'A book signed is a book sold,' my publishers told me in the early days. Probably not true, just a bit of bull**** that was given out to new authors to get 'em to get out there and help sell their books. Anyway, I believed them and have always dutifully trotted along whenever asked to bookshops to sign my latest.
At first I dreaded it. What if nobody turned up? How would it be to sit there like a lemon under a large poster alongside a pile of hardbacks, only to be ignored (and probably pitied) by shoppers who hurried by on their way to purchase the latest Robert Harris?
Well, it did feel embarrassing, I must confess. But let me also confess - now I don't mind a bit.
The reasons are two fold. Firstly, now that I have become more established, there actually are dear, sweet readers who make a special journey just to buy the latest Fonthill and have me give a dedication under the title. So, usually, I no longer sit there on my own like some indoor version of those strange folk who paint themselves gold and stand all day stock still on street corners. I have company.
But even if I fail to move many books, I find myself enjoying the experience. And that's because people are SO friendly. Perhaps the British are losing some of their reserve, but I do find now that folk like to come and chat about books, even if they don't buy. As a result, I am able to bridge to some extent that awful gap that exists between the lonely author, bashing away at the computer on his own, and the punters out there who love books.
I have learned some, at least, of the likes, dislikes, prejudices and loyalties of readers and, while it might be going too far to say that this has influenced my work, I do feel that my outlook on writing has been informed.
So, if you do see me in Waterstones one day, sitting at the door like the proverbial lemon, do come and pass the time of day, even if you call me Mr Harris.