Monday, April 20, 2009

Dutch courage

I can’t say yet if this year’s Book Fair will bring me any financial benefits, but it has at least brought me two very enjoyable lunches, today’s being in Chelsea with the renowned and charming Marga de Boer of Dutch publishers Luitingh-Sijthoff. As well as being one of Holland’s most influential editors, it turns out Marga is also a keen ice-skater and has a formidable knowledge of both Latin and Greek. Not for the first time this week, I find myself feeling a little like a cave-dwelling Philistine next to my host.

In Holland publishers have to get translations from English in particular done very quickly, because most Dutch people are perfectly willing and able to read English books in the original. Walk into an Amsterdam bookshop and you will find that only roughly half the fiction titles are actually in Dutch. In my case, The Einstein Girl, will be coming out just one month later than in the UK, which is something of a feat. I am delighted to find the Einstein artwork on the cover of the new catalogue (you can see it here: Marga deliberately runs an eclectic and international list, with virtually no overlap in styles or themes: so I find my book unexpectedly rubbing shoulders with the latest from Patricia Cornwell, Danielle Steele, John Le Carré and Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Apparently the trade likes what she has done, and Marga is confident that Einstein will be decently stocked, which is about all I could ask for. On the other hand, she points out that there are difficulties in publicizing non-Dutch authors in Holland, and suggests I get busy on the Internet preparing all manner of material which must somehow be linked into the great global on-line cyber market in the sky. I must admit, this is not terribly much what I wanted to hear. (Not that I mind messing about with web sites and editing software. It’s just the time they eat up...) Momentarily daunted, I then make a hash of describing my next book again.

After lunch, I give Marga a lift to her hotel in Earl’s Court, where the serious action (for her, rather than me) begins tomorrow. There she will try to cram in several meetings per hour all day and much of the night, most of them under the hot lights of the exhibition centre. Hard work on the larynx, the memory and the ankles. I expect the skating helps.

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