Lauren Beukes: what it’s like to be at the centre of a high-stakes five-way literary auction

Category: News

This is what it’s like to be at the centre of a high-stakes five-way literary auction. It’s  The Twilight Zone.

©Casey Crafford

I’ve been watching a lot of the original series recently, ostensibly research because my character in the new novel gets night fears from one particular episode featuring Talky Tina, the murderous living doll. And, you know, I had to watch the rest of them to put it in context. But it’s exactly that, like stepping into another dimension, where everything is topsy turvy and beyond imagination. Because it’s really, really weird to have publishers wooing you.

Normally the writer is cast in the role of Jehovah’s Witness or Avon Lady, trying to impress the publisher or agent just enough to get inside the door, so you can launch into the full song and dance routine.

An auction, on the other hand, is a literary dating show; The Bachelorette of Letters. How ever will I choose from all these smart, witty, wonderful suitors phoning me to tell me how much they love the book? Swoon. Blush. Flutter fan made from previously rejected manuscripts coquettishly.

That same small, nasty part of me that snipes doubt at every sentence as I’m writing it, put forward the thought that it was some elaborate and vicious hoax by my agent, Oli Munson, hiring actors to play frankly unrealistically enthusiastic editors and put up fake websites that looked like The Bookseller with ridiculous soundbites about my novel, The Shining Girls, being “the book of the fair”. Nice try, agent guy.

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