‘Not worth the grease off my nose’

The passing of publisher Nick Webb has caused a lot of sadness in the industry.   An all-around great guy, he had a particular way with words.  His daughter, of course, Catherine, has been an exuberant author for some years.  When he was struggling with his own thriller novel, Nick described listening to the rattle of her keyboard upstairs while he ‘squeezed out words like blackheads’.  He was also the source of my favourite-ever rejection, when I was pitching him a book over lunch.  ‘Honestly, Meg, it’s not worth the grease off my nose’.

Rejections often hurt agents almost as much as they do authors (although this one just had to make me laugh).  One of the paradoxes of this profession is that you have to have a businesslike objectivity, but you can’t do the job if you don’t care about it.  Publishers and producers can always tell if you really feel enthusiastic about a writer’s work.  Excitement is contagious, and makes it more likely they’ll not just commission the writer, but their own enthusiasm will be communicated down the line, giving the work more chance of a good launch.

Of course, there are some work that gets produced or published just because it’s commercial.  We all still care about making it a success, but the emotions aren’t engaged.  It’s a privilege to work in a business where you have to love it.

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