Writing – The Big Breakthrough!
By the eighties I was not making any impression on publishers. I had two bites at the bait. One of my Sci-fi books was considered, professionally read and ummed over. They decided not to go ahead.
I had been running a History of Rock Music course as an adult Education class. Times were tough. Teaching was poorly paid. The kids were on free school meals and we could not make ends meet. I moonlighted at a Youth Club and teaching evening classes in A Level Biology and Rock Music. It brought some money in.
I had a big collection of vinyl albums that I added to substantially in the process of teaching that course. Instead of bringing money in I was spending more than I was bringing in. Not a good idea.
I decided to write a book on what I knew best – Rock Music. I launched myself in with gusto, using my notes from the Rock Class, producing charts of influences, track lists and descriptions of genres and artists and liberally sprinkling anecdotes. By the time I had finished I had produced a four volume definitive history of some one thousand two hundred pages. I called it ‘Rock Strata’.
I sent it off and a Literary Agent was highly interested. Within a week he had got a publisher interested. I went to London for a meeting. The Publisher loved it. They wanted to publish.
I was delighted.
The only problem was that he was not willing to produce four volumes and one thousand two hundred pages. He thought it was too risky and would cost too much. He wanted me to base the book around the flow diagrams and cut it down to two hundred pages.
I was dismayed. What he was talking about was a different book altogether.
I went home and spent the entire summer holiday writing the new book. I got it down to two hundred and twenty five pages with twenty flow diagrams. I called it ‘Rock Streams’ and sent it off.
He was delighted. He loved the writing, concept and knowledge. He loved the flow charts. We talked technical issues concerning designing and producing the flow diagrams. He was worried about the cost. We sorted it.
I went down to Portsmouth to their publishing house and negotiated the deal. I was to receive an advance of £200. That was a substantial sum to me and solved all my financial worries.
I went back home and started writing a follow-up which I called ‘Under the Covers’. It was a great idea and one that I will rewrite one day.
It was just before Christmas and the cheque was due to arrive in late November. We rushed out and bought the kids Christmas presents – mountain bikes and gear. The cheque never arrived.
I rang and it was always in the post.
In January, after many awkward conversations with my bank manager, the publisher admitted that the book had been pulled. The board had considered the cost of the flow diagrams was too much. They also thought that it might be competing with Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees – though the concept and execution were completely different. There was not going o be a cheque or a book.
My Literary Agent was apologetic. He thought it had been an unprecedented piece of bad management and I had been let down badly.
I went home and threw the manuscript in the bottom drawer along with the follow-up. I did not continue with the Literary Agent and just let everything lapse.