What format for a manuscript?

Case Studies

I received an email from an author I’ve been working with. Here it is:

I do sometimes get asked to read manuscripts. Generally I prefer not to, because I take a jolly long time over it.

But this is somebody I started working with three years ago. We met on an Arvon course, and continued to talk every month or so afterwards, in a tiny group:

Group writing exercise
Group writing exercise. Drawing by JP Flintoff

Anyway, back to the question about manuscripts.

I hate reading loose sheets of A4. And I can’t read anything book-length digitally, because I like to make marks and comments I can flick back through. I much prefer to read something book-like.

So I always print my own work in progress as an actual A5 book, glue-bound, with a cover image that changes from one iteration to the next. Like this:

Four draft copies of What If The Queen Should Die?, with different covers
Draft copies of my 2016 novel, What If The Queen Should Die?

My preference is to upload a simple PDF to Lulu.com, and a cover image, and get a glue-bound “proper” book. It’s cheap, for a start, and effective. Roughly £6 plus postage for the book I’m working on now.

But even without Covid-19, Lulu.com doesn’t deliver fast, so I couldn’t do it this time.

My own publisher wants me to make additions to my forthcoming book quite quickly, so today I got it printed and bound at a local print shop. Here it is, ready for collection with a happy smile from Charlie at The Print Team in Golders Green.

The same 280ish pages cost me £32, but it was a quick turnaround and I think it’s worth it.

Any questions, please leave a comment below.


David Kendall, after dinner speaker

Case Studies

David Kendall earned his living as a full-time after-dinner speaker, when I interviewed him for the Financial Times magazine about 15 years ago.

He zipped around the country speaking to all kinds of gatherings, drawing for jokes on his previous job as a bank manager.

Recently, out of the blue, I received a message from David – the first I’d heard from him since the story was published. What made this particularly weird was that I had just scanned the article I wrote about him (you can click to see it below).

Weirder still, I would soon discover that I knew David’s son, Matt. In fact, I had done one of my own first attempts at public speaking for Matt’s organisation, Interesting Talks.

Small world, eh.

Looking once again after all these years at the old Financial Times magazine story, three things hit me:

  1. The after-dinner speaker circuit that provided David with a living has all-but died out.
  2. None of us could have guessed that YouTube was coming, with more TEDx talks than anybody could watch – not just after dinner, but even starting at breakfast, and through several nights.
  3. The fees quoted in my story don’t sound bad today. Despite the passing years, few speakers can command as much. It seems that this is another area where prices have plummeted.

Brendan Barns: don’t be boring

Case Studies
Brendan started in the speaker business in 2002. I interviewed him for the FT magazine. You can download it below

Brendan Barns has been supplying speakers to businesses for nearly two decades.

In that time, the market has changed dramatically. Speaker agents have become more creative, putting together exciting events, rather than merely negotiating fees.

Over the last two decades, putting on events at his London Business Forum (and elsewhere), Brendan has learned a huge amount about what makes a good speaker.

In this audio interview, he explains that anybody can be interesting. I start by asking him to introduce himself, and say how we know each other.

Brendan Barns explains that anybody can be an interesting speaker