July 04, 2014 13:30
As the weather really starts to heat up, it’s time to indulge in some great summer reads from Biteback. Whether you want espionage from WWI & II, the emotive tale of a man and his plane, or the personal stories behind the Westminster scandals we have an excellent selection of new releases for you. They will all be available on our 2 week price promise, so don’t miss out.
Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer: An RAF Officer’s Memoir of the Battle of France 1940
Alastair Panton, edited by Victoria Panton Bacon
Written during the war, but discovered just last year by his grandaughter, this exceptional memoir of the RAF reconnaissance pilot Alastair Panton provides a gripping and truly human narrative of the camaraderie between a man, his comrades and his Blenheim plane.
“One can’t help feeling awe and reverence for people like this. There are enough adventures here for a lifetime, let alone six weeks.” Louis de Bernières
The Eye of the Storm: A View from the Centre of a Political Scandal
The expenses scandal, Plebgate, and Michael Fabricant’s recent tweets have shown that we live in a world where politicians are more accountable than ever. With the benefit of in-depth perspectives of those who have weathered the storm, including senior politicians such as William Hague, Charles Clarke and Jeremy Hunt, this book reveals the political and the personal stories behind the public dramas.
“A very well-written, important and authentic book.” Peter Oborne, Chief Political Commentator at The Daily Telegraph
MI5 in the Great War
edited by Nigel West
Based on a document only recently declassified by the government, Nigel West reveals the top secret history of MI5’s involvement in the First World War. German pre-war espionage, individual MI5 dossiers compiled on enemy spies in England and the attempts made by the enemy to infiltrate MI5 with double agents are all revealed, showing the extraordinary individual and joint effort of the British spy network to subvert the German intelligence threat.
They Fought Alone: The True Story of SOE’s Agents in Wartime France
Maurice Buckmaster with an introduction from Michael Smith
A new addition to the Dialogue Espionage Classics series
Established in 1941, the French Special Operations Executive provided a war network that grew to become a crucial part of the allied war effort. Ingeniously engineering acts of sabotage, resistance and terror in the face of the occupying Nazis, the SOE dealt devastating and fatal blows and at the head of it all was Colonel Maurice James Buckmaster. The memoir now includes an introduction from expert Michael Smith regarding the legacy of Buckmaster, and offers a unique insight into the trials and triumphs of these brave SOE agents.
Xavier: A British Secret Agent With The French Resistance
A new addition to the Dialogue Espionage Classics series
Delicately balancing clandestine missions and dangerous wartime operations on a daily basis Colonel Richard Heslop, codename Xavier, was a spy like no other. This untold story of the spy who ingeniously orchestrated resistance groups and ruthlessly sabotaged German operations is a dramatic account of the courage and endurance faced everyday by one of Britain’s greatest ever secret agents.
The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God
The British Humanist Association made headlines earlier this year after sending every state secondary school in the country a copy of Alom Shaha’s book: The Young Atheist’s Handbook. The book received rave reviews in hardback, and the paperback will continue to help inform all people what living a life without God can be like.
“A very special book.” Stephen Fry
Happy reading everyone.
July 02, 2014 13:00
Iain Dale once hoped to be an MP, but after a tilt or two he decided to start a publishing company. Launched in the eye of recession, Biteback has thrived – despite ever-increasing trade challenges.
It has been five years since Biteback Publishing opened its doors. In that time we have consistently sought to publish books that have set the political agenda, and I truly believe we have established ourselves as one of the leading specialist independents in the country. We have published bestsellers by Anthony Seldon, Peter Sissons, Peter Hennessy, Ann Treneman, David Sainsbury, Damian McBride, Peter Hain and Andrew Adonis, among many others. We may be small but we are incredible noisy, exploiting excellent relations with the British press in order to secure often record serialisation deals and unparalleled media coverage.
No lesser names than Charles Moore and Peter Oborne have proclaimed us Britain’s best political publisher, for which we are grateful and very proud, and it is a rare weekend you will open a Sunday newspaper and not find one of our books serialised, or reviewed, or providing inspiration for the cover splash. I have to say it has genuinely been a lot of fun, though hard work. We have made a lot of friends and put a few noses out of joint along the way (nobody who has worked with us would describe us a shrinking violets), but we have enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
The last five years has also been a time in which the face of publishing has changed almost beyond recognition. When I started the company in July 2009, I, along with everyone else in the world of publishing, could not have predicted how rapidly that change would take place. Since 2009 we have witnessed the dramatic shrinkage of the high street, with Borders disappearing, Waterstones cutting its cloth, and WHSmith pushing up marketing costs to create its own cottage industry of fleecing publishers. We have seen the inexorable rise of the ebook, a sector that now comprises 20% of our business, and perhaps most importantly the irresistible consolidation of Amazon’s domination over the book trade (as, according to some noises-off, it seeks to tighten its Ming-the-Merciless-like stranglehold on our sales, pricing and stock-control), more of which later.
Unsurprisingly, some independents have very publicly struggled. It has been sad to watch companies with fantastic lists having to refinance, seek investment, sell up, or close their doors. But those of us looking for green shoots can, in my opinion, forget it. It will take a long time for recovery to trickle down to us, and besides, the economic downturn has just been the latest dramatic twist in a narrative that began with the abolition of the Net Book Agreement and will end, I believe, in a radical and wholesale restructuring of the industry business model. A change that will hopefully see an end to the farce of returns.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater – the patient is not yet terminal, and the doomsayers can crawl back into their holes, for the time being at least. Challenging times also bring opportunities, something I banked on when I opened Biteback in the eye of the recession. The downturn allowed me access to suppliers and retailers who would not have looked at me twice in fatter times. More importantly, I was able to recruit some of the most talented people in publishing; some of whom are still with us, some have gone on to work for bigger houses, but all of whom I regard as friends, and a vital part of what Biteback has achieved in half a decade.
I do believe that, in some regards, small publishers have the upper hand in this brave new world. Large publishers may have the resources but they are constrained by their unwieldiness and vassalage to the shareholder. They lack flexibility and are less able to manage their cost bases. It was this inflexibility that got me back into publishing. In 2009, I identified what I perceived as a gap in the market for, frankly, the kind of book I like. Even back then, larger publishers were shying away from some areas of serious non-fiction; refusing to consider anything that was likely to sell less than 10,000 or 15,000 copies (anything selling that now would likely be considered a bestseller!). Consequently I was able to pick up a number of brilliant books that would not otherwise have seen the light of day. I may not have published a Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Grey or Da Vinci Code, but I have published a lot of books I’m terrifically proud of and that have more than washed their faces, which is imperative at this level of publishing.
In tough times the truth of the maxim “adapt or die” becomes starkly clear. In 2011, realising that we were effectively competing against ourselves in our own niche, I invited Jeremy Robson to form our imprint, the Robson Press, and help us broaden our trade appeal and our sales horizons both domestically and overseas. Cue books by a plethora of household names, including Michael Winner, Andrew Sachs, Esther Rantzen, Sandi Toksvig, Barry Cryer, and London 2012 multi-gold medal-winning Paralympian David Weir. The days of sky-high author advances are long gone, and there are no longer any free lunches in this industry.
The publisher/author relationship is now, more than ever, a strategic business partnership, with the author having to adjust his or her expectations to the realities of the current trading environment and the publisher having to work at least twice as hard to identify and supply alternative sales channels (every one of my staff at Biteback is an enthusiastic hand-seller, often selflessly giving up their evenings). The truth is that none of us is likely to become a millionaire, so trust is more important than ever, and graft is the name of the game.
Interestingly, I think the role of the literary agent has become the most precarious in these lean times, with agents having to work that much harder for their 15%. So it’s not all doom and gloom. With a smaller pot from which to draw on, times are challenging but the rewards are out there if you are brave and prepared to work harder than the other guy. Any blueprint for successful independent publishing in the current environment must include a renewed understanding between author and publisher, a healthy spirit of do-it-yourself, a keen eye on the bottom line and a willingness to cover all the channels, not to mention having a killer online offer and a desire to exploit new media to the hilt.
Some of what I read about Amazon’s alleged proposed new terms in the trade press doesn’t sit well with me. As you may have guessed by now, I am not a man who likes being told what to do. If true, the idea of signing a new contract which guarantees my books cannot be sold for a lower price than Amazon’s anywhere, including on our own website, is anathema to me. Every publisher, indeed every company in any industry, should have the right to market its wares directly to its customer base, at whatever price it deems appropriate. Taking control of pricing away from the publisher is, I would suggest, bad for all of us. Similarly, I don’t much like the idea of allowing Amazon to sell print-on-demand editions to customers if books are out of supply. Any company has the right to maintain its own stock and its own cost base, otherwise there is simply no point being in business. Besides which, no matter how much people try to persuade me otherwise, I think PoD still looks crap.
In Amazon’s favour, I would say this, however. Everything Amazon does is geared towards presenting the customer with the best deal and the best service. As a principle of business it is irresistible, and all independents could do worse than adopt it as a guiding virtue in a marketplace unrestricted by the need to shop outside your living room.
Five years ago, Biteback did what any successful publisher has to do: we began a conversation with our customers. That’s a conversation we are still having today, underpinned by the conviction that if we concentrate on publishing the right books and marketing them to the right readers, we will prevail. Roll on the next five years.
Image were taken by Liz Thomson, BookBrunch
June 27, 2014 16:30
With a license to bemuse and seduce the enemy into revealing their deepest secrets, ‘Klop’ Ustinov, codenamed U35, tricked his way into the confidence of Soviet commissioners and Gestapo Gruppenführer. Passing on his gift in trickery to his actor son Peter Ustinov, Klop’s untold story is one of intrigue, flirtation and beguilement. The extraordinary life of Klop Ustinov can sometimes read like a fantasy, but biographer Peter Day is quick to point out any of Klop’s ‘tall tales’ too. Apparently Klop would regale friends and family with an unfortunate incident with some slippery seafood on a train to Gloucester:
Klop maintained that he had somehow procured enough lobster to concoct a lobster bisque, complete with cognac, cream and cheese, and had decanted it into a jar, which was travelling with him and his defectors on the train from London to Gloucestershire, securely contained in his father’s old top hat box. Unfortunately Klop then placed the hat box upside down in the luggage rack and halfway through the journey observed, with a mixture of amusement and horror, that the bisque was dripping steadily on to the unwitting defector’s Homburg hat.
And you thought your morning commute was bad… For more ‘tall tales’, trespass and train journeys, you’ll need to order your copy of the book.
Klop is available on our 2 week price promise now
June 18, 2014 13:00
Celebrate the world cup with Biteback Publishing and Jim Murphy!
We’re giving away 3 copies of The 10 Football Matches That Changed the World …and the One That Didn’t by Jim Murphy.
’The assertion that ‘football isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s much more important than that’ has been verified repeatedly throughout modern history. It has bolstered tyrants and helped depose them; contributed to conflict and created ceasefires. It has been an incubator of racism at home and helped bring down a racist regime abroad; shaped cities, changed cultures and inspired resistance. Its impact is as dynamic as the game itself.
In this fascinating exploration, Jim Murphy takes us on a journey around the world and through the years, from Franco’s Spain to Africa’s Alcatraz, Robben Island. Charting the match that sparked a Central American war, the Barcelona team threatened at gunpoint, and the game that helped save Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, among much else, Murphy lends a fresh new perspective to some of the most iconic moments in international football.
Blending a love of the game with an appreciation of its place in global events, this is an authoritative and often humorous mix of sport and history, featuring fascinating first-hand insights from those most involved in the ten matches that changed the world … and the one that didn’t.
To enter, simply send an email with your name and address, and answer to the question below here. We will not pass on your personal details to any third party.
“Which football match do you consider to be the most significant and why?”
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June 11, 2014 09:30
I don’t know who it was who said that ‘only the good die young’, but they certainly had a point. Yesterday I attended the funeral of another friend who also fell victim to that same dreaded disease at the age of 54.
Andy Wilson is not someone many of you will know, but to me and many others he was a total inspiration. I first met Andy back in 2006 when I had the idea of launching Total Politics magazine. I went to see Michael Ashcroft to see if he would back it. He was very enthusiastic and suggested I took the idea further with the man who handled many of his investments. His name was Andy Wilson. Right from the off, Andy became a confidant and a business guru, but also quickly became a friend. But more than anything else he was an enthusiast. He didn’t come from the world of politics or publishing but was fascinated by both. He was a man of ideas and positivity. He understood a company balance sheet like no one else I have ever met, and was able to explain basic accounting issues in a way that even an accounting ignoramus like me could easily understand.
Above all, Andy was a people person. He understood the power of motivation and certainly knew what motivated me. He had the power to make you feel good about what you were doing, even in difficult times. And believe me, when you launch a political magazine at the beginning of a recession, there are difficult times to go through. Even when I had difficult news to impart to him, I would always leave the room feeling much better than when I went in, and there aren’t many people I can say that about.
We didn’t always agree – that would have been odd, but in eight years of a business relationship we never had a cross word. We could be totally straight with each other without either of us taking exception to what the other was saying. He taught me more about running a business than anyone else in my career and I will always remain profoundly grateful for his guidance and inspiration.
His brother in law Damian Thornton gave the most fantastic eulogy yesterday and nothing I can say can improve on what he said. Andy bore his illness with the most tremendous courage and fortitude. He worked for as long as he could., but when he didn’t come to the Political Book Awards in March I knew things must be bad. I never talked to him about what he was going through as I decided that he probably had enough people asking how he was. And I knew if I did ask him and he told me the truth I would become too emotional, and he could do without that.
I mentioned the Political Book Awards. Everyone thinks that event was my brainchild. It wasn’t. It was Andy’s. And next year I want to name an award after him. He was a lover of books and in his eulogy yesterday we learned that on a family holiday at he age of 14. Andy polished off 15 books in 14 days. I would always send him every single book published by Biteback. Every so often he’d send me an email saying “loved that book” or “mystified as to why you took that one on”, and he’d also come up with ideas as to authors we might approach. But it was always done in a spirit of helpfulness. He was always optimistic and positive.
It is largely thanks to Andy that Biteback is now a profitable company. It took us longer than I would have liked to get there, but I do know that without Andy we wouldn’t have got there at all. I’m just so sorry that he didn’t live to see us achieve what he was always confident we could. In my moments of doubt he would take me aside and tell me how well we were doing and success would come.
He also knew how important my broadcasting is to me. I remember telling him LBC had offered me a permanent show, back in August 2010. I explained to him that I had had two dreams in life. One to be an MP and another to have my own radio show. Well the first dream had been extinguished and I really wanted to see if I could live the second. I felt I needed Andy’s and Michael’s blessing as it would effectively mean taking on the equivalent of two full time jobs. They didn’t hesitate to give their approval and I shall remain forever grateful to them both, as it would have been perfectly understandable if they felt that it would have been too much.
This tribute has already become far longer than I had intended, but that’s because there is so much I wanted to say about Andy. I can’t begin to understand how his wife Emma and their three children are coping. But they know from the turnout at the funeral yesterday the level of love and admiration there was for Andy. He was just the most kind, generous, most empathetic man you’re ever likely to meet. As an illustration of that, three years ago John and I were thinking of buying a house in Norfolk, but we couldn’t get a mortgage on it because of the fact it was of non standard construction. We didn’t need a massive mortgage so it was incredibly frustrating to see it slipping through our hands. I was sounding off about this to Andy one day and he immediately offered to lend us the money himself, personally. I was totally bowled over. In the end we didn’t win the auction so it didn’t happen, but I will never forget what he was prepared to do.
I still can’t believe that I won’t see him again. But when I think of him, I will always think of him with his infectious grin. Andy, what a very special man you were. Are. I don’t think you could have possibly comprehended what a massive hole you would leave in the lives of all who knew you. Rest easy, my friend.