Those of you who have read part 1 of the Great Train Giveaway were left on a cliff-hanger. Neil’s idea for me to leave books on trains was dependent on whether I actually had any physical books to leave, bearing in mind that my book was only available as a download online. Having spent virtually my entire budget on sandwiches, I knew that what was left would not stretch to leaving a Kindle or an i-pad on 50 different trains. (I think you can see now how my acute business sense and financial acumen was beginning to come into play). So I did what a lot of people had asked me to do when I self-published and arranged to have printed versions of my book.
It was not a straightforward task: I was beginning to regret turning down the hundreds of literary agents who had begged me to let them publish my book... ahem.
I won’t go into full details here but, suffice to say that, I could now put understanding printing terminology into my pouch with the others strings that I could not yet attach to my bow. The enormity of what I was getting into by self-publishing struck me during this phase when I was floundering around trying to make decisions about trim size, the width of the binding, the type of paper, the finish and the acceptability, or otherwise, of a jpeg file for the front cover. I could have thrown lots of money at it: there are plenty of companies out there who would willingly take on the whole process from editing right the way through to promising copies of your book appearing in Waterstones. But that was not what I wanted so I shopped around and did most of it myself, the result of which was I ended up with 120 copies of my book and a hard copy format available on Amazon... eventually.
The time for the publicity push was fast approaching. Neil had suggested doing it during the late summer – the so-called ‘silly season’ when not much happens and newspapers scrape around for stories. Much to my surprise, the 120 copies I had ordered were snapped up by friends, relatives, and at the odd talk I gave. It was then I realised that I really ought to attach a more basic string called ‘counting’ to my bow because I was running out of books. I needed to take action... and quickly.
Feeling a bit like a publishing mogul in a big media company of the 1920s, I called my secretary in. The conversation went like this:
(Me, standing at desk looking out the window, big cigar in one hand and picture of book in the other. Secretary enters)
Me: Get me Hank from printing on the blower, will ya?
Secretary: Sure thing, Mister Hornett.
Me: And make it snappy. Hornett from accounts has messed up the print order.
Secretary: Right away, Mister Hornett.
Me: (Picks up phone) Hey, Hank? Listen, I need another order of 100 copies of Quarton: The Bridge and I need it last week... (Raises voice). Don’t talk to me about print runs, batches and Jpeg files, I’ve a deadline to meet... Yeah, well, you’ll just have to get them back from vacation then, won’t ya? (Puts hand over mouthpiece as Secretary enters with a plate of sandwiches and puts them on the desk).
Secretary: (nervously) Will there be anything else, Mister Hornett?
Me: Yeah. Tell Hornett from marketing that I want him in my office at 3 O’clock sharp and while you’re at it, get the legal team to run over the copyright laws and check the ISBN’s been sorted.
Secretary: We don’t have a marketing team or a legal team, Mister Hornett.
Me: Really? Since when? Oh, never mind – I’ll do it myself. Hank? Yeah... 5 weeks? You kidding me? Well, I guess that’ll have to do. (Slams phone down and starts to put coat on).
Secretary: Are you leaving, Mister Hornett?
Me: Yeah, I’m outta here. (Picks up the plate of sandwiches). I’m having lunch with my publicist... We’ve got a Great Train Giveaway to organise.
Following another meeting, Neil and I put the finishing touches to the postcard I was to leave with the books on the train. The original idea was to offer a prize to the person who found a book and took it on the longest journey but we felt that it detracted from the spontaneity of having a free book (and, anyway, the legal department were getting in a bit of a twist about competition rules). It simply said that the book was now theirs (whoever found it), asked them to read it, post about it and leave a review. My contact details were on the card too.
The next batch of books arrived in time, so, after setting the date, I was ready, for now, to abandon my bows and strings and any more cheesy metaphors.
It was time to take the plunge and leave the nest. I had a train to catch.