Today was a day for joy and celebration in the office, but only after the bit of publishing that isn’t so nice. I was sitting at my desk and had been discussing with Sarah the last manuscript we had read. It was fascinating as, whilst the story and the writing were very good, and whilst this author had already been published by Penguin, we both just agreed that we had reservations about the book. I finally understand what a publisher means when they say that they just don’t love it enough. I’ve realised that one of the kindest things a publisher can do is to reject your book. If the writer and publisher don’t match then the relationship will be like a doomed marriage. You both knew it wasn’t right at the start but you were both so desperate to make it work you hid all those emotions very deep inside until one day, well. One day you both wake up, look at each other and realise the earplugs just aren’t hiding the snoring anymore.
I’m becoming increasingly aware of how important the publisher/author relationship is. It was true, Sarah and I had enjoyed the story and it was interesting, but it needed someone who loved it, who really believed in it, to take the time to re-write and straighten out the problems. The publisher and editor becomes like a mentor to the writer at this point. They’re the ones getting panicked 3am phone calls because the author has writer’s block and feels like a complete failure. Now, the interesting part in all this, as with any good relationship, is the love.
As I said, the day had become one for celebration. This was because we had a finished book (I love how I’ve started saying ‘we’. I had absolutely nothing to do with this book but by golly did I wish I had!). One of the other Penguin ladies came over and showed us a gorgeous and fascinatingly designed new book that was, quite literally, hot off the press. Trust me, as a writer there’s possibly nothing more beautiful than seeing the pure joy on the face of the editors and publishers who have slogged over a book and have it, finally, placed in their hands. Now, I’m quite cynical and I’m fully aware that at the heart of much of this is money; I know that people don’t do their jobs for nothing. But from seeing the process from submitted manuscript to final piece, I can say that a little part of my cynical heart was chipped away. These people love these books. They see them, years from now, lying on coffee tables in far-off living rooms, enlightening children not unlike their own, bringing pleasure to people who love books every bit as much as they do. I know I sound super mushy here but the love, care and attention had just made everything fall into place for me. They turn away crap books, sure (as someone pointed out, everyone may have a novel in them but that doesn’t mean it’s any good) but when they hit upon something they love, they truly care about, they take home because they can’t stop reading it, a book they can imagine picking up and telling all their friends about, that’s truly something special to see. The most amazing part of all this was that I was allowed to send the finished book off to the actual author! He/She will receive this book that they have slaved over, in a Jiffy bag, with my name on it! I felt like I had completed some kind of mystical writer circle, not unlike Simba in the Lion King. This was my circle of life, I thought as I stuffed the book ceremoniously into the Jiffy. This is it, Mufasa, this is me staring out over my plain of bookshelves, typewriters, scrawled over receipts and notebooks.
The wonderful thing here is that all the lovely people who have been reading this blog (and you’re all adorable, thank you) will be, no doubt, sitting down this evening with a lovely cup of tea, perhaps a glass of wine or even, like me, a splash of Lamb’s Navy Strength, and of course, a book. When you read that book just take a moment to savour how it looks, how it feels. How each word has been read, re-read, pored over, changed, changed back, taken out, put in again. Probably cried over, if they’re anything like me! But it isn’t just a labour of artistic love. There’s a whole team of people who have cared for a nurtured that book, like a sapling to a tree, as someone probably once said (it’s poetic innit). Even if you hate that book and never want to read it again because it was just so DREADFUL I like to remember that, not unlike other people’s children, someone loves it.
Enjoy your weekends one and all, on Monday I shall attempt to get photographs of photographs of corridors, I shall try and steal the giant penguin in the reading area (seriously, that thing is mine. I’m going to call it Gerald. You’re all invited to tea). I shall perhaps make friends with the nice chap in the stationery room because he was lovely and helped me find Jiffy bags.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, today, on my mission to the Embankment level, I got out of the lift on floor 3. Because it looks exactly, EXACTLY, like the Embankment level I was aiming for, four floors lower. The nice chap in the lift let me get out, look around a bit and then take a few steps away before he, smiling cheekily and HOLDING THE LIFT DOOR OPEN FOR ME, said ‘ready to go to the floor you want now?’
Enjoy your books this weekend!
Ant and Dec adorn the walls of
the Penguin canteen.
No, I have no idea.