Monday, 18 April 2011

Conversation with a Minute Man

Parties, flowers, reunions with old friends, champagne, dancing...since the Registrar was published on April 1, life has turned into one big celebration. This morning I picked up the bouquets I'd put into storage after my launch party in London. They were so voluminous (see picture) that I had to take a cab home. As soon as the driver pulled out of Soho I began to boast about my book launch, and all the people who'd flown in from over the world, and my novel about migrants, and the beauty of it all...
The driver listened patiently, then revealed that he'd previously worked as a "minute man", a mercenary preventing Mexicans from crossing the US-Mexican border.  

His view on migrants: keep them out. If you can't keep them out, take them out.

I timidly pointed out that I was a migrant myself and did my best to contribute to my host country... And surely migration was, overall, a great contributor to economic growth and prosperity...

"Oh no," he said, waving one hand as if to sweep away my objection. "First-world migration is fine. I'm talking about third-world migration. I'm talking about letting in terrorists." Then he railed against European governments catching Somali pirates who attack European merchant ships off Somalia, and putting them on trial in Europe. I mumbled something about the rule of law being a good thing. He snorted derisively. The Russians, he thought, were dealing with the problem much more cleverly.

"So what do they do with the pirates?" I asked against my better judgement.

"I'd tell you but you wouldn't like it."

"Go on..."

"They sail up and down the Somali coast and take them out one by one. Like those big game hunts in Africa, you know?" Our eyes met in the rear view mirror. He grinned. "I told you you wouldn't like it."

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Literary Embassies

Publishing a book has simplified my life in many ways. Take people, for example. When I was an unpublished author, I sometimes found it difficult to decide whether I liked or disliked a person. Now the answer is pretty easy. I like anyone who buys my book, and the more copies they buy, the more I like them.
Imagine, then, my delight when a couple of bookshops asked today if I could sign their copies of the Registrar's Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages. I was so excited that I got the date wrong for the first 30 copies or so (sorry. I tell myself there are probably collectors who pay good money for that kind of thing).
My first stop was at Goldsboro Books on Cecil Court, a tiny alleyway packed with shops specialising in rare and old books. Diagon Alley, where Harry Potter bought his cauldrons, was based on this street, according to sources close to the matter.

Nice, huh? And David, the owner, spontaneously placed my book in the window after the signing. That's the beauty of an independent bookseller. 
It was also a rare instance of hearing good news from an independent: Goldsboro Books recently moved to larger premises and is apparently thriving. They specialise in signed first editions, which are big with UK and US readers/collectors (though not with the French), and they keep in touch with thousands of loyal customers through their website. Interestingly, David is also a literary agent. Could that be the future of bookselling - a return to the comprehensive retailer-publisher-agent-salon along the lines of the old Shakespeare&Co bookshop in Paris in the days of James Joyce?

It's always nice to see a plucky independent, but I'm also brimming with affection for the chains on Charing Cross Road and Piccadilly: Blackwell's, Foyles and Waterstone's. Blackwell's because they placed my book particularly well: if you walk straight into the shop and keep walking, your nose will basically hit the Registrar's cover. Foyles and Waterstone's because they both recommended the Registrar as a favourite debut. 

"Debut authors always go the extra mile," Glenn at Blackwell's noted as I scribbled a cheerful "Enjoy! Sophie Hardach" into the sixtieth copy (which made me think about the importance of a well-placed exclamation mark). 

Glenn, it turns out, is learning German, which cheered me up even more. A person who buys lots of copies of my book and is learning German! This put me in such a good mood that I decided to engage in a bit of guerrilla marketing and visits other shops on the off chance that they might want me to sign their copies, too.
Which brings us to Hatchards on Piccadilly.  Before my impromptu tour, I didn't even know this bookshop existed. Look at it. It's gorgeous.

Not just one flag, but two. And the coat of arms. The wood pannelling. It's not so much a shop as a literary embassy.

Inside, the luxury continued. Instead of marking the signed copies with stickers, they lovingly wrapped beautiful white bands around each book:

Well. When I say that I like anyone who buys my book, I obviously include e-book users. The Kindle is a practical and clever thing and I can see why it's nice to be able to take half your library on holiday. However, a few days ago my Dad, after listening to all of us praising e-books, said: "You know, I'm grateful to live in a time when people still read books." And after spending an afternoon signing title pages, chatting to booksellers, admiring displays and watching people dreamily peruse shelves full of beautifully designed books, looking for the perfect match, I can kind of see what he means.

Friday, 1 April 2011

My book is out!

Oh happy, happy day. The Registrar's Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages is on sale now.

Amazon says there are only 5 copies left in stock. Surely that's a good sign?