Saturday, July 28, 2007
If you buy that, I'll sign it...
I spend a lot of time in bookshops.
I love them. I loiter, browsing and reading snippets and... OK, I admit it... I check out my own books on the shelves.
I've always wondered what I'd do if I actually saw someone pick up one of my books in a shop. That's not quite true. I've had a plan for many years, and this week I put it into action.
I went into a certain big-name bookshop in Sydney on my lunchbreak, to browse and check if my new book, SAFARI (rrp $32.95), was on the shelves yet. It was, and to my pleasant surprise a very friendly looking grey-haired lady was standing at the new release shelves with a copy in her hand!
My heart raced, Legion of Fans. She was rocking her head slightly from side to side, the book dangling unconvincingly. She clearly needed convincing. I drew a deep breath and moved in.
"If you buy that book, I'll sign it for you," I said to her.
She looked at me like I was a (well-read) serial killer, and took a pace back.
"It's OK, I wrote it," I added, holding my hands up to show I meant her no harm.
I was mindful at the time of a Wilbur Smith story I heard the great man recount a while ago. Spying someone at an airport who was reading a copy of his first novel, When the Lion Feeds, Smith approached and informed the lady in question that she was reading his book. "Sorry, I just found it sitting on the seat - you can have it back," she replied dismissively.
My lady in question relaxed a little, and I directed her to the inside cover, which clearly showed I was telling the truth (I had to explain I had more hair when that picture - posted here - was taken, but the resemblance was close enough). "Yes!" I thought to myself, mentally punching the air, and feeling not a little proud, Legion of Fans.
The two of us turned and started heading to the cash register. I was already reaching into my pocket for a pen when a young shop assistant walked up to my soon-to-be-royalty-contributor. "I've found these for you," the girl brightly said to the customer.
Oh dear. I realised what was going on. The elderly lady had clearly asked for some help in choosing a book, and the girl had returned with three possibilities in her hand. "This one's great," she said, holding up a copy of SHANTARAM, a book about an Australian ex bank-robber and gun runner who sets up a free clinic for people in Bombay.
"Oh, I think I'm fine," said my lady, sparing me the embarrassment of intervening.
"No," the shop assistant persisted, "this one (Shantaram) is much better than that (Safari)."
"But this man's the author, and he's going to sign it for me," said the customer, turning and gesturing to me, who was hovering with pen, gripped dagger-like in hand.
Poor shop assistant. Her eyes widened and jaw gaped. I started laughing.
"Um, perhaps you'd like to sign some more of your books for us...?" said the saleswoman.