• J.M.

What a Bloomin’ Cheek!

Updated: Sep 16, 2019


What a cheek I've got to publish a book independently! To launch myself out there, a seaside pedalo between massive cruise ship publishers and high street retailers – how dare I think that my story could possibly compete? I didn't make it past the gatekeepers. I should have accepted that and sat down quietly.


But I didn't want to do that.


So in the last seven days, I've had the cheek to receive 1000 paperbacks and launch a competition to win the first book out of the first box with the cheek to think that paperback number 1 could be as special to someone else as it is to me.


I've also had the cheek to march into my local Waterstones and ask them to consider stocking my book.


Here's a tip, which if I wasn't so impulsive, I'd have taken heed of myself. If you decide to publish your book independently, (I prefer that to self publishing), flaunt it across the Internet and try to get it into Waterstones, don't go at lunchtime. They're busy and even if you get the manager, you're only going to get the company policy: 'we only source our stock from Gardners or Bertrams'.


So failure.


But the excellent Mark Stay from the equally excellent podcast, The Bestseller Experiment, asked, ‘Did you leave them a copy?’


No I didn't.


But I was meeting a friend for lunch and a long overdue catch up, so I couldn't do that today. Phew, I had an excuse. I'd used up all my courage approaching them at 12.


But 5pm came round and Ann had caught the bus home. So, with the rejection from earlier not smarting quite so much, maybe I'd take another look round to see if the nice assistant I sometimes chat with, was downstairs in children's.


The store was relatively quiet, so I wandered round a bit, up and downstairs trying to scrape up the remnants of the morning's bravado. A few staff were tidying up, no-one was behind the tills and there was no sign of the manager. After about ten minutes of wandering and wondering how my cover would look on that table of shiny gold foiled middle-grade paperbacks, a lady assistant with an armful of picture books said, ‘Hello’.


Ok, I'm on it.


I gripped my book, the second out of the box, for protection and said, ‘I came in earlier so I'm aware of your policy with Gardners but would you or one of your colleagues consider reading?’ I also showed her my promotional postcard, with the pitch on the back.


The lovely lady assistant, took both and said, ‘Good, it's not fantasy!’ She also said that she was off this weekend so would read and that she'd also give it to the person who used to be their children's buyer. Success! Well, half way.


I have no idea yet if the lovely lady assistant has read or indeed likes The Wonder Girls, or if it will reach the person who used to be the buyer, or if they have any influence but I'm trying. I'm filling out the form to apply for a trading relationship Gardners the wholesaler, I'm not sure how it will work but I'm fully aware that If I go ahead with it, I won't make any money, probably lose some. But I'm pushing. My experience so far has taught me that pushing, or more precisely, pushing in, is what Independent publishing is all about.


How much does getting The Wonder Girls into Waterstones matter? Not a lot, because I am so proud that Southampton's independent bookshop October Books is behind me, taking my books, putting them on sale, hosting my launch and after school activities, advertising them...

But getting a book into Waterstones has been a dream and if I manage it, it will just feel like another two fingers up to the patriarchy, which will be so satisfying.



So, my lesson to me for this week is with all this cheek you're discovering, whether you're publishing a book or not, don't think of yourself as a flimsy little apologetic pedalo, push harder and be more tugboat. Maybe you'll get somewhere.



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© 2019 by Jan Carr All rights reserved.