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baby goes west

Those of you with long memories may remember that at the start of this year we proudly announced that we’d signed an agreement with a US publisher for a North American edition of City Baby. It was going to be amazing, we told you. It would have a new cover, extra photos, and it would translate some of the hard-to-understand UK slang into something a little more digestible for folk who live on the other side of the pond. Get ready, America! we said. This is going to blow your little socks off. Oh, and it’ll be with you by mid-May.
Now, given that we’d prefaced that announcement by confessing that we’re regularly surprised that things take longer to get done than we imagine, you might think we should have guessed that by setting the publication date so definitely in stone we were setting ourselves up to fall flat on our face. Our rueful chuckle at our own exuberance – and the link to that blog is here if you want to see exactly what we had to say – should have come with a healthy dose of small print and a truckload of loopholes. In triplicate. And then we should have thrown in a handful more, for luck.
Things take longer than we think, we said. Little did we know how right we were.
2015 is almost over. May came and went. Summer drizzled by. The days got shorter and the nights got longer. The Rugby World Cup and Halloween are both history, Donald Trump’s wig is still weird, and Xmas is lumbering over the horizon. Our facebook posts and tweets about the book are so old they’re currently being studied by archaeologists. Where, you might wonder, is this fabled US edition? Is it ever going to arrive??
Well…. we’ve finally got news. Good news.
We’re very very very happy to announce that the US edition of City Baby is now on sale. Yep, right now. At this very minute. In what we are, optimistically, calling ‘very late May’. Our thanks go to Bazillion Points for all the work they’ve put into creating a new twist on our best-selling publication. It looks amazing. And we know the story’s an absolute cracker. The wait may have been a long one, but we can guarantee it’s worth it.
If you’re one of the thousands of GBH fans in North America, you can now order a copy of the US edition of City Baby here. That’s good news. The even better news is that if you get your skates on and order it now, you can take advantage of their special discounted price and get a free “I bet that never happened to the Clash!” button badge too. What better reason do you need?
Just in time for Xmas, too. You’d almost think we’d planned it.
(Those of you elsewhere in the world can still get signed copies of the original edition from our website here. Perfect gifts for your favourite punk rock afficionado.)


louder than words two

The weekend of November 14-15 is a busy one for us. For those of you in the Midlands, our author Carl Stanley is reading at the Polari Literary Salon event in Birmingham (you can read more about that by clicking here). At the same time, we’ll be making our way north to Manchester to take part in the very wonderful Louder Than Words festival in the splendid George Hotel in the city centre.
We were lucky enough to be asked along to LTW last year, and when they offered us the opportunity to be part of what they’re offering this year as well, we bit their metaphorical hand off. Once again, we’ll have an Ignite stall with copies of all our books at specially discounted festival prices. You’ll find signed copies of our best-seller City Baby, of course, as well as the outrageous, funny, moving and uplifting memoir Kiss & Make Up. We’ll have poetry by Steve Pottinger, and some very special offers on our other stock. The stall will be up and running from Saturday morning through till Sunday afternoon, and we don’t doubt you’ll find something there that takes your fancy.
On top of that, we’ll be taking part in a panel about independent publishing. Look forward to us explaining how we fell into it, the highs and the lows of trying to make it pay, the blood, sweat, and tears involved, and our plans for the future. Or, as LTW put it: ‘This is…a distinctive opportunity to hear and engage in conversation with a range of Independent publishers, to hear first-hand the drivers behind their work, the motivations and ambitions that underpin their approach and how their business activities fit into the literary landscape more generally.’ Wow. Either way, it’ll be on the Saturday evening at 5.30pm, and it’ll be well worth catching.
Ignite’s involvement doesn’t stop there. Once again, poet Steve Pottinger will be performing in the Post Room. You’ll catch him at 2pm and 5pm on the Saturday, and again at 2pm on the Sunday. It’s poetry for people who think they don’t like poetry, and it’s rather bloody good.

For anyone who cares about writing, and writing about music in particular, LTW is a festival which should have been inked in your diary long ago. It’s unique. In a good way. If you haven’t got tickets yet, you can get your mitts on them here, and we strongly suggest that you do. We’re looking forward to going along, catching up with old friends, meeting people who run other small presses and sharing our hard-gained wisdom and our experiences, and having a bit of a laugh. If you’re there, pop by and say hallo. We’re always up for a natter and a chinwag.
See you there!


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.