Beloved Reader, I owe you an apology. I promised I’d come and play with you at the beginning of every week – explain what I’ve been doing (or am about to do), talk you through some of the mysteries of the arcane world of publishing, share with you my new discoveries . . . and it was all working so well. And then Life got in the way and all my promises got buried under the most enormous pile of Work.
As you know, we lost the lovely Lucy in May – but thank heavens, we now have the dapper Andrew to pick up the publicity reins: he joined us days before the World Fantasy Convention opened its doors in Brighton and my gosh, did he hit the ground running! But the publicist-free intervening few months did mean that Nicola had to deal with a lot of extra work, even after Becky from Midas joined us to take over a big part of the job, and that in turn meant more for me to handle.
As an aside, as we say goodbye to Becky I’m convinced it’s only farewell, for I’m very pleased to report she’s been well and truly bitten by the genre bug. So here’s a huge public ‘thank you’, Becky, from everyone at JFB, for your stalwart work on behalf of our Beloved Authors: we’ve had some blinding coverage thanks to your not-inconsiderable efforts, not least the forthcoming Fearie Tales extravaganza in Stylist magazine (due this week; watch this space).
And hello, Andrew – who has already displayed an unerring taste in seasonal knitwear which I know is going to bring us all hours of pleasure.
So where was I? Oh yes, apologising. It all started so well – I had plenty to talk about, and the total absence of any sort of reaction at all was, I was assured, nothing to worry about (that you really were out there, Beloved Reader, taking in my every cough and splutter). And then all of a sudden we were into the autumn, which is always my busiest season. It generally kicks off with the six-monthly sales conference, at which all the company’s books for January through to June are presented, not only to the sales reps and key accounts sales directors (those selling to the chains, Waterstones, Amazon, WHSmith’s, the wholesalers like Gardners and Bertrams and the supermarkets) but also to those selling to the export markets. Then I have at least one major convention (WFC), and usually the British Fantasy Convention as well. And of course, October is the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Of course, this year was always going to be a little different, but not entirely as I’d expected. Our sales conference has been postponed whilst we upgrade our sales department (and we bid a joyous and hearty welcome to Brett Walker, looking after London, and Paul Gill and his team, Lottie Chase and Liza Paderes, who are now in charge of our export sales).
And instead of going to Frankfurt and hosting my first-ever Book Fair cocktail party (with canapés!), I was camped out in the A&E department of Whipps Cross Hospital trying to convince myself that the excruciating pain in my chest was not a heart attack (all those years of hospital attendance finally came in handy: *heart* is on the left-hand side; pain is on the *right* – who needs an Anatomy degree?) It wasn’t a heart attack, of course, but it was pleurisy – and that meant poor Nicola, having spent six months doubling up as JFB publicist and assistant editor, now had to don a rights assistant hat. She thought she was attending Frankfurt to man the stand, run the diary, make sure everyone gets tea and coffee and brandy at decent intervals . . . Instead she had a real baptism of fire, taking on all my appointments – more than thirty of them! – to sell foreign rights to our lovely authors.
Of course my spies reported back that she did a fantastic job – no surprise there, to be honest – and that’s one more task I can hand over in the case of dire emergency. So thank you, Nicola, for sterling service above and beyond the call of duty!
(And Nicola’s combat training continues apace. More on that in due course.)
So pleurisy knocked me out for the best part of a month, but I managed to pull myself together enough to get to Brighton for WFC’s first visit to Britain in a decade. Thanks to the aftermath of the hurricane there were plenty of wild seascapes to admire as @LitAgentDrury took himself off for his ‘bracing’ morning run (it wasn’t so bad as to be ‘character-forming’, he told me!). Mind you, with that wind behind him he might even have beaten his own record: the last time he ran along that seafront he was completing the Brighton Marathon in just under 4 hours (not bad for someone on the Dark Side!).
There’s no doubt the highlight of WFC for me was getting the chance to meet so many of my Beloved Authors face to face – and thanks to the British Council and the South Asian Literary Festival, at the very last minute we were able to add Amish to our roster, on his very first visit to the UK. So here’s another thank you: To Ted Hodgkinson from the British Council and Bhavit Mehta and Jon Slack from SALF, for putting on a brilliant event and introducing Amish to London in fine style.
(It’s beginning to feel like the Oscars, isn’t it? I promise you I am sitting here writing this in a gold brocade and Swarovski crystal frock with diamond chandelier earrings and six-inch Louboutin heels with tears streaming down my cheeks and my mascara staying put! My fantasy, my rules.)
So picking out just two events from the many, I’ll take you onto the Jo Fletcher Books slap-up Fish ’n’ Chip lunch (it was the seaside! If it’s any consolation, the Palm Court – a typical Victorian end-of-pier restaurant – is recommended by Heston Blumenthal: JFB knows how to throw a lunch party! With mushy peas and everything!) Nicola, Andrew and Becky helped me host our writers, who really did come from all over the world for the event: Amish from India, David Hair, accompanied by his wife Kerry, flew in from New Zealand (via what Kerry described as ‘a real education in Italian wines !’), Christopher Golden came from America, Snorri Kristjansson is our resident Icelander, Stephanie Saulter, one of our two Caribbean SF writers, Swedish horror star John Ajvide Lindqvist, Irish sculptor-turned-author Aidan Harte (introducing his brother Michael to our little world), Welshman David Towsey, Scot (via Texas) Lisa Tuttle, with her daughter Emily, Yorkshirewoman Ali Littlewood and her partner Fergus, and Londoners Tom Pollock and Sarah Pinborough all got a chance to meet each other properly.
And later that evening we launched The Scarlet Tides, the second in David Hair’s monumental epic fantasy The Moontide Quartet, Amish’s The Secret of the Nagas, the second in his two-million-copy-selling Shiva Trilogy (and yet another thank you: to George and Barry and Manjit for pulling publication forward by two months so we could launch it whilst he was actually in the country – who says there are no miracles any more?), David Towsey’s Your Brother’s Blood and, with a
signing line to end all signing lines, Fearie Tales, edited by Stephen Jones and including Ramsey Campbell, Peter Crowther, Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris (and well done to Gollancz for publishing her new fantasy novel, out soon, even though they got there before me), Markus Heitz – who flew in from Germany for the signing: thanks, Markus! – John Ajvide Lindqvist, Brian Lumley, Garth Nix, Reggie Oliver, Robert Shearman, Angela Slatter, and Michael Marshall Smith.
Photo credit: Peter Coleborn
Only artist Alan Lee – who’d had to pull out of WFC to finish the latest Hobbit movie – Christopher Fowler, Brian Hodge and Tanith Lee weren’t able to make it. (Oh, and the Brothers Grimm, but I think we’re all rather glad about that!)
It’s just a shame the Idiot Publisher completely forgot to get her own copy signed…
And I’ve only got as far as the end of October…
So I’m going to leave you there and crack on with the paperwork for this week’s launch meeting, because those forms don’t write themselves. (Well, actually, they do, pretty much, thanks to Nicola!)
And here’s my final apology for this week, and my new promise: I’m sorry for deserting you, and I will try not to let it happen again (if only to stop Andrew looking at me in such sorrow).
I will be back next week, same time, same bat-channel, if only to share with you the excitement of my very first visit to Singapore (as keynote speaker at the Publishers’ Symposium, part of the venerable Singapore Writers Festival).
Until then, there’s a whole heap of books you ought to be reading!