W H Smith & Company

More about selling books - or not selling them as the case may be. I've recently been conducting a one man / one book (More Deaths Than One) sales assault on those triple bastions of UK bookselling: Waterstones, Borders and W H Smith. In the Highlands of Scotland the latter is the biggest target for an author, having many more branches, but the other two have the more impressive shops in (Waterstones) and around (Borders) the city of Inverness.

In all cases I've made phone calls aimed at getting an e-mail address so as best to put my case for orders. Experience to date...

Borders responded well enough. My telephone contact was helpful and the manager would 'order a few' if on sale or return. No problems with that even though you have to wonder about the SOR bit. In a store that huge a couple of sale or return copies of a novel by an unknown author are very liable to get tucked away, consequently returned rather than sold.

The manager at Waterstones in Inverness also responded politely and promptly. Yes he had ordered a few copies via the company's usual distribution channel; and yes, please pop in for a chat when next in Inverness. (I did so, two days later. An interesting and interested young man. We discussed a possible book signing session - to be followed through.) The manager at Waterstones in Aviemore did not reply at all. Perhaps not too surprising as Aviemore is a high altitude ski centre and snowfalls had been as high as the temperature was low on that day.

The daddy of them all, the venerable W H Smith proved a real monster of an enigma for me. First of all, the manager of Inverness' largest branch, whilst polite enough, declared that no, I could not send an explanatory e-mail as none of the branches possessed such a receiving facility as an e-mail address. That telephone conversation had reached a brick wall, one that my respondent was obviously not going to help me to climb! No problem. No, not true. I decided to do what I often do when faced with adversity - sit down and compose a poem about it...

Books for sale

I've often swum up waterfalls
flown like an angel without wings
dwelt like a lord in marble halls
done a thousand wondrous things;
but nought as tough as this, as this -
my books on sale in W H Smiths

A forecast: More Deaths Than One will be in every W. H. Smith in the land before the year it out. How? No idea right now. Correction: More Deaths Than One will be, courtesy of W H S as well as the others, on many bedside tables, on many domestic bookshelves before the year is out!

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