A True Story

Yesterday while manning my shift at the bookstore, I overheard a conversation between a kid and his father. The boy had grabbed a copy of The Book of Nonsense off of the shelf. In the store, the book has a face out with a staff selection underneath. The boy took the book to his father and proceeded to explain to him how great this book was and to read to him the excerpt on the back of the book.

Needless to say, the dad wasn't real thrilled about buying a hardcover book when he had been expecting his kid to pick out a paperback. But, the boy was adamant. He had to have that particular book. And to show just how serious he was, he offered to put back the graphic novel he had been planning to get as well. That sold the dad, and the book was purchased. (Just to make sure, I checked the sales data later. The book really did leave the store.)

Now, during this whole exchange I have to confess that I didn't say a word. Sometimes if a parent appears to be wavering and it's a book I've read, I'll step in and pitch the book to the parent. Most of the time I can at least give the parent a better idea about the book. Kids are not always coherent when describing why a book is so great. But in this instance I didn't say a thing.

Admittedly, part of this was because I wanted to see what would happen. And a lot of the reason why I didn't intervene was because the parent didn't want to buy a hardcover. It had nothing to do with the book itself. And let me tell you, in general, if a parent doesn't want to buy a hardcover, nothing is going to induce him/her to buy a hardcover. Period. This kid changing his dad's mind was the exception not the norm.

But there was another reason, one I'm much more ashamed of. I didn't go over there for the same reason that despite these books having been out for three months now, I've only started consistently handselling them: I get shy, tongue-tied and embarrassed.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not embarrassed because I think the books are bad or I don't want to associate with them. It's quite the opposite. I get embarrassed because they are MINE. I think I would feel the same way if I was the author of a book. It's ridiculous, especially in my case where no one knows I'm the publisher. Besides, I'm a bookseller, and it's my job to recommend books.

And that I think is my ultimate problem. I'm paid to recommend books to people, so I somehow feel there's a conflict of interest because with the books I publish I also have a financial stake in them. And I'm beginning to realize how silly this is. The books I publish are books I genuinely like. A lot. I'm happy to sing their praises on any blog I'm associated with, so there's no reason why I shouldn't be doing the same with customers in person. If I'm comfortable putting the book on the BookKids Blog, I should be just as comfortable placing it in a customer's hand. And from now on I will.

But all this dithering got me thinking. This cannot just be a phenomenon exclusive to me. Others out there must have been in a similar situation where there was the perfect opportunity to sell one of your books and you funked it. Please feel free to share. After all, misery loves company.


beth said...

I suppose authors feel that way when they flub telling someone else about a WIP. My best friend since junior high asked me about what my book was about recently, and I just sort of stuttered: "Uh, you know, a fantasy, for kids, like, uh, Harry Potter." Argh! No one knows my book better than me, but when it comes to articulating that, the words die.

Sina'i said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. Although, for me, it's not a financial stake (yet) but more of a personal one. I don't like watching my own scenes on tape for theatre productions, I see to become inordinately and uncharacteristically shy when people pay me compliments on my own work, and I aways have problems describing my own books. (Although, then again, that might be partially because my WIP deals with sex a lot, and several of the people who ask me are family, or other people who've known me for a really long time and don't quite see me that way, I think. Ok, this probably is a bit different from your situation.)

I'm pretty sure I need to get over that, but I haven't figured out how yet. If you find out, I hope you post it on your blog!

Timothy Fish said...

When it comes to other people's books that I have published, I don't have any problem telling someone why I think he should buy them. Even if the book has some problems, I wouldn't have invested my time and money into the book if I didn't think it deserved to be in print. But when it comes to my own books, it is much harder for me to say, "this is a great book." I question whether I am making claims that are not true.

PJ Hoover said...

Yes, by all means hand sell my book to EVERY kid that walks in that store. :)