I keep passing milestones I hadn't expected to be milestones. I had barely finished reading my first (and thoughtful, thanks 'Big Dave'!) review of Olives on Amazon.co.uk when I found myself down in Dubai's Al Quoz industrial area picking up two boxes packed with fifty books. In the moment when Tony from Raidy Emirates handed over those boxes, Olives - A Violent Romance was 'published' in the true sense.
If you remember, I had been holding out for 'proper' booky book paper and getting nowhere. I have had so many arguments with people about Kindles and the 'feel of curling up on the sofa with a good book' that I decided there was to be no compromise. Books are printed on a special grade of paper called novel paper - it's a lightweight, high bulk paper. If you pick up a paperback by the spine, it doesn't flop. Most 'books' printed in the UAE are printed on standard grade 'wood free' art paper, which is way heavier. If you pick up one of those by the spine, the weight of the paper makes it flop over. It just doesn't feel right. Olives had to printed on novel paper. The decision has cost me, literally, weeks of delay as my journey to find anyone who stocked the paper (or, indeed, even understood what I was on about) led me into blind alley after blind alley.
Every printer in the Emirates was quick to assure me that yes, they did have the paper I was talking about, each one greeting me at journey's end with the inevitable idiotic, drooling grin and a swatch of copier paper. The thinking seemed to be that I'd settle for whatever they had once I'd driven across town to them. One fool actually quoted me for news print. I finally decided my only option was to print in Lebanon, Egypt or Jordan where you can actually find novelists and, therefore, printers who can print real books. I asked heart-rendingly talented Lebanese cartoonist Jumana Medlej for a recommendation and she came back, quick as a flash with 'Raidy, silly. I knew you'd finally realise Lebanon's the only place to print.'
The whole idea rendered my weeks-long quest for 'permission to print in the UAE' worthless. I was going to print overseas after all. I reconciled myself to the fact and got in touch with Raidy, who returned my query. Yes, they could print on novel paper but I might like to give the job to their Dubai based subsidiary, which also stocks the paper. Hallelujah!
Another milestone this morning - signing my first copy of Olives. How do you sign a book? Surely not with your 'real' signature! You can imagine the Nigerians having a field day with that one, queuing up with 'Could you dedicate it to "Please transfer the amount of" if you don't mind?'...
And to top off the start to the week, the SEO is beginning to kick in and 'Olives' now appears on the first page of results if you search books on Amazon.co.uk (although the results on amazon.com are still pretty poor). You wait, one day I'll knock those smug bastards at Crespo off the top spot...
Olives - A Violent Romance launches at TwingeDXB - the first Dubai Urban Festival on the 10th December where I'll be doing a chat and reading thingy, along with poet Frank Dullaghan and Emirati writer Sultan Darmaki. The book will be available in Jashanmals stores and other major UAE outlets from then onwards.
If you can't wait, or if you're based outside the Middle East, you can get a print copy of Olives at amazon.com, linked for your clicking pleasure right here. And if you have a Kindle, you can buy it here in the UK or here in the USA. If you have another e-book reader (from iPad through to Kobo), you can buy ebooks here at Smashwords.