Tuesday, 1 May 2012

the last thing I wrote for money

I don't know what possessed me to seek on Amazon the book that was the Waterloo of my publishing career.

It was my first proper job out of college. I remember being told at interview I had the job and walking out of there in a daze - after 9 months of temping and volunteering and signing on (hmm...) I was in shock that I'd managed to find employment. I also remember thinking that I didn't like the MD or  trust her further than I could throw her, a hunch that proved correct, but I wasn't in a position to be fussy.

1 year 11 months later she told me I needn't bother coming in on Monday, (2 years is the minimum time of employment you can take them to court for unfair dismissal). One of the things that made me almost glad to go was dealing with this ridiculous fucking series. I think I wrote this blurb, I recall the desperation of trying to make it sound like a jolly crime caper when it is as utterly preposterous as it sounds.

And trying to come up with some kind of image for the cover. Why we couldn't use the American cover - oh, I remember, it was because they thought the American title sounded a bit 'Carry On...' this didn't go down well with the author, who was pompous and humorless, as you'd expect from a man who wrote tedious crime novels about a bishop.

It is set on an aircraft carrier. Does this bring a snappy graphic cover image to your mind?  No, me neither. (I see the Americans wisely went with a wreath floating in the water instead.) Racking my brains, I proposed an American navy cap.  She told me to ring up someone in the American Embassy and insist on getting written permission to use this image. (Remember, this is all in the days before the internet, email, wikipedia, Google images...)

I managed to get hold of an exceptionally patient woman called Patti who said kindly that the American navy cap was in the public domain and it wasn't in their authority to give permission anyway. I relayed all this to my boss but she insisted I ring Patti back and get written permission. 

The final straw was when I hadn't brought it up at an editorial meeting, (I was always too terrified of her to speak at editorial meetings, plus I hadn't realised I was meant to) so it hadn't been on the sales team's schedule and they hadn't told the bookshops about it so no one had put in advance orders yet.

I wondered what the big deal was - there surely wouldn't be lines of impatient customers at the bookshop doors waiting for publication date of this dodgy hardback rubbish crime novel that had already been published long before in America.  If it got put back in the schedule it wasn't the end of the world - and they really, really weren't missing anything, I wanted to say... but by then my days were numbered.

Anyway, here it is. The last thing I wrote for money. I'm really not proud.

(I might have a look for the other books I wrote blurbs for if I can remember, though. It's interesting to see if your words have been recycled all these years later.)


  1. It sounds utterly magnificent.

  2. It's a perfectly lovely hat. I don't know what her problem was.

  3. The last thing I wrote for money was an article on the role the private sector needs to play in helping the EU achieve the objectives of the Horizon 2020 initiative. That was this morning.

    Your thing sounds better, to be honest.

  4. Hmmmmm. There was always one editor at one major publishing house who was always, always looking for a new assistant. And rumours as to why.