Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 29, 2019

The Library Always Wins, by Outi Pickering

There are not a lot of books that announce the denouement in their own title!

Outi Pickering is a recently retired former librarian who has used her experience in a staff library at a NHS hospital in the UK, as fodder for a venture into writing. The Library Always Wins (2018) is her second effort, the first being Two Point Five Cheers for the Library. (2015)  Both of them are published by an outfit called Olympia Publishers, whose website I consulted because of suspicions I had about the editing of this book.  Yes, Olympia do what they call traditional publishing, but if they are unable to offer a traditional contract, they make an alternative offer […] known as a ‘partnership contract’ and is based on a contribution, to be paid by the author, to cover initial production and printing of the work. Well, I hope Pickering didn’t contribute much of her retirement savings, though the fact that this book made its way to prominent display at a suburban library in Melbourne on the other side of the world, indicates that the title is marketable, at least to libraries and the people who love them.

The story is a simple one, and familiar.  As one who helped to man the barricades when a premier best forgotten wanted to close libraries all over Melbourne, I recognise the panic when closure seems imminent.  The library staff at Cardigan Bay Healthscare Library are beset by the plans of bean-counters, so they rally as best they can, handicapped by their own follies and foibles.  The tone of the book is established by the ludicrous names of the characters: Simon Pendrive is the manager and Vladimir Logoff is the IT librarian.  Outsider Claire Twinset — otherwise known as The Choke (Chief Officer for Knowledge Etc) — is the replacement manager when Simon takes leave to join his amateur choir for three weeks. Her supervisor is Justin Drakonian.  And so on.

A series of mildly amusing episodes take place, culminating in, as the title told us it would, the library’s triumph.  Having been told, repeatedly, about the intrinsic worth of the work this library does, it comes as a bit of an anti-climax to find that its reprieve is based on exactly that.  The circumstances, however, seem highly unlikely to me.  But what would I know about the professionalism of the NHS? Maybe they are a bunch of incompetents who need to read reference books during surgery.

But surely there’s YouTube on an iPad for that?

Author: Outi Pickering
Title: The Library Always Wins
Publisher: Olympia Publishers, London, 2018, 208 pages
ISBN: 9781848978775
Source: Kingston Library

 


Responses

  1. Those contribution deals can be very costly. I was offered one by a UK publisher where they were asking for £3,500.00. I promptly declined.

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    • My goodness, that’s a lot of money. What are the chances of anyone recouping that much?
      It might be worth it for some writers — people publishing family history, for instance, or (as my mother did, as a young woman) someone wanting to publish a book of poems that has no chance of being published because the market is generally so small for poetry. And there have been a small number of cases where the author has prospered: Bernice Barry self-published Georgiana Molloy, the Mind that Shines, and then a commercial publisher picked it up. (It’s a beautiful book).
      But for that amount of money, proper editing should be part of the deal. The copy editing for this one was fine, not a single spelling mistake. But structurally it needed work, and some parts of it are a bit lame and could perhaps have been improved by an editor with a firm hand.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I honestly can’t remember the proposed terms, but I agree, editing should form part of it. I certainly would never have recouped it, I know that without doubt. There’s a lot of these companies offering deals like this now. I can see the appeal if you can afford it. You get publisher branding and some marketing, but at your partial or full expense. But no one needs to know that unless you disclose it. You can pass your book off as ‘published’ without calling it self-publishing. There is an Australian company that charges $10,000 for this ‘privilege’. I used to work with a woman who took up that exact deal. As an encouragement to use them again, the second books was only going to cost her $7,000. 🙄 She took them up on it! YA steampunk/fantasy was her genre.

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        • I find it’s pretty easy to identify these books, whether they disclose that they’re self-published or not. They’re just not up to standard, which only increases my respect for the work that editors do:)

          Liked by 1 person

  2. LOL, I think there’s definitely a reason this was self-published….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I must admit that the title and cover would have intrigued me and gotten me to at least look at the book. I think that a book like this would work best if it maintained a sense of realism.

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    • Maybe. But I also think that sometimes people who think they’re funny, aren’t.
      And people who think they can take up writing books in their retirement, are often deluded about how easy it is…

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