Friday, September 27, 2013

Adventures in the book trade

I was summoned to a 10 a.m. meeting in Auckland yesterday to discuss the page proofs – of a commissioned non-fiction book I am editing – with its Subject and Designer. The plan was we would spend an hour going over last-minute possible modifications and then, once Designer and I had finished work, press the print button on Monday so the book would be done, dusted and delivered before Christmas.

For me to get to Auckland is a two-hour drive, ditto for the return and no, I do not get paid mileage. It also involves major negotiation about after-school care for the children. That’s all part of being a freelancer in the NZ publishing industry. No complaints. But….

When I got to the meeting the Subject picked up the page-proofs and said, “Hey, guys, I haven’t had time to look at this. Been real busy. I’m flying out to New York tomorrow for two weeks so I’ll have a look on the plane or something and get back to you. But,” he said, leafing through the pages, “could you crop this photo differently and lose a bit of the foreground? Can you Photoshop that one to make that bit over there darker?” And so on. “We’re probably not going to get it out before Christmas now, are we?”

Designer and I were very restrained, very polite. We did not shout, we did not swear. We simply went back to her place and had strong coffee and shouted and swore in private. He could have said thanks for coming, he could have said sorry. But he is the Subject so he did not need to for Designer and I are minions and he is important and entitled to waste our time.  

Then I went into the CBD for the lunch with writer and journalist friends I had arranged so as not to make the day the complete waste of time I had presciently suspected it would be.

The good news: Poet has an offer from Carcanet (top UK publisher) for a new collection, and Novelist has a two-book contract from a multinational publisher to complete his trilogy. We had champagne. It’s not all bad news in publishing.

I went to Auckland with bags of limes from my tree for Designer, Novelist and Journalist, and returned with a bag of red onions (Designer comes from a long line of market gardeners).  Swings and roundabouts, roundabouts and swings. Plus a lot of limes.

So here is Harry Nilsson with “Put the Lime in the Coconut” from his 1971 hit album Nilsson Schmilsson.

Baffling to me now, but this was the first song my first band played in the Kiwi Tavern some time in the mid-70s. Maybe because it has just one chord. Peter White, later Lez White of Th’ Dudes, was on bass; Co Tipping (if ever you are in Melbourne, you should go see him play: he is amazing) and I plugged our two guitars into my one-hundred watt Gunn amp. Talk about low-budget. Dave McArtney of Hello Sailor, the band that ruled the venue, watched from the bar with a sardonic expression.

Equally baffling to me now, a totally hot chick chatted me up during the break. She was doing real well until she asked me what my star sign was. Bah.

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