Here's that news I promised

THE TROUBLE WITH building anticipation is that it’s got to pay off. Chekhov’s Gun is a handy law here: the playwright argued that you can toy with an audience, but only to a point. If they see a gun on the wall in the first act, he insisted, it absolutely must go off by the end of the next act.

It’s true that retailers are generally more concerned with checkout than Chekhov, but the principle holds. If you’re gonna tease, you’ve got to deliver the goods.

But I’ve got the goods in spades. As trailed last week, I not only get to share with you a sneak preview of the second issue of our beautiful books magazine, but I also have some rather juicy — and utterly unbelievable — news.

I said “Backstory’s going global” and, well, it is. Or rather Backstory. From this coming issue, our gorgeous, livewire mag celebrating all things books and bookshops is going to be stocked in most of the 600 branches of Barnes & Noble, America’s biggest bookshop chain! Less You’ve Got Mail, more You’ve Got Mag.

It’s also going to be on the shelves in — and I am sitting giddy and wide-eyed at my keyboard as I type this — 50 of the biggest branches of Waterstones, Foyles and a whole host of extraordinary independent bookshops from Barcelona to Stockholm. It’s going to Canada and Australia, too; I’d tell you where, but at this point I just burst into hysterics and can’t really contain myself.

Of course, this is ridiculous. Utterly, utterly insane.

But then, I guess, I can sort of see where they’re coming from. I mean, I’d buy it. Wouldn’t you? Just look at it:

Quite apart from the frankly silly news about stockists, I’m really proud of this latest mag. I was pretty pleased with our pilot issue back in October, but I think this is a far, far better read. And to be very un-British for a moment, I do think we’ve created something a bit different: a mag for book lovers that isn’t about page after page of reviews and instead bursts with colour.

All 68 pages are lively, informative – and just a little bit cheeky. Books and the places we encounter them deserve that treatment: spark and playfulness, not snobbery or hushed reverence.

I hope readers share just an ounce of the joy we’ve had in making the thing. From commissioning our favourite writers — Ed Caesar, Hollie McNish, Julia Armfield, Sophie Mackintosh, Alice Vincent, Tim Shipman… the list goes on — to Zooms with our outrageously talented art director Dario Verrengia and long debates with my deputy editor Megan about “does this penguin look like a pigeon?”, the whole thing’s been a hoot.

There’s crunch, there’s light relief and there’s a ton of book recommendations. The cover story — a reported feature from Penguin’s New York HQ on the company’s fightback against America’s new wave of book banning — is both chilling and, ultimately, cheering.

As usual, my favourites are the juicy and irreverent bits. Yael van der Wouden — whose debut novel, The Safekeep, is my pick for this summer — has written a gorgeous essay on how to write good sex. And New Yorker journalist Ed Caesar has filed a delightful piece explaining why he is now full-time writer, part-time DJ.

I’m proud, too, that all six of Backstory’s booksellers have contributed to the mag. Darby has the scoop on BookTok: we know it’s upending the publishing industry, but how do the BookTokers balance their books?

Amy gives us the backstory of one of the less well known people behind Alice Winn’s hit In Memoriam: her UK editor, Isabel Wall. Denise and Megan contribute fun pieces about their childhood summer reads. And, just three weeks into the job, Savannah will have her (very lovely) illustrations published in a professionally printed magazine for the first time.

We’ll be making a mag twice a year from now on. So get your copy today! Take out a subscription and it’ll be delivered to your door, anywhere in the world, or you can pick it up from the bookshop (we’ll have this latest issue from Thursday).

Even better, subscribers get extra perks: a free Backstory tote bag and access to some of our biggest and best author events, which we are going to start live-streaming exclusively for subscribers in the next month or two.

And, just to put those newbie customers in their place, we’ll give you 10% off if you take out a subscription before the end of April. Just use the code IWASHEREFIRST at checkout.

The unwritten bit of Chekhov’s rule is presumably that if the gun goes off at just the right moment, punters will buy a ticket to his next play. I don’t have tickets to sell, but I do have subscriptions. So go on, give it a go; I can’t promise guns, but there will be fireworks.