Books wot I wrote

One of the side benefits of having a platform to sell books is that I can offer for sale my own Meisterwerke, now sadly out of print and in high demand by collectors (I wish!).

I have had three books published so far, with a fourth in the pipeline. My first venture into print was this little classic

Image 14

A-Z of Manchester Football

The A-Z of Manchester Football came about after I had produced something like five years of football programmes for Granada TV in Manchester early on in my career. In its infinite wisdom, Granada wanted me to move out of its sport backwater and into its highly successful and mainstream current affairs department. I wasn’t a willing transferee and I took three months off in accumulated leave and extra days worked before making the move.

I had what I thought was an accumulated knowledge of the local football scene which I didn’t want to go to waste, and so I sought and gained a commission to write a book about football in Manchester. It was mainly to give me something to do in the three months of gardening leave from Granada. The result was published by the splendidly named publisher Boondoggle.

You can probably imagine how proud I was when I bought my morning newspaper on the way to work one day in 1978 and found copies of my book piled high beside the till at a newsagents in Manchester. In fact, I went straight home and cleared the mantelpiece of its clutter of Buckingham Palace garden party invitations, summonses and so on, to make way for the inevitable Sports Book of the Year Awards and maybe a Pulitzer Prize which were sure to follow.

Two weeks later I found the same pile of books in the same newsagents in a box at the back of the shop, priced at 10p each.  My first remaindering. My publisher and I had failed to take into account that football fans are so parochial that they wouldn’t want a book which even mentions the other team in the city, let alone gives over half of the book to it. And so, City fans wouldn’t touch it, and nor would United supporters.

I had several large boxes of this small book for many years until I invented reverse shoplifting, which involved leaving a copy on the shelves of every charity shop I visited until I had the numbers down to the dozen or so I optimistically still have available to sell on my website.

Next up, nine years later, was this rather more upmarket publication for Sidgwick & Jackson and Channel 4.

I had taken NFL American Football to Channel 4 and executive-produced six years of the sport for them.  Channel 4 had licenced several books about American Football, in which I played no part other than take for my company a 20% cut of the profits. Since American Football had been a big hit for Channel 4, it followed that they at some time would give American baseball a go

There was a queue of publishers wanting to piggyback on the proposed series on baseball. At that time, any book associated with a broadcast was plugged by the continuity announcer after each programme. Effectively, this was free advertising in a very prominent position and, in theory, guaranteed that the publication would be a commercial success.

Channel 4 auctioned the right to publish an associated book. The winning bid, from Sidgwick & Jackson, was an advance of £20,000 (about £55,000 in today’s money). I got half of that for writing this with my American friend Jim Marooney:

Image 15

The Book of Baseball

In fact, the shelf life of this little gem was not much more than a lettuce, as it too was remaindered in a matter of weeks.

World Series baseball has up to seven games in a period of about nine days. Instead of showing the sport in once-a-week programmes in a fixed and quite attractive time slot (as we had with American Football), Channel 4 and I elected to show each of the games within 24 hours of them taking place, which usually involved me working through the night in some God-forsaken edit suite in some dark and dangerous American city ghetto. That meant the programmes were scheduled all over the place, from lunchtime to midnight on many different days of the week. If there had been an audience for baseball, with this schedule it couldn’t find the programmes. and the viewing figures were pretty disastrous. The publisher cut his losses and remaindered The Book of Baseball more or less instantly. My second remaindering. I received a box of them by way of an apology. Some of these also optimistically on sale on the website!

 

 

 

If you are beginning to detect a common theme here, British publishing disasters and my part in them, you would be wrong. The next book was an unqualified success. Possibly because my involvement was behind the scenes and my name only appears on the publisher’s page, not on the cover:

Image 25

Arlott in Conversation with Mike Brearley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I refer in conversation to “One of my book-signing tours of small provincial towns”, I am actually referring to the singular time I was in an Oxfam shop in Tewkesbury and found my baseball book for sale. Telling the staff that I had written this, and was not sure whether to be pleased that it was benefiting one of my supported charities, or upset that some punter had felt that his life was still complete without ownership of this fine volume, they asked me to sign it and placed it on their “local authors” shelf. My fifteen minutes of fame…

 

Written by Derek Brandon

0 Comments

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *