You may be the kind of person who goes to swish publishing dos all the time. I'm not. But by dint of writing nice things about a publisher on my glittering and hugely popular blog - or at least the publisher thought they were nice and seems to be of the impression that my blog is glittering and hugely read-worthy - I was invited to one on Friday night. My First Publishing Party. Here's what it was like:
It was like a normal party. Only a normal party with shit-loads of people and a huge excess of women. The men were either huddled together or surrounded by clouds of attractive women in good shoes. A normal party in a lovely setting, with free food and drink, and readings instead of dancing. And a normal party where nobody got embarrassingly drunk. Presumably it's unwise to get bladdered when the whole of Berlin's publishing industry is watching - that kind of thing is reserved for translator get-togethers...
Unfortunately, I usually eat at about seven at the latest, so by eight my tummy is rumbling and by nine I'm close to fainting. Which meant I couldn't concentrate on the last reading very well, as the smell of the barbecue was distracting me big-time. But the first two were excellent - I'm now really looking forward to Tim Krohn's Ans Meer (subtle humour and excruciating relationship stuff) and newly convinced of Jenny Erpenbeck's talents.
And here are my top tips for other publishing party newbies:
1. Take a friend along so you can bitch about other people's shoes. This will make you feel better about not knowing anyone.
2. Take some business cards. This is a business occasion. Not having any business cards in your ridiculously small handbag will make you feel slightly stupid, especially when you are asked more than once if you have any with you.
3. Don't mouth off about the school the author standing in earshot sends their son to. You will find yourself back-pedalling embarrassingly.
4. Don't get too drunk before you talk to that guy who's pretending he doesn't remember you from three weeks ago. Otherwise you may find yourself flirting outrageously to make up for it, in the kind of way that makes everyone else leave the table.
5. Don't wear tango-dancing shoes on cobbled surfaces. Actually that goes for most occasions, but it's probably more embarrassing to stumble and sweep several bottles and glasses off a table when the whole of Berlin's publishing industry is watching. (To my great relief, this one is second-hand advice.)
I'm told the party went on until four in the morning, so maybe I just missed the debauchery. But I had fun anyway. Funnily enough, I ran into a publishing person on Saturday night too, most unexpectedly, and got a lot more gossip on the edge of the dancefloor than by the shores of the Wannsee. But that's another story.