Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 13 November 2004

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. I have written a perfectly good book and would like to see it published. I have, however, given up sending it to conventional publishers. They are not interested and I know this is because I have lived happily in Norfolk for 20 years and can’t be bothered to go to London. The upshot is that I am no longer on the so-called scene. I thought I would never stoop to having a book vanity-published, but now I learn that Felix Dennis has done just that but, rather than using one of the embarrassing imprints, he apparently got Hutchinson to do it for him. Could I too, Mary, have a book published by Hutchinson, if I paid for it?

T.B., Norfolk

A. Literary supremo John Walsh informs me that it is a little-known fact that ‘proper’ publishers will also do vanity publishing. They don’t advertise the fact, but most will happily knock up for you, say, a thousand copies to a normal professional standard. The difference is that your book will not appear in the catalogue, have any publicity or be distributed to the bookshops. You would have to investigate the precise costing for yourself. And, of course, you are unlikely to be reviewed by Philip Hensher in The Spectator.

Q. I am 22 years old and would like to have a girlfriend but as yet have never had one. Most of my friends assume that I have had a lot of experience — I suppose they think it must have happened while I was away in gap year or at university but it simply didn’t. Naturally I don’t enlighten them as this suits me fine. I feel that if I tell people the truth I will be seen as some sort of freak and I will never get a girlfriend at all, but equally I am nervous of starting off at this great age and being immediately shown up as having had no ‘hands-on’ experience at all. What should I do, Mary? I don’t want to gain experience at the hands of a professional.

Name and address withheld

A. The best thing you could possibly do is to make a feature of this unique selling point of yours. Quietly let it be known to a bigmouth on your social circuit that, as yet, you have had no hands-on experience, as you put it. Far from the revelation turning you into a laughing stock, you may sit back and wait for the stampede as girls in exactly the same position as yourself will jockey for intimate position with you.

Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? The other night my husband and I had some people to dinner. They were all delightful, but we had had enough of them at about 1.20 a.m. Clearly oblivious to our exhaustion, they carried on carousing with no sign of stopping. How did I encourage them to leave? I discreetly set the alarm on my mobile for five minutes hence, then hid it under a cushion. It was some time before the source of the mood-breaking electronic whine could be located by those sincerely searching for it, whose number did not include me. But once it was unearthed, I acted daft and expressed amazement that I could possibly have set an alarm for the ‘middle of the night’. Our guests only needed this prompt to acquaint themselves with the lateness of the hour and they were soon on their way.

E.A.S., Swansea

A. Thank you for this useful tip.