The Author In Decline

Christopher Fowler
'Word Monkey', my third and final memoir, will be about writing - not about how you become a debut author but what you do next, and next after that. It's something few people are prepared to discuss. We always hear about the muse and the imagination but rarely about making a living in this peculiar fashion. But it's also about writers, reading, friends, family and how events can hijack your best-laid plans. I've had some wonderful publishers' launches over the years, but what's often lacking is any follow-up after the launch. With different-sized publishing houses you know what you're getting - some don't publicise your book at all - and of course no authors are ever happy with the service, with the exception of Richard Osman, who I imagine can't believe his luck. With that in mind, here's a piece of extremely scientific research I recently conducted for the book.

The Decline In Author Status According To Publishers' Gifts Sent on Publication Day

A yacht (NB only applies to JK Rowling and Richard Osman) Launch party at glamorous venue attended by obsequious media-twerps Champagne dinner in fancy restaurant Launch party in pub Lunch in café next door to publisher's office Buffet hosted by PR girl who gets name of book wrong Bottle of champagne hand-delivered to your door Bottle of prosecco delivered by Royal Mail (ie. lost) Bottle of wine from vintner who supplies all publisher's parties on the cheap Box of wine Box of quality chocolates Box of Quality Street chocolates Box of macaroons originally ordered for teen social influencer who wrote a book and killed herself Congratulatory card Congratulatory text Generated SMS text with your name misspelled NOTHING


Jo W (not verified) Mon, 13/06/2022 - 07:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I’ve saved a few empty wine bottles and crisp packets, will they do?
Signed - a (slightly) deranged reader. ;-)

Paul C (not verified) Mon, 13/06/2022 - 09:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Really can't wait for Word Monkey. To this heretic your non-fiction books are your best work - Esp Paperboy and Film Freak which are terrific.

Just been reading about the luxurious London launch parties of the 1980s in John Walsh's new memoir 'Circus of Dreams' which is hugely enjoyable. Walsh worked for the Independent and Sunday Times on the books pages and
has many anecdotes of celebrated writers and publishers

One of my clients sent me a woolly hat with his company logo on last Xmas. Gee, thanks...

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Mon, 13/06/2022 - 11:28

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Maybe these guys are on to something. From Kickstarter --- the crowdfunding platform. Without comment...

'Josh Gondelman and Joe Berkowitz wrote a book, and it's about to come out! 'You Blew It: An Awkward Guide To The Many Ways In Which You've Already Ruined Your Life' is about the social, romantic, and professional disasters that befall us all. To celebrate, they're throwing the worst party of all time as a book launch.

This party is definitely happening. It's free and open to the public. But just how terrible it is is up to you, our Kickstarter backers. Your money goes directly to room-temperature beverages, vile-tasting snacks, tacky decorations, and unpleasant background music. We'll have a megaphone for attendees to announce when they arrive and depart, so no late entrance or Irish goodbye goes unnoticed.

Also, if we reach $1,000 in funding, we will hire a clown to appear at the party. An honest to goodness clown'.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Mon, 13/06/2022 - 11:59

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

PS: The book ‘You Blew It: An Awkward Guide To The Many Ways In Which You’ve Already Ruined Your Life’ was published seven years ago. The authors met their funding goal so presumably there was a clown but, no word on exactly how terrible the launch party was. The concept seems to have caught on --- however unconsciously --- within the 'uncomfortable' to 'what is this beverage ?' range.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Mon, 13/06/2022 - 17:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

How much influence on anything do launch parties have? I can see the author really wanting to celebrate the actual existence of this book they've been nursing and suffering over for what seems like forever and book columnists may require notice about new titles (and who doesn't enjoy a free drink and snack?) but in general how much influence do these events have on sales or interest? I say that as someone living in another country who will buy most things this author writes (Didn't buy Film Freak because I'm not a film person and all the names and titles would be almost meaningless to me) but do the events influence potential followers? Or are they really aimed at book reviewers in the hope that a splashy event will result in good press coverage? Well, obviously yes to start, but should it start momentum and if not then what?

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Mon, 13/06/2022 - 18:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

With austerity measures rippling through the publishing industry, you may actually feel yourself lucky to have received 'NOTHING.' You could have been asked to share the spotlight at a Bar Mitzvah or wedding celebration.

snowy (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 01:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Methinks creatives doth protest a bit too much.....

For being forced to listen to a Sales droid blah on and on for 6 hours about the dubious benefits of machinery he was pushing, I received a toasted cheese sandwich, that managed to be charred black around the edges and still cold in the middle.

For doing something clever at a financial institution, during which all the test equipment started floating at half mains potential, I was given a two day old sandwich from a newsagents in Threadneedle street. [Standing on 3 telephone directories and 6 folded copies of the FT made the belt received from touching the kit tolerable].

For 4 nights fixing a problem in a TV studio, I was given exactly one cup of very nice coffee, [and one cup of instant so utterly vile I declined any further offers].

To actually implement a piece of technology that had been heralded for 60 years, I had to skitter about on a damp, sloping slate roof 4 floors up without a harness or safety rope to align the equipment, [We upset the Exec chef of the venue booked for the launch, just by being there, and so there were no offers of any post service left-overs - having seen inside the kitchen, I didn't feel I was missing out].

To do a technical thing involving a millionaire's train set, I had to stand in the bucket of a JCB 20' off the ground and chip 6" of soot off 100 yards of tunnel; and then I had to pay for my own bacon sandwich.

[After 8 hours of that I could have reformed the George Mitchell singers with the contents of my socks].

Glasgow1975 (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 11:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Is this your way of letting us know there won't be a lovely spread in OK! featuring Dame Joan Collins, Liz Hurley and Baby Spice?

Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 13:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

NHS workers got a clap on doorsteps, which seems to have been replaced pretty quickly with being told how lazy they are.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 13:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@snowy Would have thought you would have learned to keep an emergency marmalade sarnie about your person like the Queen (and Paddington). As this alien-type creature working with unseen subatomic particles and strange, mystical code, not surprised you were not fed. Your employers were probably not sure what you feed on and, in any event, wanted to see you off the premises tout de suite. Also, if I may be so bold --- I suggest giving birth to a half kilo bundle of words after a lengthy gestation period trumps skittering about a roof --- damp and sloping thought it may be --- unless, of course, it's me who's doing the skittering, then all bets are off.

Paul C (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 15:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A colleague of mine recently rose at dawn to drive from Newcastle to Derby for a business meeting (a round trip of almost 400 miles) and wasn't even offered a cup of tea during the hour-long meeting. This happens a lot.

Christopher Fowler Tue, 14/06/2022 - 16:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy, you win in the Rubbish Repast stakes, but Paul, presumably such a trip is now unnecessary thanks to 'The Zoom' as Mr Bryant would call it?

Frances (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 17:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have never been to a book launch but have attended a fair number of artists' exhibition openings. If it is a morning event you get a choice of orange juice or a mimosa. A very valued artist (by the gallery) might even have a sit down lunch for a couple of dozen people - catered and in the gallery itself. In the evening it is usually just a glass of wine, never enough to go around. But all exhibitions have some sort of official launch. The less well known the artist, the more invitations go out and some just let the general public wander in. You never know. The better known the artist, and the more money they bring in, the smaller the list of invitations as it is basically people who have bought the artist's work before. The conversations usually start with, "How many do you own?". Imagine if all of us who have bought your books turned up to your next book launch! I am sure we could arrange something.

Joel (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 17:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@ cornelia that is just a shame. even though, yes, it is their job, for most of them, it is a calling to care for their fellow human beings...and they go through incredible amounts of stress that non medical people simply don't understand (exposure to disease, sometimes vast amounts of time away from family, hostile families of patients, etc)...i did medical for 20 years, and enjoyed the elderly, simply because 95% of them, even on their worst day were appreciative of the help and humor i tried to provide...young people up to say 50, were generally entitled, dismissive, and selfish...so i stayed with my old ladies and had a good time...and the occasional smiles and hugs from them were the best thing i could have received (cuz lord knows the pay was and still is crap).

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 19:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Joel, I agree with you generally and can't believe I lost it completely with a head nurse two years ago. I realized that there must be a check list and if the patient checks the boxes (can dress, feed and toilet themselves, and are not running a fever) then they are released to home regardless of whether any amelioration or diagnosis of original condition has transpired or not. Is there anyone else who finds the phrase "I'm sorry you feel that way," to be infuriating in that situation? I was terrified that my husband was being released just before Christmas and no one could tell me what was happening or what I could do about it.

SteveB (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 19:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Box of macaroons originally ordered for teen social influencer who wrote a book and killed herself

Where'd that come from???

SteveB (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 19:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Box of macaroons originally ordered for teen social influencer who wrote a book and killed herself

Where'd that one come from???

Jo+e (not verified) Tue, 14/06/2022 - 21:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

One thing that Zoom meetings have ended is the rather bizarre buffet lunches that are served up at business meetings. There seems to be no consistent theme or menu to these and inevitably spread out on the table are:
Fish sandwiches
Teriyaki chicken on a long stick (cold)
Sausages on a short stick (hot)
Curry (hottish but of indeterminate flavour)
Hoola hoops (presumably the potato bit)
Lettuce (warm)
Biscuits (4 bourbon, 4 digestive, 2 jammie dodgers, but not real ones)
Grapes (forlorn)
Then there is the debate about which is worse, the coffee or the tea. Water is a safe bet I find.

A box of chocolates, a bottle of champagne or lunch in a pub, cafe or restaurant sound pretty good to me by comparison. Anyway I thought launch parties were basically just bribing people to write nice things about you/it so you may have got the wrong end of the stick here.

Peter T (not verified) Wed, 15/06/2022 - 09:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Has an author ever bought a publisher? And fired the staff who rejected his early work?

Alan R (not verified) Wed, 15/06/2022 - 16:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My wife and I were invited to a Wilbur Smith book launch many years ago. He was "hot" at the time in South Africa. It was a sad lunchtime affair on a wine farm outside Cape Town and I felt sorry for the great man having to sit through it. I could not understand what the objective of the launch was - and not being media twerps - why we were invited. I bought the book and had it signed. I felt obliged. I would have brought the book anyway.
For example, the money spent on the launch would have been better used by taking out an ad in national consumer and trade magazines and trade-exchanging the media spend for positive reviews within the magazines' editorial content. Buy great reviews that reach thousands of people. Not wasting money on feeding my wife and me and 30 others with tepid Waterblommetjie Bredie. I would have preferred Quality Street or Maccy Ds.

The Waterblommetjie Bredie upset my stomach badly, resulting in a very unpleasant and uncomfortable 1-hour ride home for my wife.

Joel (not verified) Wed, 15/06/2022 - 16:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@ Helen that has happened with my parents a few times, being discharged, and still having questions and concerns...i wasn't able to be there to help them, which sucked...preparing people for discharge should definitely involve assistance...suggestions on where to get equipment...home health care, etc...and at least here in california, there is such an almighty rush to get people out because people have been waiting literally up to 10-12 hours for a room, that that kind of care is not always there

Roger (not verified) Wed, 15/06/2022 - 21:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Peter T: J.P. Donleavy ended up owning the first publisher of The Ginger Man because they pushed it as pornography (it was the Olympia Press, so what did he expect?) and cheated him of his royalties and he took up revenge as a hobby and drove the owner into bankruptcy.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Wed, 15/06/2022 - 23:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Alan R Alan. I had the dubious pleasure of sampling Waterblommetjie Bredie (cooked within an inch of its life) myself a number of moons ago in Cape Town. I say 'sampling" since all I could take was a few, polite mouthfuls --- before feigning satiety from too many beers and Kelewele.. Although I have to say that the taste of waterblommetjies themselves isn't bad.

Andrea Yang (not verified) Thu, 16/06/2022 - 14:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Peter T 's comment about buying a publisher that rejected you would make a good novel or movie.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 17/06/2022 - 18:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Andrea Yang, wouldn't it just!