I’m having a little private celebration today, to mark the publication of a new book – THE ORCHARD BOOK OF GRIMM’S FAIRYTALES. It’s not really new, which is why I’m going to stay low-key with the tequila slammers. It’s a reissue, rejacketed and rebooted, but it’s cause for celebration nonetheless.
In many ways producing a book is a bit like having a child. There’s the sublime moment of conception as you get the idea, followed by a few halcyon days when you imagine all sorts of incredible outcomes for your little sprog. That’s followed by a seemingly never-ending period of hard slog counterbalanced by moments of pride and sense of achievement. When the book is launched you do everything in your power to make sure it reaches its full of potential. You convince your publishers to do a proper launch, you agree to school visits in difficult-to-get-to places, you do festival appearances, talks to student teachers, interviews with bloggers. You network the good reviews online and check the book’s amazon ranking with a zeal that could be taken for definite symptons of ocd.
But at some point you have to let go. There’s other bunnies wanting your attention and there’s not much more you can do for that one particular book, save taking it around schools with you to show kids. Still, you can’t help worrying about it. In my case, I worry about the characters in the books rather than the work itself. I think of them as real people, and I hate the fact that the world might be ignoring them. I suppose my old friend the author/reviewer/beard grower Philip Ardagh will have a good old-fashioned giggle when he reads I’m admitting to any sort of emotion, but it’s true. I’m the literary equivalent of a helicopter parent; I find it difficult to let go of my characters and fret about their future.
Not that my anxiousness makes any difference to book sales. Every work has a
journey to make and in the long run there’s precious little you can do to alter the current. THE ORCHARD BOOK OF GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES has had a very interesting journey so far. Commissioned by the wonderful Rosemary Davis at Orchard before they became part of the Hachette group, it was originally published in 2002. Emma-Chichister Clark did the illustrations, and she picked up on the black humour I used to give the stories a contemporary feel. The witch in Hansel And Gretel looks like she buys her home decor from Cath Kidson, Snow White looks like she’s modelling Laura Ashley, and Rapunzel’s tower stands chameleon-like among the trees.
At some point before publication, the sales team suggested we change the title to THE SLEEPING PRINCESS and other tales from Grimm. There was a reason that made sense at the time but I can’t remember what it was. The book got quite a few good reviews, had co-editions in Spain, Italy and Greece, all territories where my books tend to do well – and that was it, basically. We didn’t have a bestseller on our hands but we shifted enough copies to stay in print and get stocked by the shops, mostly the independents in well-to-do areas.
Then in 2006, MacElderry Books in America picked it up. We got an accolade, some seriously good reviews, and lots more sales. A paperback edition for the UK had been on the cards for a while but Orchard decided to relaunch in hardback with a new title and a new jacket. The title was changed back to THE ORCHARD BOOK OF GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES, to bring it in line with their successful gift book series.
There’s also going to be a spin-off series, called GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES. I’ve adapted eight of the stories for younger readers and each one is going to have its own little book, illustrated by Cecilia Johannsen. Her style is very different from Emma’s, so it’s been really interesting seeing what she makes of each story. The series is published in pairs, two a month starting in January 2012. So there’s life in the The Sleeping Princess yet [I’ve omitted the word ‘old’ before ‘the sleeping’ as in my world, fairy tale princesses never get old]. It’s a literary rebirth, a read-aloud reincarnation!
I wonder if it’s too early in the day for that tequila…?