- Drop them
- Invest more money (rejacket the backlist and advertise)
- Make them go on a tour
I have had several phone calls recently from slightly desperate-sounding publishers who want to bring their author to my shop: 'No, it's not a proper signing session...he'll just turn up and sign a few books for you off the shop floor. Do you have enough stock?' Of course I never do, so I end up having to order at least three copies of each backlist title.
A few weeks later the author arrives. They are always very pleasant and I like to think that there is an unspoken acknowledgement that I have probably never read their books. The author is usually accompanied by a terrifying publicity woman who makes me feel as if I'm a naughty little boy, but not in a nice way.
I hate meeting authors. If I love their books I feel like some dumbstruck teenage fan and just stand grinning at them in a slightly moronic manner. If I haven't read their books I feel guilty. In fact the only authors I like meeting are the ones whose books I can't stand and sometimes I sense that they like meeting someone who is completely indifferent to their work and won't ask them why Throngard seized the Sword of P'toth in Book Seven.
When I'm nervous I make jokes that seem mildly amusing at the time, but usually go down like a lead balloon. For example, when Peter James asked me why we had such a good turnout for his signing session I said 'Oh that's because they thought it was P.D.James.' I thought it was funny, he didn't.
However when an author event goes well I feel on a high. I love standing at the door at the end of the evening and talking to the customers as they leave. I can only listen to so many people thanking me for a lovely evening before my resistance crumbles and I feel like James Stewart at the end of It's a Wonderful Life.