Although not the first outing for my talk on The Curious Case of Leonardo’s Bicycle, the one recently presented at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery to accompany the city’s exhibition of Ten Leonardo Drawings from the Royal Collection was by far the most prestigious. It was a real honour to be invited to join the handful of reputable scholars (including Emeritus Professor Martin Kemp, the man on Leonardo) presenting talks on the great ‘Florentine’ and, despite all the shows being fully booked, mine was the one most ticket holders actually turned up for, also an honour.
Hopefully I came up to scratch, despite overrunning by 15 minutes that the vast majority of the audience stayed for. Certainly the comments and emails that followed were very complementary, and my exhaustion at the end indicated I’d earned my meagre money. Sadly, two days later, I received my final rejection from the list of 30-odd publishers I had approached to take on the book, but what a rejection letter! Myriad had solicited critiques from all their staff and a number of outside readers, all of which were positive, even gushing. Problem was, in the current publishing climate, Myriad couldn’t commit to take on the book without a co-sponsor, which they had made (and still are making) every effort to put in place, presently with little success. Their hugely complementary and useful email filled the screen and must’ve taken a good hour to write!
But Myriad’s wasn’t the first rejection note to applaud my esoteric efforts. Roughly 50% of the publishers I’ve approached have come back with comments that range from ‘a masterpiece’ (I kid you not!) down to ‘totally neat’ (from an American publisher, naturally). Across the board, the reason given for not running with the book is that ‘we can’t picture where it would sit in our catalogue’, which is the problem I’ve had with almost every book I’ve ever had published, including To End All Wars.
Will I never learn!? On the other hand, scanning through the lists of what does make it into print, one can’t help but despair. Thank heavens I don’t work in television!