Just before Christmas I visited
“What's it called?” he asked.
“A Passenger in Time.”
“Oh, that's the one set on the Severn Valley Railway, isn't it? Yes. That sold quite well. Did you supply them yourself?”
“No. I think you got them from the wholesalers.”
He searched on his computer.
“Oh, that's right. I'll just order a few more copies then.”
Music to the ears of any self-published author.
Then, between Christmas and New Year, I was to be found in a local pub. The Woodcolliers Arms in Bewdley is not exactly my ‘local’, being over four miles from my house. However, since I drink there most weeks, I could be described as a regular. Roger, the landlord, had kindly agreed to display a copy of A Passenger in Time when it was first published several months ago. This unusual arrangement may have made The Woodcolliers perhaps the only pub where customers could buy a children's book with their pint of real ale. Week after week, I have sat nursing a pint of Ludlow Gold or Twisted Spire and noticed numerous people pick up my book and read it with interest, often discussing it with their drinking companion, before replacing it carefully on its display stand.
Last Thursday was different, though. I watched as a young lady went through the familiar routine of flicking through the pages and admiring the cover but was then amazed when she foraged in her purse for a handful of coins. I pretended not to pay much attention as she approached the bar and asked Anna, the landlady, if she could buy the book. Anna then discreetly passed the six pound coins to me, explaining that she could not put the money through the till. She asked if I had a penny change for the customer so I fumbled in my pocket and found a 10p piece which Anna then passed over to the customer. Next, I overheard her explaining that the author himself was here in the pub and, if she would like a personalised message written in her copy, Anna felt sure this could be arranged. The book buyer duly walked over to me and, with a mixture of embarrassment and delight, I wrote a few words on the title page for the kind lady.
These are strange days for the book trade with multinational bookshops going bust and pubs hosting impromptu book signings. There’s nothing for it, I’ve decided, but to take all of this as a good omen and hope that it's going to be an auspicious year for authors, publicans and independent booksellers in 2010.