Fortune Telling on the Toilet

I was really into the idea of making commercial humour books for a while. I liked taking small (some would say slight) ideas and transforming them into fully formed volumes.

For the most part, I planned on self publishing them, but sent out a few manuscripts to real publishers just to say that I’d given it a go.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Piatkus Publishing accepted the stupidest idea of them all – interpreting one’s turds into a rune-based system of divination. To be fair, my take on this rather crude notion was fairly erudite. Although crude on the surface, it did have some kind of logic to it. Faeces, after all, was something that everybody did and was a leftover from everything we consume. If you’re of a spiritual bent, you might think that this intake might include, I don’t know, karma or chi or something. It wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously, but I thought it was just serious enough that it all held together in its own weird way. The book was written in character as Hannah Hollingworth, who I imagined to be a sparky eccentric who lived somewhere remote. She had a sense of hum

Everything changed after my first meeting with the publisher. They saw it as a bloke-y book for the bog (despite the fact that Everybody Poos) and wanted it ruder, cruder and packed with gags. And I said “sure, no problem”, because all my how-to-get-published books told me that I should always, always make the changes suggested by the publisher and because I was living in my mum’s spare room, claiming benefits and wanted desperately to make a career publishing books.

If that wasn’t enough, they wanted a co-author to come in and do a draft. I wasn’t quite sure why, but they probably saw that I didn’t have sufficient blokiness to do the job alone. We never met or even communicated in any way (which is odd now that I look back on it) and our two styles didn’t really gel. He contributed a lot of funny material, but in the end it was an odd mish-mash of what was already a pretty bloody odd notion to begin with.

It hit home just what a mis-step I’d made when I saw the proposed cover art. It was a combination of terrible artwork and shoddy typography. I told the editor how much I hated it, but didn’t kick up enough of a fuss to veto it.

And that, really, was that. I took the money. I spent the money finding a place to live that didn’t belong to my mother. For that, if nothing else apart from the experience, I can’t be too down on the project, particularly as eight months later the publishers got back in touch asking if I’d be willing to sell the translation rights to Thailand. I – of course – said yes and now consider the Thai language edition to be definitive.

And not just because it’s got a different cover.


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