My world as a writer turned upside down today.
I visited one of the last remaining independent bookstores in the English-speaking world, to do what writers do in between digging out tiny slivers of chocolate from beneath the space bar on their computer keyboards and sharpening pencils just in case a young person shows up at the door and politely asks, “Excuse me, could you show me what is a pencil?”
That, of course, is to visit the bookstore and turn one’s own book from the spine-out position on the shelf to the more highly regarded face-out position — preferably de-facing the book of someone eminently more successful than oneself in the process. It’s unclear what benefits actually accrue to said writer, beyond a momentary smug-flush triggered by having pulled a BIG ONE on the global publishing industry while also delighting in one’s own propensity for sophomoric self-amusement. The life of a writer can be desolate; one must seek joy where one can.
However, the enjoyment factor plummets immediately upon discovering that one’s book is not only not in the overtly submissive spine-out position, but is nowhere to be found on its regularly-assigned shelf, upside-down on the floor nearby, under the sink in the bathroom, or on or near any other shelf within a 7-foot radius. The shock and awe is not at all tempered by the possibility that the book is MIA because someone has actually paid money for it and has taken it home to read!
Needless to say, the author/writer has no choice but to find a very young and sweet store employee who carries the very same curiosity for all things old-school (including author/writers over the age of, say, twenty-six), as the polite one who shows up at the door to ask, “Excuse me, could you show me what is a pencil?”
“Have you stopped carrying the book, or has it been ordered?” politely asks the author/writer.
“We sold one in December,” says the earnest bookish one. “Would you like me to order one for you?”
“Hmmm,” says the author/writer, leaning in over the counter with a gripping smile. “No thanks, I’ve already read it (coincidentally, at the same time I wrote it!) You know, I am in a position to drive people into this bookstore (and, in fact, would pick them up at their front doors and pull them in via rickshaw if they were in a buying mood!), but if you don’t plan to carry the book, I will have to send them to Barnes & Noble instead.”
“Hmmm,” says the staffer.
“Who might I talk with to learn whether you plan to continue carrying the book?” The adjective “gripping” no longer refers to the author/writer’s smile, but to the relationship of her fingertips to the edge of the counter.
“Oh, that would be (insert name of someone you can never reach), but he’s on vacation.”
The author/writer heads to B&N, where Someone (1) remembered the author from an interaction eight years ago, including the fact that said author/writer’s hair was now of a different length; (2) directed the author/writer to the Mother’s Day promotional display upon which copies of her book were piled; (3) said “Well, of course, it’s your book!” when asked discreetly whether the author could slip her blog bookmark into the copies; and (4) brought over the Autographed Copy stickers and invited the author/writer to sign her books.
Oh, goodness. What is one to do when one finds the higher –service quotient at the big store down the road, and not in its expected habitat at the indie location? The author pulls out a freshly sharpened pencil, and writes on the wall one-hundred times: Someone at Barnes&Noble may just be my new best friend…Someone at Barnes&Noble may just be my new best friend…Someone at Barnes&Noble may just be my new best friend…
Words of Wisdom for Women, by Rachel Snyder, now available on the Mother’s Day Gift Idea display, quite likely at a B&N near you. If you’re as lucky as I was, Someone will take good care of you when you get there.