Is there anything an author enjoys more than talking about her books? It’s certainly easier than getting on with writing the next one. And yesterday evening was a great treat as I spoke to a small (I think we had eleven in total) but terrifically interested and engaged audience at Hart’s Books in Saffron Walden. Hart’s – as a printer, stationer and bookseller – has been associated with Saffron Walden since 1836, and the current bookshop is part of the Daunt family but retains a very independent feel. I’d had my eye on them for a while but I rarely look my best in Saffron Walden: it’s the usual destination for our Sunday tandem rides (there’s a local café that does a wonderful fried breakfast which is my reward for cycling twenty-five miles) and I’m always a sweaty, fly-dotted creature when I arrive. Not the best image to persuade a bookshop that you are a serious writer of worthy tomes. But one Sunday I just took a chance, and the manager Max was sufficiently impressed by my enthusiasm – or so desperate to get my pungent carcass out of his shop – that he agreed to stock Sam. And when I suggested an author event, he kindly agreed. And that was last night.
At such talks I am never sure which aspect is going to chime with the audience: the books themselves, or the history behind them (of policing and justice, or of London), or the writing process, or the self-publishing procedure. And so I start with a general introduction – how I came to write the first book, why I wrote four more – and then (if the audience seems keen) open it up to questions. Well, last night “keen” was an understatement. I’d barely spoken two sentences before the questions started, and it didn’t let up for over an hour – fantastic!
I promised myself that I would always be completely honest in my answers, particularly when it comes to money issues – people need to know that it’s not the route to quick riches. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I can report that last night’s event garnered me about £7.65 – that’s about 45p per book, and we sold seventeen. (It’s not that the bookshop takes an enormous cut – their deal is to keep a perfectly reasonable 35% or 40% of the cover price. It’s just that we self-published authors have to supply the books ourselves, so by the time I have ordered them from CreateSpace, sorry KDP – recent take-over – and paid for them to be sent from the US to me in the UK, and then given the bookseller his discount, I’m left with about 45p per book.) As I say, not the route to riches – but just the most enormous fun and I wouldn’t stop doing it for the world.