The Perils of Book Signing Part Two
Alan J Hill
Up at 6.45 am waiting for the clock radio to scream its good morning into my ear. Didn’t sleep a great deal, wondering, expecting and trying to manage my expectations into the realms of reality. Couldn’t wait anymore, out of bed and into the shower. I worked out what I was going to wear the night before – what does a first time author and virgin book signer wear for his first foray into the morning light of the ‘public at large’?
I settled for a blue sports jacket, ‘trendy’ T-shirt and chinos. Oh, and a pair of new shoes that I hadn’t worn before (we’ll come back to them later). My wife said I looked like an extra from the 80s version of Miami Vice. Perfect, that was the look I had in mind!
Into the car with my box of books and flyers on the back seat, which had been checked twenty-seven times before leaving. With my supporting wife by my side, I set off for the west of England. It was a two-hour drive to Bristol from Hampton, near London where I live. A torturous journey.
My signing was scheduled to start at 11 am and I rolled up in Bristol an hour early, and sat in a local coffee shop watching the hands of the clock move cautiously round. Finally, the hour hand moved and several days later, or so it seemed, I thought, Bugger this, I’m going in!
Initially my contact was not available and so I met the ‘Event Manager’ who had kindly set up a small table for me in the children’s section.
By this time my new shoes have reduced my feet to dead appendages on the end of my legs and I’m sure I actually heard them screaming at one point. But I couldn’t let my feet let me down, and I started to engage with the public.
From 10.45 until 11.45am I gave out two flyers, got asked where the classic section was and helped a lady find her missing child. Even though I hadn’t sold a thing, I comforted myself that neither had the teenage section. And so I was reassured that I was joint ‘Number One’ with the top twenty children’s authors in the country with no sales at all.
My contact, Mark Scott turned up. A nicer, more helpful young man I could not hope to meet. He moved me to a much bigger table at the front of shop, printed off more flyers, gave me a stand with marketing information and positioned some of my books by the till. Now it was up to me.
When I visit a bookstore I either know which book I want or I am going for a browse around. I do NOT want a Miami Vice extra, with feet like two pieces of raw liver accosting me with his new fantasy book. The Waterstones’ guys were pushing me to go for it but I was trying to be a little more circumspect.
I found approaching my chosen market: teenagers, a disaster. They didn’t see me as a throwback to an 80s cops and robbers show, more like a creepy middle aged man, muttering something about a new fantasy novel. So approaching teenagers was out unless accompanied by a parent.
Cracked it! I spotted a lady with her son browsing in the fantasy section. I sauntered over with my book and made conversation. Her son read the back of the book, grunted his assent and I signed my first ever book in a store!
“What’s your name?’ I eagerly asked.
“Fin,” came the reply.
A sign, I thought, as a character in my second book is called Fin. I scribbled something encouraging in the book and then went from strength to strength.
In the next two hours I doubled my sales, a 100% uplift. Two books sold! On a roll! The clock soon ticked around to 2.30 pm and with a drive back to London, and a pool of blood around where my feet once were, I called it a day.
My ever-supporting wife had been back and forth in the intervening time with encouraging words, drinks, and lots of shopping. I packed my books up and dragged my aching back and stumps-for-legs back to the car.
“How shall we spend the £2.50?” I asked Deborah.
“A pair of second hand shoes?” she replied.
Next time I shall be closer to home. Friends and relatives will come, a crowd will develop a crowd, and I will do better. I know I will.
A first step on a journey, I keep telling myself. Although at the moment, my feet cannot step anywhere.