Authors, you’ve got to love them. Without authors we would have no books, and then where would we poor booksellers be? At the back of the dole queue lining up behind the librarians probably. So we do love them but they can also sometimes be a bit of a trial. They have EXPECTATIONS. They have seen the queues lining up outside Waterstones, the full window display, the mobs of teenage girls clamouring for a signed copy of some twenty-something’s ghost-written biography and they want the same for their own perfectly crafted tome on the Epaulettes of the Napoleonic Forces.
It doesn’t matter that their book is better in every way, well researched, comprehensive, the last word on epaulettes. The buying public is easily swayed by cheap media acclaim. Many may never read the book anyway, and are purchasing a copy just for the chance to breathe the rarified air of someone who has reached the finals of Britain’s Got Talent. Authors often think a book signing guarantees queues of eager groupies. Sadly the truth can be different.
Don’t get me wrong – book signings can be a joy for author and bookseller alike. We have had some very successful ones recently with Jeremy Paxman For Great Britain’s Great War and Max Hastings for Catastrophe. They gave fascinating and erudite talks, they are charming individuals and (I am sorry – as a retailer my god is Mammon) we sold a lot of copies.