Posts Tagged ‘Book Signing’

Tales from a Local Author Christmas Extravaganza

Friday, November 19th, 2010

First of all – I am BETTER! I feel incredibly different, I must have had a low-lying infection and been ill for weeks. I can’t believe the difference that the antibiotics have made. Well that and a few decent nights sleep. Which is just as well because it meant that I could fully enjoy last night! Wow! What an amazing time I had! I expected it to be good but not that good. It was more like a social drinks party than an author event. There were several reasons why it was so good; firstly Waterstones had put an awful lot of effort into organising the evening. This was the first time that anything like this had been attempted and they were keen to make it a success. There had been lots of publicity and general drumming up of interest going on. One of the other authors, children’s writer Ali Sparkes, had been on BBC Radio Solent that afternoon to generate interest as well. And the atmosphere was really good, the staff were lovely and all the authors were full of enthusiasm. There were ten of us altogether: Ron Clooney for the thriller genre, Alex Bell in the dark fantasy/sci-fi genre, Ali Sparkes, Andrew Norris and another lady who all write for children, Alex Hibbert who has written a book about his polar exploration exploits (and blimey, it sounds mad but amazing. He ski-ed 100 miles in ten days on NO FOOD. A storm destroyed the food supplies they had left which they didn’t know until they got there so they had no choice. All credit to the guy.) And apart from that there were a couple of local history authors and me of course, alone in the chick-lit genre, for which I quickly became very grateful.

We all met in the staffroom prior to the event for drinks and a chat and to get to know one another briefly. The choices of drinks were: water, tea, coffee, squash, red wine or white wine. I wavered slightly but then eventually went for…..guess what…..yes you are right – a small glass of white wine. Which went straight to my head after having not drunk anything for days. So I quickly had to drink an awful lot of water as being tipsy and signing books is NOT a good thing. And I know because I’ve done it. Not in bookshops I hasten to add, but at dinner parties and that sort of thing for friends. I expect to see them popping up on eBay in the future. I wasn’t the only one who drank wine by the way, at least 50% of the authors did, it’s obviously an integral part of being a writer. So after that we were given our lovely name tags and then all taken onto the shop floor, and as we were going up the escalator Ron said to me “So what do you write then?”

“Chick-lit,” I replied (because it’s just easier). And he responded with “Well the stuff I write is more sex-lit than anything else.” Which meant that I was unattractively snorting with laughter as I took up my position at our stand. Myself, Ron and Alex were grouped together right by the door, we did have the best position in the whole shop; where we were is where they put all their major authors for signings. I don’t know why, just the luck of the draw I guess. The others were grouped together in their various sections further back in the shop, which I gather didn’t really work well for them as they fairly quickly came forward to stand right by the other shop entrance, presumably to garner more interest.

We didn’t have a problem with interest though and that was because we had Ron on our table. The man is an absolute master at his art and incredible to watch. He drew the crowds like you wouldn’t believe and easily sold the most books in the evening. He’s a lovely person, a real raconteur with a fabulous sense of humour and those combined along with his determination give him his success. Or they did last night anyway. He literally grabbed any person that passed by, male or female, and said “Do you fancy a really good thriller?” and whatever their response was he had an answer for it. For example, a few people said “Oh no, I don’t like thrillers,” to which he replied “That’s because you haven’t read a good one yet. Here, look at this,” – hands them a book – “the first print run sold out in twelve weeks….” etc., etc. He wasn’t pushy or overbearing, despite being unashamedly selling his work. It was a real skill and beautiful to watch. Of course it made Alex and I feel quite inadequate as both of us were the more ‘hanging back’ sort, which didn’t matter because Ron would then go on to say “And here also tonight are Sarah Haynes with her chick-lit novel and Alex Bell with her dark fantasy writing,” which effectively did the introductions for us. But after a few minutes of watching Ron I decided there was nothing else for it and became a lot more forward – which paid off. I did something which I’ve never done before and approached a customer who was browsing the shelves. We had a quick chat during which I basically introduced myself and said “Look, even if my book’s not your sort of thing I know the genre pretty well and can probably help you find something.” And about fifteen minutes later she came to look at my book – and bought it! Out of all of Waterstones she chose Things He Never Knew. I was very pleased. It’s such a learning curve and I’m glad to have started to make some sort of impression on it.

Overall, I think I sold 7/8 books, which doesn’t sound like much but we were only there for two hours so it equates to one every fifteen minutes which is what it felt like. And I also didn’t have friends/family turning up so it was a case of relying on the general public to be interested. Which they were! I was glad to be alone in my genre because of the lack of competition. Everyone gets fiercely competitive at these sorts of events, it really is every man for himself, and rightly so – as authors this is our livelihood and reputation that we’re protecting. Which is why it was so decent of Ron to include us in his general spiel, although the only reason he could and did do that was because we were no competition to him.

And the people that I spoke to last night were lovely without exception. One man stands out in my mind because we had the following conversation, as he picked up my book:

“Chick-lit? What’s that?”

“Commercial fiction aimed primarily at women.”

“Why? What sort of stuff do you write about?”

“Generally the plots will involve love, romance, drama, emotions with a female central character.”

“Doesn’t mean men can’t read it.”

“No,” I agreed.

He studied the book for a while before saying suddenly “You could be the next Jilly Cooper.”

“Er, well, no, my writing’s probably less racy than that.”

“So there’s no sex in this?”


“Oh. Shame. You should put some in, it would sell better.”

“I’ll – er – bear it in mind.”

“Give it a bit more oomph.”


And then he said “I’d have bought it if had sex in it,” threw it on the table and walked away. I suppose it didn’t help that I was based right next to the erotica section which might have given him the idea in the first place. By accident or design I couldn’t tell.

So I had a very lovely evening with great company and the only bad thing I can say about it was that I had to miss “I’m A Celebrity…..” which I can watch on catch-up so it isn’t even that bad. The whole experience left me with a lot more confidence about book-signings and gave me a real idea of the best way to do things. And I suppose one of the most important things to take away from the evening is that I should definitely be writing more sex-lit. Watch this space.

my nametag

A note from my sickbed

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

This will be a short post because I am writing it from my sickbed. Well, not literally, as a few of you will know a bed with sick on it is possibly the LAST place on earth you would find me due to my emetophobia. I don’t much enjoy this time of year actually because it seems like every other day someone becomes ill with a D&V bug. About 40% of the status updates on Facebook read “So and so has been up all night vomiting” which sends a shiver of fear through me. And make me do things which I consider totally normal but when mentioned to a psychiatrist are not, apparently. Things like going out less in case we pick up any germs; being totally paranoid about my children touching any surfaces whilst we’re out – and don’t get me started on public toilets. If I need to take the girls to one the first thing I say is “DON’T. TOUCH. ANYTHING.” And I mean it. Literally. My grandmother refused to use them and we all thought she was being overly fussy at the time, but I completely see her point now. I also become obsessive about hand-washing, in the highest temperature water that can be tolerated. And this general paranoia spills over into checking and re-checking that food has been properly cooked…..all this because of a few winter bugs floating about – do you see why I need treatment?! I can’t even watch the bit on “I’m A Celebrity…..” where they have to eat ghastly things. I’m filled with unbearable nerves and tension from the moment the trial starts and I have to mute it. My husband gets very fed up with watching the television in silence. And just quickly – Nigel Havers – what a star!!!! Unexpectedly, he has just made the whole programme for me. I probably wouldn’t even have started watching it had I not been ill, but I have now and I’m hooked. He just makes me laugh so much, he’s a good sport and brillant fun. Who else would admit that they were “Yearning for female company…..yearning I tell you.” How candid. I hope he wins, I think it will be either him or Shaun Ryder.

Anyway, back to what is actually wrong with me – I have a kidney infection. Which isn’t too bad apart from the pain, which is atrocious. It’s like being in labour. On the plus side I do get to spend whole days in bed, reading, which I wouldn’t be able to justify otherwise. It was my eldest daughters ninth birthday at the weekend and I think the celebrations took their toll on me. It would have helped if she hadn’t got up at 5:15am, of course, but it felt a bit mean to send her back to bed on her birthday. It’s only one day a year after all and hey – who needs sleep?? Not my daughter, certainly. So we were up unwrapping presents, playing with balloons, drinking tea, eating croissants and pancakes at some ungodly hour on Sunday morning. Whilst my husband muttered obscenities to himself in the corner because we’d given him the task of constructing the Build-a-Bear wardrobe that she’d received as a gift. It was only because no-one would do it as well as him, of course, I said. It is not as easy as it looks, I was told. In not the nicest way, I must say. From there we went to the Build-A-Bear shop in Southampton for her party, which she enjoyed and I did not. So I went round the corner to Waterstones where I found this poster:

Poster at Waterstones, West Quay Southampton

Waterstones Christmas Event Poster

As it says, myself and a few other authors are participating in a Local Author event to kick-start Christmas shopping. I love signing books anyway and the fact that I get to do it with other authors is even better. 5:30-7:30pm at Waterstones in West Quay in Southampton on Thursday 18th November. It was touch and go whether I’d make it at the beginning of the week, but thanks to my lorry-load of antibiotics and excessive consumption of orange squash I shall be fine. I tell you, I don’t even dare drink tea or coffee at the moment,  never mind my beloved wine. That’s how bad it is.

I intend to spend the rest of today making the most of being ill and reading all possible coverage of the Royal engagement announcement. It’s so exciting! Though I do feel a bit sorry for anyone else having their wedding in 2011 or – horrors! – the same day … really can’t compete with a Prince.

My weekend!

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Outside the studio

Triangles have three sides. There. That is the official “Sarah Haynes theorem on triangles”. I don’t think Pythagoras has a rival in me just yet. It’s possible that from this you would think that I don’t have the wherewithal to write a book, but I promise you I do. And not only that but one book is rapidly turning into two! I have written a few thousand more words of my second manuscript and I am ever so pleased and excited with how it’s coming along. Such a great feeling to watch a manuscript unfold as it’s supposed to. I am also working on my chick-lit/lit-fic blog, which interestingly was something that came up both in my radio interview yesterday morning and at the book-signing.

First of all – book signing! Thank you very much to everyone who came along. It was a great experience and a rapid learning curve. It felt a bit surreal at first to be sitting there surrounded by copies of my book and knowing that they were just waiting to be signed by me. But I very quickly got the hang of it; the shop was quite quiet for a couple of hours so I had plenty of time to people-spot, which I LOVE. Just trying to guess from the way they look and what they’re doing what their job might be, are they married or single, happy or sad in life? It fascinates me to watch people drifting by because I am so incurably nosy. I also got the chance to read some of Mrs Fry’s Diary which I quickly realised was a bad idea because it made me laugh so much I was shaking, which is just not a good look at your own book-signing. I imagine for anyone glancing over at me then I looked like a bit of a lunatic. But when I was reading things like “…We told Stephen Junior that he was adopted tonight. He isn’t, but there was nothing on TV.” I really couldn’t help it. Great book, very funny. And I am now consumed by curiosity as to who Mrs Stephen Fry is. More about that later.

I didn’t have an easy start to the signing; the first chap who came up to talk to me spent a long time looking at the back of the book before saying to me “I can’t read, you know,” – to which I didn’t really know what to say. Short of offering to read him the entire thing I didn’t see that there was a lot that I could do. I suggested audiobooks, but he told me that he preferred to attend talks and get his information that way, so that was that. And then the second lady who came up picked up Things He Never Knew, looked at it suspiciously and said “It’s not chick-lit is it?” in tones that suggested that she equates chick-lit with pornography. Obviously I didn’t know quite what to say, as the answer is probably yes, if I’m brutally honest. To the chick-lit bit, not pornography. It’s certainly on the chick-lit scale, but as quickly as she had said that she announced that she liked the sound of it and could I sign it for her? I was quick to reassure her that it is slightly more cerebral than some of the books out there, and that I had in fact written it myself. It was interesting to watch people react to me – some stuck like glue to the shelves so that they didn’t have to come near me and some people came straight over the minute I caught their eye and smiled. I was particularly interested in why people picked up Things He Never Knew, I asked one girl and she said it was the colour of the front cover, which is nice, I’m glad I got the cover right.

And in the bits when I wasn’t signing books or chatting to people I was able to look around the shop and see all the books that I don’t have time to read, e.g. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. She is one of my absolute all-time favourite authors and I’ve been waiting for her latest book to be released for ages. But I simply don’t have the time to dedicate to reading it and I don’t want to read it in fits and starts so I have forced myself to delay buying it. The other thing that I noticed as I glanced around the shop was the calendar stand – and I was astonished. The first one that caught my eye was a 2011 calendar entitled “Beautiful Sheep”. BEAUTIFUL SHEEP???? Swiftly followed by “Girls on Chairs” – which has a slightly kinky ring to it if you ask me. Which probably no-one will after this. What extraordinary things to do calendars on. Whatever happened to naked WI members and Chesney Hawkes?

However I didn’t have time to think about it because I then had to get home and go to sleep essentially, to be up at 6:30am to read the Sunday papers ahead of being on the Nick Girdler show on BBC Radio Solent. Or I thought I had to be up at 6:30am, my mother had different ideas – she texted me from America at 5:38am and woke me up, thereby ensuring that I lost almost an hours sleep. But no matter, the interview went very well and it was lovely to meet Nick, he’s so nice. I didn’t dare listen to the show for about twelve hours in case I sounded awful, but I don’t. I don’t even sound as nervous as I was. I chose to comment on stories about fraudulent benefit claims (which nearly gave my husband a heart attack as we had agreed that I would steer clear of politics), overly thin women which I think are becoming a serious issue in terms of role models for young girls, and then the recently revived rumours that Prince William and Kate are getting married. Again. I hope they do – I think they will – it would be absolutely lovely. And Kate must be getting fed up of waiting by now. And then to my absolute delight I found a story on page 11 of the Mail on Sunday about Boris! Dear old Boris, who, according to the paper, is no longer sleeping at his family home but instead in a flat 100 yards away. But why is this????? How can Marina bear those 100 yards?????? I’m glad he is though because it meant that I was able to mention him on the radio, ending my contribution perfectly.

So all in all it was a thoroughly good weekend full of firsts for me. Oh – I was going to talk about Mrs Fry’s Diary. As I said, I read it on Saturday and that evening I sent Mrs Stephen Fry herself a tweet saying how funny I’d found it. The next thing I knew ‘she’ had replied to me and re-tweeted it and my number of followers leapt by thirty in a matter of hours! Including a follow by Mrs Stephen Fry which I’m pleased about seeing as ‘she’ has over 71,000 followers and follows less than 3,000 ‘herself’. I feel ridiculous saying ‘her’ because I’m sure it’s not. And I’m so curious now as to whom it actually is. I’m delighted to have so many new followers though; I look forward to hearing from them all.

As some of you will have seen from facebook and twitter, I have a very quiet week ahead of me this week. My eldest daughter is in Portugal and my husband is away on a course. Rather delightfully this means I can eat what I want, watch what I want on TV, go to bed when I want, get up when I want and also spend hours and hours crafting my new manuscript – which is a thrilling thought. Lucky me!

Fareham book-signing