Sunday, 10 August 2008

Living with Caligula

It's not all champagne and canapes being a writer.

'Will you sign fifty of your novels for a specialist books company?' Naturally the answer has to be yes - a signed book is a sold book, as the manageress of one store told me recently.
Yet in that simple sentence lurked a boobytrap that turned my Saturday into an episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (a seventies sitcome starring Michael Crawford, for those of you too young to remember).
First, I wasn't in when they arrived, so the books were sent to the local post office. A minor problem, since it's just around the corner? Not quite. Have you any idea how much fifty books weigh? The size of box they come in? Still, I managed to get home - after about ten stops - covered in sweat and wondering what would go first, my back or my legs.
Open the box and there are no visible instructions, just two stacks of books in bubble wrap - miles of bubble wrap. These things are sold in pristine condition, so they have to be protected and I'd have to be careful how I handled them. So I got the first stack unwrapped - 25 books, twenty feet of bubble wrap. A quick signature on each book and we'll put the first batch back in the box. I don't suppose you've ever tried to wrap 25 books, stacked just so, in twenty feet of bubble wrap. It was only on the sixth attempt, with books all over the place, that it dawned on me that these things had originally been wrapped by a machine. Eventually it took two of us half an hour to get them wrapped anything remotely like they were. And still another 25 to go.
I wasn't going through that again, so I worked out that I could get at the books one at a time from the side. It was finicky and time-consuming, but at least they'd go back easily enough.
I was about five books from the end when I found the note cunningly concealed between two of them.

Dear Doug, thanks for agreeing ... lah di da ... our customers have requested that you sign, date and add a short quote from the book. Date! Quote!

The first 25 books still lie in their untidy bubble wrap cocoon, signed, but not dated or quoted. I'll get round to them eventually, but I still haven't worked out how I'll get them all back in the box, or, come to think of it, how to get the box back to the post office. Anybody know any Olympic weightlifters?

On a cheerier note, the books seem to be selling well and my old paper, The Southern Reporter did a great piece on me this week, you can read it here


Emerging Writer said...

that's really funny. Bet JK Rowling would have had them delivered.

Lexi said...

That made me laugh. You must invest in a folding trolley...

I read about one author who had to go to a warehouse and sign one thousand books.

I think I'd forget how to spell my name after a while...