There is no winter to speak of in tropical Malaysia, but on 18 December 2019, all that came to mind was that it was a bleak midwinter. In the last few weeks, I’d managed health issues of dear ones, the shocking death of a friend too young to die, assignments to submit, deadlines to meet, the flu, severe allergies to the point of developing painful welts all over and the stress of travel. Certainly, it was a lesson in time management and focusing the mind on the tasks before me. There were many low moments, none more so than when I arrived home and switched on my phone to read one sickening message. Even now, I hurt reading the caustic criticisms and cruel judgements that showed an utter lack of empathy for all I was going through.
Nonetheless, as I unpacked, I began to unwind and slowly, happier thoughts filtered through. One was about a successful project I’d worked on which was a recently published book called Making Miracles for the Self by HH SwamiGuru. Essentially, the book is a practical guide for all readers. Through the ideas and techniques in this book, readers will create unique paths that will help them lead lives filled with much happiness.
Long before the author submitted his manuscript to the publishers, he agreed when I insisted that we work with a professional editor and, more importantly, someone who was so far removed from our world. I wanted to know if such a person would understand what the author was writing. If the editor couldn’t, I wanted ideas about how to make this book appeal to a global readership.
With the help of those from Jericho Writers, we commissioned an editor called Sam Jordison. The initial email gave a brief explanation of Sam’s career and that he was co-director at Galley Beggar Press. I didn’t pay much attention to all this because, at the time, it didn’t matter. All I was interested in was the honest feedback he’d give. True enough, Sam’s comments, ideas and suggestions were valuable and gave us a way forward for the manuscript. As such, the current version of Making Miracles for the Self is the best it can be.
Soon after the books were printed, I was keen to send a copy to Sam. So, I surfed the internet for a postal address. That’s when I discovered that Galley Beggar Press were the publishers for Lucy Ellmann’s novel Ducks, Newburyport. This novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2019. I duly subscribed to their newsletter and became a ‘Galley Buddy’. In the process, I was fascinated by what Sam wrote about the prize in the aftermath of the winners being announced. But that’s a different story and the subject matter of another post.
After dinner on 18 December 2019, while I was clearing a few emails, one from Galley Beggar Press popped into my Inbox. Some of the more pertinent parts of it read as follows:
…I’m sorry to tell you, is that it has put Galley Beggar Press under threat. The Book People owe us over £40,000 – and that is make-or-break for a small company like us.
One of the painful things about this is that we would never normally take the risk of having someone owe us £40k. We entered into a partnership with the Book People as part of our involvement with the Booker Prize this year.
The Book People offer hardback versions of the shortlist to their readers, and as soon as we learned that we were longlisted, we were put in touch with the Book People and made to understand that everyone on the shortlist would need to supply an edition.
They wanted 8000 books, and would pay just over £40,000.
It was a sizable undertaking. It’s the sort of money that we never normally play with, but it was part of the schedule and the competition and we did it.
It also involved designing a whole new edition (which we put together in four days, working around the clock), complicated negotiations with printers, and a lot of work. But it should have been a good thing. If the money had arrived. We were actually due to be paid right after Christmas – and it would have allowed us to pay the many print bills that the Booker has involved, shore up against trade returns (inevitable, when a novel soars in popularity), and set us straight for the New Year.
But, we’ve been on the phone to the Book People this morning. They will not be paying us the money in the immediate future, and possibly not at all.
Which leaves us with a £40,000+ black hole. … And has turned what should have been the best year of our little company’s life into its worst – and something that might kill it. …
After I confirmed that this was a legitimate plea, I donated what I could and switched off the computer. As I prepared for bed, I wondered how long it would take for Galley Beggar Press to recover from this financial setback. Now, I’ll let Sam explain to you what happened next.
‘I find it hard to explain actually! A company we had supplied a lot of books to went into administration – which meant that the £40,000 they owed us wasn’t going to be paid any time soon. For a small company like ours, that’s a huge amount of money and it could have sent us under. In a panic, we set up a crowdfunder to make up for some of the shortfalling and, incredibly, within 24hours over a thousand generous people had donated and made up for the entire shortfall. I hope you can imagine the relief and gratitude I felt. I still feel rather dazed now, just a few days later. It felt incredible to see so much good in the world – and humbling that it was being directed towards Galley Beggar Press. I hope we can honour that faith in the future.’
If I may, I’d like to add to this. I recall that the initial amount requested on the GoFundMe page was £15,000.00. Once the plea was sent out, in about two hours, people from the publishing industry, the world over, gave them the much-needed support. In 24 hours, they raised all £40,000.00 they needed.
Coincidentally, two days later, Sam wrote to say that he’d received his copy of Making Miracles for the Self. While I sipped coffee and scrolled through the thousands of comments about this whole matter on various websites, Twitter and the online version of The Guardian, I came to the conclusion that Sam said it best when he wrote: ‘It feels like we’ve been granted a miracle…’
It soothes my soul to know that at the point I was about to make the first resolution for the new year, which was to close my heart to the kind of people who thought nothing of sending such brutal messages, I was granted this moment when I bore witness to a miracle unfolding.
(21 December 2019)
Aneeta Sundararaj is a freelance writer who contributes stories and articles to many publications, both online and offline. Read more stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).