diamond geezer

 Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The email arrived late afternoon, mid-November. Would I be interested in writing a book?

Usually I wouldn't, but this request was different. It was from one of Britain's largest book publishers. It was from a named editor, rather than a generic spamlist. And the suggested topic was an excellent one, aimed squarely at a decent-sized hole in the market. I'd already written a little about it on my blog, hence their interest. Would I be interested in writing more, shoving a cover on it and then living in perpetuity on the nation's bookshelves? How chuffed was I? It seemed only wise to explore the idea further.

An exchange of emails followed, in which I expressed polite enthusiasm, and my contact told me not to worry about how long the writing might take. And so we agreed to meet up a few days hence, at Publishing HQ, somewhere in London.

I wondered whether I might be ushered past security to some comfy commissioning sofa, but instead I only got as far as the café. Here I met two of the company's editors, both female, both about half my age, both with the power to immortalise me in print. I'd brought stuff, they'd brought stuff, so we had a chat about that and the general publishing concept. It did seem to be a terribly good idea for a book, and one for which I might be ideally suited.

Publication had to be in April, I was told, because that's when the ideal window for this kind of subject matter opens. But not the next April, the April after that, because publishing's a snail's pace kind of a business. I'd have until September to write everything I needed, then they'd spend some time tweaking it into an appropriate form to create the necessary electronic files for production. My book would be bulk-printed in colour in China, apparently, then shipped back on a slowboat for three months to trim costs to a minimum. And then April would be a whirlwind of publicity, plugs and promotions before my volume was launched upon a now-suspecting world. The Aprilness, I quickly learned, was very important.

Knocking out the requisite number of words shouldn't be too hard. The editor's concept wasn't a novel-size paperback, but a smaller tome with plenty of white space. They only wanted a hundred and fifty-something words on a page, for heaven's sake, and every other page was going to have a great big photo on it. Oh yes, that was the other exciting thing, they wanted me to illustrate my own subject matter with 100-or-so photos, and these would pad out half the book. Photography and text, I could do that no problem, I do that every day.

I went home and knocked up a sample chapter based on stuff I already had and sent it in. This only took two weeks of spare time, which could have been worse. And shortly afterwards I heard back that they liked it, which was nice, and they wanted to offer me something proper. They attached an official proposal letter, detailing required length of text and a submission date, plus details of all the relevant royalty payments I might receive. I hadn't previously twigged quite how little authors of non-fiction earn from each sale, so this was a timely nudge not to expect anything life-changing.

A 20-page contract arrived, in the name of 'Diamond Geezer', which I read very carefully. I assumed that all the scary bits in the contract were fairly standard, in that the publishing house has lots of rights whereas the writer has lots of responsibilities. All deadlines must be hit, all content must be appropriate, all advice must be taken - that sort of thing. But I was still very reticent to sign, even though there was a financial advance waiting once I did, because I was nervous that section X paragraph Y sub-section Z might contain something legal I'd later live to regret.

By now I'd recognised that the truly important thing wasn't the book's content, but how well it could be promoted. When the April publishing date finally came round, the company needed to make as big a splash as possible to ensure that copies of my book actually sold. That meant publicity, interviews, feature articles - whatever interest the press office could manage to stir up. They reassured me they'd not force me onto local TV, not if I really didn't want to, but seemed visibly relieved when I had no objection to the occasional radio broadcast. The key marketing opportunity would be a serialisation in the printed media, they hoped, if only they could acquire such a prize. A glossy weekend newspaper magazine was the Holy Grail, however unlikely, but even half a page in Time Out would have had the publicists salivating.

And this obsession with promotion also meant curtains for the way I originally thought I'd get the book written. I thought I'd research and publish each chapter on my blog, bit by bit, post by post, like I normally do. But apparently not. With everything destined for publication, I was nudged in no uncertain terms to keep all the material off the internet. My book must not be a printed copy of content already freely available in pixellated form... not because thousands of potential purchasers might already have read it, but for the specific reason that pre-publication might reduce the opportunity "to negotiate some good serial deals".

Like I said, that Aprilness turned out to be very important. So I did what any budding author would do in these circumstances, I knuckled down and carried on writing...

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream