Stormzy and the meaning of life

Everything has been DERAILED as of late, due to an Iguanodon invasion. The latter is snoozing gently on my lap as I type this, which is a) an awkward experience and b) life, now. Amazing.

What gives your life meaning? 

Research methodology, obviously. Pew asked this as both an open and closed question, and there are significant differences between the formats:

For example, in the open-ended question, just 5% of respondents mention something about pets or animals when describing what makes their lives meaningful. But in the closed-ended question, fully 45% of Americans say “caring for pets” provides them with “a great deal” of meaning and fufillment.

...which is to say, however you wanted to argue 'TEH KITTEHS?', you could. Either they're deeply unimportant (5% unprompted!) or existentially vital (45% prompted). Take your pick! Interesting in its own right, and a really useful example to have in your pocket when you're next arguing with your client about how you construct questions on a survey.

In case you have doubts, cats give life meaning.

Also that thing where Patrick Mahomes throws it with his left hand.


A cold take on #Merky Books, Stormzy's publishing partnership with Penguin Random House. 

Artistically, Stormzy is one of the most creative voices out there, and there's a lot of well-deserved curiosity about what he'll do in a new space. Strategically, it is even more intriguing: these are immensely powerful influencers within their home sector, and, it will be fascinating to see how that clout can translate. 

And, er, procedurally - there are a lot of structural challenges in the way. 

For example, at first glance, it looks like the entire population of Stormzy's native Croydon (359k) is served by a single Nielsen measured bookshop (a mall Waterstones). By contrast, Hampstead (247k) has ten (all of which, I'm sure, are champing at the dressage bit to stock Merky titles).

That's not to say the 359k won't find ways to buy books, but it'll be a lot harder without high street access. And that lack of Nielsen is important, in its way. If we measure success with the traditional methods... non-Nielsen purchases simply won't 'matter' - the sales figures won't be tracked in the industry's shared database, and they won't count towards 'best-seller' status, etc. 

And that's just one small thing. (Well, the lack of bookshops outside of posh suburbs is a very big thing.) The publishing industry has spent a generation - if not longer - relentlessly milking one particular demographic, with 'innovative' 'outreach' campaigns based around the occasional field trip to Harrogate and #civilisedsaturday

This is, quite literally, down to the importance of evaluation. Hype alone isn't going to convince an entrenched industry that they need to change everything about their audience/marketing/recruitment/sales/retail approach. There will be a lot of people ready and willing to talk about how Merky 'fails', based on the traditional metrics. "I didn't see a single copy at Hay!"

Merky is exactly the sort of initiative publishing should be doing, and PRH needs to ensure that Merky's success - and there will be success - whether that's financial, brand-building, or new readership - is being measured and communicated. Since the industry doesn't track these metrics naturally or consistently, PRH has a challenge ahead of it.

(Repeat, but for Janelle Monae and the film industry.)

This deserves a micro-GTB: Get pioneers, to measure success, by ensuring the right evaluation is in place from the very beginning. 


Literary Landscapes made the New York Times' (extremely aspirational) gift guide. What better thing to read whilst wearing your authentic slippers ($140) and before slipping on your new eye mask ($400). I'm quite keen on the campfire sandwich press though ($30). I wonder if I can get one in Croydon?

Mahvesh and I talk about editing and The Outcast Hours. Plus, the full table of contents! We're doing a micro-teaser campaign akin to a new MCU movie at this point.

For some reason, no one had claimed the URL for www.bestbritishfantasy.co.uk. Did every publisher sleep through SEO workshop?! Given, say, a new The Best of British Fantasy series, Iguanodon and I spent a few hours last night building his very first website. It is very basic, but, give him a break - dude has spikes for thumbs.


What else gives life meaning?

The covers of Blue Note records - how they have a visual aesthetic that makes each album unique, connects them all, and also reflects the underpinning philosophy of the label's musical style:

a coherent phenomenon in which individually distinct elements combined beautifully to form a clear structure

This is suspiciously similar to form - a creative and structural consistency across disparate parts - as used by Robert Calasso in The Art of the PublisherThis is a book that I recommend a lot - both to publishers and planners - and we'll be returning to it when we talk PANCAKES later, I promise. 

Terrific piece by Robert Sharp on the Niemöller poem I mentioned when ranting about Facebookand offering up an even better metaphor.

The Uncorrected Independent Publishers Book Fair, in Peckham, this weekend.

How Cambridge Analytica used fashion preferences to inform political targeting. Not something unusual in the marketing world (at least, amongst clever media planning), but rarely discussed in this context. (via Lisa Schmeiser)

The hundred best pens (via Anne).

Half off all Verso books! (Verso also do free shipping AND free ebook copies with purchase and oh god we have so many Verso books).