Once the young man had managed to extract himself, I casually asked the woman to tell me about her book. I was trying to be as nice to her as she had been to the young lad, and I really was looking for a potential birthday present for someone. BIG MISTAKE.
I think I only managed four more words in the entire conversation. It emerged that the woman had written some sort of fantasy book – not what I was looking for anyway. She confused me straight away by saying it was a Young Adult book aimed at 18+ readers (no, I don't know what that means either); then she confused me further and wasting a few minutes of my increasingly-valuable time by telling what the book wasn't rather than what it actually was.
She pulled her book off the shelves and thrust it into my hands. I turned to the back and immediately uttered two of my allocated four words: "Austin" and MacAuley".
Now I've written about Austin MacAuley before, but I was interested to hear her experience – in particular what she'd been charged. I never quite found out, because by now my ears were being battered so much that I'm afraid my other two words just slipped out... "vanity publisher".
Well, she then launched into a diatribe about snobbery in the publishing world – she's right there, of course, but I never got another word in to be able to tell her. She'd obviously paid something to have her book published, probably quite a bit. By the way, I don't actually have a problem with that: my problem is with the vanity publishers who really aren't firm enough with authors to insist they get their book into better shape. They just take the authors' money.
The sad thing is that I ended up like the young man, trying to edge away and escape her. I'd spotted that she'd written something else (also published by Austin MacAuley) that I might have bought, but she herself had driven me away. Sometimes less is more.
By the way: bear in mind that vanity publishers own your copyright. You sell your soul, but you pay money to do so. Self-publishers always own the rights to their books, which means they can always sell them to anyone else whenever they want.