16 April 2012

We’d like you to come on the radio…

It’s the sort of telephone call that sets the heartbeat rising and the palms sweating. ‘Of course,’ I hear a calm, professional voice say. ‘I’d be delighted.’ In my other ear is a fearful woman screaming ‘Are you mad?!

But of course, writers are. I’m on a deadline with my own work (mornings) and a deadline with client work (afternoons), but the entire day disintegrated because of eight minutes on air. I was asked out of the blue because the radio station, local BBC – let me not suggest that this was national network – was airing figures from Nielson Bookscan that UK paperback sales had dropped 25% in the last year. Was it due to the rise of ebooks? They needed someone who read them and the writer they had initially called had passed on my name.

I thought I’d be chatting with a small group, but no, it was me and a bookshop manager. Oh dear. Clearly this was expected to be a spectator, or at least a listener, sport. I spent the entire morning pulling together figures, sounding out other authors who had ebooks both via indie upload and publisher’s upload, and drinking far more tea than was good for me.

Tuning in to the station fifteen minutes before it rang so as to get a feel for the presenter’s stance, I found myself listening to a heated argument about selling cigarettes in brown paper packaging in an attempt to cut teenage smoking rates. Is this what I was letting myself in for? Before my slot came an exchange about the deaths of race horses at the country’s prestigious meetings which was so vitriolic that it extended beyond its time. Did people really want all this confrontation across their lunch hour?

I decided they didn’t, or at least I didn’t and, while my shadow was sitting in a corner with her head in her hands, I started playing the interview for laughs. And we did have a laugh, mostly at the presenter's expense, which is good radio, I guess. Me and the bookshop manager got on very well. Why wouldn’t we? We both want our readers to enjoy their purchased books, whatever form those books take. That’s what it’s all about, enjoyment.


  1. I listened in and it came across that you both believed in what you believe in - if you know what I mean (I don't have my writer's hat on right now). There's room for both is what I say.

  2. Totally agree. The industry is in flux, but it has been for ages. Losing the Net Book Agreement put the independent bookshops at a disadvantage and opened the door to the supermarkets dictating what would be a bestseller. Publishers pandered to them, hence the many Celeb books with their in-built marketing, and all the time reader choice was diminishing.

    Already ebooks are redressing the balance, giving small publishers an outlet for books that wouldn't pass the litmus test of profit for the big players. And of course, this includes writers going indie.

    Thanks for calling by, Valerie. Good to hear from you.