20 December 2006

Working for Woodward

This newsy item about Bob 'All the Prez's Men' Woodward looking for a sidekick reminds me of an Amazon.com incident so impossible and unlikely that I don't know why I bother to tell it.

I was still a lowly rep at the time, chained to the cubicle, hammering out phone and email replies at a leisurely rate sufficient to satisfy genial Mark 'The Impaler' Schaler.

Suddenly on the phone was a bespoke young man announcing himself as the great journo's "assistant" while, in the background, I could hear Woodward himself droning away to some shallow-tonsiled contact.

What, the assistant wanted to know, was Amazon going to do about the availability of Bob's latest book slipping (in the last 15 minutes) in our website charts from 24-hr shipping to a dismal 2-3 days?

What made this coincidence so hilarious was that, in a previous avatar as London book publishing's greatest publicist since Gwyn Headley, I had actually promoted Woodward & Bernstein's chef d'oeuvre and whisked the dynamic duo round the nation's media - a far cry from shivering in a Seattle dungeon, fielding customer service queries in between gobbles of the Bezos gruel.

The answer was that the sensitive Amazon stock control computer was having trouble keeping track of stocks of the bestseller as it flew out the distribution centre. Like the weather, the availability message would be back in sunnier mood in just a jiffy.

The young fellah sounded sceptical so I told him "I can hear Bob droning away in the background. Tell him it's his London PR supremo on the phone, from the Secker & Warburg days, and to stop being so paranoid and checking our website every 30 seconds for signs of waning popularity."

Roberto and I did have brief words but the chat was so bizarre that my fellow reps either side left off their own calls to listen in.

Maybe I should apply for this post.

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