The last day of the London Book Fair was pretty quiet and depressing. More mad authors passed by and tried to leave their manuscripts. I was having a meeting with an old timer when a husband-and-wife couple in business suits gatecrashed on us. Opening the suitcase ominously in front of me, the man said: "Can I just ask you a quick question?" I said, "No." The man crumpled but managed a joke: "Ha ha, wrong answer. Why did you say that?" "Because I'm in a meeting," I said, po-faced. "Well," the man said, while the woman smiled, "let me show you something and then I'll be gone." And he produced – I swear to God – a printout of the Amazon page of their self-published book, showing an Amazon sales rank of 3,937. "Only thirty per cent of all books achieve a sales rank of this order, few people know that," the man said, smiling through his beard. "What's your book about?" "Well," the woman smiled, "it's a kind of self-help—" here I waved her to shut up. "We don't do self-help. Bye." To their credit, they left in a split second.
The day before, during the launch of my novel (which, by the by, was well attended – many of my publishing friends were there, including Pete Ayrton of Serpent's Tail, Richard Davies of Parthian, Laurence Colchester and François von Hurter of Bitter Lemon Press, Stephen Page of Faber, Gary Pulsifer of Arcadia, Antony Wood of Angel Books, Luke Brown and Alan Mahar of Tindal Street Press, Melissa Ulfane of Pushkin Press, Jane Aitken of Gallic Books, Juliet Mabey and Novin Doostdar of Oneworld Publications, Meike Ziervogel of Peirene Press, Kamaljit Sood of Anthem Press and many others), as I was signing my book, an author sneaked in and said: "I want to show you my two books." "I don't think this is the right time or place," I said. "We are having a party and this is a book launch." "Well, if this is a party and a book launch, then I demand a book review!" I let out a deep sigh. "What is your book about?" "It's a Zoroastrian book." "We don't do Zoroastrian books." And she left.
So, if you are planning to get into publishing, remember something: the easiest way out is always: "Not our line, doesn't fit in with our list."