGalley explained how their platform improves the process of getting content to influencing readers: reviewers, librarians, booksellers etc. Inter-departmental liaison and postage delays are eliminated, giving people more time with the content. With this in mind, it’s important that we have the right people on board and a further panel discussion reminded us that with these new trends in our industry, new skills will be needed and we’ll need to market ourselves as an attractive industry to work in to people with the right technical skills.

Monday uncovered several new trends in our industry, many of which are emerging through new technologies and we do seem to be solving the Digital Mystery. However, listening to them all seemed to bring one overarching trend to light; as an industry we are looking for ways in which to improve. We are looking forward to the future and asking more of ourselves. Technology can be the answer to this but it can also give us to time to do this more. We’re on an upward trend!

Abigail Barclay  By Abigail Barclay, Managing Consultant