Last week had the opportunity to listen to Jeffrey Archer while he visited Bangalore and promoted his latest book: A Prisoner of Birth. The speech he gave was worth listening and is posted below. Quite a long post you’d say but then it was a 20 minute speech. Reading it should take less than that of course, so don’t be overwhelmed by the look of it.
Here it is:
Now this all began, well, 34 years ago, when I stopped being an English member of parliament, couldn’t get a job, so I wrote my first book — “Not a Penny more, Not a Penny Less”. Now, I have to tell you, papers all across the world said it was an instant success. I want to tell you about that “instant success”. Sixteen publishers turned the book down. The Seventeenth paid me 3000 pounds. And they published 3000 copies. Only 200 came to India — Not much of an instant success. But when it went into paperback, they published 25,000 copies and they sold them in a month. I went back and said, “Please would you publish another 25,000 copies.” They said, “No no, Jeff, we’d like you to do another book”. “No,” I said, “I’d like you to publish another 25,000 copies.” “No, No!”, they said. “Yes, Yes”, I said. (I) Finally got them to publish 25,000 copies and they sold them in a month. So I went back and said, “I’d like another 25,000 copies.” They said No, I said Yes and I got another 25,000 copies.
Last month they published another 25,000 copies.
(Laughter in the audience and an applause)
23,775,000 copies and I still have to ring them every month. (more laughter).
Second book, “Shall we tell the President”, which made a small breakthrough in the United States sold about 400,000 copies in hardback and did pretty well in Britain but not that well, not that long in Bestsellers list. Then I got an idea for a book and two years later had my agent handed over “Kane and Abel”. My agent read it and he thought that this book should be auctioned — Now that means you take it to New York and you hand it over to the 17 great publishing houses of America and you let them read it and then a fortnight later they all bid to decide if they wanted.
They did that while for the fourteen days of agony I waited and on the fifteenth day they started the auction which finished just after midnight. Simon & Schuster of the United States of America brought Kane and Abel for 3,200,000, which… (audience starts to clap), oh no no no..(audience laughter). They were very excited, very pleased but they said they had a problem — I was unknown in the United States. To launch a book and with that amount of money when you are unknown, is a problem. They said, “Jeffrey, we’ve got to get you on television. We’ve got to get you on the Good Morning Show. Good morning America. Or The Today show — one of those two, in order to launch you. But there’s another problem,” they said — “They don’t like authors.” (laughter) “Well, they do like certain authors. If you have written a book on Sex, that’ll be alright. Or if you have written a book on how to cure cancer. Or a book on how to slim, thats alright — but they don’t like novelists. So its important to get you on The Good Morning Show or The Today Show because you will hit 17, 18, 19, 20 million people! And if you hit 20 million people we have a chance of launching you in the bestsellers list.”
They then explained to me that in the USA, the NY times have a bestsellers list of 15. Now if you get into those 15, they halve the price of the book. So if it was $30, it suddenly becomes $15. But if you remain below the top 15 you stay at full price. And quite naturally, its very much harder to sell a book at $30 than it is at $15. So, that was the big thing. They rang me with 2 weeks to go and said, “Success, Jeffery! you are on the Today Show. With Dave. You will be on between 07:24 between 07:30. Six minutes. And you are sharing the spot with two other people. First on is Billy Carter — the brother of the president of the US and he is promoting, well, Billy Beer. Next on is Mickey mouse. and Mickey is celebrating 75th anniversary of Walt Disney. Then is you. In order to prove your importance we are gonna bring you over an amazing Concorde at NY Kennedy airport, we will have a stretch limousine ready to pick you up. You will be taken to the Plaza hotel where you will be put in the presidential suite and everyone will that know you are important!”
So I got ready for this, and indeed I flew over and there was this stretch limo, off I went to the president suite and I couldn’t sleep at night. I was nervous. I brought a brand new suit, brand new shirt my wife had chosen. I got up, got ready, the limo was there took me the ABC studios. I went to the green room and sitting there was Billy carter and Mickey Mouse. 7:24 went Billy Carter and he was very good promoting Billy Beer. Now I had been told by my people to say the words “Kane and Able” as often as “you possibly could”. Only got 2 minutes, nobody ever heard of you so don’t forget to say it again, and again, and again. Up goes Billy and he promotes his beer very well, I thought. I was impressed. The trouble was he took 2 minutes and 11 seconds. So he had stolen 11 seconds off my time. Next was Mickey and I have to admit to you that he was a pro. I learnt a lot from Mickey. I learnt something that I have done every single time since when I am on TV. I learnt when you know its the last question, you just go on talking. (laughter) And Mickey went on talking for 2 minutes and 44 seconds. So I now got just over a minute. I am shaking, I am in real trouble and i am going up the steps. I hear Dave, the interviewer saying “Who’s on next”. “Jeffrey Archer.” “What does he do?” “He writes books.” “What is the book called”. “Kane and Able.” To which he replied, “You know I don’t like doing religious books!”.
So I arrive in front of Dave and I sit down and he is looking at his notes. He clearly hasn’t read the book so he is trying to find as much about me as he possibly can. Then he looks at me and the lights go up, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then he says — “Hi Jeff”.
Not a good start.
He says, ” I hear you came over on the Concorde”. To which I say, “That is correct David. I flew out of London this morning on this amazing plane. I had breakfast in London and I got on to the plane and it flies twice the height of any plane on earth, goes twice the speed of any plane the world has ever known. It landed in New York so quickly that not only did I have breakfast in London, I also had breakfast in New York. This is an amazing achievement of engineering of which we should be immensely proud of.”
To which Dave said, “Its been lovely having you here.”
My publishers were not pleased. I had forgotten to mention “Kane and Able”. With a little more experience what would happen if Mr Dave was to say “hi Jeff, I hear you came over on the concorde”. Nowadays I would say, “Thats correct Dave and one of the most exciting things about that journey was walking up and down the aisle and seeing how many people were reading ‘Kane and Able.'”
My publishers were not pleased when I started off at number 24 in the bestsellers list. They became more anxious so they sent me to Chicago to go on the radio shows. The Rosenberg hits about 4 million people and they said, “please please Jeffrey, please mention “Kane and Able” to those 4 million people”. The problem was Mr. Rosenberg, (the interviewer) actually doesn’t like to meet the person he is interviewing till you sat opposite to him. He feels its more spontaneous. You just walk in, sit down and start the interview. So I walked in, sat down and watched the red light go on which meant to me that the first question would be coming. I was ready. He said “ladies and gentlemen, its a great honor for me this evening to be in the presence of a legend. I am sitting with a man I have wanted to meet all my life. Will you welcome to the studio, the man who conquered Everest — Sir Edmund Hillary!”
Another interview that didn’t go very well.
And I was at number 21 on bestsellers list. They then sent me to San Fransisco, Dallas,Boston, Washington and I had only reached #17 and they were wondering why they had spent 3,200,000 on this complete idiot. They then called from California asking if I’d go on this show and I was a bit shocked that I’d been asked to go on this particular show and I happily agreed. They were very excited and said, “Please Jeffrey. We don’t know how long you will be on but please Jeffrey, mention the title, this is our last chance.” I arrived at the studio, the 8’o clock show, the biggest show in the US which went out to 42 million people and I sat opposite to Mr Johnny Carson and the lights go up and I am “Here we go again”. And then, “Ladies and Gentleman, I am in the studio with Jeffrey Archer. Last week I picked up his book in the evening at 5’o clock and I finished it at 6’o clock in the next morning. Its called “Kane and Able” and I want every single one of you to go and buy it tomorrow”. And it went to #1.
Since then I have written several books right until “A Prisoner of Birth”, which is the latest one. Your introducer was kind enough to say that its been #1 here for 6 weeks… (interruption) 10 weeks? Oh I apologize, been #1 for 10 weeks. I think the staggering thing i discovered on this trip, you see, I have seen the figures for sales and they were impressive — they were equal to Britain, they were not quite as the US and then I had heard a fact that knocked me backwards – that everybody who buys a (archer) book in India, 25 people read it. I don’t know what this says about the Indian Economy. But in England its 3 people, so it is in America and Australia and what I didn’t realize that I have got 50 million readers over here, I put the figures to mean what they meant and so, when I arrived, when Landmark very kindly advised me to do this tour and I started getting audience like this everywhere I went, I was absolutely shocked. I may say, delighted.
On the first day I arrived here, I was interviewed by Sunil Sethi. One of the best interviews I have done. He opened the interview by saying, “Jeffrey, I have been in the book trade for many years and all of us are impressed that you’ve been #1 as an Englishman on NY Times, on Sydney Morning Herald, London times. But real fame in India is not being #1 for ten weeks, no, no. Real fame in India is when you stop at the traffic light and they try to sell you a Jeffrey Archer.” So I intend to return to Britain and say, ” I have made it, they are selling (my) books at traffic lights in India!”
I will end this part by thanking you for your immense warm kindness over so many years. Someone asked me, in a session like this 3 days ago, “Why do you bother Jeffrey. You have everything you need in life. You lead the most interesting life. Why do you bother to keep writing. Why do you bother to keep traveling? Why don’t you just live on a beautiful island in the sun and enjoy yourself?”
You come up here and stand with me. Look at this audience. And you will never ask a damn silly question.
However minor, due to poor voice recording, there could be a couple of discrepancies in the text above. As mentioned, these are trivial.