Take That, Stephen King; Buzz Off, Sue Grafton by David Howard

A writer finds his novel discounted in a Borders store; by David Howard.

I quickly tore page after page from Stephen King’s latest paperback. I bet he’d never had one of his 200 or so novels adorned with a Bargain! sticker. In the spirit of equal opportunity, Sue Grafton was next. My narrow spot of floor between A and M in the Borders fiction section was becoming a small lake of paperback print.

The customers thought I was part of a program to attract people on a winter morning, a way to boost sales on a slow day. I nodded in the direction of a person saying “origami artist,” and folded a few of the loose pages into triangles.

I had surrounded myself with as many paperback bestsellers as I could lug off the shelves, along with copies of my own book, The Things We Are, the shiny cover emblazoned with a bright orange 75% Off! sticker below its $1.99 price tag. I’d done the math, even though I knew I shouldn’t have. My book, my novel, my life now cost 49 cents - less than any bookmark in the store.

I began gathering up the pages from the books I’d torn apart, arranging them a bit. “I think it’s about getting rid of clutter,” someone standing close to me said. I smiled and squared off my stacks of bestselling paperback debris.

“Excuse me, sir, what are you doing?” A manager type. I could tell from the oxford cloth shirt and pulled down tie, and, of course the name badge above the pocket. He pushed through the audience to face me.

“They didn’t tell you?” I said with an exasperated expression, handing him a copy of my novel. “I’m promoting my novel. Corporate should have sent the announcement out weeks ago.” He looked at the remaindered copy of my first and only publication, as one might if handed a Big Mac while perusing the menu at the Capitol Grille.

I continued to tear apart the Grafton; about to reach for Mary Higgins Clark’s latest when the manager took a step closer, saying, “You are destroying those books. Stop it at once. I’m calling the police!” He still held The Things We Are, so I reached out, asking if he wanted it signed. “Stop this, stop it now!” he said. I took my pen and inscribed on the title page: To the best book store manager in Rhode Island... I signed my name, crossing out the printed version as I’d been taught by the publishing house assistant, two years ago.

I’d hoped for a longer time there. At least the Higgins Clark, maybe even a Stuart Woods or two, but there were other Borders, more remainders of mine to give away. With the sound of distant sirens from outside, I took copies of my book and passed them around to shoppers as I hurried toward the door, pausing only to oblige the elderly woman who asked me to sign hers.


  1. nice one David,
    i hope it doesn´t come to that!
    very good!

    Michael McCarthy

  2. Ah the never ending frustrations of being a writer!

  3. And there is still the possibility of origami from some motivated individual..
    Nicely done

  4. Can I get in on that. My book made so little money, that the publishing company wanted to try and clorox the ink off the paper so they can use it again.

  5. I enjoyed this hilarious display of writer's anger and frustration. Even though I'd probably be thrilled just to have my book in a bookshop.:)

  6. You're becoming a real pro at flash fiction, David! Well written and a very relevant theme!


  7. Having a book costing less than any bookmark in the store kind of says it all and a fine job you did saying it.

  8. This just about says everything about being a writer away from the big names and in such an amusing way. Thank you David.
    Must find a way to refer to it on my blog.

  9. I agree with all the above. Also, the story is really well titled. It might seem like just a detail, but it is also the first thing the reader sees when they are choosing a story to read,

    Garreth Keating

  10. Yes, the title is excellent -- it immediately attracted my attention to this story.

  11. No novels to discount and too few stories to publish. Here's hoping I get so far as to be so frustrated someday.

  12. And every writer with dreams shares your pain!