When tyre-kickers leaf through your books…

Last week I sauntered into the (last) bookstore in Wellington’s Lambton Quay, New Zealand’s Golden Mile of retail shopping. I soon found some of my books – quite a number of my Bateman Illustrated History of New Zealand, in fact, cover-out, which is the very best way to display such things.

The way books should be sold, cover out (the best way to display them). I wrote this one...
The way books should be sold, cover out (the best way to display them). A display from earlier days.

Cheered, I went to leave, when someone standing nearby picked up a copy and began leafing through it. I loitered. He leafed, frowned, smiled, leafed again, smiled, looked quizzical, and leafed some more. Finally he put it back in the shelf. ‘Excuse me,’ I said. ‘Would you mind telling me what stopped you buying the book? I’m the author, you see.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I was just browsing.’

I guess you can lead the horse to water. If the guy had no intention of buying and was simply passing time, he wasn’t likely to be captured by the book even if it had ‘buy me, you bastard’ in fluorescent ink at the top of every page. In point of fact, I wrote the whole thing to be appealing (obviously) – but not to capture a reader with hook lines every paragraph. That would ruin the book. That’s why TV is so terrible at the moment, incidentally; the pacing is designed to capture people as they idly channel surf, meaning action/drama every eight seconds (literally). It really affects the structure.

I walked off, “No Sale” signs chinking up in my mind’s eye. Better luck with the next customer. Maybe.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014

Click to buy from Fishpond
Click to buy print edition from Fishpond
Click to buy e-book from Amazon
Click to buy e-book from Amazon


4 thoughts on “When tyre-kickers leaf through your books…

  1. Hm, I wonder if that’s one reason bookstores are reluctant to stock works by indie ‘amateurs’, for fear that emo authors will stalk the aisles screaming, “WHY? WHY? IT’S A WORK OF GENIUS” when customers put down their books without buying them.
    Your encounter may have been another example of ‘show-rooming’ where the customer planned to buy it online later. Not great for the bookshop.
    I do like the idea of a running header to encourage purchase though. Something like “You’re being watched. Buy it or die.” With a small red dot like a laser sight. 🙂


    1. On my experience even big name publishing houses havectrouble getting stock into bookshops sometimes. The old repping model is definitely broken these days. I’m told that showrooming and lost sales is one of the reasons why the second to last indie bookseller in central Wellington is closing. It’s a bit on the nose for people to do it.


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