It’s the week of the London Book Fair: let’s all gather in a couple of big sheds and talk about books. Let’s do business: let’s trade, persuade, pitch, shell out. Let’s get high on the last great book we read. Let’s flog stuff: let’s make money.
Let us be lovers of literature! Let’s spread good things amongst one another, so that we can each pass them on to a hundred thousand more people. Let’s work out what will thrill the hearts of a world of readers, two years from now. Let’s remember the first book we loved, let’s celebrate our shared passions, let’s get nostalgic over last year’s bestseller. Remember that one? Did you like it? Did you finish it? Did you buy it?
Let’s stuff portfolios, create iPad slideshows, torture plot summaries, make blow ups of jacket roughs. We’ll hover by agents’ tables, wondering if we’re in the right place; we’ll rush from shed to shed, remembering our alphabets, remembering how to count, remembering where the fucking escalator is.
Let’s argue with the guards outside the International Rights Centre, let’s fold our meeting schedule print outs over and over and put them in which pocket? Let’s look at the laminated ones with wonder. Let’s correct the spelling of our badges, or not; wear our colleague’s, or not.
Shall we throng in the bars, stay up too late, raise a glass to the good times, eat bad sandwiches, go yellow under artificial light, bang bodies in the queue for the Ladies? Let’s get red-eyed with the late nights, the jetlag, the smoke from the French cigarettes. Shall we share our misfortunes like kids in detention, mugging it, loving it?
Someone’s got the book of the Fair; someone’s pre-empting it, seven countries are buying it, the girl standing next to me at the bar couldn’t stand it. Slog on, fellow salespeople, flog on, each deal is a brick in the walls of your author’s house. Take your basket of rights to market and sell them one by one.
Let’s doze on the tube, let’s go broke on cabs: we could get delayed on a flight together and listen to old music on your iPhone. Let’s eat hotel breakfasts, bananas and free chocolate; let’s split the plastic water cups, let’s drink too much coffee and eat breath mints for lunch. Tonight dinner is peanuts, Chinese crackers, Twiglets, and other indigestible snacks, with poor wine and good company, falling off the pedestal of the last small stand to be noisy tonight.
Let’s talk, for twenty minutes of every thirty minute meeting, and hope our meeting date is listening. Let’s rave about the same book one hundred times, let’s make comparisons, let’s pounce on excitement, let’s talk about how we feel when we read it. Shall we not do what I did, when every time I pitched a certain novel, I started crying? (It worked, what the hell, good Fair.)
Let’s put a value on everything we love and all we don’t, let’s barter, let’s push, let’s slap some bills down, let’s get demanding, let’s fight. Let’s make friends and piss them off this week and then get over it. Let’s gossip, promote, hype, agent, articulate, interrupt.
Let’s talk about books, shall we? We have stories to tell. We have great authors to work for. Let’s go to the London Book Fair. See you there.