On the evening of Friday 28th October my dear friend Basil sends me a text: “Congratulations on the publication of your book. Well done.” I respond quickly: “Thanks for remembering the date but has it actually been published? There have been no fireworks.”
Don’t worry, he texts back, “I’ve arranged some for tomorrow night and some more on November, 5th.”
On Saturday, on a Harry Potter Muggletour for my daughter’s 11th birthday I surreptitiously peer into bookshops from the South Bank to the West End – no sign anywhere of Is Your Child Safe Online? There are, however, fireworks that night.
On Monday, in Kingston with my mum, we pop into Waterstones. Nothing. By Tuesday, I decide to email my publisher, White Ladder. Has the book actually been published? They respond quickly. Yes indeed it has! It was in the warehouse on Friday, my copies will soon be in the post and they are very pleased with the book. Must say, I know the book is about the online world but I’ll be rather relieved to see a paper version. I was starting to wonder if it only existed in my imagination.
Heartened by the news from the publisher, I visit the Wimbledon Waterstones, my local bookstore. I know they have ordered 200 copies because the publisher told me this on the day I did the BBC radio interviews two weeks ago. It isn’t on the shelf yet so I pluck up the courage to ask when they expect it in.
At the counter, a young shop assistant asks if he can help. I ask him if the book is on order and he does a quick search. “Yes,” he says, “we have one on order.” My mother raises her eyebrows. I am hoping he means that is my one of the 200 ordered! Nervously, I mutter, “I’m just curious as I wrote the book.”
“Oh,” comes a rather disinterested response, “well it is in the warehouse so I guess not too long now”.
Before my son’s school assembly, one of the Dad’s congratulates me on the publication of my book. I tell him about my experience in Waterstones. “No, no, no,” he says, “you should have walked out, walked back up to the counter and said to him, look sir, can we try this again, please. You see, I am the author.”
It makes me laugh. But, I am after all, just another author in a country where over 200,000 new books are published each year – that is over 550 a day.
Okay, so it may not be the next Harry Potter (or War and Peace) but, even if I say so myself, it is a serious book written in an accessible way which I believe will give parents plenty to think about as well as practical advice. In the playground, one Mum tells me she really worries about her children online and thinks there is a need for it. I hope others will too.