Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cut and print

Travelled down to Suffolk to see my book being printed. Had to get a grip of myself before I went in to the printworks because I felt slightly teary and thought I might just lose it completely and find myself weeping over the conveyor belt if I was not careful. It still felt special even though the factory prints 160 million copies of books a year. That is a lot of books. Most are reprints but 8,000 of them are new titles. There are only two big printworks responsible for most of the bookprinting done in the UK and mine was one of them. They print several million Bibles a year (- it is always good to have God on your side) and had to bring in security guards for the latest Harry Potter. The other thing they did with Harry Potter was to ban mobile phones from the factory in case anyone snapped the pages. For some reason, they still take your phones off you. I felt like saying: "Actually I know what happens at the end of my book."

Sections of the book queue up, shoot onto a conveyor belt and are then gathered into a pile, the back is trimmed and the pages flip onto their side to roll over hot glue. The pages are then clamped together and the cover put on. Up to this point, the book - or rather books - have been travelling round the factory like a pair of siamese twins joined together at the skull with one copy the right way round and the other copy standing on its head. The end-to-end books are guillotined and the remaining sides trimmed. Eventually, when the glue is dry enough, the completed book drops into a stack of seven which are then wrapped alongside other stacks in white plastic. There are 30,000 books out there with my name on them - now all I need is someone to buy them. Sometimes famous authors go round the factory. Apparently Eoin Colfer, author of Artemis Fowl, cried; Quentin Blake drew a cartoon of Matilda sitting on rolls of paper; Michael Palin signed lots of autographs and Sandi Toksvig was lovely to everybody. None of the printers knew who the hell I was but I still insisted on shaking people's hands over and over, muttering "Thank you so much. Really - thank-you." At one point, one of the chaps on the belt broke the back of the book, pulled out a clump of pages to show me how they are glued together, then said: "Don't look" and lobbed the ruined copy into a large black dustbin. I thought: "Bastard."

But they say - as one door opens, a window closes. I got a guest column in The Times on Thursday which was cool but on the same day I was finished as a columnist by the local paper. Budget cuts means they are firing their columnists - or at least three of us. I don't mind too much - it was nice while it lasted.

33 comments:

wife in the north said...

It's half-term: I'll be back Wednesday 4th June. Toodle-pip.

Tina said...

How dare that man throw your book away? I'd have bit him. I always read you, but I don't always leave a comment; just wanted to say best of luck with the book.

Have a great half term.

Tina

belle said...

I've just looked you up, you're on Amazon! Look: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wife-North-
Judith-OReilly/dp/0141033436/ref=sr
_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211760453&
sr=8-1

How about that then :) Hope it sells like hot potatoes. Actually, I can't remember the last time I bought a hot potato ... not such a good analogy then. I'll definitely be buying your book though.

Leatherdykeuk said...

How super!

louisa said...

How exciting for you + how lovely to be ranked amongst the echelons of famous writers - Sandi Toksvig no less, WOW!

good luck,
(Give us all some tips on how to get published one day when you're not so busy!!!!)

Retiredandcrazy said...

The printer will know who you are soon enough. They will be able to brag that they met you. Good luck.

dottie said...

So the local paper fired you at the time you are going to do a column for The Times? I'd call that promotion! I hope you told them you are going to The Times - I'd have loved to see their faces. Félicitations!

Mopsa said...

30,000? Blimey. Amazing. Congrats.

Mai-Britt said...

Great inside knowledge from the printers..... loved it ;O)
And I have (of course) reserved you book at Amazon a long time ago! Looking forward to reading it - hope it comes as an audio book as well (read by the author?) - a great way to tackle long distance driving, ironing etc.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Good luck with the book. I too have enjoyed the blog. I've also got some Amazon vouchers to spend so you're in luck once again!!!

No doubt half term will provide some more interesting vignettes.

Best wishes

Hadriana

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Can't wait to read the book. I'm wondering how it all ends. Will there be a sequel...'Wife Back In The South?'
You have inspired bloggers everywhere. Now, I just need to think of an original idea...not another moaning woman my husband has suggested...I ignored him, my husband thinks offering any opinion other than what we should have for tea is a complaint.
Hope to see you on the Times Bestsellers list soon!

wife in the north said...

re louisa: OK but I'm aware it can get a bit precious "writing about writing" you know?And it would only be my opinion but I'll do that when I get back if there's an interest.
re dottie: it was only a one-off guest column for The Times not a fortnightly number.

NICK said...

I"m trying to suss out how to use a blog to craft & flog a column. I too am a medja person, but getting the commissions in from the freelance world really puzzles me sometimes.

Can I ask you if you were actually paid by the local paper, and was it a weekly ?

I ask because I cannot imagine a local paper paying anyone anything, although I can imagine them using the copy.

My local evening paper didn't want me to even write the story I gave them, let alone pay. In the end they grumpily said they would pay £30 for what had been a large story with pic, clearly sent from a Freelance Journo.

I was so disgusted I didn't even bother to collect the £30.

Nick

lady thinker said...

I was all set there for a minute to change to the Times on Thursday in future - ah well. Perhaps you could see if the Weekend section of the Saturday Telegraph will give you a regular slot.

I look forward to buying the book.I'm just a wee bit disppointed that I feel the USA cover looks a bit more 'classy' than the Brit version.

It would have been a lovely idea for signed copy for us fellow bloggers before Amazon post them out to us.

I hope you sell quadruple the number Cherry Booth-Blair does...

missy said...

My boyfried lives near that book printers in Suffolk. When a Harry Potter book used to come out there would always be a news story on the local news about the high security! Good luck!

girl with the mask said...

Gosh, to see the actual printing process of your book. What an exerience!

Motheratlarge said...

Congratulations on the book. That must be the most amazing feeling. Feel all goose-bumpy on your behalf. Enjoy it all! Best of luck for July. I can't wait to buy my copy!

And thank you for that column, I nearly cheered out loud when I read it. Though I do think Beatrice might be the author of her own misfortune, wearing that dodgy butterfly thing on her head. Or was it Eugenie? I get confused. Mind you, if I was to be judged on my teenage dress sense I wouldn't come out well either.

sunshine said...

What a glorious relief to have the process in hard copy at last! Now you can start on "Mother in the North" and then "Journalist in the North" and then---and then---and then---

The Times piece was interesting. Everyone knows that the reason people don't bitch about men's behavior and attire is that we know they really don't care! And smart, successful women know that the reason they walk behind their men is so they can admire their cute "tushes"!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

how exciting! I would have cried, well done to you!

Read your column in the Times, good provocative stuff. I love the comment left by Keith Banham (rev) about feminism, it's such a comfort to have men like him in the world.

Enjoy your hols,
Pigx

cheshire wife said...

Great column in The Times last Thursday. I know I am late reading it - it is the story of my life, that and playing second fiddle to a man.

dottie said...

Re: only a guest column. The Times really missed an opportunity there then.

I've got your book pre-ordered on Amazon. All the very best with it.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi...regarding your comments (re: Louisa) about getting published one day. I'd be definitely interested. You have definitely inspired me and countless others to start writing. That is an achievement in itself.

I think it was your second posting on your blog where the woman "ignored" you and directed all her comments to your busy husband. (Hmm..sounds very familiar.) I'm sure she has had more than enough time to reflect on her (rather unfortunate) behaviour! What is it? Revenge is best served up from the Artic wastes of Dante's "Inferno"? I think you know what I mean but maybe I'm mixing my metaphors with Artic Roll??? Enough Already!

Congratulations on all your success so far and may it keep on rolling.....

Best wishes again - Hadriana

Debbie Sladek said...

Amazing blog . . . I've hardly done anything for a couple of days because I found myself so engrossed in your story (a girlfriend just sent me your way). I'll definitely pre-order your book and am pleased that it looks like it'll be available by August here in the states.

Good luck!

dulwichmum said...

How wonderful to have observed your book being printed! Great stuff. I loved your column, well written and thought provoking. I hope that they give you a regular slot. You never know, stranger things have happened...

Can I top up that drink for you darling? Mwah XXX

Swearing Mother said...

Just think, one of those books was MINE, pre-ordered from Amazone MINE!!

Can't wait. They'd better not send me the broken one.

Nice column in the Times, by the way, so very true.

Tony said...

good luck Judith O'reilly!
If you only sell one copy which I know is impossible...i will be the buyer...

Maggie May said...

Was really great going round the factory with you & finding out how they put the books together. Shame about the ruined one!

family affairs said...

Oh no, I needed you to vote for me . ... nevermind. Very exiting news about the book - how come you've got a longer half term than everybody else? I liked the Times column btw Lx

http://reluctantmemsahib.wordpress.com said...

brilliant. it must have been odd watching your book evolve the other side of a print, knowing it was about to hit shelves everywhere, including amazon,which is where i'll get my copy from. well done.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Fab. Great news. VLIF

mutleythedog said...

Gosh - its like when we used to go through the arched window on Playschool...

perry said...

Judith
I am in the book biz in Washington DC and got a galley at BEA in LA! I love the book and hope if you get to DC on tour we can connect. Have actually sent info on the book to friends in Northumberland!
I can so relate to all you went thru as I sit here in DC with the reverse problem..small house no land longing to move to the country with a husband who won't budge! Will check with your publisher too about your tour.. i see a movie too??
all best, perry pidgeon hooks (perry@hooksbookevents.com)

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

ooh, I love this idea of seeing one's own book made. It must feel so very "real" I just got a book deal, too and a reader pointed me in the direction of your blog and I am so glad she did:)