Sunday, 11 October 2009

What an Author wants from a Book Signing

On Friday I had a private party to launch A Death in the Family. It went marvelously and there will pictures in another blog. On Saturday I was due to do a book signing in Borders, Edinburgh and at the party several well known authors came up to me with their warnings. Alan Campbell said he was always afraid no-one would turn up and Ricardo Pinto had equal tales of warning. I, of course, thanked them for these insights the night before my own signing and when I got home slept badly.

Borders had done a magnificent job of advertising the event, posters everywhere and within moments of being in the store the tannoy announced my presence, my fantastic book and how delighted they were to have me. I hid under the table in the upstairs Starbucks and waited for my appointed hour to come.

It was a strange experience. I'd seen several authors do signings in the store before, so being on the other side of the table gave me a new perspective. As someone who buys a great many books and will often go to signings I thought I'd offer up my new found insight from what an author wants from a signing.

They want people to come. They don't mind if you slip into a seat halfway through a reading - in fact they'd rather that than you bashfully hiding just on the peripheral of their vision. They don't even care if you're intending to buy the book and just want to sit down and rest your weary feet. It's so much nicer to read to faces than empty chairs. Oh, and they appreciate it enormously when you laugh at the comic moments. If you sit down at a reading there is no obligation to buy a book. Even if an author entertains you for a minute that makes them happy. Yes, we write to make a living (or try to), but we also write to entertain.

The audiences I had were lovely and laughed in the right places, but I'm told I had several people lingering behind the speakers in stationary, listening but wary of coming forward.

And then I moved to the signing table. This a device that can make any author look like and feel like a salesperson for an unpopular house fixture. It's truly amazing the number of people who walked into the shop intending to turn left, met my eyes, smiled in a rabbit sees fox sort of a way and shot off to the right.

So here's what an author wants when they're sitting at a signing table. They want you to come over and have a look. No author, with the possible exception of Derren Brown, has the ability to make you buy their book (and I'm sure he wouldn't even if he could). If you touch a book on the table, even if you read the back of it, armed guards will not spring out from under the table and forcibly escort you to the cash desk. The author won't take a penny from you - only the cash desk can do that and you have to voluntarily walk up to it carrying the book.

You see the thing is while any author is chuffed to bits when you like their work they do understand no everyone likes the same sort of stuff. None of us will cry, moan or writhe on the ground if you pick up a book and put it back. Honestly. You will get a very cheery smile if you buy one, but that's a bonus.

The weird thing about a signing table is the more people cluster around it the more that come over. And the more that come over the higher the chance it will be someone's sort of thing. So really, just by coming over to have a look you're doing us a favour.

Having said all this I must also say everyone who came up to my table, including those who didn't buy, were lovely and I was grateful to everyone of you. Perhaps, slightly more grateful to those that bought the book, but I think I hid that well. I achieved respectable sales and I hope everyone who bought the book thoroughly enjoys it.

A Death the Family remains in the buy one get one half price scheme this weekend at Borders Edinburgh. And now the books are all on their own without a scary author, they're probably lonely. If you live nearby you could help them with that!


Rebecca Knight said...

I just stopped over from Nicola Morgan's blog :). This is fascinating and very helpful for those of us starting out. I think the more realistic our expectations are, the better off we are. Congratulations on your signing going well, too!

Caroline Dunford said...

Thanks Rebecca.
What I didn't blog about yet and which I will is the whole reading your own work issue. The latest post on the blog is a youtube session of my reading my own work - complete with voices. Very nerve wracking.