The books have settled in
Trouble is, there are a tiny bit too many books in the new house and office for the new shelves. I have to consider them sternly, but not now. Later, because there was no time to do this while they were being jammed into the shelves, two rows deep, to keep a few boxes ahead of the removal men delivering yet more. But soon I will have the floor space to bring all the books out and lay them in inconvenient orderly piles, on the floor, in every room, and begin to cull. You can see here one of the very beautiful bookcases and cupboards built for Handheld in a fireplace alcove by The Little Bookcase Company. (They also punctured a heating pipe by mistake, but that’s another story, and didn’t cause much mess.) None of the books in the open shelves have been sorted, so don’t judge us!
Does it pass the test?
Reshelving the books is more than a good opportunity for reconsidering what I want to keep. It is an outstandingly good way of revisiting books that I might want to reprint. Here’s how I whittle down the choices.
- I ask myself ‘is this a fabulous story that I want to make all my friends read?’. If the answer is ‘yes, obviously’, then I can carry on.
If it’s ‘no’, then I might have to justify keeping the book at all (reference value is a good safety-net). Many old favourites and elusive classics have been pounced on already with cries of gladness, and placed in a special place on the Handheld desk, for investigation. They need to fulfil further criteria:
- Is the text in copyright? (ie has the author been dead for more than 70 years?) If no, then this is a definite advantage.
- If yes, then I ask: ‘are the permissions and/or royalty expectations from the author’s estate likely to be very expensive?’
- If the answer isn’t ‘yes’, then I keep hold of the book, asking ‘who will buy this book? Are there several distinct markets?’ The innate fabulousness of the novel or story collection will usually get the book through this hoop as well, producing several groups of readers, so I am cheered by lots of marketing opportunities.
- But before I do anything rash, I test the market: is the book in print? Oh. It is. But how old is the most recent reprint? Oh! Fourteen years. Well, that’s doable. Twenty years or more is better.
And the book remains on the desk, and later I will enquire about permissions for republishing it. The last batch of books but one to go through this process were all reshelved, sadly. But it’s been a good cross-checking system: I’ve rediscovered a couple of much-loved titles to investigate that seem promising.
Theories of filing
Handheld’s filing system – for papers – is well ordered and compact, but its containers are falling to pieces. They’re paper and card filing boxes, that fitted on the only shelves I had where the company was being set up. Now I have more permanent filing choices, but no room for the family filing cabinet that we’ve had for 25 years. I have been researching the market in filing boxes and wish very much that I could buy more of the very beautiful gold and scarlet boxes with peacocks and hummingbirds that Paperchase sold a year ago. I have one and should have bought six. I may be reduced to boring block colours, but at least they have the perfect box in red.
Feeding the birds
Handheld’s office view used to be the roofs on neighbouring apartment blocks, and hovering red kites. Now, it’s a thick beech hedge that I really must cut back, again, from which is suspended a long RSPB bird feeder filled with sunflower seed hearts, and an El Cheapo fatball feeder. The family of six bluetits that recently fledged in the hedge feed there at regular intervals, sometimes with a bullying older cousin, and they make such a racket I have to stop work to watch them feast.
I can’t take photos of their acrobatics because I can’t make my camera flash stop working (it scares them away for a whole mealtime), and my phone doesn’t focus that far. This means that my excited shrieks messaged to the other Handheld director about a goldfinch on the seeds were not backed up by primary evidence, and were thus inadmissible. I do also work at getting books published, but my inner birder is being very heartily nourished.