While I was casually surfing a few weeks ago – OK, OK, I was Googling my name – I found out that one of my books, Rainbow Diary, was part of the 2012 GCSE English Lit syllabus for OCR (Oxford and Cambridge).
Rainbow Diary: original cover
My first reaction was disbelief.
Like a good journalist , I checked. So I asked, firstly a 17-year-old who’s just taken GCSE exams and secondly a Cambridge History lecturer, whether this was genuine.
Yes it was. But what does it actually mean?
The bad news first: well, the module I am quoted in “Living Texts” is a Key Stage 4 qualification – for those who think in old money, what we used to call 4th-5th form – and so is designed for kids taking their GCSEs. As these are modular nowadays, and the answers are by essay or school exam. I am listed as the kind of author that is suitable to set but, unlike an exam, the book is not obligatory reading material.
Then again, not all schools and students buy the suggested books. It is quite common to photocopy a chapter and study just that one. Thankfully, I am registered with the ALCS and I get a few pennies out of those photocopied pages.
Sadly Summersdale, my publishers, dropped the book after seven years in print in… you guessed it 2012, right when the examining board set it as school material. In fact, I knew there was something wrong when I looked at my PLR statement that year; borrowings from libraries were more than actual book sales, which to me at least meant that people were not finding the book.
Now for the good news.
Rainbow Diary: Kindle cover
Summersdale returned the copyright to me and the book is now available on Kindle with a royalty rate of 70% and my own cover. I am also in good company. The travel writing suggested list is:
Travel Writing 1700–1830: An Anthology, Elizabeth A. Bohls
Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson
In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin
Bon Voyage!: The Telegraph Book of River and Sea Journeys, (ed.) Michael Kerr
A Rose for Winter, Laurie Lee
Long Way Round, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
Rainbow Diary: A Journey in the New South Africa, John Malathronas
Around The World In Eighty Days, Michael Palin
Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia, Chris Stewart
Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
“Imagine that John Malathronas (Rainbow Diary) visits an area you know well – your home area, perhaps, or somewhere you have been on holiday. Write a passage in the style of Malathronas, describing the visit.”
So, how do I feel?
A kind of dumb elation mixed with curiosity; I’d love to read any answers to the above question.
And what have I learned?
YOU DON’T MAKE MONEY AS A WRITER!