Selling Fierce Dancing

I was there to sell my book to the salesmen and women whose job it was to sell my book to the retailers, whose job it would be to sell my book to the public.

Big Speech

It's like that isn't it? Maybe one minute you're King of the World, Emperor of all that you survey and the next... Well the next you're not. The next minute you're nothing but an accidental scrap of matter crashing randomly around in a meaningless Universe.

I'm talking about Ego, that fragile little thing. I'm talking about that propensity we have as human beings to talk ourselves into an exaggerated state of self-importance and then - by the same mechanism - to talk ourselves down into an equally exaggerated state of dejection.

It was my first Big Speech. I mean, I'd addressed small audiences before: a few friends in some small familiar setting. But never like this. These were all strangers. And there were 200 of them. And the venue was a large conference room in a large hotel off Oxford Street in London, the capital city of the literary world.

I'd spent the morning being nervous. My stomach was a knot of anxiety, and the mere thought of food made me retch. So by the time I pushed my way through those huge glass doors and into the plush carpeted interior of that upmarket hotel, I was a nervous wreck, and gasping for a drink. It was a publishers sales conference, and I was there to sell my book to the salesmen and women whose job it was to sell my book to the retailers, whose job it would be to sell my book to the public. So I was there to sell myself initially, as said author of said book. And I wasn't all that sure that there was all that much to sell.

Ranged around the walls of the conference room there were all these blow-up pictures of all the front covers of all the books by all the famous authors that the publishers published. Famous authors, note. Real authors. Proper writers, whose books sold by the million throughout the world and which were deemed worthy of translation into God-knows how many tongues, or academic works by famous professors, whose brilliant scholarly tones broached no quibble by the likes of me. What was I even doing there?

So my nervousness increased as I gulped down my second whiskey. I was early. So I had to sit there. I had to sit there and listen to these famous authors who'd had the good sense to send their addresses on video, and who didn't therefore have to deal with the vicissitudes of a live audience. I had to sit there while acknowledged genius' with renowned masterpieces to their credit pontificated weightily on the meaning of their work. I had to sit there...

Fraud

And then it was my turn. My name was called. The audience clapped, and I had to make my way from the back of the room to the front, as each pair of eyes bore down on me, ready to see through my fraud, By then I already knew what I had to say. I burst through that audience like a heat-seeking missile launched at the enemy, I roared up to the podium and said, what I actually felt:

"I feel like a fraud."

And that was it. I had them. By admitting how I felt, I had them. From the beginning of the speech to the end, I had that audience in the palm of my hand. I knew it. I could sense it. I could feel the waves of approval emanating from them, as all those eyes fixed upon me, no longer as some fearful opponent, but as appreciative listeners. I made a joke, and everyone laughed. I made some telling political point, and everyone agreed. I could see them nodding with agreement. I was the star. For those few minutes I was the star of the show. The women liked me, and the men admired me. There was nothing I could do wrong.

I finished off my speech with my characteristic thumbs-up, and went down the bar for another drink. Ten minutes later the conference broke up for tea-break, and my editor and a few of the others came down to the bar to join me. I was as high as a kite by now, and their approval was blowing me even higher. Everyone wanted to talk to me. Everyone had a question for me. I was basking in their admiration, wallowing in the accolades. I was the King of the World for the moment. After that they went back to their conference, and I set out for home.

It was raining outside. A cold, wet Oxford Street afternoon. I had a hole in my shoe and my socks were getting wet. And of all those pallid, blank faces rushing towards me in that Oxford St crowd, not one person knew me, not one person recognised me, not one person had heard of my triumph a few moments before. Back in the real world. As high as I'd been in the bar, that's how far I had to fall. I wanted to stop some stranger on the street and say: "don't you know me? Don't you know who I am? I may look like a nobody with a hole in his shoe, but I'm not. I'm the man who took the sales conference by storm." The very fact I had such a thought only emphasised my dejection. What would the stranger have said? "Excuse me, but you happen to be getting in my way."

Ah, the Ego. Such a fragile little thing. And so difficult to control.

More by this Author


Comments 21 comments

Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 4 years ago from West Virginia

Great piece here. I can relate with much of this. Oh I am a nobody out in the world or so it would seem. Then again I am somebody and the Ego just is like you say. It goes up and down in the lake like the bobber does when it has a fish on the end.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks Lady G. That's a very good description of the ego: like a fish bobber in a lake when it has a fish on the end. You always come up with good lines.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

It is a really great book though, Chris, and I am proud to be included in its pages!


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks Steve. Look out for the Kindle version soon!


spryte profile image

spryte 4 years ago from Arizona, USA

I have often wondered how many truly incredible people have walked right past me with a hole in their shoe and I didn't notice. :) Your story brought back memories of my own and made me smile. I cheer your accomplishment and send you a hug for your wounded ego. Lol!


SEO IT! profile image

SEO IT! 4 years ago from Tucson, AZ

Awesome! Everybody loves a humble person -- even those who are humble enough to admit to an inflated ego. :) You obviously have the talent, so I'm wishing you the good fortune to go with it!


DuchessDuCaffeine profile image

DuchessDuCaffeine 4 years ago from United States of America

So true. The time between that little voice saying, "You're the bomb!" and "Boy, did you bomb!" can be pretty short :)

I really enjoyed Fierce Dancing. You caught the rub between CONFORMISTS and NON-CONFORMISTS and left the reader to assign the titles.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Yes, that incredible person with a hole in his shoe walking past you when you didn't know it, was me Spryte. Thanks for the hug. That helped.

Hello SEO IT! Not sure I'm all that humble really. Still subject to the inflation and deflation of my ego balloon, but at least I can laugh about it.

Thanks for the comment DuchessDuCaffeine. I like that comment about conformists and non-conformists. I hadn't really thought about it that way before, but you are right: there's as much conformity amongst non-conformists as the other way around.


Alan Dearling 4 years ago

Nice observation-ful piece as ever, Chris. I've enjoyed living your lives through the adventures in your books. And, like you, have to try and sell my words and books, that publishers see as 'product'. At the end of the day, it led me to set up my own imprint for myself and a few other (vaguely) like-minded souls. And the ebook has brought a new avenue for us to bare Our Egos, and promote Our Babies.

Trouble is, though, it's the creators who really enjoy the sales pitch, the Writers' events that will always win out. The rest of us can sometimes 'live the moment', but it's rather the exception to the rule.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks for your comments Alan. Yes, I'm thinking very hard about that ebook route at the moment. I might ask for some help at some point, if that's ok. I've grown tired of always being at the beck and call of editors.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Isn't that roller-coaster ride of vacillating self-esteem just wild? Oh yes, I can relate one hundred percent. You know,if I had to spend one day in a room with someone who spoke to me the way I speak to myself, I'd have to commit murder.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

That's a great phrase Immartin: "that roller-coaster ride of vacillating self-esteem". That captures it in a nutshell. I veer from agonising self-doubt to just finding myself absurd, but at least the absurdity makes me laugh, so that's not so bad.


kathryn1000 profile image

kathryn1000 4 years ago from London

Thank you for telling us how you felt throughout that day.I imagine you could make it into a short story very easily.How we are a different person in different situations...and I'm glad you did so well talking to 200 people.I am puzzled why the Guardian did not keep you on as a columnist.Some of the Saturday ones are pretty feeble.I think it's narrower than it used to be.I used to love the Roy Mayall ones..You don't need to think about your ego because we can see the real you here..Just a shame you can't get paid for it when so much rubbish is published.

I hope that may change.I've read a lot and I rate you high.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

This was a few years ago kathryn: around 1996 when my first book came out. Not sure why the Guardian dropped me. It had to do with a changed of editorship, I think. The new editors moved in and decided to make a clean sweep. Unfortunately I was never able to find another column in a major newspaper after that, though I've kept writing in my local paper and have had columns in Prediction and Kindred Spirit. Glad you enjoy Roy Mayall too, although, of course, that is someone else.


kathryn1000 profile image

kathryn1000 4 years ago from London

I think Tim Dowling is not that good..God knows how they choose them.Sylvia Plath,one of the best poets of her generation sent out her work hundreds of times and only got published properly after she died.But committing suicide is not a solution...........she longed for fame and glory.

Well.fame is a strange thing but it would feel good just to see one's work in a bookshop...Or to get a little money

I'm too lazy to try...I don't want to have to fill in tax forms any more!

I just like writing and HubPages is not a blog which is good.Many people here are very committed to writing.It's interesting getting comments from people in other countries..quite amazing.And I am impressed by many of the writers.Some things I've read are very moving.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

kathryn, there are independent poetry publishers. Your work would need to be edited a bit but would work very well in a poetry collection, specifically your non-rhyming stuff. Rhymes work well in performance poetry, but less well on the page I think. If you look up small press publishers or poetry publishers, I'm sure you would find a home for your stuff. I would help to edit it if you like.


kathryn1000 profile image

kathryn1000 4 years ago from London

Thanks Christopher.That is very thoughtful of you.I shall think about it.


rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

Great hub! An engrossing read through an insightful write!


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks.


Dipsy do-dos 4 years ago

My ego is made of cheese


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Not mouldy cheese I hope?

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