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Tuesday, 25 August 2009


My daughter is (rather usefully, some might say) working in the children's bookshop in the Edinburgh Book Festival. This in no way explains why my books are so beautifully displayed, of course. But a conversation with her on one of the prep days before the festival opened has engendered this pointful point.

Being nice is a very useful and under-rated quality.

No, I'm not saying I was nice to her. Or that she was nice to me. It was something quite different.

This was how the conversation went:

Rebecca: Recommend me some teenage books to read so that I know a bit more about them. Apart from yours, obviously. I know enough about those.

Me: (showing her the teenage section of my personal library, all in alph order, of course) Well, you could try a David Almond or a Julia Bertagna or a Tim Bowler or a Kevin Brooks or a Cathy Forde or a Keith Gray or an Elizabeth Laird or a ...

Rebecca: Which of them are your friends?

Me: All of them. But that's not why I recommend them, of course.

Rebecca: I'll take this Keith Gray one. He's always nice and friendly to me.

So, she picked Keith Gray because he was nice and friendly to her. The tart. (btw, I'm sure the others would be just as nice but she hasn't met them). So, she read his book and is now very likely to recommend it to teenagers when they or their parents ask for recommendations. His being nice and friendly to her could start a word of mouth Keith Gray-fest.

There's a lesson there. Especially when measured against that crappy author at the launch I told you about recently. We're always being told we have to develop a platform, a profile. If niceness is part of yours, I reckon that will draw people to you. And one good and surprising thing about niceness is that it's hard to fake for longer than five minutes.

It may sound trite but trust me: nice can get you a very long way. It makes the world go round more smoothly. If someone who'd written a book brought me sparkly wine, I'd definitely buy their book. Which is another pointy thought for you.

By the way, you may be wondering why, if niceness is so important, I am still proud of being the "crabbit old bat". My theory is that in fact your own niceness has smoothed all my crabbitness away over the last few months. I am but a shadow of my former self. You have destroyed my persona.

I could hate you if I didn't like you so much.