On Friday Peirene didn’t turn up for work. She rang me instead: “I want to go back to Greece. No one loves me here,” she sobbed into the receiver.
“That’s not true,” I contradicted her coolly. I know the nymph has the tendency to see things in black and white.
“Critics adore you, book bloggers love you.”
“Yes, them! But they don’t sell my books, do they?! I am talking about booksellers. They don’t like me.”
“Yes, they do.”
“No, they don’t.”
Of course I know what the nymph was referring to. Her tender Greek soul has indeed been upset recently by a couple of bookshops. Independent bookshops at that – the ones she was sure to win over with a smile. It all started in the summer when we walked into a shop which had been enthusiastically and successfully selling No 1, Beside the Sea. Now the book was nowhere to be seen. Neither was No 2. No 3 wasn’t out yet. When I enquired why they weren’t stocking the books any longer, the answer was that initial demand had ceased. “But how is there suppose to be on-going demand if the books disappear from the shelves?” I asked. I received a shrug as an answer. Since then we had two further encounters like that.
The nymph was outraged: “I thought independent bookshops are run by book lovers who want to offer their customers something different. But look, all they have next to their till, is the usual suspects: Stieg Larsson, Hilary Mantel and the Booker Short-List. Just like any big chain.”
I tried to calm her:”With some Indies, that’s right. But there are others, who even hand-sell our books and now stock all three.”
“Oh but not enough. How am I suppose to pay my bills!”
“Since when are you paying the bills, young lady? That’s, after all, my problem.”I was loosing my patience. “Get out of bed right now. I want to see you at work in half an hour.”
I put down the phone. At that moment I wouldn’t have minded if the nymph had left this island for good.
Our books do disappear quickly from the shelves. That’s true. But other books do too. That’s just part of the game. Peirene was aware of that challenge from the beginning. But she had clearly hoped against all odds that her books would be treated differently. While she cried into her pillow, Maddy and I, however, came up with a cunning plan. This week we will send out to 200 bookshops a stunning Peirene poster with all three 2010 titles. A poster, by the way, that has received the stamp of approval from my teenage daughter: “Looks like an art poster!” If a 15-year old is impressed, so surely will be bookshops up and down the country. And customers won’t be able to resist such beautiful books for Christmas presents.
“And what if your plan doesn’t work?” Peirene did eventually turn up for work on Friday, but in a bad temper. “Well, there is always another option.” I couldn’t help a little wicked smile as I prepared to turn the tables on the moody nymph. “Then we dress you up as a Christmas fairy and send you down the chimney of each and every bookshop who hasn’t put up our poster and you put them into their windows yourself!” For the rest of the day Peirene was very quiet and helped put the posters in envelopes, sealing them with a kiss for good luck.