Walking into a bookstore as a first-time published author, looking for evidence of your cherished output on the shelves, is an activity both exciting and a little shameful. Having been encouraged to introduce myself to local booksellers, this week I have learned quickly that no matter how good your publicity campaign is, most people will never have heard of your book. My cheeks flushed with pride when I saw a pile of my books on the front table at Newtown’s largest bookstore, Better Read Than Dead, although I left without any self-introduction. A bit further up the street the book was, to my amazement, actually in the shop window – but the bookseller on duty had no idea what I was talking about when I went inside to thank him. A friend visiting from New York told me a horror story about going into Borders in the middle of Sydney’s CBD to ask for my book, which was nowhere to be seen. The Gen-Y assistant looked it up on the computer. “Oh yeah, we have a box full of them out the back,” he said. “Maybe in a few days we’ll unpack them.” Thus I can be confident of a few lost sales. There are so many variables in the book publishing game – timing, zeitgeist, packaging, sales-force enthusiasm for a title, media-friendliness of author and story, let alone the quality of the book itself – that my complete lack of control over the choices of booksellers is a sort of perverse, if frustrating, relief.