At home I have a cupboard full of printed books that are what you might call ‘seconds’. They’re either proofs or they’ve had their covers updated, or some of the text updated or typos corrected. Sometimes a small detail or sentence has been added or omitted or other minor structural work performed. To all intents and purposes they are as near as perfect as they could be at any point in time, otherwise I wouldn’t have paid for the proofs.
But what to do with these slightly imperfect spares? I did try giving several away as review copies on Goodreads some years ago, alerting any people who asked for a copy that they were seconds. Not only had these books been paid for out of my own pocket but I’d also bought the padded envelopes and paid for the postage (I did a UK giveaway only). But hey, if it got me a few more reviews it would be worth it, wouldn’t it? I had done a giveaway once before on Goodreads and I may have received one review as a result of that so I knew I wouldn’t get many. But the second (and last ever time) I actually got none. So I crossed that off my list as a viable project. We live and learn.
But still the spares amass. I try and improve on my covers and my latest experience has confirmed to me that a book is most definitely judged by its cover.
You see once CV-19 hit our shores and people had more time and less money I thought it might be a perfect opportunity to give away some of these imperfect books of mine. But I didn’t want to leave a basket of books in my porch for passersby. It would have been too embarrassing and a girl has her pride. I don’t have a lot of confidence and I live in small town. Online is where I do most of my trading!
But then during the dry sunny months of April and May, I noticed the lovely gardens opposite me began offering a box of secondhand children’s books. The offer was for people to swap. Perhaps one or two books aimed at older people started or maybe I began the trend, I can't remember now. But I plucked up the courage and took over a copy of Little Guide To Unhip with one of its old covers, together with another used but acclaimed book, and snuck them in the box when nobody was looking. I went back on successive days and took a sneaky peek into the box when I passed it - other books came and went but Unhip remained! The weather was so dry that, after a while, the people organising this just left the box of books in the morning and collected them in the evening. Then one day the heavens opened. Unhip was pelted on (maybe it should have gone under the umbrella of the plants table - there is some sense and irony in this because the unhipness of brollies is mentioned in the book!). Next time I went in the garden there was Unhip with misshapen and cobbled pages, the way pages dry after a good soaking. Who would want it now? It least before the rain it had been in almost pristine condition,
But over the coming days more books were appearing and it also looked as if Unhip had gone (or maybe the garden librarians had felt sorry for the tatty thing and decided to put it out of its misery.) But seeing it gone I got bold. I took in an old proof copy of Far Cry From The Turquoise Room and snuck it in the book box.
A day or two later I saw Unhip back in the box. So it hadn’t been adopted after all! However it wasn’t long before Turquoise Room had gone and never reappeared. So I can only assume it found a home. Maybe the doll on the front appealed to one of the children - even though it’s an adult/young adult book.
But every time I walked through the entrance subsequently I had to do the walk of shame and see an edge of Unhip peeping out from the other books. After a while I was past caring. I started to see the funny side. As my sister said 'the book is so unhip that nobody would dare take it.'
Once June came, the weather became more unsettled and the box of books was no more.
There is a moral to this story somewhere - I think it's not to be too precious about your books and to realise that you have to laugh sometimes in this indie publishing business to save yourself from weeping.