Been off for a while now. And whilst I’d love to tell you I’ve been lording it up in the Seychelles or chatting to itinerant builders about a snooker room in my recently excavated basement, the absolute truth is considerably less exciting: I’ve been on the road, and not in a Jack Kerouac stylee – as you might expect from a dynamic new author with a sexy book out and a lust for life that would give Iggy a run for his money. No, I’ve been taking the train to far-flung portals of London with a Pay As You Go Oyster card, seeking out small independent bookshops that might be prepared to take a punt on a dynamic new author with a sexy book out etc… And guess what? There’s almost none.
Perhaps it’s the way I do it. I tend to rock up at these places (still smarting from the stealth tax TfL exact on those who don’t use their wretched system every day), a little sheepish and clutching a cardboard box with the printer’s sticker visible at the front. It contains about eight books, a roll of parcel tape, a clipboard, a biro and some flyers from the launch. As I enter the premises, I realise I have but a few seconds to weigh up the level of resistance I will encounter from staff members well versed in the dismissal of self-published authors who don’t yet know the ropes:
Me: Good afternoon!
SM: Hi there, what can I do for you?
Me: Is…er…Julian around?
SM: You’ve just missed him. He’s out on lunch. I’d give it a couple of hours.
Me: Not a problem. Perhaps you could help, though. I’ve just made my first book (SM begins to glaze over) and I wondered if it’s the kind of thing you guys would be interested in stocking?
SM: Er…yeah yeah, cool! Could you leave a copy with us until Julian gets back?
Me: Of course!
SM: (rapidly flicking through) Cool! I’ll get him to take a look as soon as he’s in.
Me: Thanks. I really appreciate it.
SM: I’d give it at least a couple of hours.
At this point, I trawl the nearby tragimarts for an entry level cheese sandwich. You know, one of those sad sack, wafer-thin triangles with a green label that retails at about £1.79. Because you do not have to be Nostradamus to figure out what’s around the corner, and any source of nourishment for the struggle should adequately reflect this. Next, I traverse the neighbourhood until I cannot bear it any longer and/or my feet are begging for mercy:
Me: Hello again! Is Julian back, by any chance?
SM: (pulling up book from behind desk) Yeah yeah, he was in about 20 minutes ago. Sorry, not really the kind of thing we’re after. Good luck with it, though. Looks great.
‘Looks great.’ Well, at least that’s something. Maybe next time I’ll concentrate on the words…