Questions You Shouldn’t Ask and Answers You Don’t Want to Hear!

THINGS NOT TO SAY TO PUBLISHERS. EVER.

‘You’re so lucky. All you have to do all day is sit and read wonderful stories—for free.’

‘Here’s something I’ve written. So, when’s the launch?’

‘Let me tell you the purpose behind my writing.’

‘People have always told me I have a book inside me.’

‘I know it’s three in the morning but I can’t sleep wondering what you thought of my work.’

‘I’d like to know exactly why you rejected my manuscript. Be brutal.’

‘I see. So why don’t you fix it?’

‘But the last two books you released were such crap! Why can’t you do just one more?’

‘Okay, so you don’t want it. Can you recommend it to some other publishers?’

‘I heard you paid another writer twenty-nine times this amount. Why?’

‘What do you mean all submissions have to undergo “costing”’?

‘Can my mother design the cover?’

‘There are no copies of my book available in my cornershop.’

‘There’s a typo somewhere on page 354. How do I explain my anguish?’

‘Sorry, can’t make the deadline. I’m stuck for a word/my wife doesn’t understand me/my son’s been discovered to have been smoking strange substances.’

‘What problems could you possibly have?’

‘Why?’

THINGS WESTLAND NEVER SAYS. NEVER.* (*In order of the above)

‘Excuse us, did you say “lucky”? Do you know, when we see you approach us at parties and the like, with no introduction but clear intent, we duck behind the nearest jardinière lest you ask us what we do?’

‘Er, do we get to read it first?’

‘And will you be standing behind the shelves to sing your little piece to each browser there?’

‘There’s surgery for that.’

‘Thanks awfully for waking me up. I think I just had a nightmare.’

‘It has been written, so far as we can see, in some forgotten dialect from Outer Mongolia, and we don’t think there are buyers for that.’

‘No can do. None of us will live that long.’

‘Don’t want to make a hat-trick of it.’

‘What do we tell them? “Not good enough for us, but this muck is just up your street”?’

‘You don’t want to know.’

‘It’s a simple method, although it takes hours to figure out, which enables us to arrive at a rough—and usually inaccurate—projection of how many copies your book will sell.’

‘Is your mother anything like you?’

‘They threw out our salesmen for asking them to stock it for the umpteenth time.’

‘P.G. Wodehouse, in his poem ‘Printer’s Devil’, had a simple solution to that: he shot his publisher dead.’

‘And we thought only we had problems.’

‘For the answer, read Wodehouse’s (idem) short story ‘Mr Potter Takes a Rest Cure’.

‘It’s about a completely guiltless and committed publisher whose writers drive him to a nervous breakdown.’

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