This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 770 words.
By the time the book launch was ready, six months had passed. And that was with Steve pulling out all the stops. Gabby was stir-crazy, and Steve was almost out of money. He was onto his credit card, which he had used to buy Gabby some new hair clippers, and some clothes she had ordered online. A photographer friend came and took lots of photos of her in various poses. Steve had to promise to pay him once the money started to roll in.
At the suggestion of the publisher, Gabby’s brother had been contacted. Her mum had died without regaining consciousness, news of that had made Gabby do a dance around the room in her underwear. Her brother wasn’t interested. He rang Steve as requested and said Gabby could say what she liked and do what she wanted. He would have no part of it. That was fine with Steve, as it meant he wouldn’t be denying any of the back story.
Although they had used a literary agent, the publisher who accepted the manuscript brokered a tough deal. Only five grand up front, and that to be deducted from royalities. Steve had no concerns, he was sure the book would do well, and they could sell the film or TV rights later, as well as getting a good payment from one of the tabloids to tell the inside story. He had got his share of the advance, and Gabby used the rest to move out and live in a small hotel twenty miles away. It was a nuisance having to keep running back and forth to sort things out with her, but he was pleased to have his flat to himself again.
When the first box of hardbacks arrived, he smiled at the cover. ‘Gabby: Why I Went Missing. By Gabrielle Parker’. The cover photo was a missing poster from the time of her disappearance, showing her university photo and the details from the police. The first promotional gig was the local TV news show, BBC Look East. It was a small spot on the evening bulletin, filmed outside the hotel with a girl interviewing Gabby, who was holding a copy of the book. As expected, that went online, immediately generating interest in the story.
The book went into the big chain booksellers, and was being sold on Amazon too. Steve paid someone to generate some fake five-star reviews, and it started to climb up the Amazon charts. When the second biggest tabloid contacted Gabby for a story to be published in the Sunday edition, she referred them to Steve. He did a deal for fifteen grand that gave them exclusive rights to newspaper coverage and allowed them to add the story onto their website. They had to also carry a photo of the book, and buying links. Someone else he knew who was good at playing Facebook generated hundreds of fake posts there, and just as many from fake Twitter accounts.
The Monday following the newspaper article, Gabby was trending on Twitter, had thousands of new Facebook followers, and the book had a passing mention on the main national news that evening. Whe the tabloid did a follow up story on the Friday, showing a photo of Gabby’s mum in hospital before she died, and milking the sob story of child abuse, there was an offer from the BBC magazine programme The One Show. Gabby went on that same night at seven, plugged the book, tried to claim she was speaking out for all abused children, appeared to lose the battle to fight back some tears, and then the female presenter started crying.
As he watched the show that evening, Steve was triumphant. He stood up in his flat and shouted. “Yes!”
When the tabloid ran some more stuff on the Sunday, digging deep into the teachers involved in sex for exam results, it really took off. She was on BBC Breakfast early the next morning, followed by a spot on the ITV chat show This Morning just after eleven. That got her booked for Loose Women the following lunchtime, where Gabby gave the all-female team a story of sexual abuse so heartbreaking, it jammed the phone lines into the station.
Generated by all of this, public outcry followed all over social media. Angela Devine was arrested, and the police applied to extradite Andrew Donaldson from his new job abroad. Other teachers from her past were taken in for questioning, and the book tipped number one on the best-seller list, with the publisher rushing out paperback and Kindle versions.
That was when Steve made the call about film rights.