A funny thing happened this week.
I volunteer at a charity shop raising funds for abandoned and abused animals. Mostly I am in the book department, where we have a vast quantity of both hardback and paperback books donated by well-wishers and which are sold for 1 euro each.
The ‘shop’ isn’t exactly a shop in the conventional sense. It’s a collection of barns and outbuildings selling quality bric-a-brac, furniture, linens, clothing, children’s games and toys, electrical goods, DVDs, CDs and the aforesaid books. There is also a tea shop where shoppers can spoil themselves with the very best of home-baked cakes and pastries.
Anyway, a lady came in on Tuesday and selected a number of books, and when she came to pay I noticed that a couple of them were written by me.
I said to her, “Oh, I hope you’ll enjoy these – I’m the author.”
She stared at me and said, “What?”
“I wrote these two books.” I tapped the covers. She looked at the books and then back at me, and didn’t seem convinced.
She turned her attention to my apparel, which was suited to mid-February in rural France. Fleecy trousers and tops, scarf, boots and woolly gloves all topped off with a red nose.
“Then what are you doing working here,” she asked. “I thought writers were rich.” 😀
Contrast that with what happened many years ago in the Brighton branch of the greatly missed and much-lamented Borders Bookshop, where you could sit and read for as long as you wished on a comfy sofa, and drink coffee and eat cakes, when one of my titles was newly-released and piled up on a table at the front of the shop. The friend I was with walked up to the person behind the counter and said: “This lady is the author of that book – she’ll sign some copies if you like.”
So the man came from behind the counter, found me a chair, and not only did I sign every copy, he found other titles of mine on the shelves and asked me to sign those too.
Without asking for any proof that I was the author!
Looking back I suspect he must have been relatively new or very confident that the books would sell, because bookshops cannot return unsold books to the publisher once they’ve been signed. My agent, the lovely Maggie Noach had told me that. Luckily for that man the title sold well and I don’t recall that there were ever any returns.
Here’s the King, never been equalled.