When news of Macmillan’s planned ‘first novels’ imprint leaked out in the Spring of last year, there was extensive coverage in the press, on radio and on web blogs. The Guardian called it ‘Ryanair publishing’. Robert McCrum, writing in the Observer, deplored it as a marketing-led initiative and said publisher Mike Barnard had shown an ‘astounding abdication of cultural responsibility’. Jonny Geller of agent Curtis Brown said, ‘I don’t think there is a hope in hell of this succeeding’.
There were stories that authors would have to pay for their own editing, the books would only be printed on demand, and bookshops would not touch them.
Even the Washington Post carried the story, telling its readers that Macmillan New Writing’s initiative was ‘the talk of Britain’s book world’.
Now, a year on, the first Macmillan New Writing books are about to be launched. Bookshops will be stocking them, libraries are buying them and the imprint is making news again.
But what was the real genesis of the imprint? How was the decision made to devote a list exclusively to first-time novelists? What were the terms and conditions offered to authors? How were they treated? How were the books chosen? How were they produced cost-effectively? Who are the authors? What are the books?
Publisher Mike Barnard answers these questions and responds to the original press criticism in the new Macmillan paperback, Transparent Imprint, published to coincide with the launch of the first MNW titles in April.
The book offers an intriguing insight into the intimate workings of a great publishing company and the commercial and editorial decision-making processes. It claims successes, admits failures. It’s frank, readable, and sometimes funny.