Lots of lovely letters from people about where and how they found authors for free whose work they then went on to buy, although I was vaguely hoping someone would write a letter saying, "If you're so fond of Free, then why don't you write a book for free, that you don't get any royalties on, that could be given away or sold incredibly cheaply, just to encourage people to read? Yeah, what about that then, smartarse?" But nobody has.
Which is actually a pity, because if they did I could point out that I did just that -- the writing the book bit anyway -- last year. It's a short book called Odd and the Frost Giants, and it's published by Bloomsbury Books in the UK and Ireland for the 2008 World Book Day, which is this coming Thursday, the 6th of March.
And I wasn't the only one.
Basically, every kid in the UK and Eire gets a book token, and gets to decide where to spend it (they have nine books to choose from, most of them specially written for the occasion). No-one -- authors, illustrators, publishers, book-sellers, Book Tokens or schools -- makes any profit anywhere. (Except possibly for Amazon.co.uk making a healthy profit on international postage.)
"13 million school children in the UK will receive a World Book Day £1 Book
Token which can be exchanged for a World Book Day £1 Book, throughout March,
from over 3,000 participating bookshops and book retailers across the UK and
Republic of Ireland. The £1 Token can also be put towards any book or
audio book costing £2.99 or more. The World Book Day £1 Book Token is sponsored
by National Book Tokens and redemptions are funded by bookshops across the
Again, it's books as dandelion seeds, and not all of them are going to find soil. Some of those 13 million kids will destroy their books, some leave them behind, some not even care enough to participate. But some of the kids will go and choose a book of their own, find something they wouldn't have discovered otherwise, maybe find out that reading and owning books of your own is something you can do for pleasure, and... maybe... it'll help ensure that there are still readers of books -- and bookshops -- a hundred years from now.
(I just googled to see if there were any reviews of Odd yet. None from newspapers that I could see, but
Kurt Busiek reviews it at http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Rec/rec.arts.sf.written/2008-03/msg00371.html)
Lots of people wrote to tell me that the chest X-Ray was needed for the Tuberculosis test. Nobody explained why the chest X-Ray has to be carried to the US in hand-baggage (it's one of the rules, or it was in 1992). I asked at immigration when I arrived in the US if anyone was going to look at it, and was told that no, nobody ever ever looked at the chest X-rays in hand-baggage. Ever? Ever, said the man.
If your dog suddenly discovers and goes for a cat (no longer in a tree) when you're standing on a sheet of what was ice-melt that has just refrozen into sheet ice, and you make a sudden and ill-advised move in an attempt to stop the cat being chased (and to stop the dog losing an eye -- Princess takes her fights seriously) and go down rather heavily on your ankle, you wind up oddly happy if an hour or so later you're just limping and icing it. It could have been a hundred times worse, as my doctor (who happened to be nearby) pointed out.
Princess is back inside the house, Cabal has a scratch under his eye.
And Dave McKean sent over nine sketches for nine different covers to The Graveyard Book -- all of them really impressive. I'll find out from him if he minds me putting them up here (once the final one has been decided upon, anyway). It would be interesting to show people how a book cover gets decided on. (I was also thrilled that Dave wrote after finishing it and said he thought it was a much stronger book than Coraline.)