The advent calendar has been a on hold for a couple of days, for two very good reasons. On Friday (day thirteen) I was delighted to host a guest post from talented author, hilarious blogger and thoroughly nice man Seumas Gallacher; then on Saturday (day fourteen) I was equally delighted to be one of the local authors invited to hold a book signing event in Cambridge Central Library.
The library event was first suggested to me by a lovely lady called Victoria Richardson a few months ago, and I leapt at the idea. What a great place for a book signing; we’d be guaranteed to grab the attention of book lovers in a library – wouldn’t we? Victoria took time out from her busy schedule to gather together five authors, between us offering a diverse selection of books:
The prolific Karen Campbell has written lifestyle books DON’T FORGET THE KETTLE and KETTLE IN TRANSIT, chick lit treats THE PARTY GIRL’S INVITATION and PARTY GIRL AT HEART, and children’s book LUCY’S MESS MONSTERS.
I’d had a look at Shahida Rahman‘s historical novel LASCAR online before the library event, and I knew I’d be buying a copy. If you click on the impressive ‘events’ list on Shahida’s website you’ll see she’s no stranger to promotional events!
Amita Rani has an elegant book of poetry out called A LIFE OF LOVE. Some of her poems were displayed in beautiful frames on her table, which was artistically decorated with ribbons and a sparkly tablecloth.
I didn’t know much about the fourth author, Chris L Carter, prior to the event, but couldn’t resist buying a copy of his book STEPPING ON THE CRACKS. A snapshot of 1970’s Britain from the point of view of a football loving David Bowie fan, it sounds very much my kind of book. I LOVE social history.
Last but not least (oh no!), in attendance was Alison Jack, the author of DORY’S AVENGERS. You know ALL about this classic book, now don’t you!
I took advantage of my partner Andy and his eight seater taxi to transport myself, my books and the trusty sack barrow into the centre of town. Luckily, Victoria had said she would be in the library over an hour before it opened, so Andy was able to drop me off before the pre-Christmas traffic became too dense. Unluckily, I hadn’t been organised enough to store Victoria’s number in my phone, and so I had to wait outside the library until the second author, Karen, arrived. While waiting, I had my ear chewed by an elderly gentleman who was chagrined that the library didn’t open until 10 o’clock, and clearly thought that was my fault.
That wasn’t the last time library visitors took umbrage at not being allowed in before ten. As we set up the book sale, we authors quickly learned not to make eye contact with the folk massing outside, encouraging us to let them in. As a result, Chris was left waiting for a good ten minutes while we all resolutely ignored him.
I was in full disorganised mode on the day of the Local Author Booksale, and true to form I left it until opening time before I decided to take a photo of our display from the doorway.
‘You can stand there if you like,’ said one of the library caretakers to me, nodding towards the seething mass ready to pour through the doors, ‘but I’m about to let them in.’ I took my photo later!
All five of us authors and Victoria stood with bright smiles, welcoming the library visitors as they surged in – and walked straight past us. Victoria made a gallant effort to direct people in our direction, but their reactions ranged from ‘I’ll come back later’ (rare) to ‘No!’ (frequent). We had a couple of Duke of Edinburgh Award girls to help us out; I think they’d hoped to be directing queues and chatting to excited book buyers, but instead they spent most of their time fetching us hot drinks and taking group photos. While waiting for the hoards of customers I hoped were on the way, I socialised with my fellow authors, swapping writing experiences and laughing about various marketing mishaps. As a result I ended the day with four new friends; and friends, of course, are priceless.
Despite the best efforts of Victoria, the library staff, the lovely Duke of Edinburgh girls and us authors ourselves, the book sale was not a success. People who visit libraries are generally keen readers, although one man did refuse Victoria’s invitation to have a look at the books on sale with the reply ‘I don’t read much’, but on the other hand people visit libraries to borrow books rather than buy them. I swapped copies of Dory’s with the other authors in return for copies of their books, and one of my friends popped in to buy one as a gift, but it was like ‘pulling teeth’ (Karen’s words) persuading people to give us a second glance. The few who did venture over scarpered as soon as we approached them.
In retrospect, perhaps a library would have been a more suitable venue for a less sales orientated event. None of us wanted people to feel pressured into buying a book, but I think that’s how they did feel. Possibly more people would have shown an interest had the event been billed as an informal chat with local authors – or am I being over optimistic? There’s only one way to find out…
All too soon our two hours were up, and we packed away our stock with promises to stay in touch and meet again. Shahida and Karen have both guested on a BBC Radio Cambridgeshire show and know the presenter well, so perhaps we can get together for a local author chat on the airwaves. I can’t thank Victoria enough for organising the event, despite the lack of sales. She was willing to invest time and effort into trying out a book sale in the library, and despite the fact that didn’t really work she’s not lost any of her enthusiasm for finding some way of making local author events a success.
Did I have a good time at the Local Author Booksale? I loved every minute, and that makes it a resounding success as far as I’m concerned.
***Advent calendar picture day thirteen – A Christmas rose.
Day fourteen – A Christmas bell.
Day fifteen – Robins in the snow.