When I’m out shopping or meeting friends for coffee, I usually try and call into a bookshop, if there’s one about. I introduce myself to the bookseller (children’s, if there’s one), leave a business card and check the shelves for my books and those of my author/illustrator friends.
Many booksellers are warm and welcoming, interested to meet the creator and to hear a little of the background of the book. I’ve had many occasions where a book signing in store or a presentation results from this, sometimes with enormous success.
Other times, I’ve chosen the wrong bookseller to hand my business card to and I’ve been met with cool disinterest or, ‘No, we don’t have your books.’ So sometimes I leave the store, tail between my legs, wondering why I bothered. I’ve learned to only do the introduction thing on the good days, when I feel I can survive the ‘knock back’. Alternatively I stubbornly don the ‘suit of armour’ in my mind and strut in, ready for any type of welcome . . . or not.
A few months ago I stood staring at a book store where I’ve had several successful signings in the past and where, earlier this year, the shelves were stocked with multiple copies of my books. As I stood on the other side of the street looking at the ‘All books $4.95’ sign, my heart was in my boots. Was I brave enough to go in?
I donned the suit of armour and decided I’d buy up all of my own books and those of my friends at $4.95!!!!! Inside I was greeted by Eiffel Towers of books some in untidy piles and boxes in various stages of loading and unloading and found, as I held my breath, that there wasn’t a ‘dear to me’ book in the whole store.
As I stood at the counter waiting to purchase a beautifully produced UK edition paperback of Bambi, I asked a staff member, ‘When are you moving out?’ The reply. ‘Oh, they’ve gone. We’re here for as long as it takes to get rid of all of this.’ My heart flew straight back into my boots.
A world without bookshops is unimaginable. There’s something about the way they draw you in, the way books stand like soldiers, upright, waiting to be chosen and there’s something about the smell and the feel of a book in your hands. This Saturday is National Bookshop Day. I’ll be reading and signing books at the Collins Bookstore in Northland Shopping Centre, Preston from 12.00 till 1.00 p.m. If you’re close by, come in and say hello.