Archive for the ‘money money money’ Category

Man Awareness Day

Monday, March 20th, 2017

The walls along the hallway up to the Peirene office are plastered with handwritten posters.16425639595_fc27633128_z

‘Men are beautiful.’

‘Men are smart and intelligent.’

‘Men constitute half of the human race. Treat them with respect.’

‘Men aren’t workhorses.’

‘Men have rights.’

‘Men need weekends.’

In between the posters, photos of men of all colour, ages and shapes have been hung. And when I enter the office, Peirene greets me wearing a big ginger bread heart around her neck: ‘I love men.’

I ignore her. I’ve been working ten days without a break – editing The Cut, attending the London Bookfair, and updating the accounts – and I have another busy week ahead. I don’t fancy wasting my time with some Nymph’s gimmick. I turn on my computer and settle down to work.

‘It’s Man Awareness Day in this office today,’ I hear Peirene eventually say.

‘I noticed,’ I reply dryly.

‘Don’t you want to know why?’ she enquires after another pause.

I shrug my shoulders without lifting my eyes off the screen. ‘Go on then.’ I know that she will tell my anyway.

‘It’s for your benefit,’ she announces.  ‘Your treatment of men have lately been alarming. I worry that human rights organisations might soon be knocking on our door.’

I turn to her in amazement. I’m not aware that I have mistreated anyone.

‘I don’t want to list all your misdemeanours. It is enough to draw your attention to the two most recent. First you compel Anthony to write The Cut in record time – showing absolutely no mercy – he probably hasn’t slept for the last two weeks. And then on Saturday morning you woke up your husband at 8am and made him compile the royalty statements for the next 36 hours. The poor, poor man!’

‘But he wanted to help me,’ I defend myself.  ‘We do the royalty statements together each year.’

‘Does he have a choice? Would you be happy if he’d say no?’

I shake my head.

‘There you go!’ The Nymph clearly feels she has landed a knock-out punch.

‘So, what do you suggest I should do from now on?’

‘Be nicer to men.’

‘So are you going to do the royalty statements with me next time?’ I smile, intrigued to hear Peirene’s reply.

‘Me?’ She suddenly turns pale, hesitates for a moment. ‘Well… I’m not sure I’m as good with spreadsheets as your husband… so maybe … he should carry on.’ Then she rallies ‘But that makes Man Awareness Day even more important. If we want them to help us we need to make them feel special.’

I can see this point. She carries on.

‘And today our favourite men will receive a ginger-bread heart as a reward. But perhaps we could start by tasting them ourselves.’ She breaks one in half . ‘I baked them myself. They’re delicious.’

Image by Nico Kaiser, creative commons.

A New Chair

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

‘Look I have a new chair. And it’s so wonderful at swiveling around. Wheeeeh,’. Peirene gives herself a big push and turns in circles.photo

‘That’s my new chair,’ I shriek in horror, leap forward and stop the Nymph from turning. ‘Don’t do that. That’s how you damaged your old one.’ I tilt the chair forward so that Peirene is forced to get up and wheel it to my desk. ‘You can now have this one.’ I roll my old chair over to her.

‘I don’t want your hand-me-downs.’ Peirene pulls a face. ‘Your new one is much nicer. I’m sure it cost a fortune.’  She sits down on the floor cross-legged, rests her elbows on her thighs and her chin in her hands. ‘I’m officially on strike until I get a chair like yours,’ she announces.

I refrain from commenting. Her behaviour is utterly predictable. I was away last week on a writer’s retreat and now she is punishing me once again for leaving her alone. When will the Nymph finally grow up?! I sigh and sit down on my new chair. It was delivered while I was away. What a beauty! Soft and comfortable and yet it will prevent me from sloping forward, keeping my back straight and my shoulders back.

‘Anyway, it wasn’t me who broke the chair.’ Peirene says. I knew she wouldn’t keep quiet for long. She’s looking for trouble, I hear it in her voice. ’It was James.’ James is my new assistant.

‘James?’  I laugh out loud. ‘He doesn’t use chairs as a merry-go-round like you do.’

‘Oh yes he does. Last week while you were away that’s all he did.’

‘I don’t think so.’ I laugh again. ‘He was far too busy for that. He finished a long end-of project report for our EU funding from last year and he prepared our forthcoming half-term, half-price promotion.’

For a moment Peirene is quiet again. I can see her brooding over something else. But she’s now wasted enough of our time. I open my laptop, walk over, bend down and place it on the ground in front of her. ‘If you don’t go to the mountain, the mountain will come to you. We have a lot of work to do. Start by looking through the contracts for our 2017 books. They are now all ready to be signed.’ I’m about to turn away but then can’t help to add with a little mischievous smile: ‘And by the way, according to my yoga teacher, sitting on the floor is good for you. It opens your hips. Perhaps you don’t need a chair at all?’

Hero Worship

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

‘You have a lovely husband.’ Peirene takes the family photograph down from the shelf. She coos at the picture. ‘Would it be possible to have a6516591541_77d8e34a6d_z photo just of him – without you or the children in it?’

‘Peirene, have you arrived drunk at work?’ I furrow my brows. This is truly peculiar behaviour – even for my Nymph.

‘No,’ she replies absent-mindedly, as she is dismantling the picture frame. Sitting down with the photograph at her desk she brings it close up to her face.

‘I wonder if he is a mortal?’ She turns the photo to the left and the right, peering at it even more closely. ‘In fact, I think he might be an ancient Greek god.’

I laugh out loud. ‘He is no god. He’s got too many human flaws.’

‘How can you say that?!’ The Nymph shakes her head without averting her gaze from his image. ‘His only fault is that he married a human female who cannot see his true virtues.’

I walk over to her desk. No smell of alcohol. I put my hand on her forehead. No fever either.

‘So why this sudden appreciation for my husband?’ I ask.

‘Because he spent the entire weekend helping you to sort out the company spreadsheets and the 2014 royalty statements for all our books.’

I nod. ‘Yes. Indeed I told him that he is a spreadsheet hero.’

‘That’s just not good enough.’ She fastens the photo onto the wall behind her desk.  ‘He deserves to be worshiped.’ She takes a blank piece of paper and sticks it across the children and my image. Then she sends air kisses towards him and bows her head in silent adoration. I decide to let her be.

A few days later I discover that the photo is back in its frame and in its place on the shelf. ‘Has the god tumbled down to earth again? ‘ I enquire with a smile.

‘He certainly has.’

‘How did it happen?’

‘I nearly tripped over the open dishwasher. Only mortal men don’t know how to close dishwashers.’ She sounds disappointed. Then she perks up. ‘Still, I would like a photo of him – just of him, please. Even if imperfect, he is one of the best examples of his species.’

Image by Dee Ashely

Big Money Plans for 2015

Monday, January 19th, 2015

‘What are you doing?’ Peirene’s face appears over my shoulder. I am sitting at my desk, the company spreadsheet open on my screen.5929622407_dd7f0033e3_z

‘Counting up how many books we sold in 2014 so I can work out how much money we will donate to the Maya Centre this year.’ I reply in a preoccupied voice.

She brings her face closer to the screen and begins to run her finger down one of the columns.

‘Go away.’ I am irritated. The Nymph has to poke her nose into everything.

‘I just want to make sure that you are not overlooking any books. You know that the Maya Centre is important to me,’ Peirene says calmly without moving away an inch.

‘To me too. But it’s a complicated calculation,’ I justify my working outs. ‘There are the wholesaler, the bookshops, our website and the stalls.’ I am holding up four fingers. ‘And every now and again I miscount. So I have to start all over again.’

‘Hm,’ the Nymph mumbles, as she keeps her eyes firmly fixed on the screen. ‘Looks to me as if you haven’t added the figures from the Christmas stalls.’

For a few seconds I am silent. I’ve been found out. I feel the heat of embarrassment rise to my face.

‘OK.’ I eventually admit. ‘You are right.’ For a brief moment – but only for a very brief moment –  I had toyed with the idea of doctoring the figures. We sold a lot of books with the Roaming Store in 2014. But overall it was a tough year. Partly because we ran over 80 stalls and the operating costs are huge.’ I sigh. ‘But I will now include every single book that we’ve sold, just as we state in our promise to the Maya Centre. After all it’s for an important cause and I am proud that we support them.’

Peirene puts her hand on my shoulder. ‘And I’m proud of you.’ Then her face lits up with a mischievous smile. ‘And let me tell you how we can save some money this coming year.’ She begins to giggle. She seems to be very pleased with her idea. ‘You will have to man more stalls. That way we save extra staff cost, can sell more books and break even more quickly.’

‘Well, my dear Nymph. I have an even better idea.’ And now it’s my turn to giggle.  ‘You will be on a dress- and shoe-shopping ban for all of 2015. I think that will give our accounts a healthy boost indeed.’

Image by Images Money.

The Wrath of the Nymph

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Bad news of the week: our Arts Council funding application to take the Roaming Store to places outside London has been rejected. For the 4944293408_bc07cf51f0_zsecond time.

Apparently our application showed weakness in relation to our plans to ‘engage the public’.

‘I don’t believe it?!’ Peirene can hardly breathe when I show her the letter. ‘Weakness to engage the public?!’ Her voice is breaking.

‘Any other reason,’ she paces up and down the office.  ‘Any other reason I would have tolerated. But …’ Once again she begins to hyperventilate.

‘Calm down,’ I beg her. She shakes her head.

‘The entire roaming store is a public engagement.’ she cries in between breaths.  ‘Standing at markets, convincing people who would never go into a bookshop or look at the review pages to read foreign literature – what precisely do they call this if not public engagement. Our roaming store is the best, most efficient, public engagement tool ever invented.’

She suddenly falls silent, turns to the phone and picks up the receiver. My heart misses a beat. The Nymph is in no fit state to speak to anyone.

‘Who are your calling?’ I ask.

‘The Arts Council.’ Before she can dial the number, I’m next to her and take the receiver out of her hand.

‘You’re a coward,’ she protests.

‘They won’t change their mind.’ I pause. Then I continue: ‘I think the main challenge we have is that they don’t really understand the concept of our stalls. Even though we do our best to explain and send pictures. No other publisher does it, and certainly not in the organized fashion we do.’

Peirene sits down on the sofa. She suddenly looks deflated. ‘But I am so upset that once again we won’t have enough money to take our Roaming Store outside London. It’s such a pity.’

I nod in agreement ‘I wish one of their people would spend just a single day at our Roaming Store and see what we are achieving. I’m sure we’d get the money.’

The Nymph jumps up. ‘You are right. That’s what I am going to tell them.’

I push her gently back onto the sofa. ‘We’re going to take a deep breath.’ I bring my palms together in front of my heart and encourages Peirene to follow my example. ‘We’re going to be calm’. The Nymph half closes her eyes. ‘And then,’ we both look at each other, ‘we’re going to reapply.’

Image by JD Hancock.

The Cost of Glamour

Monday, January 27th, 2014

It’s January – the time of New Year’s resolutions. Many of us have decided that the time has finally come to be loved, valued and paid a fair price for our work. At Stage Door. Image by  slimmer_jimmerleast that is what the internet – always a good mood detector – tells us. Writers, translators and publishing colleagues have taken to twitter and to facebook to complain that they will no longer – never ever again – be exploited and asked to give anything for free, especially not readings and talks and articles.

I didn’t make such a New Year’s resolution. It didn’t even cross my mind.

Up to now I thought I was lucky. Last year I was paid money three times: for an article I wrote for The Guardian and for appearing at the Edinburgh Festival and the South Bank Centre. However, all in all I gave ten times as many readings and talks – 30 in total to be precise. In most cases I even paid my own travel.

Each time I am asked to appear publicly, I am delighted. It gives me an opportunity to leave my desk. It gives me an opportunity to talk about reading and writing, about Peirene and the art of the novella. It gives me an opportunity to connect to people.

I have learned to accept that the money I need to earn in order to keep Peirene and myself afloat, has to be generated by other sources.

But coins are not the only currency for payment in this world. And money does not accurately measure the value of my work – or myself.

I, too, organize events and so I can see both sides. I know that organizers in general aren’t depriving me of my pay because they feel they can take me for a ride. In most cases – sadly but true – the organizer will make a loss on the event – even if they don’t pay fees and do charge for tickets.

I feel honoured when someone brings me a ready-made audience. Sometimes there are five listeners, other times there are 50 or 100. It doesn’t matter. What is important is that I have the attention of an entire room. I am not sure there can really be a price for that.

And let’s not forget: Both Peirene and I love to put on lipstick and high heels. We enjoy presenting in front of an audience. Without the glamour of performance our lives would be virtuous, hard-working – and certainly lacking in colour and sparkle.

Image by  slimmer_jimmer.

The Beauty of Small Advances

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Medium Stepping stones.Image by Don J Schulte‘Your advance is not even a token advance… it’s… it’s…’ My negotiation partner at the other end of the telephone line is clearly lost for words. I let her search. ‘It’s an insult,’ she finally says, venting her indignation, barely able to contain herself. Then she falls silent.

‘I can see your point,’ I eventually respond. ‘But unfortunately I can’t go higher. I never offer more money.’ Then I calmly explain that what Peirene and I offer authors instead is a unique tailor-made PR and marketing service. We only publish three books a year. We even hand sell the books outside supermarkets. In a nutshell, we ensure our authors and their books are noticed by the English public.

My negotiation partner is still unhappy. ‘I have to pass this on to my management team. This has never happened before.’

As I put down the phone, I decide to abandon the book – even though the title fits perfectly into Peirene’s 2015 programme. But I’ve tried my best. This has been my third phone call. The negotiations started six weeks ago at the end of November. Time rushes on. I need to finalise my 2015 programme. I will make an offer for the next book on my list.

I have lost deals before. Because, lets face it, my advances make no one jump with joy.

Two days later I receive an email. ‘We are delighted to accept your offer.’

‘High five!’ The Nymph holds out her palm to me. I slap her hand. ‘Thank you.’ I smile. ‘That was lucky.’

Peirene shakes her head. ‘That wasn’t luck. You negotiated brilliantly. You are now confident in what we offer our authors and what we achieve for them. You are willing to explain and persuade and you are calm. But you are firm on our financial limits. And you no longer take these negotiations personally. That’s a powerful combination. Well done!’

For a moment I am speechless.

‘Peirene, are you ok?’ I eventually ask.

‘Yes, why?’

‘You don’t usually pay me such compliments.’

‘Pay you compliments? Well sometimes I do, but this time I think it’s the Ancient Greek mentoring that deserves the credit,’ she says, walking back to her desk.

Two minutes later an email drops into my inbox. From Peirene. I open it. She’s wondering if she can buy herself a new dress with the money we have just saved. I email back: ‘I am delighted you like to work more hours on the stall to earn some extra cash for a new dress.’ I press the send button.

‘That’s not what I meant, ‘she pulls a face.

‘I know,’ I reply. ‘But that’s how I spend the money we save on the advances. More hands on the stalls to ensure the books receive the attention they deserve.’

Image by Don J Schulte.

Chelsea Fever

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Manning our roaming store can be sobering experience. I was on stall duty twice this week. Bookstall. Image by  mirvettium

There is the man who bought Tomorrow Pamplona from me two years ago. Three months later he returned and let me know that’s it’s the worst book he’s ever read. He would certainly never buy another Peirene book, he stated. With a smile I now point out that we have some new titles. He should try, perhaps, The Mussel Feast. It’s got longer sentences and no sex. He might like it. He shakes his head. He hasn’t changed his mind. He will never again buy a Peirene book. Ever.

‘Still, we clearly impressed him,’ the Nymph muses. ‘Otherwise, why did he stop by? Nice of him.’

There is the middle aged woman. She’s attracted by the design. She picks up the books. Tight-lipped, suspicious. After all, looks can be deceptive. I ask if she has come across our books before. She shakes her head. She certainly won’t engage in a conversation. She won’t be sold to. Absolutely not. She humours us by taking a flyer.

‘She wants to check us out first,’ the Nymph whispers. ‘And hopes for a better bargain online.’

And then there is the unpublished writer. He’s delighted to meet a publisher. He smiles, his eyes shine brightly. But when he hears that we only deal in foreign fiction he hurries to leave. I try to persuade him that he can improve his craft from reading our books and that our events offer him the opportunity to meet like-minded people. To no avail. He has already moved on.

‘He’ll be back, ‘the Nymph hisses. ‘There is no better way to hone his skills then by looking at our perfect novellas.’

So, does anyone buy Peirene books for Christmas?

The connoisseurs. There are two groups. The ones who have come across our books before, read a review somewhere, heard about us from a friend. And the second group consists of shoppers who need to buy serious books for serious readers. They have in mind their stepdad, their girlfriend, their wife – and instinctively they recognise a good deal. They often buy in bulk. They are the Nymph’s heroes.

We ran twelve stalls in November and will run another thirteen up to Christmas. We’ve done well so far: made a few thousands pounds and sold hundreds of books. But today we hit the jackpot. At the Christmas market in Belgravia. People were queuing at Jen’s stall and she SOS’ed for more books after two hours. Who would have guessed that the most discerning London readers live in affluent Chelsea.

Peirene throws me a pitiful glance. ‘It’s not the post-code, it’s Jen. She’s just a brilliant bookseller – and she never seems to attract awkward customers, unlike some people I could mention.’

Image by mirvettium.

How to Push a Button

Monday, November 12th, 2012

We have a new gadget. A portable card payment machine.Cash Register. Image by  SuperTechnoGirl

Over the last few months I’ve started to receive an increasing number of calls from people who would like to buy our books from us directly but prefer to pay by card over the phone. In addition, sales at our Roaming Store would probably increase if we could accept card payments.

The machine arrived a couple of weeks ago. Jennifer, our Roaming Store lady, and I were very excited. After all, we felt like proper booksellers now. And I proudly decided that whenever the machine isn’t out with Jennifer at the store, it should live by my side on the desk. If the phone rings I would be ready to take the order and receive the payment.

Only, the phone didn’t ring. For two weeks it remained totally silent. Then last Wednesday a customer called. She wanted to buy books and pay by card. I tried to wake up the payment machine, but couldn’t remember exactly how. It was too long since I had read the manual.  Eventually I remembered the blue button. The screen remained blank. I pressed the button again, long and hard. I apologized to my customer for the waiting, then I laughed nervously and finally I had to admit defeat. When I put down the phone, the Nymph looked at me disapprovingly: ‘Well, you definitely blew that sale.’

I rang up the service line for the machine and complained bitterly. ‘Have you pressed the blue button?’ ‘Yes I have, I have also read the manual’ I replied defensively. ‘Try again, just press it briefly.’ The machine switched itself on. I had pressed it for over a minute before.

Peirene simply shook her head. ‘I think it’s your age.’

‘You can’t talk,’ I retaliated. ‘You are ancient Greek.’

However, Jennifer clearly didn’t have that issue. She’s been accepting card payments at the stall without any hiccups. On the other hand, I know I can do it. It took me nearly three months to get used to the SatNav. Now I can’t live without it any longer.

And, by the way, I didn’t lose the sale. The customer was kind enough to purchase the books through our website online.

Image by SuperTechnoGirl.

An Occasion for a Hat

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I love hats. Sadly there are not many occasions when I can wear them. And although I am pleased to be living nowadays, I do envy thegeography-fieldwork-photos-119 ladies from the 1920s for their hat-wearing fashion.

Last Saturday, however, I discovered the perfect occasion to wear a hat. Let me explain by way of a detour (or two).

At the moment, my children are away on summer camp. My husband plays cricket  on Saturday afternoons. So I had a glorious free day ahead of me. I decided to clear out my bookshelves. By the end I had thrown out over 120 books. A triumph! Clearing out books cleanses my mind and allows me to take stock of the imaginary roads I have travelled.

I do a personal book-clean-out every couple of years. Books – fiction and non-fiction – that I will never look at again, go. And the books that stay, relate to a subject I either was once researching or am still interested in. Therefore my bookshelves are not organized alphabetically nor according to genre, but according to themes.

I love themes. They are like boxes that give sense to apparently unrelated subject matters. That’s also the reason why I theme the Peirene books.

The third and final title in Peirene’s Series of the Man, will be published in September. With the publication of Maybe This Time Peirene will have two series out. The Series of the Female Voice and the Series of The Man.

As I was going through my bookshelves I suddenly realized that I had my perfect occasion for a hat: the launch of Maybe This Time and the closing off of Peirene’s second major theme.

I had seen the hat before in the shop window. But I had refrained from buying it. Now I rushed to the shop. Truth to tell I didn’t stop at the hat. I bought a matching outfit too: pencil skirt and a blouse.

So, my bookshelves have lost considerable weight and my purse has been lightened by a few pounds. The world needs more hats, more themes and fewer unread books. This Saturday I made good progress all round. I’m especially pleased with the hat  – which you can admire in the photograph above.

PS: I am on holiday and will be back here with the next episode of  The Pain & Passion of a Small Publisher at the beginning of September.