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Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Lesson 16: It’s just been printed and you can’t bear to look at it

Rare authors fall in love with their book once it’s published, but more common are feelings of self-consciousness, embarrassment or even mortification. The tiniest flaws now appear gigantic, while the typos, errors and inconsistencies that no one noticed despite all the editing and proofreading are numerous and glaringly obvious.
Don’t expect adulation. The public has a curious attitude to authors – those who know how small most book sales are will display a pitying admiration for you, because you’re doing what you love even though you can’t make any money at it. Others confuse ‘published author’ with ‘famous author’ and assume you’re stinking rich. Either way, take what pleasure you can – after all, you are doing what you love and thousands of people are aching to get there themselves.
Don’t expect your brand new book to be stocked by every bookshop, much less displayed prominently. If it’s in the shop at all, there’s a good chance it’ll be shelved spine-out and practically invisible. Neither expect bookshop staff to recognise your name when you drop in to say hi, even if you have a few books out. Hundreds of books come in every month and they probably won’t remember yours, or your name, or know what to say to you. They may not want you to sign copies of your book either, in case they don’t sell and they have to send them back for a refund. They can’t return them if the book has been signed.
Their attitude will change if your books have sold well; they’ll be glad to see you because their customers will be asking after your next book, and signed copies will sell more quickly . Take a leaflet showing your book cover anyway, as a reminder. It helps to break the ice.
If you have a book launch or a signing, don’t expect a lot of people to come unless you round up all your friends and relatives. The average number of people attending a book signing in the US is four, and it’s much the same here (though you’ll generally do better in towns than in big cities). That doesn’t mean book signings aren’t worthwhile; your books get good display space and promotion, and the shop will sell quite a few of them over the next few weeks (especially if you sign them).

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