Regardless of whom I met last week at the London Bookfair, not once did I need to explain what Peirene is or does. Our reputation in the book world is now global. Even international publishers and agents who I’d never encountered before had heard about us. I received compliments for the books, the translations, the newspaper and the events. Colleagues from the US, Denmark and Spain expressed their admiration for our ‘selective programme’, our ‘innovative marketing’. And people noticed my new shoes too. Simply a brilliant Bookfair. As far as The Nymph and I were concerned, it could have gone on forever.
By Friday, however, the international literary connoisseurs had cleared the stage and gone home. And Peirene and I where thrown out of Earls Court and back onto the streets of London.
Waterstone’s Piccadilly had asked Hamid Ismailov and I to talk about The Dead Lake in the store on Friday evening. As I arrived I noted that our event wasn’t mentioned on their blackboard outside the store, nor, for that matter, anywhere inside. I went to the counter to inquire where I should go. They looked at me slightly bewildered. But eventually I came across someone who knew. I was shown to a room in the basement where I found Hamid surrounded by 50 empty chairs.
The Nymph was very unhappy and when I asked the store manager why there weren’t any signs to the event and how they thought people would know about it, I was told that yes, there are indeed announcements – on the fourth floor in the Russian book section. Peirene opened her mouth. I knew she was about to make some sharp comments about preparation, promotion and who-goes-up-all –way-to-the-fourth-floor . I squeezed her arm and caught her just in time. She closed her mouth again without saying a word but threw the manager an angry glance.
Ten people came, including Kazakh TV and a Peirene fan who had traveled all the way from Birmingham. I invited our guests to sit in the front row and we spent a lovely, inspiring hour together.
My husband came too. Afterwards we went out for meal. ‘You publish books for a particular audience with a particular taste. And your fans are willing to come out on a Friday evening. That’s wonderful. Maybe you will never draw the big masses,’ he mused. ‘On the other hand, you are collecting a great array of micro genres on your list: Cold War Fiction, Holocaust Romance, Lonely Women Thrillers. And who knows, one of these days one the micro genres might become macro.’
I lent over the table and gave him a kiss for his belief in the Nymph and me. It was a brilliant week.
Image: Book Birds by Jenni-Douglas.