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polari

If you’re in Birmingham next weekend, you’re in for a treat. On Saturday November 14th, Ignite author Carl Stanley will be at the MAC in Cannon Hill Park, taking part in the Polari Literary Salon evening. This is part of Birmingham’s SHOUT festival, which aims to bring the finest in LGBT writing to the city.
Anyone who’s seen Carl read – either at the Bloomsbury event where we launched ‘Kiss & Make Up’, or at the Polari event on London’s South Bank this summer – will already be aware just how engaging and captivating a reading from him will be. They’ll also be able to vouch for the fact that any excerpts he chooses from his candid, outrageous, and moving memoirs of a boy coming of age in a dysfunctional family in 1970s Birmingham will be excerpts well worth hearing!
If you’re in Birmingham on the 14th, we suggest you put this very special event in your diary. Last year, it sold out, and we’ve no reason to believe this one will be any different. If you’re not in Birmingham but know people who are, please let them know about it so they don’t miss out. Because then they’ll only hate you, and that would never do.
Finally, those of you who can’t make it there can still buy copies of Carl’s book here.
And tickets for the Polari Literary Salon event are on sale here.
Both of them are well worth the money.


gems

There’s a lot to be said for trying something different. Yes, sticking to what you know can be comforting, but if you keep doing the same old thing, you’ll get the same result. More importantly, you’re very likely to get bored. And that does nobody any good at all.
Which is why we were so happy to head into Walsall last Saturday and visit Southcart Books to take part in Southfest, a day of music, book launches, readings, conversation, laughter, and crisps. And fresh samosas. And Welsh cakes, as it happens. But mainly it was about book launches and readings, and a bunch of writers and artists and people who are busy trying something different rather than sticking with the same old same old, all gathered together in one place, sharing ideas and experiences and munching hot samosas.
You could call it ‘networking’. But that makes it sound cold and calculated and like a lot of hard work, whereas really it was what we in the West Midlands know as a bostin’ day out, with added chocolate biscuits and cake. Writers, publishers, and bookshop proprietors – like armies – march on their stomach, and Southcart were determined that no-one would go hungry on their watch. In that, as in so much else, it seems they succeeded. Because Southfest was, indeed, a perfectly formed festival in a wonderful little bookshop.
What Southcart show is that, with graft and determination, it’s possible to put on a barnstorming event in the back street of an unfashionable town* and make it a day to remember. They set up book launches by two local authors, then gave other Walsall writers – whose stories and tales were every bit as enthralling – the opportunity to read. Then they added acoustic sets from local musicians to the mix. And on top of that there were samosas and crisps and soft drinks and wine.
Imagine a world where that was happening in every town, all over the world. Then look at what goes on in Walsall, and know it can be done. It was a pleasure and a privilege to take part in Saturday’s event, to talk a little about Ignite Books, to listen to the work of some very talented writers, and to play a small part in encouraging them in their craft. We wish Lucy Onions and James Josiah all the very best with their novels ‘Shout the Call’ and ‘C90’ and we’d urge any of you reading this to buy a copy and support young authors starting out in the world of writing. And if you’re in Walsall, nip down to Southcart Books and help a wonderful small business thrive.
Southfest. One day, all book launches will be this good.
*we’re from Walsall, so we can say this.


walsall

We’ve said it before, but it’s a lot of fun being an independent publisher. Sure, the workload can be immense, but we’re doing something we love and are passionate about, and that more than makes up for never getting anywhere near the bottom of our to-do list. We’ve helped publish fantastic stories by great writers who are lovely people, and that’s incredibly satisfying, a privilege, and a joy.
But it’s not just about us. Running Ignite also brings us into contact with other small, independent businesses, all of whom are just as enthusiastic and driven about what they’re doing. It brings us opportunities to share our hard-earned knowledge, to pick other people’s brains, to step outside the bijou whirlwind of our own activity and see what someone else is doing, and how they’ve found a route through the challenges every small business faces. Where we can, we work with them. Why? Simply because together, we’re stronger. Oh, and because it’s a lot of fun.
All of which is by way of explanation as to why we’re so very pleased to be part of the incredible event at Southcart Books in Walsall on Saturday 17th October. Woven round the theme of music in literature, at the heart of the day are two book launches celebrating the publication of work by Walsall authors, Lucy Onions and James Josiah, whose work we’re really looking forward to hearing. On top of that will be readings by other local writers, and if all that isn’t enough, there will be live music from local bands. The whole day promises to be a veritable tempest of talent and tunes, and we heartily recommend you put it in your diary.
Ignite’s contribution to what has the makings of a very special day is as follows:
Steve Pottinger will be talking about what it was like to work with Ross Lomas of GBH on the story of his life, the best-selling City Baby. He’ll also read a couple of excerpts from the book, to give a flavour of Ross’s roller-coaster life in the world of punk. Signed copies of City Baby will be on sale on the day, Ross Lomas himself will be on hand to add personal messages if you want them, and Jock of GBH will be there to add some music to the mix with his band Balsall Heathens. All this and more, and it’s absolutely free – though we do suggest you come down with pennies in your pocket so you can support James, Lucy, and Southcart. It’s their day, after all.
We look forward to seeing you at Southcart on the 17th. Our thanks go to Lucy and James for allowing us to hop on board and be part of their launch, and to Southcart Books for doing so much to promote local literature and authors in Walsall. Long may they continue to do so! If you want a copy of the poster promoting this event, drop us a line at hello@ignitebooks.co.uk and we’ll fire one over. Alternatively, feel free to share this blog with anyone and everyone you can.
It’s going to be a great day, and we’d hate for anyone to miss it.



poster (5)

satisfaction

We really do love what we do. We’re very aware how lucky we are to publish incredible books by wonderful authors who tell stories which make the world richer – and how privileged we are to get such positive feedback from you, our readers. On a scale of 1-10 for job satisfaction, running Ignite scores somewhere in the mid-30s. There’s a long, long list of jobs we’ve done which struggle to get above zero, so we hope our enthusiasm is understandable!
What we’re saying is that while running Ignite is hard work, it’s very much worth it. And if we were ever in any doubt about that, our stock check over the weekend blew that doubt away. To our delight and amazement – and we did check the figures – City Baby is just a few dozen copies away from selling out for the third time. The third time!! We can scarcely dare believe it. We’re also very very pleased. Ross’s larger-than-life, moving, and engaging story of life in Birmingham punk band GBH is one of those books which you simply can’t put down. A proper punk page-turner. Trust us, we never get tired of people telling us that!
If you haven’t read it yet, or you know anyone who wants a copy or deserves one as a present, remember that copies of City Baby ordered via the Ignite website will arrive signed by both Ross and Steve. Our shop link is here. Alternatively, you can always get your hands on a copy through your local bookshop, or from online retailers. hive.co.uk pay their taxes – others may not.
The weekend stock check turned up more than the good news about City Baby. We’re also very happy to announce that we’ve finally all but sold out of Joolz Denby’s dark, powerful novel Wild Thing. A mere handful of copies are still available from our friends at the NMA Shop, and our very good friends Arcane Publishing have a few copies at their unit in West Bay in Dorset, but unless Joolz finds another box under her bed, that’s the lot. Those of you lucky enough to have read this book already will know what a treasure it is. The Kindle version will still be available once those last few copies at the NMA Shop have gone, but if you want an analogue copy, you’d best get your skates on!
As news go, that’s not a bad start to the week, eh? Like we said, mid-30s for satisfaction. And rising.
Eat your heart out, Mick Jagger.


autumn

We woke this morning to mist and the crisp air of autumn. Which is wonderful. And the turning of the seasons is also a sign it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves after the summer break and get back to what we do best, which is promoting our books. And – as you know – we’ve some wonderful books to promote.
As a small publisher, it’s especially gratifying that sales keep on trickling in throughout the year. Even while we’ve been out enjoying the sunshine (and dodging the raindrops) this summer, we’ve been regularly posting out books to individuals and bookshops who’ve placed orders. City Baby, which is still our best-selling publication, has now sold over three-quarters of its third print run. We’ve all but sold out of Wild Thing. And our latest book of poetry more bees bigger bonnets is doing very nicely, too.
All good news. Above all, Carl Stanley’s captivating, outrageous, and sensitive memoir of family strife and personal discovery, set in Birmingham in a world of sex, drugs, and rocknroll* remains one we’re hugely proud of. Sadly it didn’t make it onto the Guardian Prize long-list for first books from new authors, but we’re convinced that’s simply an oversight on their part. Kiss & Make Up is an enthralling read, and one which has received plaudits from such notables as Marc Almond, Toyah Willcox, and Damian Barr, among others. Readers love it, too. You can read their comments on it here.
Yes, that’s an Amazon link, but you can buy a copy from any bookshop, from our friends at Gay’s The Word, or online from ourselves or hive.co.uk. And you can read a review from Spindle magazine here. The book is brutally honest about life in a dysfunctional family and about growing up gay in a society which could still be viciously homophobic. It’s also very very funny, and – as several commentators have noticed – worth buying for the photo of Carl with Mrs Thatcher alone. Oh, and the story of how that photo came about is worth a read, too.
Finally, if our books have enriched your lives, please tell your friends. Word of mouth is vital for small companies such as ours. And on that note, we’re off out to pick blackberries, make plans, and enjoy the autumn sunshine. We’ll see you soon.

 

*actually the New Romantic scene, but let’s not quibble.


plates

Back in those far-off days before we’d umbilically attached ourselves to the internet, back when there were only three television channels in the UK and we were still getting used to the decimal system, way back then there was a kids’ TV programme called Blue Peter*. 

Every series seemed to feature John Noakes skydiving, coat hangers transformed into an Advent decoration, Fairy Liquid bottles (with the logo blanked out so as not to advertise the brand) being cut up with round-ended scissors, and – without fail – some bloke attempting, live in the studio, to smash the world record for keeping the largest number of plates spinning on poles at one time. In ’70s Britain, this was about as exciting as life got.
Running Ignite is a bit like keeping those plates spinning. Mastering the art of getting a new project off the ground while making sure none of the others crash and burn. Giving each of them sufficient of your attention and trying to make it look effortless while you do. Responding to what’s going on around you and trying not to be distracted by John Noakes cackling in the corner or Shep biting at your ankles (UK in-joke which will mean nothing to the rest of the world.)
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that we’ve made a few small adjustments to what we’re doing with a couple of our books. Anyone wanting a copy of Carl Stanley’s Kiss & Make Up will find we’ve dropped the price so that it’s now just as cheap to buy direct from us as it is to order it from Amazon, and everyone buying the Ross Lomas story City Baby direct from us will get a copy signed by both him and Steve. And why not? It’s summer after all.
And for those of you intrigues about just what this plate-spinning looked like, here’s an excerpt from Blue Peter in later years, complete with dodgy music and equally dodgy hair. Enjoy!
*Blue Peter still exists, if we’ve fired up your interest.


keeping in touch

The other week we got an email from someone who wanted to sign up to our Facebook page. They had a simple question: Where was it? They’d searched high and low through Mr Zuckerberg’s creation, but Ignite Books wasn’t showing up anywhere.
Now, we’ve long been aware that Facebook don’t make life easy for small businesses – posts we make get shown to a tiny fraction of the people who’ve ‘liked’ us – in order to push us towards paying to promote our posts. What they totally fail to understand is that we’ve done an analysis of the costs and the benefits, and come to the conclusion that the costs are all ours and the benefit is all Facebook’s, so we’ve chosen to turn down this ‘opportunity’ and live with the fact that our page is, sadly, less and less useful.
This new development came as a bit of a surprise, though. We’d never anticipated that Facebook would actively prevent someone who wanted to ‘like’ our page from being able to find it. We’re not quite how that fits in with their proud boast that ‘we help you connect and share with the people in your life’, but there you go.
We hope this information explains why we don’t provide a link to the Facebook page on our website. It’s not – as the person who contacted us seemed to think – because we want to make life difficult for people who are interested in what we do, but because we’d rather direct you to other media which won’t actively stop you seeing what we post. Our Twitter account at @IgniteBooks is far more active, and we recommend you keep up with what we’re doing by following us there. Yes, we’re aware that this isn’t a perfect solution – not everyone has, or wants, a Twitter account – but in our opinion it’s a better option than Facebook. We also send out newsletters once a month or so, and you can sign up to them here: newsletter sign-up.
We’ll post a blog more obviously related to our books very soon. Honest.


kiss and run

We’ve had some great book launches over the years. Our first book, Joolz Denby’s The Curious Mystery… was launched in an evening of poetry and music in Bradford. City Baby came kicking and screaming into the world in a pub in Birmingham. And yesterday, on the longest day of the year, we celebrated the launch of our latest publication – Carl Stanley’s outrageous, raw, and hilarious memoir Kiss & Make Up – in a packed bar in the heart of London.
The evening was as wonderful and vibrant as any we’ve been part of. Conversation flowed over a backdrop of 1980s New Romantic tunes; we had live music from Maggie K De Monde (formerly of Birmingham band Swans Way) and her husband Leif; and then Carl took the stage to applause and wolf whistles, to talk about the club scene in Birmingham back in the day, about his love of dressing-up, and about running the gauntlet of trouble in the city centre in a ballgown. And barefoot. Then he read an extract from his book, to an audience who were both enrapt and enthralled!
Next there was a Q&A with the celebrated Dusty ‘O’ who’s known both Carl and his mother Janet for over 30 years, and – finally – there was a moving and searingly honest speech from Carl’s mom which brought the house down. There are many reasons to buy this wonderful book but it’s giving nothing away to say it’s worth getting your hands on it for Janet’s contribution alone. There may even be an unexpected bonus picture of Mrs Thatcher in there too (we couldn’t possibly say).
Then it was back to the music, the laughter, and the drinking to round off the perfect launch for a wonderful book. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who came and made it such a special evening, and our very heartfelt thanks to the small team who put in the hard work which made it possible. It was an evening to treasure. May there be many more.


glorious

On April 30th we took delivery of our latest book from the printers. It’s a thing of beauty. The cover is a riot of colour and exuberance, the design is elegant and flawless, and the story is wild, outrageous, and deeply moving by turns. If you haven’t heard of Kiss & Make Up by Carl Stanley yet, believe us, you soon will.
Over the last week, we’ve sent out copies to papers and magazines who want to review the book – yes, we will be drawing your attention to the reviews when they come out, have no fear about that – and now we’ve started posting out the books ordered by those discerning people who’ve decided to get in early and buy a copy pronto. You see, although Kiss & Make Up isn’t officially published till June 21st, you can get your mitts on it this very minute by clicking on this link here.
For the next few weeks, the only other place you can buy the book is the Gay’s The Word bookshop in London. We chose them as our outlet for two reasons: one, because there couldn’t be a more appropriate retailer for this book; two, because – as an independent publisher – we do our very level best to support other independents without whom the world of book-selling would be so much poorer. We’d encourage you to do so too. If you really want to wait a few weeks in order to hand your money over to the all-consuming monolith that is Am**on, we won’t stop you, but we would suggest it’ll do a lot more good (and make a lot more difference) if you channel the money via your local bookshop, wherever that may be. Or buy a copy from our website, where a far larger percentage of your money will end up recompensing the author who wrote this splendid tale in the first place.
The choice, of course, is entirely yours.
Whatever you decide, from early June you’ll be able to order Kiss & Make Up from all online platforms and any bookshop you choose. Then you’ll find out for yourself just why this book has already received glowing endorsements from Marc Almond, Toyah Willcox, and Damian Barr (among others). This book will make you laugh, and cry, and get up and dance to the playlist. And then read it again.
You’re going to love it. Mark our words.


good writing

One of the reasons we love good writing is that it can take you anywhere. That’s why you see people reading on the morning commute, or sitting on the Tube, their nose thrust into the pages of a book, busy being anywhere but where they are. You open a book and slip away from the everyday and the mundane into some other world – be it brighter, more comical, more dangerous, more surreal. The choice is yours and the possibilities are endless.
Escape, education, entertainment or enlightenment – good writing can whisk you away from the same old same old and drop you slap bang in the middle of any one of them, all at the turn of a page. The power of a writer’s imagination meets the power of yours, and even though you’re in bright sunshine on the beach, the thriller you’re reading chills you to the bone. Five minutes ago you were bored, but now you’re enthralled by the comic tales of hapless lads abroad, and the tears are rolling down your face. You’d never given a moment’s thought to what life on the other side of the world would be like, but now you feel like you’ve been there. It’s so obvious it barely bears saying, but just as you don’t have to have been a scottish junkie to enjoy Trainspotting, you don’t need to be feeling miserable to be moved by stories which are sad, or dark, or which evoke a visceral fear.
It’s an amazing power, this combination of words and imagination. It can open up worlds, take you away from the people around you, and connect you with characters you’ll never meet and make them real. It is – in a very real sense – a kind of magic. You open a book, dive headlong into the printed word, let the writer lead you somewhere you may never have dreamed existed, and return changed, seeing the world through different eyes.
Publishing – at least the way we do it – is about finding the stories that make us dream, which take us somewhere we never expected to go and make us want to go there again. It’s about us trusting that there’s an audience out there who’ll want to go there too. Each and every time we bring a new book into existence, it’s an act of faith. An offering. An adventure.
At which point you might expect us to give you the old hard sell about one – or indeed all – of our books. But that’s not what this is about. Consider it a little nudge, a gentle reminder to treat yourself to the gift of good writing. Whether you go to a bookshop or a library, a website or a charity shop, make time this week to immerse yourself in some good writing and the countless alternative worlds which lie within the covers of a book. You won’t regret it.