Posted by on Oct 12, 2010 in book publication, Nigel Slater, publishers | 4 Comments

Growing up

When I was a teenager I used to walk to school past a bakery that sold hot toast, dripping with golden butter, and it was butter too, none of your silly supposed substitutes.

I grew up in a tourist resort and at least a third of my schoolfellows were the children of restaurateurs, hoteliers and guest-house owners so we couldn’t be fobbed off with imitation saturated fat: it had to be the real thing, from its lacy white borders to the salty tang of the puddle in the middle of the slice (and we never let anybody cut our toast in half, because the butter runs off the cut edge).

I too was the child of hoteliers, and left behind me a kitchen full of breakfast chefs, short-order cooks and even waiters and waitresses who would have made me some toast, if I’d asked. Perhaps they wouldn’t have done it willingly, but you don’t turn down requests from the boss’s daughter, that’s for sure. I could have had French toast, or toast and honey, or even toast with a little pot of jam like the guests got with their continental breakfast. But that wasn’t what I wanted.

I wanted to BUY my toast. I wanted the ownership to be mine, the choice of French bread, white bread or brown to be mine and the responsibility of eating it walking along the road (and dripping butter on my school tie) to be mine. I wanted to ball up the paper bag it came in and throw it in a bin. I wanted to be a grown up.

And so it is with books. I was happy to have anthology publications, don’t get me wrong, I loved, and still love, anthologies – I’ve met some great people through appearing in print alongside them, and been to some incredible readings with fellow anthologists. But a book all to yourself is a far more grown-up thing. You get to make choices: will you contact this luminary person to try and get a quote from them, or will you leave it to your publisher? Who will write the blurb for the back cover? How much do you want to reveal of yourself in the author’s note? Which photograph shall you supply for jacket purposes and how will you feel when you see yourself postage-stamp-sized, beaming like a horsy lunatic, clutching an appropriate prop and looking as if you are about to commit a peculiarly gruesome murder in Midsomer (or is that just my response to my jacket photograph?) Is your current clever marketing idea clever or just daft and should you run it by somebody at the publishers or just go ahead anyway? (Jury still out on both aspects of this one)

So I am growing up – sometimes happily, like eating toast in the street, and sometimes kicking and screaming like a two-year-old having a supermarket tantrum, but either way, it’s definitely a fascinating experience.

PS – guess which one is me?

PPS – yes I do know I seem to be channeling Nigel Slater – there are worse things to channel, believe me!


  1. Jim Murdoch
    13th October 2010

    There are some truly awful author’s photos out there – Stephen King jumps to mind – but what I hate most is that they never seem to get updated. Years pass and it’s the same ol’ physiog peering at me from the flyleaf or back cover. I think you’re the kid with the yellow top on BTW.

  2. Yobette
    13th October 2010

    It’s interesting how we “become” grown up. You with your toast and me with my obsession for nonchalance. I wonder where we decided that those were the hallmarks of adulthood? I hate my jacket photo. Loved it when it was taken, but now it feels pretencious. I suppose we just have to keep writing books until we love our jacket photos.

  3. Louise Halvardsson
    15th October 2010

    I agree with Jim – some authors pics are ghastly … When bored in the library (where I work) me and my workmates open books and give the author pics points between 1 and 10. If they show hands they get one minus, so please don’t pick a pic where you rest your chin or cheek in your hand …

  4. Mark Hubbard
    19th October 2010

    ‘Guess which one is me?’

    I can’t decide between the older girl in the middle with the red shirt and white trousers, or the wee thing on the right with the yellow blouse (thingy)?


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