Ian Clayton column: Book your ideas up

10 Sept 2014....Writer and broadcaster Ian Clayton at his home near Featherstone. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1004/96c
10 Sept 2014....Writer and broadcaster Ian Clayton at his home near Featherstone. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1004/96c

There’s a new book out by the writer Owen Jones that I’m really looking forward to reading, it’s called The Establishment:And how they get away with it.

This book has already had more than 200, five star reviews with a certain online retailer and it only came out last Thursday.

It’s also been getting rave reviews in the broadsheet press. I decided I would buy it from a local shop rather than click my mouse and buy it online. I have written many times in this column about the importance of shopping locally and so obviously I ought to put my money where my mouth is.

On Saturday morning I went into Smith’s in Pontefract and asked if they had a copy of Jones’ book. The lady said she’d check it in their chart. I said: “I don’t think it will be in the top ten, it only came out the day before yesterday.” She then said she didn’t think they would have it.

I wanted to ask why they only sold bestsellers but before I could, another lady came up with a handheld stock device and said she would look it up. She did and she found that it was available in some branches at the special price of £8.49. I said: “Good, can you get me one of those please?” She said she could, but then it would be £16.99 and I might be better off buying it online.

I have no idea about how economics works these days, but I do know that if I buy something via a computer from a vast warehouse owned by a company registered in Luxembourg, as opposed to a shop just two miles from my house, then that money is lost to the local economy. What the heck is going on here?

All of retail is of course being squeezed by the online retailers, but the book and music industry seems to have been squeezed like a window cleaner’s leather, almost to the point that there’s nothing left to squeeze out.

There’s a 40,000 word thesis waiting to be written about this, but for the sake of this short column I’ll just say that if books are only to be judged on how many copies they sell, then what happens to all the interesting things that new, young and yet-to-be established writers might have to say?

What happens to all the shops we would like to support and what happens to the learning of our young people if the only reading material they can easily buy is about celebrity, gossip, fashion and the lives of the rich and famous?

My new book comes out this week. I have decided that the first edition will be purely local produce, easily accessed by folk who like reading and not discounted, because it’s already priced at a dignified rate and it’s not done in numbers that can be stacked on a supermarket shelf. Song for my Father is a book about round here that does have resonances much further afield, but you can only buy it from my publisher Route which is based in Pontefract and from me. Or if you prefer to buy it from a local shop, a limited number will be available at North Featherstone Post Office and Seen and Heard CD shop in Pontefract. I’ll be at Seen and Heard on Saturday from 9.30am if you’d like a personalised copy.

Song for my Father is published in a bespoke hardback edition of just 500 copies, that means there are just 500 in the whole world and they are all individually numbered and signed in my best pen.

The book contains some of the stories I first told in this column. I’m thrilled with it, perhaps most thrilled because I sent an early draft to one of my writing heroes John Finch. He gave me the most lovely comment to use on the cover. John Finch, older readers will remember, wrote Sam and Family at War.

If you buy one and you would like to let me know what you think, perhaps you would like to drop me a line at this newspaper? We all write don’t we and books can be a dialogue.

I was talking to a friend the other day and she said: “I can’t weigh you up Ian, why don’t you want to sell millions of books and be rich and famous through your writing?” There’s an easy answer to that. My books come from where I’m from, I’m happy to be where I’m from and if I can’t sell books to people round here who I know, how can I expect somebody who I don’t know from far away to buy one?

If you like books to be posted to you, you can use the following link and follow the instructions and we’ll be happy to send you one. http://ianclaytoninfo.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/song-for-my-father/