I’m leaving Orion

After fifteen years, three months and eighteen days I will be leaving the good ship Orion for the rocky shoals of freelance life.

Why? When? Who? What??

Well, long story short, there was a big sales restructure here and with it came the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy and I grabbed it with both hands. It was just too good a chance to pass up. I have a very long list of things I want to do and now is the time to do them. Like what? Well, the Bestseller Experiment podcast for a start. We’ve had a tricky second year to say of the least, but leaving Orion will afford me the time to do all the things we’ve been wanting to do in the last year, including REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED on a big stick with a sponge on the end.

Orion is an incredible publisher with a genuinely passionate team and some of the best authors in the world (that’s not hyperbole, that’s just bloody true and I can prove it with two felt tip pens and a whiteboard). I have made some incredible memories that will stay with me for a lifetime and I’ve met many of my personal heroes. It would be terribly bad form to drop names, but as Michael Palin said to me once, “Show me those photos of you with Keith Richards, Nick Mason, Richard Wright and David Gilmour.” To which I replied, “Sorry Mikey baby, I’ve loaned them to Christopher Lee, and Judi Dench wants them after that…”

When you have a 9-5 day job you see more of your colleagues than your own family some weeks, and I’ve been fortunate to be working in what is simply the best sales department in publishing. I don’t want to start reeling off names because I would inevitably forget someone, but special mention must go to Jo Carpenter, Dallas Manderson and Ian Diment. Ian was my line manager at Orion and the sweetest man you could meet, with a passion for music and books and a unique dancing groove that was the sensation of many a sales conference. His passing in 2010 devastated us all, but also brought us together in grief. We will never forget him.

Dallas is a one-off. A gentleman of publishing whose negotiating technique is to to deploy Wodehousian courtesy combined with an astonishing attention to detail. I never wanted to disappoint Dallas. Not because I feared his wrath, but because I knew he cared and worked harder than all of us combined to ensure that our authors got the best sales possible. Publishing hasn’t been the same since he retired.

And Jo Carpenter has this uncanny psychic ability to know when something is wrong and she was always the first to ask if she could help, and I’ve lost count of the number of times she’s been my advocate and saved my butt… Oh, and she gave me the job based on little more than my ability to do terrible impersonations of Michael Caine and Sean Connery (it was a different time).

I’ll be gone by the end of the year. Orion have handled this really well. My Mum was made redundant a few years ago and her employers did everything wrong and it all ended up in a legal mess and was horribly stressful. Orion have played a very straight bat with me and for that I am very grateful.

So what will I do with all this spare time? I want to write, I want to be my own boss, I want to earn money doing it, and I especially want to REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED on a big stick with a sponge on the end.

Wish me luck. I reckon I might need it…

Gift books for Geeks this Christmas

Geeks. We’re tricky buggers to buy for at Christmas. Yes, our loved ones might know that we like that thing with the spaceships/dragons/zombies, but where do they even start when it comes to selecting that special gift book…? Here! That’s where! Just forward this blog in the safe knowledge that whatever they get you, it’ll be awesome.

Below are some of my favourites for this Christmas*

Support your local bookshop! Order a copy of these books from them and help ensure that our High Streets thrive. However, all the links below are to Amazon UK for reasons of a) convenience, and b) I have an affiliates thing with them and I get 5% of each sale, and c) I have no shame.

Star Wars Icons – Han Solo

Just gorgeous. A chronicle of everyone’s favourite smuggler from conception to casting, through to movies, comics and novels with fold out pages, replica storyboards, little surprises tucked away in envelopes and more. This is the sort of book that’s nightmare to reprint so get in fast. Buy from Amazon.

Inside Black Mirror

Buy from Amazon

A terrific oral history and making-of book of the four series so far of Black Mirror. Compiled by Jason Arnopp, this takes you episode-by-episode with creator Charlie Brooker, Exec Producer Annabel Jones, and collaborators including Jodie Foster, Jodie Whittaker and other people not called Jodie. Essential for fans of the show.

The Incomplete History of Secret Organizations

Buy from Amazon

I’ve loved every minute of A Series of Unfortunate Events and this glorious behind the scenes book is ahead of the game with details and photos of the final series (coming in Jan 2019)… I must confess, I’ve had a glimpse and it looks as sumptuous as ever.

Star Wars Alien Archive

Buy from Amazon

Choc full of Cookies, wampas, Biths and banthas this is crammed full of proper geeky insider knowledge (Porgs have forward-facing eyes to help them catch fish, apparently) for Star Wars fans of any age and for fans of the movies, novels, cartoons and comics.

The Electric State

Buy from Amazon

Simon Stålenhag is probably best known for his crowdfunded book Tales from the Loop, which showed children playing among abandoned robots in the aftermath of a particle accelerator experiment gone wrong. The Electric State continues the post-apocalyptic theme on a journey across a ravaged America. This is sublime storytelling and a feast for the eyes (and the Russo brothers have snapped up the film rights!)

Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down

Buy from Amazon

Another incredible piece of production, this behind-the-scenes book is made to look like a well-thumbed library book, wrapped in plastic, stained and with a thorough breakdown of how the show was made and its ’80s inspirations. I saw a pre-publication copy of this at the MCM Comic Con and snapped it up there and then.

TV Geek: The Den of Geek Guide for the Netflix Generation

Buy from Amazon

I loved Simon Brew’s previous Movie Geek book, which was like my favourite nerdy movie conversations down the pub, and this is very much in the same format. Endlessly fascinating with chapter headings like Key questions raised by watching Peppa Pig, The symbolism of Peaky Blinders and Spoiler Culture and its effect on outdoor filming, and written in Den of Geek’s positive style, TV fans will lap this up.

The Books of Earthsea

Buy from Amazon

And I’ve saved the best till last. Ursula K Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea was the first fantasy I ever read. More than Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, this is what first fired my imagination when it came to magic and dragons. This complete illustrated collection, illustrated by Charles Vess, includes Le Guin’s last ever story Firelight, written when she knew she was dying. It reduced me to a sobbing wreck, and I can think of no better reason to recommend it. But just… look at it…

Buy from Amazon

*Full disclosure: some of these were donated by publishers, but only after I begged/cajoled/threatened them for copies because I really wanted them, and some I bought myself…