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Friday, 16 November 2012

`No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.' Doctor Johnson

If there’s a strange crunching noise around my office right now it’s not the printer, nor the biscuit crumbs under my feet. Neither is it the grinding of my teeth as I try to digest the tortured prose of the Independent’s chief sports writer - although on many a day James Lawton’s columns have precisely that effect on me. No, it’s a sound emanating from inside my head as I contemplate a change of direction. A violent change. A lurch, you might say; a handbrake turn.

I was having difficulty with these London-based books I’m supposed to be ghosting for Mike Pannett. And after a long dark night of agonising I sat down and wrote a lengthy email explaining why the task was likely to prove beyond me just now - if only for one compelling reason, namely that I have been working without an advance. And that, I suddenly realised, was not a good idea.  Having said that, there will be no upfront money in my bank account when I sit down, a few months hence, to write the text that goes with the photographs for Mike Pannett’s Yorkshire. But that’s okay. The author’s cut is a generous one - 12.5% of the cover price, as against the usual 10% or 7.5%. I can live with that.

Anyway, the upshot of it all is that the London book is on hold. I will write it in the spring, by which time a modest advance may be available. Meanwhile we’ll start on another project, a pot-boiler about Mike’s childhood - generously salted, I dare say, with a few of my own escapades and reflections. But that’s the nature of ghosting/collaborating. You collaborate.  

So… I now face three or four months with next to no income, during which I will (a) hustle for editorial work, (b) write for my own satisfaction and (c) await with sweaty palms the annual pay-out for PLR or Public Lending Right which arrives in February. For years I was getting an annual sum of around £6.96, often considerably less, for the handful of occasions on which my corporate histories or the cricket biography (they’re all on my website: were loaned out by public libraries. The Mike Pannett books last year yielded about £800 for each of us, placing us in the upper echelons of UK authors. I’m banking on a similar pay-out, hopefully more, since there are now five books out there rather than four.

We had a nice surprise yesterday, an invitation from my good pal Phil Reynolds (great name for an English artist) to a weekend course he’s running in the Yorkshire Dales next June. It is, of course, an invitation to part with some money, but I am a great believer in supporting your mates’ enterprises. Besides which, A. is an artist in her own right and is always looking out for chances to dedicate time to her craft. Take a look at Phil’s website: I’m no connoisseur, but I think it’s top quality. In fact, by way of a PS, here's a link to the page showcasing his weekend course.

Well, the weekend looms, and I need to prepare for a trip to Leeds, where tomorrow we celebrate my grandson’s first birthday - and that of his Dad, who is doomed to  share the great day with the little lad for the rest of his natural life.

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