Twenty-two is a magical number. I had a “book signing” at a local fete on May 1 and I sold a whole 22 books. This might not sound like a lot, but in context it’s not that bad. South Africans don’t buy books. I was told by one of my customers that the South African representative of a well-known international publisher (I won’t embarrass them by giving their name) claims that 10000 South Africans buy one book a year and that only 1000 South Africans buy one book a month. In addition, most of these books are also non-fiction. So given an annual total of 22000 books for that well-known publisher, for me to sell 22 books of contemporary literary fiction in my five-hour stint was nothing short of miraculous – or magical, if you prefer.
One key to my success was possibly the spice cookies in the shape of little angels that I used to entice customers to come and chat to me. People like free stuff. People also like food. And these spice biscuits are made from an old and irresistible recipe that I won’t be publishing here. I have to admit that a lot more people came to chat and sample the biscuits than actually bought books. Also, those who bought the books weren’t always enticed by the cookies. But it certainly made my day more interesting.
Another factor that helped was that this fete was in aid of Irene Homes, an organisation that actually inspired my book in the first place. So perhaps the people who were there had a special in my subject matter to start with.
Now I must get on and finish my next book before the end of the month. This one’s called Upside Down and it’s based on Truman Capote’s premise that “all literature is gossip”. As in Hillary’s Angel, I’m using true stories to tell a fictional tale. Despite the figures quoted above, a recent South African best-seller (Spud – also fictionalised fact) is said to have sold 69000 copies in one year. At least that’s what the statistics say. Sounds like a far more magical number than 22 to me.