When you publish your first book you feel you have climbed a mountain. You know of course, that you will not see it on those very expensive, very coveted front shelves of bookshops, but you do expect to see it somewhere. Peeping out at you shyly from the overstocked shelves, perhaps, or better still, lying on the counter while the cashier makes the bill.
The truth is that you never see it at all. Once published it becomes invisible.
The commonest question you get asked is, ‘where can I get your book?’ It’s a very valid question, because, no, every bookshop does not stock it. Some do. Some always say it’s sold out but make no effort to order more. Others will tell you, ‘there is one copy in the computer but it’s not on the shelves.’
Oddly enough, one bookshop told me that they did not have my book and I found a copy lying in the fiction section. Either they did not know what they had or they had not bothered to check.
It’s a very mysterious almost magical process. I know my book is selling steadily. I know which bookshops are selling it and re-ordering it. But if I go to one of them I neither see my book come in nor go out. Perhaps there’s some alternative reality in which it hides.
I don’t know what it is but this one thing I know – a publishing law with very few exceptions – here it is in all its starkness –
The first book is the invisible book.