Ooh la la. Yes, they actually do say that. A lot.
There’s loads that you can say about the French, but seeing as we like to keep it free from steaming piles of dung on here, let me sum it up for you:
They talk, eat, drink and kiss, a lot. I mean, loads.
Oh, and they are VERY into their books.
On the train from London to Paris, every other person had a Kindle, an iPad or a tablet. Or failing that, an iPhone (I mean, if you haven’t got an iPhone…) in France? Non. And I mean, no, none. Imagine the crowd sat outside THE literary hang out in Paris St Germain, trying to attract an agents’ interest with their latest work of art on an e-reader. Nope. Not gonna happen. It was amazing to see tables littered with discarded espresso cups, manuscripts and Stabilo highlighters. PROPA writing. 😉
And talking of proper writing, how strange was it to see ‘Sugar & Spice‘ aka ‘Paraphilia’ in print? Very strange is the answer you’re searching for. (Maybe because it was in a language I don’t fully understand, but still…)
So, after an uninspiring night in The Big Smoke, head butting the wall of a very dubiously-graded 4 star hotel (due to the size of the room and the bed you understand) and listening to the sound of the locals playing basketball until the early hours, the Eurostar spirited me to Paris with surprising efficiency and speed, if not a small amount of train-turbulence. Before I knew it, my publications manager was ‘welcoming me in France’ 😉
If this was a book, that’s about the part where the non-fiction ended.
When they say, ‘it’s all a blur’, I now know what they mean. In fact, the whole day whizzed by me with a Monet-esque splurge of colour on a canvas and I am not totally convinced that it actually happened. I don’t even have any photo’s to prove it. But we have a book, so it must have done. 😉
We also have an amazing publicist Gilles Paris who was a total revelation and spent the duration of the lunch swiping his iPad to translate everything that he didn’t know how to say in English, and I met some incredible people. Lovely people. Christophe Mangelle, who’s blog is insanely popular in France and Karine Flèjo ‘if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’, a totally honest book reviewer (I wasn’t aware that they actually existed) who was irrevocably traumatised because a famous writer in France begged her to write a review of her latest offering, even though she had told her she had been unable to finish it, and when she finally caved in and published her no holds barred (but still not scathing) summation of it, said writer unfriended her on Facebook! Her typically French response when I asked her how it affected her was ‘I didn’t know until about a month later due to the fact that my friend count ranges from 2,547 to three thousand on a daily basis.’ 🙂 What’s one less pissed off writer with an ego the size of Belgium huh?
Karine also said that we had kept her up of an evening.
She said that she only ever read or reviewed books that she enjoyed reading. She isn’t compelled to waste her precious time and energy on writing something bad about a book that she didn’t like. Wise woman. With my very limited comprehension of what they were all talking about over lunch, she said something like “I sent two sleepless nights having to prop my eyelids open with matchsticks just to finish ‘Paraphilia‘. That’s praise enough for me.
Eric and Valerie (MA Editions slash our publishers) are just book people through and through. They live and breathe them. What they don’t know about the French publishing industry, isn’t worth knowing. And let me tell you this: It is VERY different to anywhere else. There is no room for manoeuvre on price or length and digital is a world away from taking off. In the district that I stayed in, there was a book store for every wine shop, and that’s going some.
Print is king.
They are not bedfellows; print and digital in France. Not even in the same chambre. There is no sharing of the spoils where this is concerned (unlike architecture and culture, see below) and I can’t see it changing any time soon. According to Eric, the digital share of the market over there is no more than 8 percent. And that is a conservative estimate. The French love their books and therefore, we love the French.
They are also soooooo over the controversy thing. The incredulity in the car when Eric asked me why no-one in the UK or the US had snapped up Sugar & Spice was palpable, in fact, I could almost touch it through the smog of cigarette smoke. They just don’t care the way everyone else does. And we love them for that too.
In fact, I am totes in love with the place and its people. Was I lost in France?
No, France was (before) lost on me. Not now.
It’s where the beautiful people live, and for a few short days, I was one of them. I think I’ve brought a tiny bit of Paris back with me – or maybe that’s just the smelly drain water in the hem of my jeans, but know this: France? I HEART you. J’adore.
Whether we are a success over there or not, remains to be seen. I have a good feeling about it though and anyone who knows me, knows I am very rarely wrong. 😉
Paris, you stained my heart just a little. Merci beaucoup.
Oh and PS. Your occupants might be gorgeous, but your rivers are dirty. 😉
- Vive la France! Sugar & Spice/Paraphilia goes European (saffinadesforgesblog.com)
- ‘Banning the Bullshit’ Sunday – on a Friday: The London Book Fair (baby!) (sapphicscribe.wordpress.com)