It’s the last day of my Holland/Belgium visit, and I’m sitting in my room at the charming Ambassade Hotel, overlooking the Herengracht canal. This is the hotel where many visiting authors stay, and their library has a vast collection of signed copies, many of them by familiar American names. I’m here because my recent books sales in Holland have taken a sharp upswing and my publisher here, the House of Books, wanted to give my profile an extra push.
It’s taken a while to find success in Holland, and a large part of the reason is my last name. Yes, Gerritsen is a Dutch name — which seems to be a disadvantage when you’re trying to sell thrillers in Holland. (David Baldacci had the same problem in Italy. It seems writers are never respected in their own countries.) So it’s been a slow start, but my books are finally starting to sell well here.
My visit has been busy. The night I arrived, we had an elegant meet-and-greet with readers from around the country, some of whom traveled for hours to attend. Then it was on to the Antwerp Book Fair, which was packed with thousands of attendees browsing and buying books. Finally, it was back to Amsterdam for interviews with magazine, newspaper, and online reporters.
One question that almost every one of the journalists asked was about fictional violence against women, a topic that’s been burning up online discussion sites around the web. “Why do so many women authors write about crimes against women?” they asked. “How do you feel about it?” I don’t think I could give a better answer than Steve Mosby did on his blog site, except to add that male writers have been writing such books for decades, and isn’t it odd that only now, after women writers started doing it, it’s become controversial?
I love discovering the differences in bookselling around the world, and one of the surprising things I learned while here is the Dutch and Belgian indifference to autographed copies. Bookstores really don’t want authors to drop in and sign books, because an autograph may actually diminish the book’s value! I heard one story about a customer who bought a book, discovered it was autographed, and returned it to the store. “But it’s signed by the author,” the bookstore told her.
“I don’t want it. I want a clean copy!” the customer answered.
So if you’re an author, don’t expect to do drop-in signings in Holland.