Here’s the draft I made for the cover of my book Don’t joke On The Stairs. It is a book researched through 18 years of travel in China, its title inspired by this piece of good advice I found on a poster in Gansu:
I had been strangely happy recently because my book was supposed to be published in three or four weeks, and not only that, it was to be published by the prestigeous South China Morning Post Publishing. I had contacted them in March 2007, got the go-ahead, edited the book twice more and signed the contract with them in July, and was now inviting people to the launch to which I’d found a great venue, dreaming of the interviews and public appearances.
(Interviews and public appearances is one of the few ways I have of meeting people, stuck as I am in sleepy backwater Pui O, chained to my writing.)
Oh, and I was also looking forward the several cents per book that would be trickling in with great force – I would make enough to buy myself a meal in a real restaurant only with the revenue from the launch sales, I calculated. Perhaps a toothbrush too.
So imagine my surprise and faint irritation when I received an email from SCMP Publishers last Thursday, not a personal, grovelling email addressed to me and mentioning the business relationship we’ve had for almost a year, no, it was a breezy, mass email saying something like:
“Oh by the way we’re suspending SCMP Publishers as of February 1st. If you have any inquiries, call Anus Wong on 2526….(etc)”
No book! No launch! (Sorry, everybody I’ve already invited.) No membership in the Royal Communist Party! No meal and toothbrush!
When I finally got hold of one of the editors (all other staff having sensibly gone into hiding) she said (also breezingly and without even a “sorry”) Oh yeah we won’t be printing your book. But you’re free to find another publisher.
I thanked her profusely for this. Free to find another publisher – the kindness!
But I was scathing too soon. A journalist from Ming Pao told me that many other writers in SCMP’s stable have not only lost their books but the copyright to their own books as well!
The moral of this story is… I don’t know really. You can’t trust anything or – body, not even when you have a contract?
Wei! Any publishers reading this? My book is ready for print, it’s controversial and bound to get banned in China, thereby generating hundreds of meals in real restaurants, and a handful of toothbrushes too. Electric!