Saturday, 6 February 2010
Publication Day - the biggest myth going Karen Ball
There are lots of myths that surround the life of a writer. That we earn lots of money. That we have lived every experience we write about. That ideas are easy or that we are kind and friendly people who pat children on the head and have a stash of chocolate in our pockets to hand out whenever meeting a new fan. All wrong. (Well, in my case at least. I give chocolate to no one.)
There's another myth that does the rounds, but one that is possibly less discussed. Publication day. You know that all important day when your book hits the shelves in a riot of publicity and promotion? Your publisher takes you out for a champagne dinner, fans queue up around the block, your parents weep with pride and the first editions become immediately priceless. That's the way it works, right? Possibly for some people. My publication days have always been quiet. I know several of you enjoy 24 hours that are full of flowers, interviews, attention, joy and activity, but I hazard a guess that even then there is something uniquely isolating about being the only person at the eye of the storm.
So, what is publication day? Usually in the middle of the month, but it could be one of any number between 1 and 31. It doesn't really matter to me, as not much happens. I get up, have some breakfast, get on with the day. If I'm feeling reckless, I'll wander into a bookshop to see if I can spot a copy of my book, but I know that's a dangerous dance with the devil. There might be a card from the publisher. But often, the day continues much as any other. This momentous event that has been creeping up on me for months and months turns out to be ... well, not so very momentous after all.
I have similair issues with the day you find out your book is going to be published. That phone call or email after an acquisitions meeting is possibly one of the moments of purest delight I've ever known. But then what happens? When I took the call saying my first novel was going to be published, I was cycling home. I pulled over, wrestled my mobile to my ear with sweaty palms, tried to sound like a Professional Author rather than harassed cyclist, then when the phone call was over, I... Did a dance? Pulled strangers to me and kissed them? Threw my bike aside and went out for an evening of debauchery? No, I put my feet back on the pedals, cycled the rest of the way home, made a few phone calls and watched Eastenders. This really big moment in my career remained caught up with the mundane details of my workaday life. I am certain I was tucked up in bed by 10.30pm, ready for the next day in the office.
Is this one of a writer's biggest secrets? There's a hole in the middle of the polo. A writer's world exists largely in the mind, and never is that more obvious than when real, concrete things are happening - somewhere else. In a meeting or a warehouse or a bookshop but not in my home and not in front of me. 'What does it feel like to be published?' people ask. I don't know. Publication is what happens somewhere, out there, in the ether. Perhaps it's all a big dupe. Perhaps none of us are really published at all? Perhaps... Oh no, I'm veering into conspiracy theory territory. No one would do that to us, would they? Kid us, I mean?
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