Tuesday, August 30, 2005

And the author works out his emotional pathologies in public.

Interesting/frustrating scenario developing in connection with the book's launch in the UK. (And if you have absolutely zero interest in the inner workings of journalism or media, you might want to skip this post and go watch paint dry.) I had written an original SHAM-themed piece for the London Sunday Times, which is a big-deal publication in England, analogous to our New York Times. The whole thing came together last week in a bit over 48 hours, the editor insisting that he wanted the piece in-hand in time to run it on the day of the book's official UK pub date, August 28. (Why editors who are aware of some looming event wait till the last minute to assign a related story--and then need it "yesterday"--is one of freelancing's eternal mysteries, and will ring irritatingly familiar to anyone who's ever perpetrated journalism for a semi-living.) Anyway, I write the piece in a day--I even reschedule a few smaller-market media appearances to do so--and submit in on deadline. This is no mean feat for someone who can spend a week crafting a given sentence, though you might not always know it from the visible results.

The editor promptly reports back that he "love(s) it!", and promises to give it nice play in the paper. Sunday comes and goes...no story. Now, there's another factor here that I should mention. This editor did have one condition for running the piece, and that was exclusivity: He didn't want to wake up on Sunday, he said, and see something else I'd written for a competing Brit publication. (Apparently the daily turf war among major London newspapers bespeaks a ferocity that would make the Bloods and Crips stand back and say, "Man, that's some heavy shit...") When he told me this, I knew I'd already written something for another publication, the Express; it could run at any moment. But the Times is a far more important publicity vehicle than the Express, so before committing to the Times piece, I emailed my editor at the Express and asked him to hold off on running our story for a few days; in truth, I'd had some second thoughts about the libel implications of a certain passage in the piece, and this new development gave me the perfect opportunity to check with Crown's lawyers. The Express editor agreed. I also stalled another publication that contacted me with regard to an interview. My publicist at Brealey, the London publishing house that's bringing out the book, now tells me that we may never get that interview back. And should the Express decide for whatever reason that my piece's time has passed, they may not run that one, either...

And the kicker: My Times editor informs me that the piece got pulled at the last minute for space--and that he can't make any promises about whether it will ever run. It may. Or it may not. Cheerio, old chap...

The upshot here is that the Times' failure to run my piece as mutually agreed could end up costing me the bulk of my print PR for SHAM in the UK. So the question begs itself: What to do here? What is my recourse? It's at times like this that the author fantasizes about an act of real self-help, something he might easily have done during his reckless, misspent youth: hopping a plane to England, planting himself across the desk from that Times editor, and asking him if just maybe, looking back, he'd like to have done things differently....

Ahhh, the dispiriting psychic handicaps of trying to live a mature, civilized life.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Rodger Johnson said...

Yes, mass media and the London Time has the PR panache to promote your book, but getting more involved in the blogging and online community of chatters--Brits chat too, you know--might do your book better publicity than conventional media.

Slap some RSS feeds onto your blog.