The Buenos Aires Book Fair is the largest book show in Latin America and I had to be there.
So, during one of the first ‘trade’ days, I cranked up my motorbike, glided down Avenida Libertador and turned up with a copy of The Last British President under my arm, hoping to attract some attention.
Although I speak Spanish, hawking one’s own work around a huge trade fair and trying to sell the idea of having it published (without me spending a cent) and trying to convey that idea in Spanish, was challenging to say the least. I’m no stranger to the sales pitch, having spent most of my working life selling, but this was different, especially since Argentina is in the grip of yet another financial crisis and my first two initials are not J or K.
Anyway, I persisted for most of the day and spoke face to face with a handful of decision makers (editors) who were charming and very helpful, as are most Argentines that I meet. But there was one small problem – they wanted my manuscript to be translated into Spanish before they could even look at it. This wasn’t exactly a revelation to me, but I had been hoping that perhaps they could manage that small task themselves and publish the book in all its glory, here in Buenos Aires. This appears to have been wishful thinking on my part and further compounded when one editor stipulated that, not only would I have to translate the book, but I would also have to pay them ‘mucha gita’ to asses it for possible publication – a novel idea that didn’t exactly warm the cockles of my heart.
I’ve always felt that being a British novelist living in Argentina and publishing a book which pulls heavily from Britain’s involvement in Argentina ever since the River Plate invasions of 1806/7, would pull some weight – if only for its novelty value. However, publishing is publishing and in 2019, in spite of the self-publishing revolution, many things still remain the same. Submit, wait, rejection- rinse and repeat.
It’s still my belief that The Last British President, when translated into Spanish, will succeed in Argentina, so I’ve decided to sell my soul (but not my bike) and have it translated into Rioplatense Spanish by an Anglo-Argentine translator friend, who I know will do an excellent job. I’ll then publish the Spanish version as a new book on Amazon/Kindle Direct Publishing. El Ultimo Presidente Inglés would be the title and I’ve already designed the cover.
Visiting the book fair wasn’t a complete waste of time, especially if you love books, as I do. I particularly enjoyed spending some time on the Kel Ediciones stand as they specialise in books in English, so I picked up a copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, for the simple reason that I’ve never read him, but heard great things about his writing.
I was also able to pitch the tone of my book to dozens of Argentines and gauge their reactions. Without giving away too much of The Last British President, the premise is a big what if? What if the British had won in 1807? What if Argentina had become a British colony? Would it have become the Australia of South America?
Their reactions didn’t surprise me in the least – much nodding of heads and a unanimous recognition of what might have been. Naturally, I prefaced my preamble with ‘con mucho respecto, señores‘, but I needn’t have worried, since every single Argentine had heard that refrain many times over the years, just as I have.
The relationship between Argentina and Britain is complex and whilst I avoid discussions over the Falklands/Malvinas war, it’s clear that most Argentines have a lot of respect for los ingleses and my ideas were warmly welcomed, if not purely from a fictional perspective.