Friday, January 25, 2008

Up to monkey business ...

I get the distinct impression tonight that the universe is playing one great big cosmic joke on me. Firstly I was 20 minutes late out from work tonight because our new and over enthusiastic salesman would not stop waffling to a customer whom he thought was about to buy - and then didn't. Much as I like this man and admire his attitude to life, namely that there is always something to smile about, it made me really quite angry that both he and the customer seemed to have so little respect for other peoples time and more to the point, any sort of understanding that we are not paid for our time after 5.30pm.

Then when I finally did get home what did I find waiting for me on my keyboard - a letter from the Landmark Trust thanking me for my forthcoming visit to Lundy and inviting me to book a table for Valentines Day at the Montagu Room Restaurant (i.e. the back room) of the islands one and only pub - the Marisco Tavern! I am sure it would be very nice for couples, but it had obviously not occurred to them that there is only one bed in the property I have booked!

This will be the first Valentines Day that Coran and I have spent apart, so it will be somewhat strange in some ways. I have tried to get him to visit Lundy with me on numerous occasions, but he is just not interested. Part of me likes it that way I admit, as I do relish the time alone as does he, but it would also be nice just occasionally to be able to share it with him. I have told him that come what may he will be coming with me for December 2012 - after all, if the world does go tits up, then I can't think of anywhere else I would end it all!

I really thought I had seen and read it all when it comes to the publishing world, but really nothing prepared me for the story I have just read on The Bookseller website. A chimpanzee by the name of Cheeta has been signed up by Fourth Estate to write his memoirs! Yes you did read that right - a chimpanzee has been signed up to write his memoirs!

This is no ordinary chimp, but no less than the world famous Cheeta from the Tarzan films. The article states that Cheeta, a.k.a. Jiggs who celebrated his 75th birthday last April, lives in a Palm Springs retirement home, where he paints and plays the piano.

Fourth Estate publishing director Nicholas Pearson states that "Here we've got the real monkey—­a great actor who is one of the few still alive from what was the golden age of Hollywood. He saw it all. He had to act to save his life, literally. Others who fell by the wayside often ended up in the lab with the dogs, mice and rabbits."

The "funny, moving and searingly honest" book will cover Cheeta's struggle with drink and addiction to cigars, his breakthrough with radical new form of abstract painting "apeism", his relationship with his nightclub-performing grandson Jeeta, and his battle with diabetes.

This would be almost funny were it not so damned serious. I mean what in the hell is the world coming to when a chimp who cannot even speak English let alone write it, is signed up to write his memoirs? How on earth are sensible human beings who do supposed to compete with such hallowed celebrity status and what does it say about the publishing industry and American society in general when a publisher seriously thinks for even one minute that people will buy this sort of stuff. It is totally and utterly beyond me, and for once in my life, I am at a loss for words.

Meanwhile back in the real world, my own book sales continue to go well. There is still no news from Gardners as to when or if those books are being sent back. I continue to check their site on a daily basis, and tonight the number of copies in stock has fallen yet again to 122. I will go to the Waterstones website again then in a minute to see which stores may have been added to that list of stockists and make sure that those who promised me earlier in the week that they would order copies have indeed done so - if not, then they can expect another phone call on Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Back to the grindstone

Today being my day off I have been ringing book stores as usual to try and get some more business. One of the ones on my list was Waterstones in Wakefield, Yorkshire. The manager was not available, so I spoke to a bookseller instead who explained to me that you can check to see which stores have stock of your book online. I didn't realise this and wish I had known about it months ago - I am surprised that no one has mentioned this to me before

It seems that all you have to do is go to the Waterstones website at and search for your book(s). When you find them, click on check stock levels and a list of stores that have copies is displayed. Reading down the list then I was pleasantly surprised to see several stores that I did not know had copies - such as Lakeside in Essex and surprisingly also Harrods (don't know how they heard about it!).

I was also though disappointed to see a large number that had told me they had ordered were not on the list! It is true that some who ordered early on may have returned their copies - I know of at least one shop that has done this, but it shouldn't be this many, as most only ordered in November or December. I rang a couple of the local ones anyway and explained what had happened and they all said that despite my being told they would order copies, they had not done so. Well now they have ...

Why do they do this though - I mean, I understand that they are busy and get distracted and sometimes might forget, but that's the reason that I send emails out thanking them for their custom, as these also serve as a reminder .... It just annoys me that now I am going to have to email them all again trying to find out what has happened, and then ring them all up. I don't have the time to do this when I work four days a week. Why don't people do things when they say they are going to!

The good news though is that Waterstones as a company have now sold 72 copies through their tills - this is 6 more than when I last asked 10 days ago. If I can keep this up for another 3 months or so, I stand a good chance of the book being taken as core stock. Must ring Staines at some point then and follow up that email I sent to them, and get back in touch with Simon and Tim from the Big Green Bookshop to thank them for explaining how core stock works . There is nothing about this at all on Waterstones website, but then I wouldn't expect to find it there anyway, since the site is aimed more at book buyers than book writers. That may be changing soon though if my previous post is anything to go by.

It seems ironic though, at a time that Waterstones as a company seem to be doing so well (must be all those copies of Genesis of Man they are selling), that they are closing more stores. The latest casualty is the High Street branch in Inverness. Thankfully this is not the one that I am stocked in in that fair city. They hope to redeploy the 10 staff elsewhere in the company, although given its highland location and the lack of neighbouring stores, unless the entire staff of Eastgate Inverness walk out, this may be difficult.

It sounds like the new Borders website will be one to look at also, as the company has some impressive things lined up. These include over 100 author interviews which the public will be able to access when they click on the relevant links to the author in questions work. The site, which goes live this spring, will also enable readers to upload videos of themselves reviewing books (I wonder if authors will be able to do this and talk about their own work).

The website content will also appear in a daily programme broadcast on the Simply TV satellite channel, hosted by Nina Sebastiane, a former host of Loose Women, one of my favourite lunch time shows, and and ex-VH1 presenter Samantha Norman.

This will definitely be one to watch and will certainly give both Waterstones and WH Smiths a run for their money. Waterstones I suspect though will still reign supreme, since most of their outlets are on the High Street whereas the majority of Borders are located in retail parks on out of town sites, which you would expect to be favoured by an American owned company. I am yet to try that many of their branches, but have made inroads in a few of them.

Oh well, off the gym and to give blood and then back to work again tomorrow. Two weeks tomorrow until I go back to Lundy as well - my little island refuge. It can't come soon enough.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Three cheers for Waterstones!

At last a book retailer has come out and publicly acknowledged the role that writers play in the running of their business - namely that without us they would not have one. The retailer in question is of course Waterstones - the largest book chain in the UK with some 220 odd branches - almost half of which I am proud to say, my own book can be found in.

The retailer has taken the bold step of running a year long campaign celebrating writers in the form of what they call 'Writers Year'. This will feature amongst other things, a promotional campaign selected by an author (yes you did read that right), a bursary for a budding writer (let's hope this is not confined as usual to novelists) and a celebration of local titles. These will I assume vary then from branch to branch - I wonder if my local branch will be interested in mine now I have introduced myself to the manager and sold at least two copies through their store - possibly in fact more?

The campaign was unveiled at the chain's supplier conference at Bafta in London on Friday 18th January. Waterstones plan to run a different event each month throughout the year celebrating the art of writing. This kicks off in January - this month in fact, with the Waterstone's Guide to Getting Published which is to be launched on their website. This will be launched later this week, so I must remember to have a look and see if I can some comments.

In May an author (who remains to be seen) will select 40 titles for the Writer's Table promotion. Waterstone's said the campaign would be "the perfect opportunity for a writer to go public about the books and authors that shaped their writing and share these titles with their readers". In April Waterstone's staff will have the chance to win a week at a writing course run by writing foundation Arvon. The two winners will be selected by a panel of Waterstone's staff and industry experts. Maybe I will apply for that full time job I saw advertised in my local branch after all ...