I was introduced to a writer recently at a social event. The person making the introduction said something like “Harvey meet Sara, she’s a writer too.” At which I squirmed a little, feeling much further down the rung than this man who has a published collection of short stories. I hadn’t heard of Harvey before I met him, and we don’t stock his book at my bookshop, but I knew he had been published because he had a copy of his own book tucked under his arm.
Anyway, his eyes bounced off me rapidly and he walked away without a word.
A while later he returned beaming.
“Susan says you work at Waterstones?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Ah, lovely…waffle, waffle, waffle.”
I smiled politely, did the chit chat thing for a short time, and then made my excuses. It’s something I am getting rather used to. Writers have to do a ton of publicity and self promotion these days, nobody can blame them for seizing on a possible opportunity, but it does leave a slightly unpleasant taste when they have been so clearly dismissive of me before learning I’m a Saturday Bookseller! Yup, a Saturday bookseller. As in one day a week. And if I get schmoozed for working one day a week in a big bookshop what on earth must it be like for the powers that be?
When I next went to work one of the managers had a chat with me. He’d been put in an awkward position because Harvey had rung the shop, asked to speak to the manager and then said that he’d spoken to me and I had asked him to do a signing at our branch.
Cheeky fucking bastard.
Harvey will not be appearing at our store, neither will we be stocking his book. It’s not one that we would stock anyway, although if a customer wants a copy we’d happily order one.
What makes me curious is what Harvey thought would happen if we did organise an event for him. He is an unknown author with no press or publicity that I could find. No good reviews of his book, no reason for people to come and hear him read unless they are the sort of person who sees a sign in a bookshop saying “Harvey Doodah will be reading from his collection at xyz” and think, ooh, lovely, I’ll pop along. (Very unlikely.)
It seems fundamental to me that writers having words printed in a book does not automatically lead to sales. One needs reviews, publicity, goodwill, promotion and so on. And people skills probably help too.