Monday 25 September 2023
A CBe event at the Barbican scheduled for Wednesday this week, the 27th, has been postponed (to 31 January next year) because of poor ticket sales. How many tickets were sold? As many as a tree-surgeon friend could count on his right hand, after having lost two fingers on that hand to one of those chopping machines into which fallen branches are fed.
Ouch. It’s dose of realism. Event organisers who schedule Ian McEwan or Zadie Smith or Marie Kondo or Michael Palin can stroll into the box office, quids in; event organisers who schedule small-press writers have to run ten times faster for often, as here, zero result.
The Barbican event was ticketed. They pay the writers. Many book events don’t. This is tricky: earlier this month I heard a librarian speak about her unease at having to charge £3 for an author event when for many of the people she wanted to come that was a barrier. The regular charge for book events in London is £10, which equals 2.5 Costa coffees and the food budget for a week for many. We want open access; we want writers to be valued; and it’s depressing how often money gets in the way rather than helping.
Once, a friend and I were the only people to turn up to a stage adaptation of Kafka in a pub theatre and they put on the show just for us.
On the plus side: for publishers whose authors cannot fill stadia, every reader matters. There are no pictures on the CBe site of authors hand-signing (or rubber-stamping) massed ziggurats of new books. For record, the books we were going to talk about on Wednesday evening are: Caroline Clark, Sovetica and Own Sweet Time; Julian George, Bebe; Charles Boyle, 99 Interruptions. Available from the website now, and on the CBe table (with other books) at the Small Publishers Fair in London on 27th and 28th October. Free entry.