SELECTION FOR THE RICHARD & JUDY BOOK CLUB 2008...
Well, as you can imagine, it has been somewhat difficult for me to withhold myself from telling people that A Quiet Belief In Angels was selected for the 2008 Winter Richard & Judy Book Club. As has been so widely mentioned in the press (28 newspaper articles at our last count!) the R&J Club is the Holy Grail as far as UK authors are concerned, and has the power to literally propel an unknown author into the mainstream fiction-buying consciousness overnight. To put this into perspective, a standard mass market paperback print-run for a mid-list author (i.e. someone who is being published but is by no means a 'bestseller') averages somewhere between five and ten thousand copies. To meet the initial subscription demands for the R&J promotion a run of 140,000 was printed. That gives you some kind of an idea of what it means. An R&J selection can sell upwards of two hundred thousand copies, and gives an unheard-of author a chance to really make an impression.
And what does it mean for me? Well, for years - in libraries, book clubs, reading and writing groups - I have been saying that we - as a nation of readers - owe a huge debt to Richard and Judy and JK Rowling. My opinion was always that anything, absolutely anything, that in any way contributed to people reading had my unconditional support. I am of the opinion that between them they have done more to get the nation reading than anyone or anything, certainly within my lifetime.
A few weeks ago, when I was made aware that AQBIA had made it down into the last 34 (out of something in the region of 700 submitted titles according to one estimate!) I almost wished that I hadn't been told. When I was informed, about three weeks before the official announcement on the 27th of December, that I had made it down to the last 20, well then I was kind of beside myself with anticipation. Me, my agent and my editor were all on the edge of something. An abyss? A rocket ride? We didn't know. I spoke to my editor on two or three occasions and said that I had spent the entirety of my life 'almost winning'. I said it was about bloody time something happened to change the pattern.
And then it did.
I got a call one evening, a Friday. I had just returned from the dentist where I had undergone the second stage of a particularly lengthy root canal operation. My face was swollen, my head hurt, and my editor was on the line at 6.30 in the evening. This was odd in itself. Usually we talk in recognized office hours. He said "Roger, I have a problem", to which I replied "Oh, what's that?". He then went on to say that he was uncertain as to whether or not this was his very best day in publishing. I knew then. I felt something like a short-fused firework light up in the middle of my body. He said "Because this is the day that I get to tell you that you've made it onto the Richard and Judy List".
Later, after the dust had settled, I spoke to my agent and said that I really didn't know how to feel. I had no framework within which to put my reaction to the news. I said that I'd be far more able to understand the sense of disappointment that I would have felt had we not made it (and oh, how I felt for the ten guys and girls that were informed that they had made it into the last 20, and then found out that they had not secured a place in the final 10!), but to have made it... To have succeeded at this most auspicious and desirable thing... To be in a situation where you now know that so many more people are going to read something you have written, and to be in a position where the only reason you ever ventured out into this foolish and irresponsible business was to have people read what you wrote in the first place...
That means the world to me.
More than anything I have yet achieved, it means the world to me.
So thank you to all those involved - the readers, the selection team, Amanda Ross, Alastair Giles, the Richard & Judy team, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan themselves, Cactus TV, and all those who played their part, and have played their part in this marvellous institution for the past many years.
And just because one of my books has now been selected doesn't change the degree to which I supported and argued for and felt the necessity to defend and promote the R&J Book Club. I've done that for years, and will now continue for years more. Why? Because it got people reading again. It got people looking at books they would otherwise have ignored, and it opened the door for so many more people to find things that they could now be passionate about.
Something in the region of a thousand books are published every month. Go into Smiths or Waterstones, and if you don't know what you want, don't know what you're looking for, it can actually be overwhelming. It's that old sales saw - give someone too much choice and they choose nothing. Well, the Richard and Judy Book Club gives people a chance to try something new. It says 'Have a go at this...you might like it, you might not, but for a significantly reduced cost you might actually luck into a whole genre of reading that you haven't considered before'. And that's got to be good.
So, to close, I am off to Georgia to make the little documentary section for the Richard & Judy Show on the 17th of January, and then we air on the 30th.
I hope you watch. I hope you give the book a go, and that you enjoy it.
Thank you for all your support and encouragement over the past years, and hopefully I'll see you at a reading or a library tour somewhere along the road.
Take care, speak soon, best wishes.