“Hey there, would you like to have an autographed book mark from a famous Canadian writer?” The punch line is always something about famous and Canadian combined being a bit of an oximoron; also If I were famous, they should probably know me.
Last Sunday I signed at Chapters Fairview, Burlington where a fair number of students from Canadian Martyr School came to visit, thanks to a fabulous teacher, Linda Rivard, who read two of my latest novels out loud to her class. It was a writer’s dream to watch the girls jump up and down and giggle with joy at meeting me and carrying their new books to checkout.
Sunday, I signed at Indigo, Milton, which had painfully few customers that afternoon. I may have signed all of seven books but I did give out some business cards to the young readers. “If you need to write a book report, and you have any questions, email me. I can help you get an A.” On Monday I received an email from Claire, one of my few new young readers saying “I met you at Indigo on Sunday and I bought the book that you wrote, Dying to Go Viral and I loved loved loved it. My favourite part is when Scratch kisses Jade for the first time. I started reading the book on Sunday (right after I bought it) and finished it today (Monday). I could NOT put it down, even for a second!
Okay, so maybe the Sunday signing was worth it too.
This past Saturday, March 21, I scored a Globe and Mail review to coincide with my signing. This would be my first ever in 25 years of writing. Citing it as one of three YAs worth a read, Lauren Bride says “the tone is fresh and present day appropriate, challenging stereotypes, racism and how families integrate into Canadian Culture.” Thank you Lauren!
Surprisingly this did not draw any of the many customers to my table but it helped seal the deal. I would hand out the autographed Best Friends Through Eternity post cards and quote the review shamelessly.
I lost count of how many books I sold–which is a good thing.
Does this make the whole signing thing at the blockbuster bookstore seem easy? Because it is not. Most often it feels like you should have written anything but whatever theme or story that you tackled. I watched kids stream by with cartoony Wimpy Kid wannabe American books if they were younger and Divergence and Insurgence if they were older.
If I could tear them over to my lonely signing table, at some point I would have to always prove my books were “appropriate” for them to their parents. It felt as though parents wanted a Canadian Heidi for their young readers if they were buying from me while they were okay with buying American movie books where teens slaughtered and tortured each other. I kind of get that–they want broccoli books from me if they have been talked into buying it but they’re happy buying potato chip novels from the US/Hollywood because their kids will gobble them up and be seen as cool just carrying the chip stories around.
So signing at a bookstore becomes pitting my friendly banter about reading and writing against Hollywood buzz. Surprisingly sometimes it works. I tell them teachers love Canadian books. Some of them do. Witness Linda Rivard at Canadian Martyrs. We’ll have to work at our “It’s cool to read Canadian” promotion.