Friday, 16 March 2012

Miles Cain to Judge Sentinel Poetry Competition

Miles pondering the mysteries of the universe.
I've recently received word that Valley Press author Miles Cain will be judging the next poetry competition run by Sentinel Magazine, the closing date for which is the 5th April.  First prize is £150, so you may want to give it a go - all the details can be read on their website here.

I think readers of the VP blog have a decent shot at the prize.  Think about it: you like what we're doing, we like what he's doing (which occasionally is the same thing), so there's every chance he will like what you're doing!

In other Miles news, he will be reading from The Border and doing some musical numbers at Taylors Cafe & Books (Bar Street, Scarborough), on the 28th April from 8pm, supported by Felix Hodcroft.  Entry is free, so you've no excuse really - I'll be doing more promotion on this gig in April, but I thought this post was the perfect moment to give you a 'heads up'.  See you there!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Valley Press 'Highly Commended' in National Business Award

A couple of weeks ago I reported that Valley Press had been shortlisted for the Lloyds TSB Enterprise Awards, which (if you read that post) you'll recall was a competition 'to find the best student and graduate entrepreneurial talent across the country'.  This is the post that announces whether or not I can now describe myself as such - the answer is a tentative 'yes'.  VP was 'highly commended' at the North East heat on the 29th February, and can now display the handsome logo you see on your right.

That's pretty much the only prize for 'highly commended', but it's still something to be proud of; apparently there were close to a thousand entries, sixteen of which won a cash prize, and fourteen of which were commended.  So if you like, we can now declare VP is one of the top thirty graduate businesses in the country - not too shabby!  Especially as many of the other companies were serious business players, employing a dozen staff, revolutionising a particular type of technology and turning over in a month what VP manages in a year... and those were just the ones I beat.

This is not just good news for me and Valley Press; by commending VP, the judges have acknowledged that literature (poetry, even) can be the base for successful business activity - a powerful (and unusual) statement from four high-powered banking executives!  Turned out most of them were quite into books, even.  The competition involved me making a two-minute pitch and answering five minutes of questions; during the latter the judges managed to argue briefly amongst themselves whether ebooks or paper were best.  You can't escape that debate!  At the end of the day, when the commendation was announced, VP was described as a 'beautiful business' - I'd obviously touched a few heartstrings, perhaps reminded them of happy childhood days curled up with a tatty paperback.

The VP table at the awards 'do' - I brought the books!

More than anything, the awards formed the basis for a nice day out - I was accompanied by VP author Felix Hodcroft, who did a great job of talking up the operation while I was busy refining my pitch.  The organisers, judges and fellow finalists were brilliant too; unfailingly cheery and friendly.  I noticed amongst them was former The Apprentice and Dragon's Den contender Leon Doyle, a serious player (and seriously tall - when he and Felix stood next to each other, I came up to their chests, and felt like I was back in primary school.  He was one of the ones I beat, by the way - not that I want to rub this in, or anything.)

A wider angle on the table - there's Leon in the back, to the right.

The number of texts, emails and Facebook messages I received on the day was quite staggering - it seems most of the town was rooting for me, particularly after the article on your right appeared in the Scarborough Evening News.  It's rare in publishing that you find yourself competing with anyone in such a direct fashion; poetry awards are decided in secret and announced via email newsletter, and competition between publishers for your custom is done in bookshops with none of us around (unless I'm hanging out near the poetry section trying to influence you, which isn't unheard of).  So in a way it was nice to have a focal point, an us-versus-them moment where people could really get behind VP.  That being said, after the ceremony, me and Felix dropped in on James Nash for a light editorial meeting about his upcoming collection of sonnets, and it served as a helpful reminder of what I'm really in this for - in case all the showbiz got to my head!

Apparently the Enterprise Awards will be a yearly thing, and while winners can't enter again, commended businesses can - so I'll be back, without question, for the 2013 competition!  And until then, back to business as normal; look out for details of new book releases on the blog and on the site soon.

Friday, 2 March 2012

VP Books 'at Large' in Yorkshire

As I wander round the county in search of further sales and acclaim, there are some very pleasant occasions when I unexpectedly stumble across a Valley Press book.  Here is some photographic evidence from the last few months of the books 'on location', arguably in their natural habitat - the bookshop...

Norah Hanson's Love Letters... in the window of Waterstone's Hull.

Steve Rudd's Pulse in WHSmith Driffield (travel section).

...and on the counter with 'Angry Birds', an unlikely pairing!

Four copies of Jo Reed's Stone Venus in Waterstone's Scarborough.

Apologies for the quality of the pictures - all taken with my phone, the best equipment I had to hand!  If you, gentle reader, should happen to see any of our books in a shop near you (and you've got a lot of time on your hands), why not write in and let us see it!  Frankly, it's how I get my kicks.  If you'd then like to forward a picture of the empty shelf, after they've all been bought en masse, that will be even better...