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Fiction Opportunities: the 11/9 Project
- Why did NWP apply for Lottery funding?
NWP’s strengths have been in non-fiction, but we felt that not enough new fiction was being published in Scotland, particularly when one viewed the situation from the outside looking in.
NWP also felt that in the run up to devolution, a new fiction imprint would be viewed as a positive development in the cultural spectrum as the country’s political autonomy changed course.
In order to redress this situation, NWP took the decision to create a new fiction imprint. Wary of the financial pitfalls of new fiction being output from a relatively small press, NWP approached the SAC to ask about support and the company was informed that what it was proposing to undertake would probably qualify for National Lottery funding from the New Directions fund.
An application to the New Directions Lottery Fund was then prepared.
ADVICE: On no account undertake this process lightly. It is time consuming and set against one of the worst years the book trade has had for a long time, the REAL cost of the application is far in excess of what is budgeted.
NWP named the imprint 11:9 which is a totally apolitical gesture towards the date of the referendum on the 11th September 1997. It’s is also VERY EASY to remember and wouldn’t cost a fortune to style up a logo for it.
In order to meet the considerable start-up costs of the imprint it was proposed that three years of funding would be required commencing in late 1999 until late 2002 after which the imprint would be commercially sustainable.
In brief the plan assumed that in late 2000, six full length novels would be published, followed by another 8 in the Spring of 2001 and a further 8 in the Autumn of the same year. In 2002 a further 16 new works would be published. In the event of titles selling out, the plan included the re-issue of that title as a ‘B’ format paperback a year after the date of first publication in order to extend the life of the work and increase access to it for the book-buying public.
Between 2000 and 2003 the 11:9 imprint has a remit to source some 38 new woks of Scottish fiction. The total cost of the project exceeded £300,000 and the total lottery grant amounted to £224,500.
- What is the 11:9 project seeking to achieve, what are its aims and objectives?
The aims and objectives of 11:9 are:
- To publish new fiction work from writers based in Scotland.
- To make available to the general public new works of fiction by publishing them in two paperback formats at intervals one year apart.
- To achieve commercial sustainability.
- To market the new work in an effective and publicly prominent manner.
- To offer writers meaningful advances on commission of the new work.
- To actively seek sales of foreign language rights in the new work to foreign publishers.
- To actively sell other subsidiary rights to enable the new work to appear in other media such as television and film.
- How are new writers being commissioned by the list?
NWP approached a number of people in Scotland from a variety of backgrounds in order to set up an 11:9 editorial board. Four people agreed to initiate the process of vetting submissions and commissioning new work. These are Donny O’Rourke, Marion Sinclair, Paul Pender and Douglas Gifford.
Since August 1999 the board had been actively looking at work which has come in either by word of mouth and referral or through direct approaches being made to NWP. The standard format required by the board for considering a submission prior to distributing the full work are:
- A covering letter
- A CV/biography
- A synopsis of the work
- Two sample chapters or two short stories from a collection
The board was also active in encouraging writers known to them to approach NWP with hew work. NWP contacted Writers’ Groups throughout Scotland to encourage submission of new work. NWP proposes to publish a collection of the best writing from Writers’ Groups in Scotland on an annual basis starting in the Spring of 2001. Groups will be asked to select what they consider to be the strongest pieces from the group and put these forward for consideration.
There are a large number of submissions currently under consideration by the board which meets regularly.
Since August 1999 the board has sifted through a large number of projects ranging from novellas, short story collections, full length novel works, collections drawn from academic creative writing groups and some fairly bizarre submissions about which I will say nothing.
In order to manage this increasing volume of traffic two new employees will be taken on in 2000 to administer and process the writing which 11:9 will be publishing. This should greatly facilitate the speed with which NWP can handle submissions and also streamline the decision-making process.
Editorial board members are expected to stay on the panel until the publishing programme for the first two years is determined. After that new members will be sought.
What will 11:9 be publishing in the Autumn of 2000?
As I speak, 11:9 has contracted three writers, has another about to sign and has agreed to contract two others this month. The reason for the delay in the case of the last two writers is that the board is considering a novel-length submission which came in recently and which may be added to the Autumn list. In this case one of the last two writers will be mover to the Spring of 2001.
The programme for October 2000 will therefore comprise of:
- Two full length novels, (possibly three, if the board selects the novel currently under consideration).
- Two short story collections.
- And depending on the third novel scenario, one, or two part-novella/part-short story collections.
The writers who have been contracted to date are:
- Martin Shannon: The Tin Man (Novel)
- Tom Bryan: The Wolfclaw Chronicles (Novel)
- Raymond Soltysek: Occasional Demons (Short Story Collection)
The writer we are about to contract is Linda Cracknell (Short Story Collection)
The two writers we have agreed to contract in May are:
- David Cameron and Shug Hanlan (Part-Novella/part-short story collections)
Obviously I cannot name the writer whose work is currently being considered as the third novel for publication.
How will 11:9 market these new works?
A large amount of expenditure has been earmarked from the funding for the specific purpose of ensuring that these new works are prominently advertised and promoted.
In the run-up to publication 11:9 will promote the books in a number of ways including:
- Tie-ins with all major bookshops in Scotland offering full POS material
- Establishment of 11:9 website in partnership with Scotland on Line to create an innovative fiction site on the web which will include author readings, video clips, downloads of sample chapters and short stories and special offers on pre-publication offers.
- Incentives to booksellers to increase subscription orders.
- Distribution of postcards and samplers to the general public and literary editors throughout the UK
- Full colour advertising in The Bookseller
- Advertising on buses
- Advertising on escalators and in SPT trains
- Tie-ins with national dailies on launch
- Full sponsored launch of the list in October
- Targeting of all national arts programmes in the UK
- Major editorial feature in The Bookseller on launch
The authors have all agreed to make themselves available to promote their work and the list at any venues which will host events at the time of publication including readings at libraries, bookstores and community centres.
Whilst this is only the briefest of outlines I hope that it has established the fact that the 11:9 imprint offers a real opportunity for new Scottish writers of fiction over the course of the next three years and hopefully for ever after.
Copyright © Neil Wilson 2000
Last updated 18 August 2010.