And I am interviewing Jen here today. Her publisher, Constable, has generously offered a free copy to one of you. All you need to do is comment below and one name will be picked randomly. Deadline Thursday 12th, 5pm GMT.
JC: Most authors are perfectly well behaved and lovely [yourself included!]. There have been occasions where authors move their stock so it’s facing out on the shelf or on the display table, but that’s harmless.
This happened once:
customer: You don’t have a very good selection of books.
bookseller: We’ve got over ten thousand books.
customer: Well, you don’t have the book I’ve written! (storms out)
There have been authors who leave a copy of their book, or post a copy of their book, to the shop and then call up a couple of days later to ask if the bookseller has read it and if they liked it. I completely understand that writers want feedback (we thrive on it!), but pestering is never good.
Basically, be a nice person. Be understanding. Be considerate - this will get you so much further than being pushy. And, as much as we booksellers like chocolate and wine, you don’t need to bribe us with those, either [though a part of me wishes this weren’t true].
JC: Hmmm. I’m torn here. I think it’s up to the individual author and how they feel about that. Personally, if I went into a bookshop and they didn’t stock my book, I wouldn’t go up to a bookseller and tell them that they should be stocking it. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong; I just know that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it. Booksellers are obviously always looking out for new and exciting things to stock, but to have the author him/herself telling you that their book is amazing is not the same as lots of other unbiased people telling you that. I’d rather promote my book via my blog etc a way that doesn’t force people to listen, and then hopefully more people will stumble across it, read it, talk about it and in turn more bookshops would hear about it and stock it, too.
JC: Hmmm. Let me demonstrate this through the mode of quotes:
1. customer: Have you read every single book in here?
bookseller: No, I can’t say I have.
customer: Well you’re not very good at your job, are you?
2. customer: If I give you these three paperbacks, will you sell them and give the money to charity?
bookseller: We’re not a charity bookshop.
customer: Oh. Where does your money go to?
bookseller: . . . It goes into keeping us in business.
We all love a bargain, but I think that a lot of things have happened in the publishing industry to make people think that books are things that should be cheap. It’s easy to forget how many people have to be paid for one book: the writer, agents, editors, marketing people, designers, proof readers, wholesalers, bookshops. Those bookshops in turn have to pay rent, business rates, their staff... the list just goes on.
I think we all know [because it makes sense] that if we don’t shop in bookshops then bookshops will close, but it seems [as with a lot of other things] we’re waiting for other people to rush to the rescue. That isn’t going to happen. If we want to keep bookshops then we have to support them. Otherwise we’ll all be like the Waterstones’ apostrophe - looking for a new job in a sausage factory.
JC: Well, if the book wasn’t there then I would run away.
However, if it was there, I’d probably also run away. Ha!
I am looking forward [a lot!] to seeing the book in bookshops [eek!]. I’ve also got a few events lined up to talk about ‘Weird Things...’ and sign some books: I’ll be at The Edinburgh Bookshop on the 10th April 5:30-6:30, and I’ll be at Blackwell’s in Oxford on the 17th April, all day as a writer in residence, with an event in the evening where I’ll be talking about ‘Weird Things...’ and also reading some of my poetry (an interesting combination, there!). I’m very much looking forward to those.
JC: This is a tough one! The nicest part was probably seeing the book in the flesh for the first time. I can’t really describe that feeling. It was amazing.
I have to say probably the most surprising thing about getting published was... getting published! Being a writer is all I’ve ever wanted to do [apart from a brief period when I was five and I was convinced I wanted to be a lollipop lady], and I’ve dreamt about it for so long that it doesn’t quite seem real yet. Also, ‘Weird Things...’ wasn’t initially a book idea, so the fact that it became a book was also a lovely surprise. At the time, I’d just got myself an agent because of my fiction, and we were busy discussing that when I was approached about writing ‘Weird Things...’.
The hardest part is not to do with ‘Weird Things...’ in particular but relates to the whole of becoming published/being a writer and that’s the hard slog - all the work you put in before any of this happens: editing your work, trying to make your writing better, believing in yourself and holding on to the possibility of getting a publishing deal. Now that I have one book deal, I have to make sure that I work even harder.
1. customer: Do you have any books on star signs?
bookseller: Yes, our esoteric section is over here.
customer: Good, thanks. It’s just I really need to check mine – I have this overwhelming feeling that something bad is going to happen.
2. customer: Do you have a book that has a list of aphrodisiacs? I’ve got a date on Friday.
3. customer: What’s your name?bookseller: Jen.Thanks, Jen! It's a lovely book and will definitely make people laugh. It would make a fab gift. Shame it's not Christmas but I'm sure your publisher will still be pushing it then! And I adore the cover.
customer: Hmmm. I don’t like that name. Is it ok if I call you something else?
[Edited to add - AND I'm mentioned in it, in one of the quotes! I hasten to add that it wasn't me being weird, but a customer referring to my book, Write to be Published. Which is not, in itself, a weird thing to refer to, except that in that case it was a weird comment.]