As this year’s London Book Fair approaches, let me share an experience.
Last year, Peter Kalu and I were invited to a panel at the London Book Fair. We had produced leaflets, with the aim of selling some of our about-to-be best sellers, but ditched the idea when we saw the suits, snoots and high heels, and instead decided to see if we could have a good time.
In the evenings, publishers and distributors host lots of parties. Rich ones, lay out expensive champagne, not so rich are also generous. Alas, we were a little depressed as neither Peter or I had any invitation for any party.
‘Gate crash,’ advised Susan-Dolorous Smithfield [REAL NAME WITHHELD], as she is well respected literary agent.
Peter and I perked up.
‘No one will know,’ she added.
Apart from the cleaners and other staff, we were the only two non-white faces. When we pointed this out to Susan-Dolorous Smithfield, she said, ‘I never thought of that,’ and then asked, ‘do you always notice this?’
Not keen on engaging in this line of discussion, I thank her, and while Peter talked to her about getting a seven digit advance for his next sure to god best best seller, I ran off for a quick recky.
There were loads of parties; there was one in a music specialist book store – not a single cover had a black face on it, and there were no black faces among the suits; There was a huge party in the center, not a single black face on any book cover, but there was a black face in the crowd.
I went back to Peter and Susan-Dolorous Smithfield. Peter was still making his impassioned pitch, but he had reduced his asking amount to six digits. When I gave my report, he ignored me and said to Susan-Dolorous Smithfield, ‘OK. I’ll accept any offer.’
She smiled, a smile at Peter that said, there is no offer, and said to me, ‘They will be too busy praising each other, they won’t notice you. Do not act like a gatecrasher and nervous. Just drink. ’ She turned to Peter, pointed to his ID badge and said, ‘But don’t you talk to any editor, Peter,’ then turning to me and she added, ‘but you’re OK.’
Before we could ask the obvious question she explained, ‘Because Tariq’s badge says Speaker, but yours, Peter, says, Author, and no editor wants to meet a writer.’