Saturday, 20 April 2013

355: Signed Copies

These are the places I have been to for this promotion - Portsmouth, Reading, Croydon, Brighton, Bristol (both branches), six places in London, Oxford and Leeds.  Yes I know, but my sister works in the Leeds branch and she arranged it specially with her manager so I could hardly say no.  These are the places I have seen Daniel - Portsmouth, Reading, Croydon, Brighton, Bristol (both branches), five places in London, Oxford and Leeds.

Now that most of the branches have a well-known coffee chain outlet inside, the shops have a mixture of book lovers, coffee lovers and coffee-drinking book lovers.  Or is it book-loving coffee drinkers, I’m never quite sure.  But still, I always make sure I arrive for signing well before I’m due to start, I wander round the shop to get the layout and then I treat myself to the biggest latte they sell, which I take to the signing table with me.

This guy was serving coffee behind the counter at the first place I went to.  I was a bit nervous to tell the truth, so I forgot to do my normal joke about what’s a barrister serving coffee for, but he was really friendly.  When I had a lull in visitors, I went back for a second one and I ended up telling him about my book.  And then a few minutes before I was due to finish, he turned up with yet more coffee, as a present for the trip home he said, asked me to sign a copy ‘For Daniel’ and wished me well with sales.  I thought maybe I’d scored an extra fan and beyond telling the story to a few friends eager to know how it went being a famous author, I gave him no more thought.

I did another signing at a branch not too far away a week later and there was Daniel again, in his serving apron.  He remembered me but not my order he said, apologizing that he saw too many customers in a day and explaining he sometimes covered in other shops.  “I’ll remember for next time,” he said and we both laughed.  The rest of the signing went well, busier this time, so I didn't have time to get a second drink.  Like before he arrived with one as a present and I was so grateful I didn’t really think it might be weird.  It was only when he asked for another signed book that I was surprised.

From then on Daniel was in every shop I went for a signing, bar one.  He always wore his coffee uniform but I never saw him in the coffee outlets again.  I started bringing a drink with me so I didn't have to risk running into him but he always stood a distance away, watching.  Sometimes he disappeared, which always worried me because he always turned up again, carrying a large drink he’d presumably bought for me.  When I was chatting to customers, somehow he always found a way to slip the drink onto my table and take mine away.  And I always saw him buying a copy of my book.

My publisher said there isn't much we can do because he never threatened me or did anything at all really, so he had every right to visit whichever bookshops he wanted to.  Besides they said, sales were much better when an author visited in person and I should enjoy spending the royalties he gave me.  I sometimes wonder where he was that other time.

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