Friday, 6 March 2009
Why Books Aren't Babies: Post-Publication Day Musings
We’ve all heard the well-worn metaphor about how books are like babies. We create them, nurture them, and (if we’re lucky) finally bring them proudly out into the world for all to coo over and marvel at. Or, if they’re rather more “difficult” babies, to flat-out ignore and shoot evil glances at when they scream the house down. And write bad reviews about on Amazon… okay, the metaphor rather breaks down there I grant you. In fact, I’m here today to tell you exactly why books are nothing like babies.
Yesterday was PUBLICATION DAY for me - and if I could, I would write that in flashing neon letters. THE ART OF LOSING was finally due to be unleashed upon the world on Thursday 5th March. I had been inking up to the date on my calendar for the past year – and that’s the first difference. Think nine months is a long gestation period? Try twelve… in fact, try thirty, because that’s approximately how long ago I started the novel. Imagine this scene in the doctor’s surgery: “Madam, I’m delighted to tell you that you are pregnant. Unfortunately, um, I can’t tell you when the due date is. There might not even be one. Just keep the faith and see what happens.” Luckily for me, Fourth Estate gathered my as yet unborn baby to their figurative bosom and bestowed a due date of Spring 2009 upon me. The exact date itself kept changing, right up until a couple of months before publication. I lost count of the number of times I had to scrub out the hearts, stars and flowers with which I excitedly adorned the significant date. In the end I gave up and just went with the flow.
Then there was the question of what to expect on the date itself. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d vaguely envisaged floodgates opening overnight - papers being crammed full of reviews of my book, bookshop tables piled high with gleaming copies. The truth, as I have gradually grown to realise, is rather more complex. Last Saturday (the 28th Feb) I took a stroll into Borders on Oxford Street… just to have a look, you understand… and lo and behold, there on the shelf sat a couple of copies of THE ART OF LOSING, for all the world as if they had always been there. It was too early! “Madam, your baby is premature – we need to get you into the hospital quick-smart. But bear in mind that you’ll probably have to come back again next week, and the week after that…” You see, what I have realised is that book-sellers care little for those red-ringed dates that we cherish so dearly. They may get their stock in weeks early or late, and it’s up to them when they choose to display it. As to how prominently they do so, that also depends on many things and may well change over the course of the next few weeks as a result of publicity, reviews – anything that the sales reps can use to convince them that the book is worth displaying. There is no grand “birthing” – like much else in publishing, this is a gradual and often slow process.
So what did happen yesterday? I got some lovely messages from my agent and editor. I got taken out for lunch by my delightful husband and given flowers and a card. I got to see my Amazon ranking leaping like a salmon when I sent the “green light” email out to my contacts list. All in all, it was a good day. On Saturday, I’m having a little launch do too. Just to wet the baby’s head, you understand. And I’m not selfish – I don’t plan on keeping my baby all to myself. In fact, if you fancy a piece of the action, it’s on sale at £12.99 from your local book-store now…