26 January 2012
When I saw the email informing me that my publishers were going into administration, the first thought through my mind was: ‘At least it’s happened now, when I’ve got the freedom to turn all my energies to dealing with it.’ But it was very bad news.
For years I’d planned my life around publishing and marketing The Jolly Pilgrim, as a platform for the more rational and big-picture world view I’ve made it my mission to articulate (it’s a novel plan, but it’s my plan). I’d worked a long time to arrange the world around me so as to do that. The HotHive were my partners in this endeavour. They’d delivered everything they’d promised. And suddenly, unexpectedly, they were gone.
Worse, an honourable and hard-working group of people – who were my increasingly good friends – were losing their jobs, right before Christmas. Nevertheless, despite their own far more considerable crisis, the HotHive’s staff and directors went well beyond the call of duty to ensure the Jolly Pilgrim project carried on.
Mark Snare was typically unforgiving:
‘THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY FORWARD. FIND IT.’
The critical objectives were to keep the book on sale and ensure the liquidators didn’t get their paws on the literary assets. Time was of the essence.
I started making phone calls, and was plunged into a set of logistical and business challenges about which I had zero previous experience, and had to learn in a hurry, on the hoof, just as the holiday season was closing in.
One thing the episode taught me was to love Amazon. When I first got my head around book-selling (a year ago) I railed against them for dictating discount rates and exploiting their dominant market position. I now eat those sentiments. Amazon are fantastic: responsive, doing everything they say (quickly), selling lots of books (in bursts, for some reason?) and being accessible across the world (contacts in Sydney inform me that yes, they will sell you my book in Australia).
Most of the problems involved: negotiating with wholesalers, dealing with the guys who do the industry listings, rescuing the master files, and flipping ownership of the ebooks (all the money for pre-January ebook sales was lost, alas). It was not an agreeable matter to have on my mind over Christmas.
In the end, there were only two major hiatuses.
1) The Kindle version was unavailable for about a week.
2) Tony the Tiger reversed the Mercedes Sprinter CDI high-top van (we drove up to collect the books before the liquidators swept in) into a low bridge, crunching the roof and rear doors. Note the phrase ‘high-top’. Thank god we paid the insurance excess.
A month later and I’m up and running again. In the last weeks I’d arranged some signings, sent review copies to the student magazines of the UK’s top universities and prepared our first guerrilla marketing stunt.
Then, yesterday afternoon, riding through the London Cemetery, I crashed my bike, landing hard on my right side. I limped home, and sat dazed and shocked for a while before Tony packed me off to casualty. The ligament joining two of my shoulder bones have torn apart. (The technical name is an ‘Actromioclavicular submlimation’). My right (i.e writing) arm is in a sling. I’ve been given painkillers and ordered to sit still.
As for my strategy for dealing with this latest, trifling, setback: forget ‘man flu’. Think ‘man flu on steroids’.
Three favourite words I’ve learned this week:
- ‘Teleology’: The doctrine that phenomena are guided not only by mechanical forces but that they also move towards certain goals of self-realisation.
- ‘Pantomnesia’: Remembrance of everything ever learned.
- ‘Grammatolatry’: Worship of words