27 April 2009

Throwing the book

I have a book coming out in a matter of just days and I want to throw the entire print runit at my publisher.

I've been so wrapped up in contract work, and slaving away for long hours to get it all done, that I didn't really pay too much advance attention to the book. I kept thinking - it's a few weeks away, I've plenty of time to start pitching. Then suddenly the weeks whizzed past and this morning it dawned on me that I'd heard nothing from my publisher at all since mid-March.

Where the hell were my dozen author copies? What had they lined up for promotion? (Back in mid-March, I'd filled in a massive form detailing stuff about various press contacts, local bookshops, names of editors at local radio and TV stations etc, precisely to assist them with that.)

I was just about to pick up the phone when an email arrived from the bunny at the publisher. The bunny's job is to get publicity for the books they publish. So, 4 days before publication she decides to let me know she's hastily cobbling some promo slots together for me.

To say I was enraged was an understatement. My anger was not helped by the fact that I've been severely sleep-deprived for a couple of months, which has made me very grouchy indeed most of the time. I asked her where my books were.

- We posted them to you at the end of March, she said.

- I haven't received them, I replied.

I'm not going to recount the entire string of mails that went back and forth but it transpired that the books had been sent to my old address, which I left 4 months ago and is 40 miles away. This despite the fact that I mailed the bunny in January to give her my new contact details, and again in mid-March to remind her of my new address. So she had all this on file and still managed to send my books to my old house. Worse, she insisted I must have them as they'd been signed for. I pointed out, rather tartly, that I'd not been back to my old town since I left and that I'd paid Royal Mail a large sum to forward all my mail for a year so I still should have received them (and yes I'm going to stick a rocket under Royal Mail tomorrow - watch me light the blue touch paper and stand well clear). But the bunny could have sent them to my current address in the first place if she'd paid a bit more attention. And if she'd bothered to email me a month ago to say the books were en route, the problem would have come to light very quickly.

But I'm more hacked off with the fact that I spent several months working on the book for an unbelievably paltry advance (and basically earned only about £50 in January from other clients because of time taken to finish the manuscript), in the hope that it would sell reasonably well and I'd at least earn some royalties.

But no, it's all been left to the last minute and I ended up bleating my woes on Twitter - some colleagues rallied around with ideas and contacts, for which I'm very grateful (even though I was horribly grumpy at the time), and I've now managed to secure a slot on the local BBC radio morning magazine show. It's something at least. Fortunately, there's an "awareness week" coming up mid-month, so I may yet be able to pitch a feature or two around that, much as I hate awareness weeks.

I am so knackered that I've had to apologise to lots of colleagues today for being a foul-tempered cow lately. And I had to grovel to the parental for going off-radar for several weeks, as well. I'm not massively popular right now. On days like these, I feel like jacking it all in and stacking shelves at the supermarket instead.

Lesson learned, though. I shan't write for this publisher again. Although I shall, of course, milk the fact I have a book out because it's good for the old CV.

Do I wish I'd never signed the contract? Hell, yes. At least right now. But I hope I might still be able to salvage something out of the current mess. The Manchester media community have been the best, today, with their offers of support. The next round will definitely be on me.

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