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Journal of Distraction - by Michael Kelly

Week 3 - Saturday

Yesterday I picked up some holiday brochures on my way home. Italy and Greece, mostly. I'm not going to go, I never go anywhere, but it's fun to daydream. I'd be terrified to go in case it turned out to be as bad as here. What if you got to Rome and found They'd erected some huge Norman Foster glass-and-chrome penis in the middle of the Colosseum? They would if they could. Or what if the Italians all wore baseball caps and throw up outside pubs of a night? ...Besides I think one of Huxley's characters remarks that the problem with holidays is that you take your own personality with you. As you can imagine in my case this means I may as well just go to Bognor for a wet weekend. The only worthwhile getaway, he says, would be a holiday from yourself. Of course Huxley himself got around this problem by taking industrial amounts of LSD. Used to send people postcards of bloody Bosch and Dali landscapes and write 'Wish you were here?' ...A holiday from reality, that's the ticket... I think I'll set up an imaginary travel agency, people will give me two hundred quid and tell me where they want to go and I'll write them two weeks' worth of nice stories, adventures that would never have happened in real life... spy adventures in Rome, orgies in Finland, pirate raids in Bognor.

Daydreamed in the rain a bit then with deep loathing forced myself to try to get to grips with the book thing again. I thought telling about trying to self-publish would add a strand of high drama and heartbreaking pathos to this journal and provide a unifying thread. Belatedly I realise that probably only other aspiring writers will have been interested, and, worse, there's unlikely to be the happy ending I blithely expected before I finish this, if at all. So the whole thing will be a bummer and I'll look like an unmanly whiner. But for anyone still following the saga, the latest:

I got another reply from a distributor - a very nice one who doesn't molest children or rape cattle, or not very often, only on Sundays, say. No, he was human, and unusually courteous, and sensible, and there was no nonsense about company profiles, and he took the trouble to explain things to me properly.

But what he had to say was something of a balloon-burster and, if true, almost puts the kybosh on the whole thing. He reckons it would cost them 5 pounds to deliver a single book - obviously the cost per item would go down with bulk orders - bulk orders and advance orders and big sales teams are where it's at to make money or keep down overheads. Raising the selling price to cover that five quid would make the book far too expensive.

It seems as the world gets increasingly complex independence is becoming harder as an option and it gets more difficult to start from scratch. But not impossible, I suppose. I can think of ways around this, and big drawbacks to them, but I won't bore you. It's all a bit of a pig really. I have to hope that the five pound figure relates specifically to them - they're big distributors, too big for me really, with all kinds of flashy loading-and-unloading robots to pay for. I'm fairly certain a smaller firm could do it for less, but the smaller services are the ones who've been giving me the gibberish about not fitting their profile. I have to go back and guilt or wheedle one of them, or somehow find someone of that sort I haven't tried yet, or try and work something more or less unsatisfactory out around the five quid. Alternatively one of my sisters is trying to persuade me we could store the damn thing in her back room and deliver it ourselves; it sounds like madness but I suppose it could be fun. The sort of fun people who like to drive vans and queue up in post offices have, and people who enjoy eating their tea off a ten foot pile of books, but fun nonetheless.

Another and probably bigger blow, however - it seems that Waterstones (the biggest bookshop chain in Britain) expect a minimum of 55% discount from new publishers, and moreover require you to deliver via one approved book supplier, who I suppose will also collect a rake-off, and on top of that I'd probably still need another distributor as well. I can't budget for that without jacking up the cover price to an insane level, and even if I could, they can kiss my arse on general principles, frankly. But if I can't get my books in there I might as well forget the whole thing. I'm telling myself the book is such surefire gold they'd have to take it eventually, but that may be overconfidence.

I'm looking into print-on-demand, where the book's only printed as needed so you can cut out storage costs. There are some drawbacks but if the quality's good it may be a way to go. Or I could admit defeat and really work on the bitter and twisted thing. Hmm, hmm, hmm.

Anyway, here is

Lives of the Great Inventors, No. 4

The Inventor of Sarin

Dr. Mordred Sarin... early ambition to be a writer... no-one would publish his books, even when he offered to pay for it himself...bomb-threats not taken seriously... so he needed a way to make a great number of people die as quickly as'll understand when you're older...legitimate cry for help kind of thing... one man's maniac another man's freedom fighter... have to understand it in the context of his history of oppression... early setbacks and failures, at first victims just got a bit poorly... endured the heartbreak of watching lab-rats positively thrive and grow chipper every time he exposed them to a new formula... some of the bastards became immortal afterwards as if to taunt him, back to the drawing board... was he downhearted? Discouraged? Never... At last came the happy day, the ignorant colleagues who had laughed laughed no more... nor his neighbours... or his landlady... or a couple of other thousand people he didn't like the looks of... and some towns he'd passed through that were an unkind shape... Nobel Prize committee... honoured some dolt who'd invented a new type of aspirin... they died too...

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