The Summertime Bookstore Signing

What I like about a signing is that it’s a real and demonstrable effort to connect my book to readers without the need to be shortlisted for any prizes, which let’s face it, are hit and miss and certainly out of our control. Here’s something you can do that’s immediate and personal. You invite a potential reader over, tell them about your stories and offer to autograph a copy if they purchase today. They buy or not.

This one is hosted by Kristen Knowles, KZ as she’s known by on her name tag, at Queensway Chapters which is across from Sherway Gardens. She’s a favourite seller of mine who doesn’t require me to submit a job résumé before scheduling a signing. I know she sets up a lovely table with a great book display (Ask me about the time I had to help carry a banquet table though secret shopping centre halls for a smaller chain store appearance)

A problem for today’s event is that the mall is under heavy construction and the regular walkways to the bookstore across the street are obstructed. It’s also a sunny warm day. KZ prefers rainy days for signings.

A plus is KZ and her staff. All of the sales people ask me to tell them about the novels and convince me that they will handsell the books after I’m gone. Regular announcements are made throughout the afternoon about the “Lovely Sylvia McNicoll” “Award winning Candian Author” “In store today, meet her at the back.”

Today, yes, I’m placed at the back of the store near the teen, 9-12 and kids’ section. For the first hour no one comes. But I have great bookmarks. Fitzhenry has just couriered a set of new Bringing Up Beauty/A Different Kind of Beauty/Beauty Returns combo book placeholders. When I see someone of the right age, I walk to them and say something like “I’m a famous Canadian writer. Would you like an autographed bookmark?” Or, tongue in cheek, I address the grownup, “I’m such a famous Canadian author, I can’t understand why your young person hasn’t rushed over for an autograph.” Then I draw them back to the table and chatter about the plots and background information on the covers and stories.

As the day progresses, more customers come in and I realize a plus of where I’m located; the reoccurring phrase: “I’m interested in hearing more but I really have to go the bathroom.”

What can be awkward is when, despite a long and engaging book conversation, the parent and young person walk away with no book. One time a young girl, I want to call her Emma, Olivia or Abby as those were the popular names of the day, kept saying how much all my books interested her. Her mother, a Silver Birch volunteer,

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didn’t even seem to think about purchasing one for her. Maybe she has a special discount some where? I know I should shave pressed a little more, but sometimes pride or even nerves kick in.

Another episode involved a mom overly enthusing about me and the books and the child visibly drew further and further away. I think she wanted to hide under the shelves. The mom should have bought a book to read herself and hoped the child would be curious after. Maybe I should have suggested that out loud, but I didn’t want to frighten the kid more. Wish that mom were paired with the girl who wanted all of my books.

At the end of four hours of sitting at a table meeting and greeting strangers, the writer always asks herself is it worth it. Today’s sales net about 17 books.

Yes, yes, yes.

But this is a unique answer to the individual author. This author loves people watching and talking to bookloving parents and kids. I love sitting in between shelves full of colourful books even if they are competition. After all a lot of my friends wrote them. I love getting out and seeing the sales process.

Writing is a solitary experience, signing is social.

In order to do any kind of selling, you have to be convinced that the creation you’re offering is of genuine and unique worth to your reader. Sometimes that’s hard when you’re sandwiched between thousands of books. Or when that book loving Mom still says no. But In the signing experience, I’ve discovered it’s not just the book that’s the product. It’s the meeting the author experience. Parents sometime wax poetic about how wonderful it is that their kids got to talk to a real author. Not

every school brings us in anymore. Kids thank me too or just gape in awe. So for me, it’s no longer just about sales. If I counted, it would be the good conversations I’ve had. What a great afternoon it’s been for that.

For this one summertime Saturday, I didn’t bury myself in my work, arguably a more profitable use of my time. Instead I enjoyed a real social media day.


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