Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Lady in the Gift Shop

The gym where I lift weights in Florence, Italy, is located on the second floor of a century-plus old building. In fact, I think it used to be a library or a bookstore as evidenced by its beautiful hardwood floors and nineteenth century spiral staircase (which is enclosed in glass according to Italy's stringent historical preservation laws).

During the small breaks between sets, I sometimes go to the window for a breath of fresh air. The window looks out onto the busy cobbled street below.

It also looks upon a small gift shop. 

The shop proprietor is an attractive, forty-something brunette woman who always dresses in black, be it a skirt and tights, or slacks. She always wears high heels too. Fashionista. I don't know how many years I've been coming to Italy for my extended writing retreats (I've spent the past 20 years traveling for assignments of one kind or another), but it's been more than a decade. That same woman has been tending to the same shop with the same merchandise for all that time. Everyday her routine is the same. She opens up the glass door, sweeps and mops the wood floor till it's so clean you can eat off of it. She then does something peculiar. She arranges and re-arranges the already perfectly displayed little knickknacks and jewelry that are for sale.

This attention to detail has always perplexed me. When she arrives, the items have already been set in place as well as anyone can set them. They really don't need any attention at all. But she takes the time to shift an item here and an item there, always taking a step back to review and evaluate the move in her head, like an artist would examine a carefully applied brushstroke or maybe a professional chess player thinking and rethinking a move. My workout can sometimes last up to an hour and all during that hour, she will be arranging and rearranging the little gifts. The decorative shot glasses, the bracelets, the necklaces, the little glass trees, and miniature Ponte Vecchios and Duomos.

Her dedication to job and duty...her me to thinking about my books. All too often, we publish a book and simply forget about it. It's done, finished, published. Not much more can be done to improve upon it other than a little marketing. But marketing doesn't improve the product. It merely pushes the existing product, great, good, or piss poor. And it's tough these days for publishers big and small to market a book, unless you're Lee Child.

The books my publishers put out, God bless them, are untouchable once published. The publishers simply do not have the time nor the resources to correct editorial mistakes. If a word or two is misspelled, well then, suck it up buttercup. But when it comes to the books I indie publish under my own label, Bear Media, I am able to make corrections. I can fix any misspellings, mess with the cover if it isn't right, or work on improving the product description.

Maybe the book has been published for years. Maybe even six or seven years. But that doesn't mean it can't be improved upon. I can bet the woman in the gift shop who is constantly dusting off the merchandise and improving upon its presentation is never satisfied. She can always do better for her customers. I'm no different from the lady in the gift shop. If I can make even a single adjustment in the copy in one of my books, and take a step back to examine it, like a sculptor who's just made the the most delicate of cuts in a statue he carved a decade ago, then it's worth the effort.

Art might be abandoned, but room for improvement is infinite.


Grab The Sam Savage Boxed Set for the weekend and binge some escapist action, adventure, and romance.


No comments:

Post a Comment