I’ve been writing books since my twenties. In fact, I have been working on one book or another almost constantly since I finished my first — which was my doctorate thesis, resting unread in a dusty vault in Cambridge.
Notwithstanding inasmuch as which the draft of my forthcoming tome A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth is now with my editor, who will get back to me when the time comes. The
purring dog cat is out of the bag, however, as news of the book is most definitely in circulation. I discovered this week that there’s even a review of it on Goodreads — in what Google Translate tells me is Slovak. Google Translate also tells me it’s a pretty good review, which is reassuring.
It’s all down to the forensic attention devoted to the synopsis by my wonderful agent, who helped me craft a pitch that caused much exciteration in the world of publishing. English publication rights were soon picked up by Picador (in the UK and Commonwealth) and St Martins Press (US and Canada). The Foreign Rights team of Picador has sold (so far) translation rights for editions in simplified Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Russian. Without expecting the book to be translated into the number of languages in which the Harry Potter canon is available (around 80, including Malayalam, Welsh, and the Valencian dialect of Catalan), I confidently expect offers for one of the three main dialects of Klingon, and Black Speech, which I Shall Not Utter Here. For context, there are believed to be around 7,000 languages, though many are spoken by only a small number of people, and are rapidly becoming extinct.
My previous books have been variously translated into a variety of languages including (at the last count) Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. But never before have translation rights been sold before the book was first published in English. That’s a first for me.
What worries me slightly is that
expectorations expectations have been raised to a pitch that reality cannot possibly match. So, whenever the book comes out — in a year’s time, I believe — I do hope you’ll buy lots of different copies, in as many languages as you can find.
Back when I was a fresh-faced youth and sold my first book, crusty old authors told me that I’d have to write at least six before anyone would take any notice. Many years and several books later, perhaps I am now that crusty old author: I am now fifty-eight, and when this book comes out I’ll be getting on for sixty. They say that you have to toil in obscurity for decades before you get to be an overnight sensation.