Celtic Illumination, part 316, Four, four, two.
I had always said that I knew I could be a top salesperson, but only if I believed in the product I was selling. In the past I had worked for conmen and bullies but now I was working for myself, a mental patient in waiting. When I first telephoned Well Bred Productions I was in a way glad to hear that O Grady and his manager boyfriend were out of the office. I began to chat to the receptionist and she sounded as if she didn’t hold either of them in high regard. I tried to get some background information on the pair of them and asked such questions like what other major celebrities had Murphy managed, or would they be taking any more people on to their books. I was surprised to find out that Murphy previously had been the manager of a gay sauna in London. If this was the full extent of his show business experience I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be pleased or worried.
The receptionist gave me a date and time that she knew Murphy would be in the office, so that I could call and speak to him. I made a note and although I probably should have rehearsed what I wanted to say to him I was far too excited to do that for I had a new idea brewing. The character Lily Savage was big in the UK, and growing in popularity, but I wasn’t sure if he had any following elsewhere, so in a way, my earning potential for Savage was limited. I was sure that I could push the project through and get the book published but I needed to find a bigger client, someone who was international. It was while I was browsing through a book shop that I noticed a series of books, I think they were by Steven Mitchell otherwise known by his pen name, Andy McNabb, the ex SAS guy who wrote a book about an eight man SAS patrol deployed in Iraq, during the first Gulf War, called Bravo Two Zero.
I was amazed that there seemed to be a good half dozen books, all different titles, by McNabb, but it gave me the germ of an idea. Once again I found myself in the local library scouring business directories and trade publications. It took me some time but I eventually ended up with the name of the person I needed to speak to. One of the areas I had to consider was the split between author and celebrity. Thankfully I had been able to find a number of articles about ghost writers, how they operated, and how they were remunerated and knew that there were three ways you could get paid. The first was an arranged fee normally paid in two parts, the first part on agreement and the second and final on satisfactory completion, as in the client had to accept your work before you received your final payment. The second method was using an hourly rate which of course was set down in the Writers and Artists Yearbook.
The third method was a simple fifty, fifty, split which of all three I favoured the most. With Lily Savage I didn’t mind that I would be asking him to go out and claim that he wrote the book but I was now entering different territory. If my second project was successful I would probably never ever again have to worry or even think about money. My new client was to be the football team Manchester United. It was a strange set up but I had discovered that one publishing house owned the publishing rights for Manchester United and I knew exactly which director to speak to about it. I didn’t waste any time so telephoned him and switched on my tape recorder. Here is where I would thank Jack in Ipswich for all his sales training because unlike Murphy the publisher I was about to speak to was a professional.
Having established who I was and what I wanted to speak about I launched in to my sales pitch. “Can you imagine?” I said. “Walking in to a book store and there sitting before you is a large six foot square, cardboard, Manchester United crest. Now I want you to imagine set into that crest, in a standard football formation, eleven novels.” This was a danger area for me as I knew nothing about football, never mind standard team formations. “Each novel will be red, have a large white number, so they will all be numbered from one to eleven and above each number, in a semi-circle, will be the player’s name. What I intend to do, is create eleven novels, and I will write one novel around eleven separate players. So apart from people wanting to own the book featuring their favourite player, think about how many fans will want to buy the whole set, and just think how much a book signed by the player will sell for?” I knew the man I was talking to was interested so I continued with my pitch.
“If one player leaves the team or another player, who is more popular, joins the squad, I guarantee that within three weeks I will have produced a novel for that player. I will research each player and write an adventure novel around their life; so that there would be an outside chance some of it was true.” At the time the government were suggesting that football clubs should do more towards educating their fans so I suggested that Manchester United could claim that the books would be their contribution towards educating their fans. The publisher laughed at that suggestion and thought I might be pushing my luck a little too far with that one. However I knew he could see that we were talking many millions as Manchester United had a huge worldwide following. I couldn’t believe it when he said that he liked my idea and that he would go away and crunch some numbers, if I would begin to produce some notes on what novels I would create
I asked him which eleven players made up the main team squad and he laughed at me saying that the main squad consisted of about thirty players. I could choose the most popular eleven. All I had to do now was find the eleven most popular players for Manchester United and dream up eleven different adventure stories. I knew I would have to produce a synopsis for each book but that was no real problem. The Manchester United project would be a huge undertaking and if successful would see me safe and settled for ever, but I was still interested in the Lily Savage project as the book was terribly funny. I telephoned Murphy, at the time suggested by his secretary, and switched my little tape recorder back on.
The Manchester United deal had certainly given me some confidence so I used a very similar pitch with Murphy, explaining how Lily Savage could claim to have written the books herself, real love stories, for real women, written by a real woman. Murphy wanted to know how much I wanted for writing the books and I said that I was willing to accept a fifty, fifty, split, explaining that if the books flopped, I would share in the failure although I was secretly hoping he would see the potential of the books and understand that we both stood to make a handsome profit from the deal. He wouldn’t agree to anything apart from having me send in what I had already written to him so that both he and O Grady could read my work and from there decide if they wanted to proceed. I was a little upset with this as I couldn’t see how managing a gay sauna in London qualified him to make any sort of literary judgment. I would have preferred a publisher to have made that choice, but as it was all new territory for me I couldn’t see any way around it. Not that I had any questions about how good the book was.
I wrapped up the now completed first book for Lily Savage and sent it off, all I could do now was wait, and I hated waiting. My eldest son liked watching football so I asked him to produce a list of the eleven most popular players for Manchester United. It didn’t take me too long to research each player and come up with a little adventure story for each of them. Truthfully I knew absolutely nothing about football and wouldn’t have known if my son had given me a list of eleven goalkeepers. By pacing myself I was able to produce the eleven synopsises and should have sat back and relaxed but I’ve never been one for sitting back and relaxing. I had come up with an idea for a second Lily Savage novel and had already started writing that, I was itching to get started on the Manchester United novels but unfortunately another celebrity had come on to my radar and I knew that within a day or two another project would be falling out of my typewriter and someone else would be having a telephone conversation with me recorded.