As this year’s booker prize was announced I cast my mind back 20 years to the day that Penelope Lively won the Booker. Working for a publisher who wins the booker prize was (and I hope still is) a really exciting event, it is as though everyone wants to know you, and the company you work for, and you know that however small your contribution was to the great event, you helped make the book a success. After hearing the news live on tv, the next morning I arrived at the office at 8.00 am to find many of my colleagues already there. I armed myself with some coffee, a notepad and pen and waited for the phone to ring. I didn’t have to wait long. At 8.10 am I took the first phone call, from a bookseller who was ‘delighted’ that it was our book that had won. An hour later, purely from writing it down so many times, I had memorised the ISBN. (Its something like 0233 981071 she says without looking it up!).
There are some memories that I hope will never leave me, and this is one. The whole excitement of the shortlist build up, the extra work we had to do to budget the print run, the winning itself, and the amount of champagne that was at every office party, it is such a great feeling that is difficult to recreate.
And let’s not forget the author, Penelope Lively still remains one of the best authors that I have ever had the priviledge to work for. Her attitude and understanding of the realities of publishing – that we almost didn’t supply a bookshop with copies for her signing as their account was overdue, that she turned up an hour earlier than scheduled to the office to sign copies for onward shipment and had to wait for me to find the books, and she even apologised to our distributors for ‘all that extra work’.
One of the things about Moon Tiger (I am not sure whether this is popular knowledge) is that the 2nd printing of 1500 copies was misbound. Apparantly the printers dropped the plates and mixed up the ending of two chapters, both of which had the main character Claudia sipping a cup of coffee. As none of the chapter endings had page numbers, the inevitable happened and the pages were mixed up. The entire print run was recalled to be pulped, but as is often in these cases not all copies came back.