At the beginning of the Bird Fair weekend I had never done a book signing – but by the end I had done 10.
You might imagine that this involves a team of helpers marshalling the eager crowds of expectant book-purchasers into an orderly queue whilst the author pens witticisms in the title pages of the pile of hardbacks being purchased. Close!
There were people who marched straight up to me and said ‘I’d like a copy of your book please!’ which is a brilliant experience for this author and I think it will take quite a while to fade – maybe it’s beginning to pall for JK Rowling (but, then again, maybe not). I tend to ask people why they are so sure that they do want a copy of the book – and the answer is usually that they read this blog (so know what they might be getting), have been told by someone else that it’s a good read, have read a review of it (Andy Clements’s review was particularly well-timed before the Bird Fair – thanks again Andy and the BTO) or they’ve heard me speak somewhere and think my book might be an interesting read.
Then there is the actual signing bit. I can write my name (although my signature is a bit odd – I spent days perfecting it when I was about 14 and have been stuck with it ever since) but it’s getting their name right that is important. So I checked the spelling of even the simplest sounding names to make sure that I spelled them correctly. There are of course Jons and Johns, Annabelles, Annabells and Annabels, Ralfs and Ralphs and other traps which might catch the unwary author who rushes too quickly to scribble away. To be honest, as well as my signature being that thought to be sophisticated by the 14 year-old me, my writing is so bad that I could get away with claiming that I had spelled even some of the most misspelled names correctly.
Then I usually ask the purchaser whether they are on Twitter or Facebook and if they say yes I ask them to tell their friends about the book if they like it (and just tell me if they don’t like it – although unwriting a book is beyond me now).
The last stage is to make sure that they remember to pay for the book with the nice lady or gentleman behind me, next to me, over there or somewhere.
That’s all there is to it with the eager purchasers. But what about the less than eager ones? If you know the person trying to slip by without meeting your eye then I think it’s fair enough to shout across to them along the lines of ‘Hi Mr X! Your only difficult decision is whether to buy the very good value hardback or the very very good value paperback version of this excellent book.’. That’ll work sometimes. Really – it does.
But although I know a lot of people at the Bird Fair there are even more that I don’t know from Eve, let alone Adam. It helps that I have my picture on the front cover of the book, and so most people realise why this particular grinning idiot is grinning idiotically at them, at least.
If people really are just about to walk past then my view is that I don’t have anything much to lose my engaging them in conversation by any means at all. ‘Would you like to buy a book from the sweatiest author at the Bird Fair?’ made several people laugh and started conversations that sold a few books. When people talk to you then the next stage is to get them to pick up the book, so I tried this: ‘ Why don’t you pick it up and have a look? You might form a strong emotional attachment to it and then you’ll want to take it home. And that will be good for you ‘cos it’s a good book, good for this nice lady/gentleman behind me ‘cos you’ll have to give them some money and good for me because eventually I’ll get a few pence of it.’. Yes, that works too – and I reckon just over half the people who pick up a copy then go on to buy it.
The book signings I did were at the Subbuteo, Wildsounds, NHBS and RSPB stands – and they were all very nice to me as I tried to make us both a little bit of money. But I am a novice, so if you have any tips then please let me know as I am doing another book signing on Saturday at WWT London Wetland Centre after giving a talk too – come and see me and I’ll scribble your name illegibly into as many books as you care to buy.
My talk starts at 230pm and entrance is free (once you have paid to get in to the centre itself). Maybe I’ll see you there? Will that be three or four hardbacks sir?