“We must speak to an editor,” a middle-aged lady with an erect bearing declaims, as to a small gathering. I am the only person at our stall. “It’s about my son’s book,” she bellows, and duly her son, slouching and fidgeting with a soiled cigarette, hoists his eyes to the matriarch, still mute. “He’s written a book,” she reiterates with some vigour (he nods), “and we need to speak to someone in the young fiction department.” I explain the predicament, noting that the son in question must be at least eighteen on account of the tobacco. “Well, give us a card then,” she commands. I acquiesce and she powers around the corner to the next stall, son flopping behind her. I didn’t catch what her badge said but I presume it was “literary agent”.
Another incident the next day: having adroitly negotiated his way past a receptionist trained to spot such types, a self-proclaimed technophobe bearing a manuscript shuffles into the office, declaring that he had met with little publishing success at the mercy of the postal system (presumably one of the forces of technology against which he had devoted his literary output), and had resolved to present his work in person. After being informed that this wasn’t really an orthodox or appropriate approach, he pottered back out, leaving the book in its giant envelope with no postage for its return journey. I guess we’ll see him again.
This shows some force of character, but cannot trump the writer who, perhaps through poverty or a bizarre and misguided resourcefulness, sent us his book printed on the backs of rejection letters from other publishers. Building success on the back of failure… or not.