A couple of years ago I had a pretty disheartening experience. I had an hour to kill whilst I waited for my beloved to finish an appointment, so I walked along a busy Perth street, browsing in shops and enjoying myself. There were three bookshops in the street, so I thought I’d check and see if any were stocking my books. Pearl Verses the World had been out for several months, had great reviews, and had recently won the Indie Children’s Book Award. Snowy’s Christmas had been out only a few weeks, and Christmas was approaching. So, in spite of rarely having seen my books in bookshops, I was fairly optimistic of finding one or both displayed in at least one of the three stores.
I entered the first store – whilst I won’t name it, it was part of one of the big book chains in Australia. No sign of either book (or any of my others), no friendly staff looking like they wanted to serve me, so I left, feeling only slightly dispirited, and headed to store number two, across the road.
This store was, like the first, one of the big chains, and, like the first had neither of my books, nor any staff who seemed to want to meet my eye and chat with me.
By this time I was feeling a bit low. But a block down the road was another bookstore. And this one, I was certain, would stock my book because it was an independent bookshop and part of the buying group that sponsored the award Pearl Verses the World had won. More than that, Pearl was in their new Summer reading guide. I was onto a sure thing.
Into the store I went, sure that my spirits would be revived. Huh. That confidence was soon diminished. No sign of Pearl, or of Snowy. Perhaps, I thought, they’d sold out of Pearl.
I went to the counter. The owner was there, and although I hesitated to even ask, I did. “I’m just wondering if you have ever stocked my book, Pearl….”
I was cut off. A look of disdain was coupled with the terse reply “We can’t stock every book, you know.” It seemed this lady was accustomed to authors asking after thieir books and had her response prepared.
Shaking in my shoes, I nonetheless held my ground and stayed polite. ‘I realise that. It’s just that it’s recently won the Indie Children’s Book Award and –“
Again, I was cut off. “We only stock books we’ve heard of.”
Maybe the lady was having a bad day. Maybe I looked too cocky, or wasn’t dressed like an author, or something. I don’t know. But that response drew me close to tears. Determined not to show it though, I thanked her for her time, and told her that it was handy as an author to know which bookstores to send people to when they asked after my books. Then I left.
I got over that day, but ever since I have hated the thought of telling bookshops that I visit that I am an author. My ego is not high, and to be treated as though I need bringing down a peg or two is pretty damned upsetting.
But the reason I’m telling this story is to share the wonderful experience I had yesterday. I’ve recently relocated to the South West of Western Australia. Although I have visited local bookstores as a customer, I have hesitated to introduce myself for fear of rejection. But yesterday was a sunny morning, and I had an hour to spare while I waited for one of my sons. So, when I visited a bookstore to buy a book I wanted, I swallowed my pride and introduced myself to the girl serving me (Jacqui), and asked after my books. I already knew that Pearl Verses the World was in stock – and has been every time I’ve visited – so perhaps this made me a little braver. I asked about Toppling, my newest book. Not only was Jacqui very helpful, but the manager overheard our conversation and joined in. He was not only willing to stock the book, but knew of Toppling’s recent shortlisting in the CBCA Awards, and was really congratulatory. He also offered to ring me when stock came in so that I could come in and sign it.
So, Jarrod and your staff at Angus & Robertson Bunbury, if you happen to be reading this (and even if you’re not) thank you from the bottom of my heart. You warmed my heart, and helped restore some of that confidence lost two years ago. And to all the other wodnerful bookstores and bookstore staff who have neocuraged me, stcoked my books, or taken the time to chat over the years, thank you.