I have been delighted by the reception our William Wharton reissues have been enjoying in the past couple of weeks. In case you are not up to speed, I acquired the rights to all of Wharton's books, including a previously unpublished wartime memoir, and am gradually re-releasing them in the UK. Quite how such a remarkable writer had fallen out of print is beyond me but, fear not, I have fixed the problem.
When it came to designing covers for the series - there are 11 books in total - we arranged a competition for students of Central St Martin's College. They were asked to come up with a cover concept for Birdy and the winning designer would be commissioned to do the lot. We had over 200 entries, whittled it down to a final 13, and selected Henrike Dreier's beautiful designs as the winner. You can see the first two covers here in this post but there is more information on the design process and background to the competition over at Sketchbook Magazine. You can also view Henrike's portfolio here.
Shrapnel has already had a great review in the Evening Standard which called it 'a brave, unsettlingly frank memoir, that engages from start to finish'. I am hoping that the broadsheet books pages will also run reviews - I find it hard to believe that they'd let a newly discovered memoir by such an acclaimed writer hit the shelves without any comment at all - and will shout if any do crop up.
Although it is interesting to note that The Lady magazine beat them to it, running with an extract from the book and including a nice plug for Henrike's work.
Birdy received incredible reviews when it was first published in 1978. Look at this ad taken out in the New York Times by the book's US publisher back then:
Our new edition features quotes from two Nobel Prize winners on the cover: Doris Lessing pipes up with 'wonderful' and Patrick White chips in with 'will become a classic', not to mention John Fowles saying 'Wharton is exceptionally gifted' and the Guardian claiming 'it is as good as Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest... and perhaps better'. I am not sure if any newspapers will re-review this new edition 34 years on but the bloggers and tweeters have started to do so. David Hebblethwaite called it 'a powerful book' in his Follow the Thread blog last week and there have been a flurry of tweets from fans old and new. We have sent out a bunch of copies to bloggers recently so will hopefully see more online coverage soon.
We've even had support from Stylist magazine which picked Birdy as a summer read:
Obviously we are hoping that all this coverage will convert into sales. There is no point making a big fuss about these reissues if no bugger wants to read them. It is early days so far - Birdy was out at the beginning of the month and Shrapnel is officially published this coming Thursday - but signs are good. We had a huge order from WH Smith who have really got behind Birdy (a little surprisingly, I admit, but it was a pleasant surprise) and the wholesalers that supply the indies have been very generous with their support for both books. Rumour has it that Waterstone's booksellers are starting to order up copies now that they have the freedom to promote the books they want. Smiley faces all round.
And then we have the digital versions. None of Wharton's books have been published as ebooks before. Both Birdy (£2.99) and Shrapnel (£4.99) are available on all ebook formats and platforms now and will be followed in February 2013 by the remaining nine of the author's titles. The print editions will be spread out over the next two years with A Midnight Clear and Shrapnel paperback in February 2013, Last Lovers and Dad in June, Tidings and Ever After in November and the rest to follow in 2014. Oh, and Birdy is also available as an audioook.
To celebrate the publication of Birdy and Shrapnel, and to thank you for putting up with this extended plug for them here, I am giving away three sets of the two books to readers of this blog. Simply leave a comment below and I will pick winners at random at the end of the week. And if you can find the time to link to this blog post on Twitter or Facebook or something like that it would be great, I am keen to spread the word about this unjustly neglected author.