Monday, 25 April 2022
The Ledger (and Stretto)
I’m going to make a lectern and give readings. It’s sort of a holy book.
When the first four CBe books came out in November 2007 I had no plans to publish more, so I kept track of sales and expenses on scraps of paper, but between September 2008 and March 2022 all the basic accounting has been done by hand in this ledger. It records (in handwriting; I don’t do spreadsheets) more than 3,700 individual orders from the website. Plus direct sales to bookshops, at book fairs, etc. And against those, printing costs, advances, royalties, couriers, prize entry fees, stationery, website costs, proofreading, publicity (hah), review copies, etc. And post: receipts recorded from 1,883 trips to the post office (which, thankfully, is very close, but that still adds up to a few miles). It doesn’t record typesetting or design costs because there are no costs, I just do it.
Also recorded are 150 trips to the distributor, Central Books, with boxes of books. These used to be by car but I gave up the car a while ago so now they are by Tube and then train to Essex with a very big bag. I can do that, go and return, and have tea with Bill if he’s in, and be home by lunchtime.
To do the end-of-tax-year figures I add in figures from other sources: income from sales through the distributor to bookshops (less their own cut and that of the sales agent + VAT, which I’m not registered for so can’t reclaim), PayPal fees, etc. But the basic day-to-day running numbers are all here, in the ledger, handwritten. And it’s full, so at the beginning of April this year I started a new one.
The old ledger and I have shared a desk for 14 years. I’m a scrivener, basically, and writing figures in columns gives me the illusion that I’m in control. I still don’t quite trust digital, and the internet.
There’s something nerdy here, obviously. Some people do crosswords, daily. I once worked with a Faber poet who claimed he read every word in his page proofs backwards. The narrator of Stretto writes about his ytiliba ot klat, sey, sdrawkcab – his ability to talk, yes, backwards. He puts it down ‘to my being left-handed, and not predisposed to treat left-to-right as the natural order of things other people take it to be’. I’m left-handed too. There are more of us than you think and we are all a little sceptical about ‘the natural order of things’. Stretto, a first novel by a writer already known as a poet and critic, is a novel that interests itself in this.
If you’d like your name in the new ledger – below, with an advance proof of Stretto – please buy a book. Finished copies of David Wheatley’s Stretto will be here in a couple of weeks, and it’s available for pre-order; copies of Ágota Kristóf’s Trilogy and The Illiterate are now in. Or buy, even, a Season Ticket – available from the website home page – which nets you 10 books of your own choice for £70, post free.