Sunday, February 19, 2012

First Signing

Well, yesterday was the day of the great "first ever signing" event at Collins Booksellers Edwardstown. And what a stupendous day it turned out to be. I got there a bit later than I'd expected, close to the starting time rather than early so I could have time to find my feet. Tarran and Sonia had already set up the table and put books and signs on it, and people were even beginning to mill about it with looks of interest, so I was able to leap straight into the fray.

All set up.

I think I mentioned earlier that the event had become a bit of an unofficial launch, seeing as I decided not to organise any official version. Because of that, a few good friends turned up pretty early and there was a rush on buying the books. Some of my friends bought 2 or even 3 copies. I have wonderful friends. (On that note, I should mention that one of my old friends, Heather, came all the way from Woomera, a 5 hour drive north of Adelaide. I'm hoping she didn't come down just for the signing, but even if she didn't it was a huge deal to have her come along).

As the day went by my supply of friends dried up, and I switched to "spruiking" mode. This is something I learned about from Duncan Lay, who hand-sold 1000 copies of his first book in a month (actually it was a little over that, I can't remember the exact figure). I stood near the table, which was at the very front of the store in the path of walking shoppers, and said hello to people and asked them if they were interested in reading fantasy. I should say, doing that kind of thing is not something that comes easily to me (if it does anyone), so I wasn't anticipating all that much success. I was pleasantly surprised by the result.

A sign in the ladies toilet (photo taken by someone else, I hasten to add). Now that's advertising!

The first thing I noticed is that, despite the bad press occasionally given to the human race, people are often extremely polite. Even people who weren't interested in what I had to say (sell?) gave me a smile and a wave, and a few even came and shook my hand and congratulated me on having the book published. It actually taught me that I need to be a bit more considerate to people who spruik in shopping malls. In the past I've tended to breeze past and ignore them, but no more of that (not that I'll necessarily be buying a lot of tv subscriptions and soap products, mind you).

The second, even nicer, surprise was that a lot of people wanted to buy the book. I'm not sure whether it was my (not very well rehearsed) spiel, the great back-cover blurb that my editor, Celia, came up with, or my puppy-dog expression as I explained this was my first ever book and my first ever signing, but quite a few people snatched it up. Many of them wanted it for younger family members who were either vociferous readers or who needed some extra encouragement to get reading. Others wanted it for themselves. All in all, by the time 3.30pm rolled around there was only a single book left on the table, and I had to ask a friend to loan me the copies he bought so I could set them up on display (that was another thing I learned, a table full of books draws the eye so much more than a table with a single book on it). By 4pm the last one had walked out the door, and so did I.

An amazing day! In many ways it was an experiment on my part, seeing if a children's book could be hand-sold in that way. I think the results speak for themselves. Now I need to try and organise some repeat performances in other book shops around Adelaide, maybe even further afield. I'm now of the opinion this is an absolute necessity, rather than a "nice" thing for an author to do. This realisation came about because on two occasions (one just this morning) I've gone into bookshops and found the book on a low shelf spine outwards. I don't think those copies will be flying out the door, somehow. Far better for me to spend some time in the store putting the book in people's hands and getting it into the eyesight of the people who work in the shop. I don't think it's conceited for me to say I feel I've written a good book, but nobody will be able to enjoy it if it sits gathering dust in obscurity.

So there we go, a highly successful and informative day. A huge thanks to Tarran at Collins Books for making it all happen and giving it such a huge plug. Also to the friends who were able to come. When you're feeling a bit nervous about something there's no better cure than familiar faces.

Now I just hope people enjoy the book!

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