Monday, 4 January 2010

An unforeseen book-signing at The Woodcolliers Arms

Just before Christmas I visited Ludlow in Shropshire and called in at the Castle Bookshop, one of those wonderful independent bookshops which hopefully will continue to flourish despite the rise of Amazon and the fall of Borders. On my last visit, they had in stock five or six copies of my book A Passenger in Time and I naturally wanted to check that they were all still prominently displayed on the shelves. In fact, I could find no copies of my book so I cheekily asked the owner if he had sold out of my book.

“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.

Anthony Gillam

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Tony. The knowledge that something you have created is a source of pleasure to others is hugely exciting. Surely this is what motivates the artist? Perhaps 'writing for oneself' fulfils a need to order one's thoughts and emotions, or maybe it provides some kind of emotional release, but for me writing is all about the communication of one's ideas and the sharing of one's unique experiences with others in a way that will entertain, inform and possibly inspire them. I hope the elation you experienced in The Woodcolliers at the sale of one of your books will induce you to write many more.