Sam ran his hand, somewhat theatrically, through his luxurious thick locks. In front of him, in a neat row on the desk, were copies of all his novels. They included a number translated for the French market, where he was inexplicably popular. Or had been. The books seemed to taunt him as the recollection of that afternoon's meeting with his publisher seared his ego.
- The market's moved on, Sam. Chick lit's played out. You need to change direction. Find a new voice.
Barbara rearranged the array of pointless shiny objects on the desk between them.
- Change direction. Right. New voice.
- Your sales figures are falling, book by book. The Sammi Beckett brand? It’s stale, Sam. It's run its course.
- Brands have courses?
- Look Sam, I like you: you know that. But you haven't developed as a writer. You're just not giving me anything new.
- Nothing new. Right. It's just any time I asked you what you wanted, you told me you wanted more of the same.
- Did I? Well, the business model here at Prudent House is being restated, Sam. We're focused on rightsizing to a flatter author base and leveraging the operational synergies across our suite of imprints.
- Flatter author base. I see. Operational synergies.
- Chick lit isn't where Prudent want to be, Sam. On a go forward basis.
- Right. Go forward basis. Of course.
As he'd left Prudent's offices, a cheery PA - painfully aware of the purpose of his meeting with Barbara - had attempted to console him:
- Not to worry, Mr Beckett, sure at least the sun's shining.
- Like it has a choice, he'd snapped back.
And that was that. He was now "free to pursue projects with other publishers", as Barbara had put it, in a way that made him almost feel he should thank her. Maybe she was right, though. His canon did consist exclusively of 'novels' which were little more than by-the-numbers chick lit froth. His eyes ran along the virgin spines of the author copies on his desk:
Waiting for Merlot: the light-hearted tale of an unlucky in love twenty-something singleton with a fondness for wine.
Malone Dyes: also a light-hearted tale of an unlucky in love twenty-something singleton, a hairdresser, with a fondness for wine.
Spendgame: a light-hearted tale of an unlucky in love twenty-something single shopaholic. With a fondness for wine.
His ungallant response to the well-intentioned Prudent PA and her comment on the sun pricked his conscience. Now the last late-evening stand of that same sun shone through the window behind him, falling on his novels ranged before him on the desk.
I'll give them change in direction, he muttered viciously. They’ll hear a new voice and no mistake. He opened the desk drawer, drew out a fresh yellow legal pad and pencil, and began to write.
"The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new...."