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‘Cabbages, cherries, and a new biography as featured on Women’s Hour…’

This Saturday I got my first taste of spruiking. I always have books to sign and sell after giving a talk, but this was different; the real hard-core ‘roll up, roll up ladies pll-llease… I have cabbages, I have cherries, I have a new biography as featured on Women’s Hour…’ in the front of a Waterstones shop in Bury St Edmunds.

It is a pretty daunting task calling out your wares in a busy bookshop I can tell you, but I quickly learned from experience what does and doesn’t work. A polite, ‘a bit of social history this morning, sir?’ for example had minimal effect, although it did send one man rather rapidly back out of the shop (sorry Waterstones!) A well-timed mention of Women’s Hour, Jenni Murray or Paul O’Grady (who gave me a cover quote) however proved much more productive. ‘She rode bicycles too’ even netted one sale from a nice man in tight lycra… It is amazing how easy it is to get into role once you’re on a roll, and what started out as terrifying soon became a laugh as lots of people stopped for a chat, so at least I didn’t feel like Mulley-no-mates.

Most of the people who bought a copy of the biography were just browsing, a few said that they had heard of the book – or that they had heard me on Women’s Hour (no, not just women), and two had come in specifically the buy a copy.  But two incidents particularly touched me – one was when a young girl, perhaps 10, who was out with her nan to find a present for her mum, thought that the book would be perfect. But the £18.99 was clearly above budget. ‘What a shame’, nan said, ‘never mind’. But the girl insisted, and spent all her savings – so I do hope, Shelly, that you enjoy it! The other was when a woman I had been talking to said she was actually not earning because she was disabled, so she couldn’t possibly afford it – but then insisted on giving me a donation to Save the Children anyhow. Aren’t people wonderful!

So thank you, Bury St Edmunds Waterstone punters; my scary pile of books pretty quickly sold out and I was almost disappointed that my spruiking career had come to a close. Unless any other Waterstones, Blackwell’s, Borders… fancies a hosting a ‘Meet the Author’ morning??

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