Monday, June 29, 2009

Using and schmoozing...

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.

7 comments:

Nik Perring said...

Sheesh! People eh?

Nik

kellie said...

What a colossal ponce.

Kay Sexton said...

Mmm, I have met some Harveys in my time. They are usually blokes, for some reason: perhaps higher self-esteem or perhaps (as you note) minimal social skills.

Self-promotion is an art, but they turn it into a kind of mortal combat performed with the elbows.

Bob Jacobs said...

Harvey is an idiot. He should have bought you a drink. I'd have bought you a drink. For a book signing.

If you'd worked five days a week instead of just on Saturdays, you might even have got a packet of pork scratchings. Of course, for that I'd have expected to have my anthology on the top shelf of your short story display. And a book signing.

Some men don't know how to treat a girl right. (Those are the kinds of men Kay knows.)

Cheers,
Bob

Michael Logan said...

Oh dear. Harvey Headbanger I take it. Sounds like he is a desperate no-talent who somehow managed to scab a book deal.

Julia Bohanna said...

Horrible to be so blatantly used, Sara....he wasn't even subtle about it....some writers can make whores of themselves and fools at the same time...

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Mind you, I managed to get it totally wrong when I asked a great independent bookshop if they would consider stocking my book.

I did everything right, I think. I telephoned, spoke to the owner, said who I was, what the book was. Said it had a few nice reviews.

They invited me to take them a copy, with any info such as reviews etc. So I put together a document as requested, and drover to the shop, and asked for the owner, and introduced myself, said thank you for your time, here's the info you asked for.

I bought two books.

I heard nothing back. And, as the book I'd left them cost me £8.00 to buy meself, went back six weeks later to ask what had happened, if anything.

The owner handed me back the book, saying "We dont sell books like this."

I didn't ask. Just took my book and retired gracefully to my car, after buying another book from them.

Months later, picture the scene.

Said bookshop owners were invited to talk to my local writing association. I wasnt there. Apparently they made great play of their support for local writers. A colleague of mine asked the question: in so many words... but one of our number has a book out recently, and visited, and, and , and, etc, etc, ect. And you said you didnt stock books like this.

Can you tell us what your criteria are, in that case?

reply: We didnt like the writer. So we decided not to stock the book.

Sorry? Huh? I remain totally mystified.

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