Monday, 25 June 2012

Cynic no more

We'll always respect our first...

I'll never forget that first, magical book contract.

David French and I had been producing our own satirical magazine, As Above So Below, for a few years - a mixture of cartoons, spoof articles, quizzes, ads and interviews. But we wanted to break into print.

I was already experimenting with one-liners and slogans, and we liked to subvert popular sayings, so it seemed logical to put a collection together. Once we had around 100 quotes - some of which had originally appeared in the mag - I set about contacting every 'Little Book' publisher I could find. To our great suprise, one wrote back with an encouraging response. They said they had no budget left for that year, but they'd be willing to consider us for the following year's list.

Wind forward an exchange of letters and a year later, and we had a contract. We read it through carefully because we'd never even heard of a buy-out before. For the unitiated, it means they own your book lock, stock and barrel. Instead of royalties, they give you a one-off payment. I spoke with the Society of Authors and we went back to the publisher to try to get an improved offer, but their terms were standard.

After much deliberation we decided, based on the fact that half the material had already been in our magazine, that it was worth taking up their offer. Besides, it was effectively just a collection of 100 or so gags, and I knew from personal experience back then that gags were hard to sell unless you had contacts.

When the free copies of the book arrived, we were really disappointed with the graphics and cover design. I'm not sure what we were expecting, but that wasn't it. The cheque was nice though, even though it was split two ways.

Only later, as I waded deeper into the world of writing and publishing, did I realise how lucky we'd been. Easy to write, published on time, and with payment forthcoming, The Little Book of Cynics was a lovely introduction into the world of paid writing.

LBoC also opened the doors to a whole range of experiences: 
1. There was the book signing, where friends in Glastonbury bought in dozens of copies and watched as we sold three copies in a day. An event not recorded in any of the local newspapers, despite my press releases. 
2. The Little Book was also partly responsible for an interview I did on comedy writing with BBC Cornwall (where we were bounced off early because a dog was coming in to promote the Dog Olympics - I kid you not). 
3. And, more positively, LBoC remains a calling card, which I've no doubt has helped me procure freelance work across the web and in the real world.

The most important lesson about the Little Book of Cynics is that you never know where an opportunity will take you. I believe the book is out of print now, so if you were one of those people in Glastonbury, with a signed copy, it could be worth something one day.

5 comments:

Chloe said...

I'd heard of it, Derek! In fact, if I'm talking about blogging or something similar and I happen to mention you, I usually add, "He co-wrote The Little Book of Cynics" as a tag line. Some people at least pretend to have heard of it too!

Derek said...

Fame at last! You used to be able to buy it in Waterstones in Truro - I'd visit periodically and make sure it showed prominently. Needless to say, I have the sequel ready.

Kath said...

And I have a copy on my shelf! :)

Gillian McDade said...

Congrats, Derek. May there be many more gag-filled books!

Derek said...

And there are...