Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The perils of authorship

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Last week the Nielsen Independent Booksellers ratings on the country’s Top 20 bestselling books had Bob Francis; A Story of My Town at number one. The book was up against Dan Carter: My Story which came in at number three and international superstar author Bill Bryson’s latest offering which was at four.

Local author, sports writer and district councillor Gary Caffell made a superb job of weaving the tale of Francis’s incredible life story.

The book chronicles the raft of issues facing Masterton’s longest-serving mayor which includes the Judd’s Road murders and the firebombing of a policeman’s house, but the tome has more depth and substance to it than these two widely-publicised issues.

Bob got involved in leading and supporting major strategies to combat significant social issues in the town which included gang problems, domestic violence, and poor parenting. He worked on initiating employment opportunities, had a real passion for the less fortunate and there are a great many facilities for Masterton’s citizens to enjoy thanks to the hard-working mayor’s drive and enthusiasm.

The books wider appeal will have been enhanced by the faithful recording of his stellar career as a rugby referee. He went on to become an international referee assessor and was a member of the referee selection panel at two World Cups. Devotees of our national sport in this rugby-mad nation will find the last thirty pages of the book absorbing.

However I would caution Mr Caffell and Mr Francis about going out and ordering new BMW’s at this critical stage, despite the books early success.

I have had some involvement in writing books. I’ve written two and they’re not necessarily goldmines; though to be fair mine were never in the same league as this one. Back in 2006, I wrote One Man’s Meat and sold out of all copies printed which was a first run of 600, but neither fame nor fortune followed. The all-up cost to produce the books was $10,000, but the return to the author after attendant costs had been paid was half that, leaving me $5000 out of pocket.

I was reminded of Mr Micawber's oft-quoted recipe for happiness as espoused in Charles Dickens’ book David Copperfield. “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen shillings and sixpence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and sixpence, result misery.”

I went to my bank manager and asked, “How do I stand for a loan?”

He said, “You don’t, you kneel.”

Surprisingly my first book, published in 1976, did produce a creditable profit. It was a book for the meat trade written in conjunction with my accountant Colin Croskery and was sold to pretty well all of the country’s butchers. It was a commercial success because we managed to convince suppliers to the industry to advertise in it.

Mr Micawber would have been proud of us.

Just after One Man’s Meat hit the bookstands I was stopped in the street by a fellow who told me: “From the moment I picked up your book until the moment I put it down, I could not stop laughing.”

“Someday,” he went on, “I hope to read it.”

I should have quit writing while I was ahead.

I asked my publisher what would happen if he sold all the copies of my book he had printed. He said, “I’ll just print another ten.” - Eric Sykes.


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