The dawn of a new world order?

By Whisky, the Black & White Cat

Ian wants to write a book to make lots of money. He can’t mow lawns, he can’t paint houses. He can’t even wash a car, poor old man. Writing books is the only thing he can do.

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He’s run out of ideas for books of his own to write, and he’s taken to writing books for other people. But none of them is making all that much in royalties.

I ventured to offer my advice on the topic. What does a cat know about it, he enquired. I had to point out that in all the years I’ve watched him in his literary endeavours, I’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge on how not to go about it.

That clearly made an impression on him, in a funny sort of way. In a spectral voice he invited me to elaborate, which I did.

One of his chief mistakes, I’d observed, was to write the sort of book people would like to buy. Now that was a hopelessly wrongheaded approach. He ought instead to write the sort of book people would need to buy.

I could see he wasn’t altogether convinced of this by the way he asked me to provide an illustration. I replied that he might start a new religion. He then needs to write a book which will serve as its sacred text. Each one of his followers will be obliged to buy a copy of his book, so it should be weighty and lavishly produced, carrying a sizeable markup. The quality of the contents is immaterial. The main thing is it should be voluminous and hard to get into, but offer lots of soundbites.

Most people who’ve done this sort of thing in the past devote the lion’s share of the book to slagging off their enemies. Ian complained that he didn’t have any enemies to speak of – at least none worth slagging off in public. Not in a fashion that would appeal to anyone.

No enemies? I told him to go out and get a life, and make some. It’s not as if he needed lots. For the sake of his readers’ attention-span he ought to keep it down to just one or two. And they can be groups.

A recognisable group has advangages over named individuals: the latter might die, consigning the whole project to obsolescence. Thus the Book of Mormon hammers on about “the Great and Abominable Church”. The Quran hammers on about the Christians. The New Testament about the Pharisees, the Old Testament about the Canaanites, Mein Kampf about the Jews, and so on and so forth.

So what particular group did I have in mind for Ian to pick a fight with? The Tories? The Liberals? The Labour Party? – the softest target of all, he thought. (Which shows how far he’s fallen in his 74 years.) What about the people who exercise their dogs on the pavement outside his front gate?

I waved my whiskers from side to side. It’s vital not to appear parochial. England doesn’t have a monopoly on gullible idiots, and he ought to consider his proposed reforms to have an international dimension. His target group should be recognisable across the world, but not be a nation as such – at least not in other people’s estimation. So that rules out the Americans. Nor should it be a species, like dogs (it pained me to have to say that). Raising the hue-and-cry about dogs or royalty risks offending the entire English nation, and he ought to be on his guard against making powerful enemies which are not already in his sights. Bankers, oil firms, pharmaceuticals companies, IS – those are the sort of people he ought to go for.

Ian opined that it sounded a good way of getting his head cut off with a bread knife. I retorted that no enterprise worth undertaking was entirely risk-free. Anyway it was more than likely his target group would view his strictures with amusement rather than alarm. Of course that might change were his following to grow beyond anyone’s reckoning – but by then he’d have the wherewithal to defend himself. He’d have an army of stormtroopers comprised of the numbskulls who’d be apt to form the core of his followers, ready to give up their evenings to kick hell out of his nominated scapegoats.

I could see that Ian was warming to the idea, if only for its entertainment value. What sort of markup should he contemplate for his holy book? I replied that could do it in hardback for £10 a copy, print-on-demand, so he should be thinking of somewhere in the region of £100, maybe more.

He nearly fell off his chair. But I pointed out that £100 was a trifling amount to invest in a cause you were preparing to devote your life to. Maybe the book should be bound in Moroccan goatskin to justify that sort of price, but its content and tenor would best determine its presentation. Thus if vegetarianism was to be a tenet of his adherents, some other binding than goatskin was indicated.

Ian then fell to considering the practicalities of acquiring followers. I said he could start with his Twitter followers, but he rejected that notion out of hand. Surely he was going to have to address large impromptu gatherings of people in public places, and he couldn’t afford to print the leaflets, nor to hire the squad of bouncers necessary to stop his neck getting broken. Nor had he the wealthy friends to fork out for all that on his behalf. This wasn’t going to be simply a matter of writing a book and lying back to bask in the public acclaim. It was going to entail years of patient groundwork. If he’d ever anticipated going down this route, he should have started decades earlier.

It then struck me he didn’t need many followers. All he had to do was convince the authorities his cult was going to become a force to be reckoned with. It should be widely promulgated that his followers would only swear in a court of law on the sacred text of the new creed. So the Justice Department would need to buy a copy for every court in the land.

How many courts are there in England and Wales? Hundreds, if not thousands. Magistrates courts alone number around 400. A £100 markup on sales of 1000 copies of his book – weren’t those the sort of figures to appeal to him?

Ian said he’d think about it.

updated: 13:42 31/12/2015