Because nothing stays buried forever

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Once upon a time there was a naïve and slightly foolish young girl. She loved to write and would lock herself away for hours, living in her fantasy world and creating tales of terror. She desperately wanted to be an author and routinely submitted her tales to both agents and publishers, but had no more than a polite response.

Her father was particularly proud of her efforts and one day when boasting about her, a business colleague asked if he could read one of the books. He did so and called straight away, raving about how wonderful the story was and how he felt sure the girl could be the next big thing. Although not a writer himself, he had done some work with a publishing firm and promised to pass the book on to them, as he felt sure they would be interested.

A few weeks passed and the publishing firm made contact. They too loved the book and were interested in signing the girl in a three book deal. Contracts were signed and the girl was over the moon. All her efforts had paid off and she was going to be a published writer.

Not long after signing the contract, the girl was at her day job when she received a call from the publisher. The local paper is on the way to your office to interview you. They are interested in running a story on your publishing deal and your advance. The word ‘advance’ confused the girl. She didn’t remember anything being agreed about an advance. She questioned this and was reassured all was okay. The publishing company felt she had a bright future and they were prepared to invest in her.

The girl was still hesitant, but believed everything to be legit. She met with the press and they took photos of her looking very happy and holding a mock-up copy of the book. They started to ask her questions, but they weren’t interested in the book itself. All they wanted to know about was how she intended to spend the huge advance she was getting; a record amount of money for a first time author.

Now the girl was very confused. Nothing had been said that she was going to be receiving a huge sum of money. The publisher had said she was worth investing in though. Did this mean she was rich? Unsure how to answer the reporter’s questions, she muddled her way through as best as possible, excited about the prospect of earning lots of money, disappointed that this was all the press were interested in, but also feeling a little bit wary that something wasn’t quite right.

The next morning the girl was woken at 6am by a photographer waiting outside the house. He said if the girl would allow him to take a few pictures for the press he would be on his way, so she agreed. She went to work, but the phones were going crazy with reporters trying to get hold of her. Her boss wasn’t best pleased and sent her home. At home things were worse. As well as the phones ringing, reporters and film crews kept turning up. They all kept asking the same thing, wanting to know about the advance. The girl tried to answer their questions as best she could, not wanting to make herself look foolish by saying that she didn’t really understand what was going on, as she couldn’t get hold of anyone at the publishing firm.

The next morning she was in every national newspaper – all of them focusing on the size of the advance. She was carted off to London and paraded out on various daytime chat shows. People were telling her movie rights were being discussed and Jack Nicholson had shown an interest. This was all news to her, so she just smiled naively, not sure what to say.

By this point, one of the national papers was questioning how a small publishing firm could afford to invest so much money in a new author. They questioned if the girl was playing a very clever publicity stunt. The girl felt sick to her stomach. Money was great, but all she had ever really wanted was to have her novels published. She had no idea if this advance was real or if she was being played and set up to look a fool.

Eventually the publishing firm made contact. They told the girl it was in their best interests that she quit her day job and concentrate on her writing full time. They gave assurances she would start receiving her advance in weekly chunks.

The girl felt a little happier now she had some concrete evidence they were being true to their word. She handed in her notice and a month later quit her job. Except there was a problem, as the promised money from her advance never materialised. After a struggle to get hold of anyone at the publishing firm, a cheque for a few hundred pounds arrived. This was the only money she would ever see from them.

The publisher was also being cagey about the book, telling the press it was now being indefinitely delayed. They buried themselves away, trying to distance themselves from the media storm they had created and solicitors became involved. By now the national newspaper had figured out the girl was an unwitting pawn in an attempt to make money off the back of all the publicity. No one could even be sure if the publisher had even read the girl’s books. The newspaper tried to expose the publisher and the girl went back to her former boss and asked for her day job back. Eventually the media frenzy died down and she got to go back to being anonymous.

And the moral of this story is – if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Should the girl have told the media she wasn’t sure what was happening? Perhaps she would have been wise to dig her heels in until she had been shown physical proof of the advance. She was young and naïve and thought all of her dreams had just come true. Put yourself in her shoes and question how you would have dealt with the situation.

The girl has now grown up and finally plucked up the courage to try again. This time there were no big rewards being dangled in front of her and her book is getting to do the talking.

She prefers it that way.

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