Tiger of the Stripe

Hollywood Beckons

Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds
Like many a young person, I dreamed of being an actor in my youth. I loved the rush I felt on stage in school plays. However, I don’t think I was much good.

Now Hollywood Beckons
I was just preparing the supper last night when the call came in from Warner Brothers. An acting part? Sadly not. They want to use my edition of Bernard de Fontenelle’s Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds as set dressing for a forthcoming film. Still, it’s a big-name production. I do hope the book will be clearly visible - it could boost sales considerably. Better still, I have an associated book, An Apology for the Life of Major General Gunning, coming out later this year. The Major General in question, an absolute rotter who fought at Bunker Hill, was the father of the translator of Conversations, the lovely Elizabeth who was not all she seemed. Perhaps if I sell enough copies, I could take acting classes like my niece Caroline...

General Gunning

Among the books which Tiger of the Stripe has in the pipeline is An Apology for the Life of Major General Gunning. I (under the name Gerrish Gray) started on this after publishing Elizabeth Gunning's translation of Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds. I don’t want to give anything away but there really are some interesting revelations, especially about Miss Gunning and the ‘Gunning Mystery’.

Long absence

The eagle-eyed among my readers will have noticed the long absence of posts. I didn’t think anyone would notice because I didn’t think anyone was reading! However, on Tuesday I met someone who had. Spurred on by that, I have decided to write again (sounds like the title of a Western - Destry Writes Again).

This long silence was occasioned by: (1) uncontrollable fury at bankers and politicians; (2) a complete feeling of impotence in that regard; and (3) a heavy workload. Well, I’m still livid with the politicians and the bankers and I still can’t do much about it, but life must go on.

It's Not easy being a publisher (4)

Before Christmas, I sent out quite a few books to Bertram Books. I was slightly concerned that they might be caught up with the demise of Woolworth, but I wasn’t going to refuse to supply them. My trust was rewarded and they paid me promptly as they always have before and since. In fact, they and the other big UK book wholesaler, Gardner’s, are a pleasure to deal with. On the other hand, I supplied a bookshop in one of London’s swankiest neighbourhoods with books on 2 and 9 December and they still have not sent me a cheque. Grrr! I wonder if I should name and shame them.

By contrast, again, I invoiced Heffer’s, the famous Cambridge bookshop, for some books on 6 March and they’ve already sent me a cheque. Well done!

It's not easy being a publisher (3)

I mentioned the other day that the paperback of Bibliomania didn’t seem to be available from Amazon UK. Well, it is again, rather emphasising Amazon’s unpredictable nature.

It's not easy being a publisher (2)

Many of our books are based on earlier editions which we scan in. Unfortunately, buying books off the internet unseen is a risky business, as the following shots indicate. The first book, if I remember correctly, was described as having ‘some light pencil annotation’. The biblioclast left her name on the fly leaf, and I say to her, ‘Madam, I know your name.’ The description of the latter made no mention of the scribbling, but, fortunately, as it was in blue ink, it was possible to filter it out.
scribbles 1scribbles 2

There is a good chance that some comments on these books will find their way into Enemies of Books.

It's not easy being a publisher

Being a book publisher is a very hard way to make a living. The biggest problem is the size of the discounts you have to give. Now, I can understand that booksellers have rent and rates to cover, but some of the big chains expect 55% or 60%. I won’t give it to them, so they don’t stock my books. I don’t think they would anyway, but even if they did it wouldn’t be worth it.

Let’s look at an example. I can’t afford to print and bind thousands of copies and then warehouse them so I use print-on-demand. A copy of Schoelcher’s Life of Handel in hardback costs me £9.40 a copy, plus delivery charges. I sell it for £25 which is what I think the market will bear. If I give a bookshop 55%, I receive £11.25. Postage on that book is probably at least £3, so I’ve already made a loss before allowing for the costs of research, design, typesetting, sourcing illustrations.

I sell most of my books through Amazon on so-called ‘short discounts’ (i.e. less than 55% discount) but if I had to sell through Amazon’s Advantage programme, I’d have to give them 55%. The Advantage, I have to say, is all Amazon’s. Not that I’m knocking Amazon. Without them I’d have no business at all. However, I have to say that the lack of competition in the online bookselling business is very bad.

The other major online bookseller is ABE Books (go here in the UK, here in the US). They’re great for out-of-print books. They also sell a lot of new books but I find that most of the new books I buy from them take an age to arrive (many are shipped from the States) and often cost more than they would from Amazon.

A slight frustration I have with Amazon is that I don’t really have a direct relationship with them. My relationship is with my printers, Lightning Source. They supply Amazon directly, which is great for me. The downside, though, is that my books don’t always appear on Amazon and there’s little I can do about it. For instance, why is my paperback edition of Bibliomania available from Amazon in the US but not the UK?

By the same post

Handel by W. H. Cumming
By the same post, I received copies of Tiger of the stripe’sThe Life of Handel by Victor Schoelcher. It’s a much more substantial book (440 pages) than the Anecdotes. It’s a bit of a relief to receive the paperbacks because the printing on the hardback edition of the same book was a bit light. The paperbacks are a bit darker. We have a third Handel book in the pipeline, one by William H. Cummings who used to be the Principal of the Guildhall School of Music.

After that, we’ll give music a rest and publish a new edition of Enemies of Books by William Blades. I’m making a few new enemies, if you know what I mean. It’s a very amusing book.

Anecdotes of Handel

I’ve just laid my hands on copies of Tiger of the Stripe’s (that is to say, my) latest offering, Anecdotes of George Frederick Handel and John Christopher Smith. It’s a new edition of a book written by the Reverend William Coxe in 1799. Smith is that chap on the left with the quill poised magisterially in his hand (you can click on the pic for a closer look). ‘Who is this guy,’ I hear you ask; I bet John Smith’s not his real name,’ and you’d be right (aren’t you always?). His real name was Johann Christoph Schmidt, and his father was also Johann Christoph Schmidt. ‘Blimey! So he’s German, like Handel himself.’ Well, of course, Handel was British because he naturalised. I’m not sure about Smith. He was brought up in England, but I don’t know whether went through the naturalisation process. It required an act of parliament in those days. ‘So who is this bloke Smith?’ He was a composer, dummy. He was also Handel’s copyist and amanuensis. His father had been Handel’s copyist, too. Smith junior did a lot to promote and preserve the Handelian tradition. He inherited many of Handel’s manuscripts which he later donated to the king.

‘And what of Coxe?’ I hear you cry. Well, he was Smith’s stepson and he wrote the Anecdotes to raise some dosh for the Smith family.

Latest from Tiger of the Stripe

It’s the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death this year and Tiger of the Stripe is doing its bit to mark the occasion. We have published two books on the great composer so far and we have a third in the pipeline. Go here for further details.