A Job in Retail

Dartmouth Community BookshopToday I have done something I have never done before.
In my time I have had various jobs and a long career in self-employment.
I have folded sheets in a laundry (three summers), been a ‘lady wot does’ (a few weeks), packed boxes of biscuits in a chocolate factory (two summers), worked as an accounts clerk in a paper mill (one summer), taught in both the public and the private sector (three and two years respectively), operated a Wang machine for a firm of Chartered Surveyors (eighteen months), worked in customer support for a word-processing manufacturer (two years), run the word-processing department of an insurance broker in the City of London (eighteen months), run a word-processing bureau (three years) and, for the past thirty-three years, run my own office based business but today, for the first time in my umpteen years, I have been involved in selling something directly to members of the public.
I really can’t count the one hour I was paid to stand behind the bar in a pub on Christmas Eve because it snowed and, since there was not one customer, we ‘bar-staff’ were all sent home early. Nor can I count the few occasions on which I helped out in a picture gallery as I can’t honestly remember ever selling anything.
Today, after writing books for more than ten years (can that be called a job?) and spending quite a few hours in various bookshops around the country doing signings, selling books it is true, but never actually taking the money, I have spent two hours working in a bookshop.
Today, for the first time, I talked to customers (and browsers), scanned bar codes, inserted cards into the hand held card reading device thingy and operated a till.
Thank you, Dartmouth Community Bookshop, for giving me the opportunity to learn something new, thank you Andrea and Hilary for showing me something of the ropes and, most of all, thank you customers for being patient and understanding!
I really am looking forward to the next time.

 

How to buy books – an Indie author’s lament

BookshopHere we are – three weeks and a couple of days to Christmas, and thoughts turn (if they haven’t already) to thoughts of presents. And what is a better present for anyone from a few months to many, many years old than a book (or books!).
So – where are you going to spend your money?
The quick way is to go on-line and order the book you saw on the television, or the book most advertised, or the book featuring a favourite ‘star’, or a book written by a footballer’s wife’s hairdresser’s boyfriend? Or a book that that on-line bookseller wants you to buy?
A far more satisfying way is to visit a bookshop. There you will find books you may not otherwise come across. There you can ask a (usually) well-informed assistant for advice. There you can touch, browse more than the first few pages, get a real feel for a book. But even bookshops have their own agendas. They push you towards the books they want you to buy (usually stacked high just inside the door), the books that the publishers have ‘encouraged’ them to market prominently.
So how do you get to know about (and buy) an independent author’s books?
They are unlikely to be featured on online booksellers – though they’re there when you look for them. They may not even be stocked in many bookshops (apart from the ones the authors have personally visited).
So you probably won’t know about them and you probably won’t buy them.
So the best sellers lists will again be occupied by the usual suspects – the most advertised titles, the ‘autobiographies’ of ‘celebrities’ and the badly written sadomasochistic tomes with the word ‘grey’ in the title.
PS. To buy any one of my books visit www.carolynmccrae.com and buy directly from me (paying by Paypal); or visit my publishers’ websites www.troubador.co.uk or www.newgeneration-publishing.com  or visit a bookshop and ask them to order them or, if you really have to, visit the behemoth online bookseller and search for Carolyn McCrae.

A weekend in numbers

Five hundred and forty five miles, three nights in hotels, two bookshops, contact with five old friends re-established, two Valentine’s Night dinners, one celebrity wedding missed, only seven pubs visited, thousands of words spoken to interested/ing book buyers, never enough books sold!

Thanks to Stanton at Castle Bookshop, Ludlow and to Peter and Eleanor at Lingham’s Booksellers in Heswall on the Wirral for their hospitality, support, encouragement – and coffee.

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