Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Poison Pen Letters

After I got home from work last night, I found Coran had placed 2 letters of my keyboard which arrived in the post. When I opened them, one was a crossword entry for the village newsletter, and the other a letter which I shall print below (omitting the senders name):

Dear Editor

Before the next edition goes to press, we would like to object to your misuse of the editorial page at the beginning of the December 2007-January 2008 issue. Has it never occurred to you that most people in the village do not really care how dramatically your life has changed or how many copies of your stupid book you have sold?

The editorial column should be about what it says on the cover - village news and not you. Sincerely (she then lists her own name and those of 6 others).

This is the second time this person has written to me, both times I hasten to add, anonymously. The first time she was telling me how awful she thought my book was after she had read the free copy that I can only surmise she won at last summer's village fair! She also criticised the quality of the pictures that are reproduced in the newsletter - as if I have any control over this!

This though really takes the biscuit. I see nothing wrong with what I wrote on the editorial page in question, where I was commenting on the fact that I have lived here for a year now and how much things have changed for both of us during that time. She is wrong when she says that the editorial page is for village news, as most magazines I buy have much more personal comments that this on the editorial page. The editorial page is just that - a space for the editor to make his or her own comments on what has been going on for them since the last issue.

Knowing that the former secretary for the neighbourhood council knows so many people up here, and given the fact that this lady (if that is the right phrase to use) was not courteous enough to provide me with contact details, so that I can discuss this with her in person, I discussed it with her (the former secretary that is), and she didn't have a clue who any of these people are either. However, she does know who might so said that today she would make enquiries. In the meantime, she also suggested that I print the letter in the February edition, to make these people look even more silly than they already are, naming and shaming them as it were. Having talked this over with my predecessor, he agrees.

They will all be in for one hell of a shock then when they get their February edition and see their names in print! If they think I am going to just roll over and take this then they will have to think again. After all, my predecessor was advertising for almost a year for a new editor before I contacted him, and at the time I didn't even live here, so if they think they can do a better job than I am then they should have applied when they had the chance.

The plot though thickens, as having now spoken to the former secretary of the local neighbourhood council, she has checked with the District Counsellor and informs me that none of the names on this letter are registered on the electoral roll - I can only surmise then that they are fictitious. Only a coward and bully behaves like this - as they know that they are in the wrong and if challenged their arguments would not hold sway.

It has though really upset me, since I happen to think that I am going a bloody good job, especially when ones considers that I also work part time (full time for the last month) and run my own business. Like I said, my predecessor was advertising for a replacement for almost a year before a friend got in touch and told me about it. At the time I was not even living here, as we had only just had our offer accepted on the property we are now living in, and since I did take over the editors reins this is the first such letter I have received - most people in fact are full of praise for the changes I have made, and say how much better the magazine now is!

If she doesn't like it then, she should have applied for the job when she had the chance - not that she would be any good at it anyway, since her letter is littered with basic proof reading errors.

Having slept on it though since yesterday and been mulling this over all day, I am still undecided as to what to do for the best and so I asked my pendulum. It confirmed that that I should indeed print the letter, and I should also reply - in the nicest possible way (this will be difficult). As tempting as it is though to let rip and say what I really think, it would not be professional of me to do so. This way though, she will know that her letter has been received and the comments noted. I will also publish any letters of support that I get in response to this in future editions which will wipe the smile right off her stupid cowardly face.

On another professional note though, my boss has agreed to let me work four days a week starting next week. He offered me the chance to work full time, which ordinarily I would have taken, but having come this far with the book he understands that I cannot just throw in the towel, but have to continue working hard at promoting the book as much as I can. It will be difficult being back at work, and I will feel torn in two, but the sad reality is that I can earn more from selling their stuff than I can from selling books.

We have already earned £200 in bonuses this month as the store that had the greatest trading margin in the week preceding Christmas, and the store that sold the most clearance lines last week. This week the bonus is also based on clearance lines, and we are on target to win it for the second week in a row, which will not be bad with a team of three full timers (I count myself in this category unofficially) and two weekend staff. I would have to sell 72 books in order to earn £100 in royalties, which is the equivalent of a whole months work. I wish it were different, but this is the world we are living in, and I have to pay the bills and keep a roof over my head.

David R Wright writes in the February edition of Writers News that the Society of Authors are currently debating moves towards an minimum hourly rate for non fiction writers who submit articles for publications and also write books. By this he means that the advance of one off fee paid to such writers for publication of their work should be the amount of hours it took to write, edit and research multiplied by the current minimum hourly wage (£5.50 an hour). If I were to be paid this in the form of an advance for my book I would have received an advance of around £8000! Chance would be a fine thing! I can't see this catching on fast, although it would be nice if it did. It would prove very difficult to enforce, since writers would need to meticulously record every minute they spent writing, which most would be loathe to do - we have enough to do keeping the Inland Revenue happy as it is!

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