it really is who you know, in the end

Today, finding myself at my local shopping centre for the first time since Shadow Queen appeared on shelves, I dropped into Borders, only to find no copies. No copies! They'd had copies last week. I stood in the aisle for a bit, torn between disappointment at not actually seeing my own book on shelves after all this time and a quiet glee that people had actually shelled over money for the book. Perhaps fortunately, none of the staff asked me why I looked manic lost, so I couldn't share my thoughts with anyone.

I wandered off to my other errands, which brought me within range of the local Angus & Robertson. They did not have my book for sale last week, so I thought it safe to wander in and do a little browsing. Lo, what did I find, but copies of my book! So at last I have seen my own book in a real bookstore — even if it was on the bottom-most shelf. At least, thanks to that awesome cover, it was face-out.

Now, I'm told by reputable types, that it is normal for an author to offer to sign any books on display in a bookstore. What harm? I thought. I'm moving away in a couple of months anyway, I can always avoid the store if I make a total fool of myself. So I nailed my courage to the wall1 and offered to sign their stock.

The sales assistant's smile froze in place. "I'll just get the manager," she said, and she fled. That is the only description for what she did: she fled.

The manager came over, looking similarly concerned. "You want to sign the books…?" she asked, and I began to wonder if all those reputable types had been setting me up, in a stunning display of everyone in the world having a joke at one person's expense.

"Well," she hesitated, as if trying to find a polite way to explain that I was not being normal, not at all. "I suppose… If you want to…"

It seemed foolish to walk away at this point, so I started signing — which is when the manager mentioned a gentleman had been in just last week, asking about this book. She shared this information with a wide-eyed I-escaped-from-death sort of look. "He asked a lot of questions, about the publisher, about why we didn't have any copies, about why we weren't supporting local authors…"

Ah. No wonder they ordered in copies. My friends are well-meaning, and determined, and not beyond accusing bookstores of single-handedly destroying the Australian economy at a pinch. Bless 'em.

  1. you have no idea how hard it is, being me. honestly. []

9 thoughts on “it really is who you know, in the end

  1. What the…? They sell books! Do they not understand the wonder of a signed book?

    Although, now I think of it, I don't know that I've ever heard of any sort of book event/author reading/signing happening in an Angus & Robertson store. It's possible she's never seen a "signed copy!" sticker.

    And now I think on it even more – some booksellers aren't keen on signatures. Marking the book means they cannot, if it refuses to sell, send it back. It's a commitment to keep, like a remainder mark. Only cooler. You have forced them to keep your books come hell or high water! GO TEAM DEB. That's actually an awesome tactic.

    I've memories of someone, I don't remember who, saying a slightly better approach to spring on unwary booksellers is to introduce yourself and ask how it is selling or if any of their customers have come back with feedback.

  2. @Tess – yah, the can't send 'em back approach is something I picked up from Ian Irvine's godsend of a website, from memory. It was the clincher in plucking up my courage, because I could con myself i was some kind of deep operative 😉 They did have the signed copy sticker, and she started talking about setting up an official signing (probably not until Mother's Day, which, um, not so helpful but we'll see if it pans out)

    I do like the how's it selling what's the feedback strategy – I'll try that out at Borders next time I'm there!

    @Nathan: It can only get less intimidating from now on, right? Right?

  3. Haha. Cute story – heroine undertakes untold risk of humiliation for incalculable (= no computable value of) reward. Crisis looms, tense moments ensue. Goal comes in sight and is accomplished, then the gentle unexpected twist occurs in the denouement…

    I finished Shadow Queen on the train this evening. Well done 🙂 I'm looking forward to the next one!

    The historical figure named Irmao gave me a brief double-take. I read it as lmao the first time. Too much the 'net geek, me 🙂

  4. @Jan – LOL. Once you start writing stories, sooner or later EVERYTHING gets couched as a story. My mother keeps despairing, interrupting family conversations with "No! Wait, that's not the right order…!"

    "Authorial prerogative," I reply, "Editing for strength of narrative flow."

  5. We just walked in there. The books are now on the first shelf on a stand (!!) and have stickers with 'signed by the author'. 🙂

  6. Wiktory! I must say, the manager was really very nice about it all, and she did say she could put them up on more prominent display. Am glad to see she was a woman of her word. I really do think all her hesitation had to do with my friend's…er…making a reputation for himself 😉

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