There’s a dilemma that authors face whenever they go into a bookshop (and, naturally, they go into bookshops as often as they can! Should they check to see if their own latest book is in stock?
You might think this is a no-brainer. Why shouldn’t one check? But it can be rather demoralising to keep finding that your titles are nowhere to be seen! One can always console oneself (using a bit of writer’s imagination) that perhaps the shop ordered heavily and sold out quickly. But in that case, why are they so many best-sellers still left on the shelves?
There are subsidiary questions. If one’s book is nowhere to be seen, should the reaction be to ask the store manager why? Or ring the publisher with one more complaint? Tempting, possibly, but neither is a good way to win friends and influence people.
And what if the book is there? Should one march up to the shop staff and offer to sign the stock? Admittedly, I ask all these questions with tongue in cheek. But I think it’s true that writers tend (big generalisation, I know there are many exceptions) to be rather reticent people whose morale can be fragile. Amongst the many pleasures of bookshop visiting, then, there are one or two potential pitfalls.
And no, I don’t usually introduce myself when I visit bookshops, even though some friends have recommended that I should routinely do so. When The Serpent Pool finally comes out next February, should I be braver?