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TITLE: Hawking books
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
01/04/06
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I clutch my handbag in one hand and a bulging carrier bag in the other. Typically, my handbag is almost as big as the carrier bag, what with it containing two novels, one how-to book, my make-up bag and odds and ends of my profession as a financial journalist, so I am expectedly tired. The sun is hot, so I am sweating, and my handkerchief is already squeezed, resembling a mismanaged piece of bacon. There had been a crowd at the bus stop and I had had to lunge for one of the seats in the bus that eventually disgorged us at Victoria Island, so my gown is torn at the edge.
But it is either today or not, as the assignment from the office has brought me this long way and it would be sheer folly to drag my carrier bag back without getting rid of its content. So, I clean my face with what is left of my handkerchief, hoping my running mascara has not turned me into a monster, and stand up straighter (I’ve read somewhere it makes one appear confident).
The bookshop is called The Bookplace and is an impressive bit of construction, but I’m not here to debate architecture. I make my way to an unsmiling attendant.
“Good afternoon, Sir,” I’ve learnt that respect opens doors, “I’d like to see the bookshop manager.”
“What for?”
“I have a proposition I think he might like.”
“Which is?”
“If you’d rather allow me see him, Sir.”
“All correspondence goes through me.”
I sigh inwardly. Bookshop attendants can be irksome to customers, but to self-published booksellers like me, going through one can be a harrowing experience.
“I’m a self-published author and was wondering if your bookshop would be interested in selling my books.” Now that my quest is out, I am breathing easier.
“You don’t need to see the bookshop manager. The thing is that we don’t have space for any more books. Have a good day.”
My shoulders which had been broad before are now sagging as I shuffle out of the bookshop. “Just another day gone bad.” I try to console myself.
“Excuse me, madam.”
I turn back to see a slight wiry man moving towards me from the bowels of the bookshop.
“I overheard your conversation. My name is Dipo Leigh and I am the bookshop manager. Step into my office, would you?”
My shoulders suddenly spring up, and I am immediately all smiles. “Thank you.”
The office is cool and inviting and I’m even offered a cup of cool water and cracker biscuits. And I sell 50 copies of my book, receiving instant cash. Of course, I bargained shamelessly.
As I step out, the sun doesn’t feel so hot anymore, and my sweating has regulated itself. My torn gown…well, I could buy another. Thank God, thank God.
Nobody told me that self-publishing could be this harrowing, but then nobody told me you develop negotiating skills so well while marketing yourself.
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