Yesterday was a good day. I arrived in Nantwich, Cheshire, to speak at the food festival here and help judge CAMRA's Champion Beer of Cheshire at the beer festival. About an hour before I went on stage, I got an e-mail from my editor with lots of very good news in it.
First, sales of Hops and Glory are about double what I thought they were. In four months, the £14.99 hardback has sold more copies than the £10.99 trade paperback of Three Sheets ever did. This book has been an obsession since the night in the pub when the idea presented itself to me uninvited in December 2006, and will be until my final reading date in a few weeks. It HAD to sell. And it has. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed it, blogged about it, tweeted about it, recommended it, joined the Facebook group for it, booked me to talk about it, and otherwise help promote and sell it. I feel like I've got to the top of a mountain I've been climbing for three years.
One of the main reasons it has succeeded is the fantastic cover. And the next bit of good news is that the artist responsible for designing it has been commissioned to redo my previous two books. Man Walks into a Pub, now six years in print, has sold an extra 1500 copies this year, which is amazing, but every time I see its horrid sub-powerpoint clip-art cover I wince. In June 2010, the paperback release of H&G will be accompanied by new editions of MWIP and Three Sheets, and they're going to look stunning as part of a set - my beer trilogy. It also gives me the opportunity to update the text of MWIP - bringing the final chapters on the state and prognosis of British beer and pubs up to date, quietly getting rid of some factual inaccuracies that have been pointed out to me, and deleting a few of the gags and footnotes that are trying a bit too hard. The question is... will I temper the scathing criticism of CAMRA that won the book its initial notoriety, now we're on more friendly terms?
More good news: some good feedback on H&G from GABF - so North American readers may finally get to see the book after all without the seemingly controversial tactic of buying it from Canadian Amazon.
What next? I'm about to start work on a non-beer book. Feels a but weird but I want to spread my wings and try to achieve recognition as a 'writer' (whatever that is) rather than simply a beer writer. Before I get irate comments from beer bloggers, that's not to dis beer writing or suggest it's inferior to other forms of writing - it isn't at all. But it does have a very narrow appeal in the book-purchasing world. I've been trying to change that as hard as anyone else who puts fingers to keyboard, if not harder, and I will continue to do so. But there are maybe three or four people on this planet who can make a decent living from writing about beer and nothing else, and I'm not one of them. I'll continue beer blogging and journalism, and may even have two or three nebulous future beer/drinks ideas gathering traction in my addled head. But changes in personal circumstances mean I will soon be able to afford to write pretty much full time, and I now have to start thinking about all this in terms of career progression, skills development, broadening areas of expertise etc.
Next week (October 5th) sees the launch of the new Cask Report. It's the third year I've written this, the definitive guide to Britain's cask ale market, written independently with third party research, but paid for by a group of major regional brewers, CAMRA, SIBA, Cask Marque and Family Brewers of Britain. I'm better known for this now in the brewing world than I am for anything else. And there's some major good news for anyone who loves cask beer, and important new findings for any publican thinking about stocking it.
I've got a load of catching up to do on this blog - I've spent most of the summer travelling, meeting people, being invited to brew, taste, and judge beer. I've been holding some of these pieces back because I've been trying to sell them to 'old media'. I have totally failed in this respect and so will put them on here. I know blogging is 'supposed' to be a short-form medium, but I've got some longer, 1000-word features that I can't place anywhere else and I don't want to waste. If you strongly believe blog entries should only ever be short and sweet, I invite you to completely ignore them when they appear.
And I'll post the first one just as soon as I get back from day two at Nantwich. Day one was a tough crowd - they didn't warm to my opening gag about Brazilian prostitutes...