I cannot pass a bookstore without browsing and for a few moments in a Virgin bookstore in the Vancouver airport, I lose myself in the titles. And then I wake up: I’m an author, I’ve a new book just published, is it on the shelves?
I can’t believe it. How is that possible? It’s not that it’s a hardcover, for they do have other hardcover fiction titles displayed, and published by my own publisher — titles not on the Maclean‘s best-selling fiction in Canada list for over two months, I note with angry jealousy. For a crazy moment I consider inquiring of the clerk and imagine her saying, Oh, we just can’t keep it in stock, it flies off the shelves. Instead I skulk away, pouting.
It’s amazing how emotional this can be. I’m not this type of person — normally. But normally, too, I’m not on a book tour, I don’t have a book out and normally I do not have a book on anyone’s best-seller list. A sense of entitlement comes quickly … and lethally.
I remember walking in a mall with my then-young son just before my first book was to be published. Passing a bookstore I told him, “Next time we come, my book will be in that store.” I realized, then, that my bookstore experience would change forever. No longer relaxed and easy browsing. Once I had a book published, I would approach bookstores as an Author, making sure I was presentable, checking to see if my titles were on a table or shelf, and then going up to the clerk and explaining that I was the author of a book on their shelf (pointing), and offering to sign.
It’s a job, what you do. My experiences have been varied, from the manager of a large store jumping up and down with enthusiasm, to an annoyed end-of-day who-needs-this response from a clerk. More and more, I’m asked to prove my identity first with an ID before being allowed to sign.
I came to see airport bookstores as the cream of the crop, and longed for the day when my books would be in one. I remember with great satisfaction when I first saw the titles of the Josephine B. Trilogy on the shelf of a bookstore in a San Francisco airport. As the Trilogy became more successful, I began to even expect to see it.
And so, grumpily, I left the Virgin bookstore in the Vancouver airport and proceeded through check-in. There was another bookstore on the way to my gate: I glanced over the shelves warily. No. No. No.
And then: yes. There is was, Mistress of the Sun stacked ever so nicely on a shelf at the front.
Happily, I got on the plane.
Image from BibliOdyessy.