Friday, 24 October 2008

Reviews and news.

The book's been out for a couple of months now, and after googling it on a daily basis, I'm now starting to see some reviews. They've all been pretty good (so far) and my particular favourite is one that appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post, as well as the Birmingham Post.

I realise that readers of this blog are busy, successful people, so I'll just give you the highlights: "exceedingly funny...this marvelous memoir is a must-read...the type of book you could read on a train and suddenly burst out ranks among the very best books with a sporting theme."

That'll do me.

I also had my first ever experience of a mass book signing (well, 20 of them) at Waterstone's in Bromley, where I can be seen above in an entirely natural pose. They told me that sales were "going through the roof." If only that was the case at all Waterstone's branches...

Still, I have to say I'm pretty happy with everything so far.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

When Reviews Come

With the book all finished, and the orders all taken, the focus now moves towards the publicity for The Bromley Boys. And it's a nice way to kick off proceedings with a very positive review in When Saturday Comes. The reviewer, John Carter says

'Robert's wry, self-deprecating style is his book's biggest asset. Football fan or not, it's a genuinely funny read ... if you've ever endured a season like Bromley's, you'll recognise the tears hidden behind the smiles ... thoroughly recommended'

In fact the only thing that the reviewer doesn't like is the shoutline on the front -- written not by Dave, but by me (oops). So sorry about that, Dave.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The eagle has landed

As Tom touched on below, it's one of the best parts of writing a book. When that first pristine copy arrives in the mail. And that's what happened today. What made it even better was that I wasn't expecting it until the end of the month. I think the book looks great - I especially love the jacket and keep reading the cover quotes over and over. Even the Shakespeare quote at the beginning (not the result of a good education, but stolen from a recent Eastenders episode) seems perfect.
I never thought a book about a non-league football team's 1969 season could be made to look so sexy...

Friday, 20 June 2008

Back of the Net...

And after all that effort and writing and editing and tweaking and fine tuning, a finished copy finally rolls off the printing press. One of the nicest moments in the publishing process.
Well done Dave!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Quote Me Happy

Another part of the publishing process is to try and garner some useful pre-publication quotes for a book. This involves trying to work out which writers would be right to give an endorsement, and then pursuing them politely in the hope that they can spare you a couple of hours to read (and hopefully enjoy) the book. As you might imagine, there are some writers who are simply overwhelmed by the number of such requests: Nick Hornby, for example, has been asked so many times, he simply turns down the lot for fairness (and, I suspect, sanity); I wrote to Michael Palin last year for a quote, and got a polite letter back declining to give a quote for a completely different book.

For The Bromley Boys, the two people I thought would be perfect were the two I managed to hunt down. I commissioned a book by Match of the Day 2 presenter Adrian Chiles in a previous job (the extremely wonderful ‘We Don’t Know What We’re Doing’) and although he is fantastically busy, managed to squeeze out of him a quote. Harry Pearson, meanwhile, is the author of what I think is the greatest football book of all time, 'The Far Corner', and as I was in touch with him about another project, took the opportunity and asked if he’d be kind enough to read Dave’s book. Which he was.

The result are the following, extremely well deserved quotes:

‘Will strike a chord with football fans everywhere’ Adrian Chiles

"Agonisingly funny - perfectly captures the sad, futile, yet glorious world of the adolescent male football fan" Harry Pearson

If I saw those quotes on a football book in a bookshop, I’d pick it up.

The Burden of Proofs

It’s been a little while since I’ve written here, given that Dave and Malcolm have been busy crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. But the publishing wheels have been grinding on in their grinding on sort of way. With the manuscript finished and the layout designed, the pages have come back from the typesetters, still on A4, but beginning to look like a proper book. At this point, the joy that is proofreading takes place – checking that none of the t’s and i’s have lost their crosses and dots in the transfer. It’s the part of the process that I don’t really have the patience for, so thank the Lord for professional proofreaders. Though in my defence, as a rule of thumb, anyone who has edited the book shouldn’t proofread it as well – because you’re so familiar with the text, you can’t really look at it with the necessary fresh eyes to spot the errors. That’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it. In theory, you should have two sets of proofs, the second to check that mistakes from the first have been taken in. In practice, to the immense frustration of production, you can quite often end up with a third, fourth set, and even more. With hopefully all the mistakes spotted, next time we see the book, it'll be the finished product.

Friday, 9 May 2008

The Curse of the Bromley Boys Returns?

At an earlier stage of this book's progression, Tom rather worriedly commented on the unsettling and suspicious 'curse' of the Bromley Boys - the fact that since beginning work on the manuscript, his beloved York City had contrived to lose a fair number of games, apparently mirroring Bromley's terminal decline in that fateful 1969/70 season.

Now, being merely a part-time football fan, I can't profess to share his depth of passion for any particular football club, and I'm certainly nowhere near Dave's level of teenage obsession. But being born and raised in Medway, Kent, I do have an old affection for Gillingham FC, who finished their season last Saturday with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Leeds United at Elland Road. This meant the Gills stuck on 46 points (pl 46, w 11, d 13, l22), finishing 22nd in League One, and were thus relegated.*

*(Although, far from crying into a Gills shirt, I spent a rather pleasant Bank Holiday weekend and wasn't too bothered. In my defence, I'd already given up when they drew a must-win game against Swindon 1-1. And, living in north London these days, a stone's throw from the emporium of footballing grace that is the Emirates Stadium, it's easy to be tempted away from noticing what goes on at the slightly less glamorous KRBS Priestfield. Am I about to be lynched for football heresy?)

So, somewhat tragically, Gillingham go down along with Bournemouth, Port Vale and Luton Town. It could've been Cheltenham, it could've been Crewe, but it turned out to be us, along with the Cherries. Was this just bad luck? The inevitable culmination of a difficult and troubled season which started with Ronnie Jepson at the helm and finished with Mark Stimson, the side racked with injury, the club with no funds to bring in any real talent and - crucially - the lack of a decent goalscoring forward? Or...the dreaded curse of the Bromley Boys at work?

League Two beckons after summer for Gillingham, who spent twelve seasons clawing their way out, right up to the Championship, and now they're back. How depressing. For most of the Rainham end faithful, it probably won't truly sink in until next season, when - inevitably - the first fixture turns out to be against Dagenham & Redbridge.


Thursday, 27 March 2008

The tinkering is over

Like Claudio Ranieri in his Chelsea days, I have been tinkering. And now it is done. The final version of the manuscript has been sent to Mal, with his comments by and large acted upon. It was interesting reading through it one last time - it actually reads as though it was written by me aged 14, instead of the older, more cynical version. Every page seems to drip with the excessive passion and blind devotion I had for Bromley Football Club. As well as the growing desperation for just ONE good result.

I'm quite excited that some of the original press clippings from the Bromley and Kentish Times are going to be used throughout the book. It was only when reading through these that I realised just how bad Bromley were that season. I think I've always been in some kind of denial over it, but seeing it all in black and white really brought it home.

The book is now up on Amazon which makes the whole thing seem more real.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

They Were The Best Of Times; They Were The Blurst Of Times...

Having finally finished the copy edit of Dave's manuscript, and delivered my lengthy revisions back to the author, I awoke today to find ineligible scraps of paper on my desk of notes to mention in my final blog. Hastily written, these notes were meant to be funny bits of information that would make people reading the blog rush out to pre-order a copy of the book. Well, in theory...

The first line of the first scrap of paper I picked up read 'Marmite and Butter'. For the life of me I cannot recollect why I wrote this. Was this the beginning of a shopping list I later abandoned? Was this something important I was meant to tell Dave? Was it a secret editor's code I’d devised? I have no idea – all I know is that I was so absorbed in the final few chapters of the book that I was writing nonsensical notes to myself and I couldn't figure out why.

I did write other fascinating notes to mention for this blog. I reminded myself to remind everyone that it's Dave's birthday in March and that we should all stop for a moment and send him a congratulatory message. I noted that Alan Stonebridge leaving Bromley FC is a traumatic point in the book that, for those readers engrossed in Bromley's success, will wonder if young Dave ever finds the strength to carry on supporting the team once his hero has jumped ship. I also noted that fourteen year old boys hitching to football games in the late 1960s was an incredible statement of the kind of freedom that people were allowed back then, and, of course, there would be an uproar now if such a thing still happened. I laughed out loud at Dave's mathematics when realizing that Bromley would need thirty goals to win the Kent Floodlit Cup. I found it interesting, but no less suprising, that even in the hippy ’60s The Sun newspaper was reporting football hooliganism. Last of all I noted (with genuine hilarity) that the decade that had seen Elvis, The Beatles, J.F.K. and Martin Luther King change the world so drastically, the UK's Number One single to close the most defining decade in modern British history was Rolf Harris' 'Two Little Boys'. It says it all, methinks.

So, the copy edit is over and Dave will be responding to my proposed changes in the next seven days. On the whole, the book charged onwards neatly and cohesively – though I have moved a few things about. One or two of the chapters endings were prolonged to tease the reader a few pages more; a few 'He saids' need to be turned into detailed discussions and some of the smaller floating paragraphs will require tightening and moving about. One of the main issues of doing a book with such a linear narrative is that some of the match details and analysis tended to repeat the same high and lows (In Bromley's case, lows) but this can be addressed easily. Dave has already come back to me on some of my points agreeing and questioning where required.

Oh, and I’ve just worked out the ‘Marmite and Butter’ thing. Apparently, and I assume this is a typo, young Dave liked Marmite and butter on Weetabix for breakfast.

My note in the margin read simply, ‘Really?’.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

It's all in the details...

As the book comes together, we begin thinking about the flourishes that will enhance Dave's narrative - bits of incidental detail to really accentuate the story of Bromley's season.

Tom and Dave have voiced the idea that every chapter should end with a league table, effectively punctuating each episode, rounding off and reinforcing Bromley's steady rate of decline through goals conceded, games lost and points squandered. Dave is great at conveying this obsession with league tables, as he recounts poring over the sports pages in the local paper, feverishly calculating every single possibility and permutation from the week's matches, dreaming of the best-case scenarios that would enable his team to haul themselves one or two places above their rivals. His hopes, dreams and wide-eyed enthusiasm provide the perfect counterpoint to the stats, to get readers turning the page to be confronted with, in stark black and white, the full league table of the Isthmian League 1969/70 season, scanning down anxiously until they see the name Bromley - perpetually stuck in the bottom three at the foot of the table.

So begins some research, to obtain and compile enough tables for use in the book. Fortunately, Dave's collection of programmes and cuttings has meant that we already have most of the relevant league tables. Of the 38 games Bromley played over the season, only the figures for nine weeks in which the team had played league matches are missing. Off I trot to British Library Newspapers in Colindale, almost at the end of the Northern line, to trawl through local papers in search of those vital statistics. I order up musty, leather-bound volumes for 1969 and 1970 of the Bromley Advertiser and the Bromley & Kentish Times, with some success, but still need to search further afield - papers that covered news and results from Bromley’s fellow Isthmians; Sutton United, Hitchin Town, Dulwich Hamlet, Walthamstow Avenue et al. Rooting through the sports pages is a slow, protracted task, and it’s odd to pick out Dave’s ‘stars’ in the match reports – identifying Bromley players’ names when they appear, and studying the occasional grainy mugshots of ‘Postman’ Pat Brown or Johnny Warman with a strange curiosity. Such is the power of the Bromley Boys that it reels you in, as you become familiar with the Bromley squad and all its attendant injuries and suspensions.

The Newspapers Library closes up for the day, but there are still three tables to get – another trip later this week then, with more local papers to hunt out and look through. Unless, of course, there’s a reader out there in possession of a complete season’s set of league tables for a minor club playing in a lower tier of English football over 35 years ago?

Moving Right Along...

With the page count decreasing, it is time to report on the Bromley Boys again, now the hull has been breached and the sentinels are inside…

I’m making decent headway, with the questions and comments for Dave piling up as I do so. It’s a slow process, made slower by other nagging schedules Portico has, but then if no one can hear you scream in space, what hope do you have in publishing?

I’ve promised I would deliver all my questions and revisions to Dave next week. Possible rephrases, cuts and revisions are minimal – the only real issue is cutting down and amending sections that stop the energy and flow of the text when it’s pacing nicely. Though that’s to be expected for a book of this ‘memoir’ nature. Dave and I have revised a few bits and pieces together as we have gone along, but as far as I am concerned this is the fun part – studying the book as if it were a menu and coming to a decision that’s both filling and delicious.

The process is made slower by the fact that every couple of sentences it is impossible not to stop and think about just how many fun and imaginative ways we could design the book. I’m not a designer but it’s difficult to not think about it when the inspiration leaps out at you from the page. I keep thinking of how we could set out the contents list to look like a division table, or have the endpapers be a scrapbook collage of old ticket stubs or have an illustrated pair of muddy boots hanging over the pages as if they would do on a peg in some timeless 1960s stadium changing room. I'm thinking of tedious clich├ęs, obviously, and I shouldn't, because so far I haven't come across any in the book. I’m getting ahead of myself, but the manuscript really does evoke that immediate kind of nostalgia and imagination.

Which is weird as I wasn't alive in 1969. Not even close. But, somehow, with each new chapter of Dave's text, I can imagine it just that little bit clearer; what it was like to have been a childhood fan of a team that was going through a 'bad patch' – just like I remembered when I was thirteen and wanting to be the next Bruce Grobbelaar. The outrageous transfer fees, the prima donnas with shaving foam sponsors of today, and their WAG’s, all seem such a distant cry from the innocent enthusiasm and passion of a young boy in the days when football seemed to mean a lot more to people is infectious. And thats the USP of this book – to use such a torrid modern acronym.

I’m pretty enthused by working on this book because, ultimately, with each page I tick off, I’m wondering when the next goal will slip past David Jensen… I imagine it wont be long.

My deadline for Dave looms, so I better crack on…

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Covering Notes

The other aspect of the book process at this stage, is to start thinking about the jacket. It may seem quite early, but our sales people are already sounding out bookshops about August titles, so it is important that they have something to show.

This early version came through a trawl of many, many possible photos. What I like about it is that it captures the feel of the book -- Dave's teenage wide-eyed supporter anguish -- and I think pushes the book out to the widest possible audience. The other alternative was to take advantage of Dave's wonderful collection of memorabilia, but for me, that reduces the appeal of the book to a purely football audience -- whereas in fact it is a bigger book than that.

At this stage with a jacket, we take stock of responses: if sales and bookshops like it, then we go ahead with working it up properly. If the response is more mixed, then we're back to the drawing board. The response, so far, has been extremely good, so this will probably form the basis of the cover.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

From The Top Of The First Line

Ok, so this is where I come in...

Now that I have broke the back of Dave's The Bromley Boys, scribbling notes untidily in the margins as I go along, while also trying to unravel my own childhood memories of being a Liverpool supporter in the days when John Barnes was prone to rapping and Ian Rush's moustache was still brown, I feel better equipped to begin blogging about my role as copy editor on Mr Roberts' lovingly composed prose.

My job is simple. All that is required is a complete line by line analysis of the manuscript, sticking my nose in all the nooks and crannies in the hope of gaining an insightful knowledge of the author's words and, potentially, discover some helpful tips to improve the book's overall brilliance. Along the way, you never know, I may even add in a few commas, colons and full stops and correct the odd dangerously spelt word. So far, so good though.

It's often been said that copy editing a book is a lot like cosmetic surgery – taking the skin and bones of something already brilliantly crafted and cutting, inserting – sometimes poking – it into an even more pleasing arrangement. It's an awful metaphor, I know, but copy editing isn't like making love to a beautiful woman, sadly. Once this meticulous probing is complete and the words are put to bed, Dave and I will begin our discussions on making the book look good enough to eat. and buy.

But, I'll be back blogging before then – keeping us all up-to-date with how the edit is going and what hidden gems I've discovered. As for now, it's back to reading how an infamous rabbit robbed Bromley of a well-deserved win...

Monday, 21 January 2008

The Next Stage

It may seem that I've been neglecting Dave for a couple of weeks. It's been one of those busy periods since Christmas where a lot of manuscripts have arrived at the same time -- some fantastically late, others (like Dave) early -- and it's been the fantastically late ones which have been demanding my attention.

What happens now is that the publishing process moves on to the next level. Firstly, it's time for the main manuscript to be copy-edited -- the line by line stuff now that the structural editing is complete. This I'm handing to my extremely able editor, Malcolm Croft, who'll be writing about his role shortly. Secondly, it's time to start thinking about all those additional bits and bobs that accompany the text. Dave has collected a lot of memorabilia, which we need to work out how to use. We also want to try and track down the league tables from the 1969 season: my assistant, Matt Jones, will write about his search for these. Thirdly, the sales team are starting to read the manuscript in order to think about how they're going to sell it. And finally, we are starting to think about the cover. We've got a rough visual which looks like...ah, you'll have to wait until tomorrow, when I discuss it in detail!