The lovely and talented Gemma Beynon, a fellow artist I met last year, was kind enough to interview me over the summer and here’s the interview! 😀 If you haven’t checked out Gemma’s blog please do, it’s full of advice gems about creativity and life! 😉
Category Archives: Interviews, Reviews & Press Releases
Book Launch Extravaganza! Fight Like A Girl kicks ass…literally!
As I type this my head is still reeling from the awesome Fight Like A Girl events of yesterday. (Apologies now, the word ‘awesome’ will be overused and abused in this post!) For any of you who have been to a book launch or are even trying to organise one yourself, take note – THIS is how it should be done!
The ingredients for a perfect kick-ass book launch:
- An awesome book to launch – a brilliantly written and edited piece of fiction with a great cover, which is worth people forking out their hard-earned cash for!
- An awesome venue with plenty of room/space, facilities (bar, toilets, stage area for readings/events etc), places to chill, great lighting and sound and easy access.
- An awesome collection of writers, reading extracts from their work.
- An awesome panel with great Q & A’s for the audience.
- A mind-blowing physical display of martials arts and swordplay!
- Then of course, book signing from the authors and chances to ask questions.
- Throw in a load of lovely food and drinks (free wine and free soft drinks!), a great atmosphere and you have the recipe for the best book launch EVER!!!! 😀
It honestly felt more like a mini-con than a book launch!
Right, back to the day itself. Saturday 2nd April 2016, despite a slightly wet start to the morning, the sun came out and stayed out. My lovely fellow Grimbold author and friend, the uber-talented, Kate Coe, popped over to mine and after an initial hello from my barky boys (my four large white wolfies), we headed off.
The destination was The Hatchet Inn, in the heart of Bristol, dated 1606, a pub I later found out I have a weird personal connection to (more on that later). We arrived and strolled up Park Street to the Boston Tea Party to meet lovely Chris Horner and Tom Miles and the indefatigable Joanne Hall & Roz Clarke, fellow Grimboldians and amazing writers who edited the Fight Like A Girl (FLAG) anthology, contributed an awesome story each as well AND organised the whole amazing book launch event! OMG! I strongly suspect that Jo & Roz are hauled up today in their respective homes, floating in a sea of duvets and doggies, recovering…
I have to mention the one person who should have been there but couldn’t make it (gritty police work got in the way 😦 ), our wonderful publisher, Sammy HK Smith, one half of Grimbold Books (Zoe Harris is our other lovely publisher) and the Creative Director of its imprint, Kristell Ink, behind the publication of Fight Like A Girl. It was such an amazing day and poor Sammy’s absence was felt as she would have loved the whole thing. ❤ But huge kudos to her, her team did her proud and Kristell Ink did such an amazing job with the book.
After heading back to the pub to finishing setting up, to our delight we noticed that the fabulous cover, designed by the awesome Sarah Anne Langton, actually glows in the dark under a black light! Awesomeness x 10!
I should also say that one of the main reasons the book launch was SUCH a huge success was that the book in question, Fight Like A Girl (FLAG), really is such an amazing book, it kind of sells itself! I rarely comment on other books, because frankly I’m not a reviewer and I lack the confidence to assess other people’s writing, I’d much rather leave that to others who know more than I do, but in this case, I have to make an exception. There simply aren’t enough accolades to describe it – an awesome anthology of kick ass fiction by some of the best female genre writers from around the country, writing about strong female characters, assassins, pilots, warriors, killers, archers, mercenaries, you name it, these women are deadly and mean business. No fluff, no touchy feeling stuff here. If you had any preconceived stereotypes about women writers writing fantasy and sci-fiction – leave them at the door, Fight Like A Girl, will blow you away!
The doors opened at 1pm and in came the people. Within minutes the whole place was absolutely packed! So many lovely people to mention…a big shout out to Gareth L Powell and his lovely wife and daughter, Fantasy Faction‘s very own Marc Aplin, Jonathan L Howard, Pete Sutton, Ian Millsted, Mark Robinson (my fellow Star Wars fan), the lovely Heather Ashley & Claire M Carter, the awesome Claire Ayres (of BrizzleLass Blog) who wrote the first awesome review of Fight Like A Girl and loved my story! (THANK YOU!). Lovely to see John Bav, Anne-Mhairi Simpson & Richard Bendall, Desiree Fischer, Jon Dowling (who always cracks me up), the lovely Emily Turner (Elegant Emily) who is a fab new intern at Grimbold, and the very dapper, Scott Lewis who is such an awesome guy and bought a copy of White Mountain too, thank you Scott! 😀
I was also thrilled to finally meet the Spymaster General and Robin, AFE Smith, from our Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB) group from Authonomy, who met in 2010 and are not only still great friends but have written a charity anthology together. Meeting Anna for the first time was lovely, she is SUCH a lovely person and such an amazing writer herself who has signed with Harper Voyager and whose second book, GoldenFire is out in July this year! Then it was also lovely to meet my old mate, Will Macmillan Jones, another AWBer, who had travelled all the way from deepest darkest Wales. Thanks matey! 😀
Then, of course, I have to mention my fellow awesome Fight Like A Girl authors who made it to the launch, the awesomely amazing Juliet E McKenna, Danie Ware, Gaie Sebold, Joanne Hall, Roz Clarke, Dolly Garland, Fran Terminiello, Lou Morgan and KT Davies. (Nadine West was getting married at the time so couldn’t make it for obvious reasons! Congrats to her and Adam!)
People chatted as the food and wine flowed. Joanne & Roz did a fab introduction and this was followed by the first reading of the day, the amazing Lou Morgan reading an extract from her story, Archer 57, which was utterly brilliant! Then a break…*gulp* then it was my turn! I read a short extract from my story, Silent Running, and had to smile at the audience reaction to one of the grisly parts! 😀
After my reading there was a brilliant panel moderated by the lovely Cheryl Myfanwy Morgan, who like Joanne Hall, seems to know everyone in the SFF community in the southwest!
The panel, with Joanne Hall, KT Davies, Cheryl, Gaie Sebold and Dolly Garland, were discussing the role of women in SFF fiction, both as writers and readers, the bias which female writers face from a male dominated genre and a public which isn’t always willing to look beyond the stereotype to give female SFF fiction a try and the importance of having strong female characters in fiction. The question of discoverability for female writers, a topic which Joanne Hall has blogged about extensively (please check out her awesome blog: Joanne Hall’s Blog – Hierath)
Then, after a break of more food, wine, chat and laughter, it was Danie Ware’s reading, from her story, Unnatural History. It was epic, awesome, breath-taking!
Finally, the part of the book launch everyone had been salivating for…Juliet E McKenna’s martials arts display and Fran Terminiello’s swordplay!
Juliet E McKenna, apart from being a very accomplished and well known SFF writer on the national and international stage and running the fabulous FantasyCon, which we at Grimbold Books had such an epic time at last October, also happens to be a 3rd dan black belt in Aikido! She went on to demonstrate some basic self-defence and Akido moves. Wow!
Then the amazing Fran Terminiello and her friend, Liz, demonstrated duelling and sword fighting techniques from the Renaissance onwards, with a range of rapiers, long swords, short swords, daggers, even scythes! OMG!!! Totally amazing stuff, all of it! 😀 Talk about ‘Fight Like A Girl’, these women were fighting like total bad-asses!
After all the excitement, we had the group book signing, where the lines were huge and we all sat and signed the FLAG books to very eager and enthusiastic readers and chatted away. We sold loads of books, in fact, almost ran out! All-in-all, it was a totally amazing day and an amazing experience!
A HUGE thank you to Sammy, Jo, Roz and everyone involved in this event and getting this book to publication. Wow! 😀
Finally, I found out a strange fact from my mum…we have a personal family connection to the Hatchet Inn! Yes, apparently my Great Aunt Grace, married a man called Reg Hillier, part of ‘The Hillier Brothers’, who were well known in Bristol and ran the house removals and antiques dealers and actually lived next door to the Hatchet Inn, which is now part of the inn itself! In 1967 her house was demolished and the Hatchet Inn was rebuilt that side, where her house had been! How weird is that?!!! 😀
Wow…what a day!
Do yourself a favour, a pick up a copy of Fight Like A Girl, for the best kick-ass SFF fiction! 😀
Review: Fight Like A Girl by Various
WOW!!!! The first review for the awesome Fight Like A Girl by the brilliant BrizzleassBooks! The book officially launches next weekend for what should be a totally kick ass and awesome day. But here is a fantastic taster of what you can expect from the book. Yay! And there’s a great shout out for my story, ‘Silent Running’ too! Woo and Hoo! #fightlikeagirl #happydays 😀
What do you get when some of the best women writers of genre fiction come together to tell tales of female strength? A powerful collection of science fiction and fantasy ranging from space operas and near-future factional conflict to medieval warfare and urban fantasy. These are not pinup girls fighting in heels; these warriors mean business. Whether keen combatants or reluctant fighters, each and every one of these characters was born and bred to Fight Like A Girl.
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World Book Day – Let’s Kick Some Book Ass!
Today is World Book Day! Now usually I find myself doing something cool for World Book Day. In years gone by, when I was a teacher, we’d dress up as favourite book characters and spend the day reading cool stories and playing book related games. Then, as a author and illustrator, I found myself doing book signings in Waterstones or some lovely independent bookshops (which I would always urge you all to support – use Amazon to buy other stuff, but PLEASE buy your books locally, it’s the only way to ensure that we still have local bookshops!). More recently, as I now work in a library, we have celebrated World Book Day by having cool events and art activities all with a book theme.
This year? Well, World Book Day has fallen on a day I don’t work and as I’m concentrating on writing new material this year rather than galloping around the West Country and Wales book signing, I’m actually spending this lovely day in a peaceful creative huddle. Candles lit, music softly playing in the background, dogs asleep (shhhhh!) and laptop on my…er…lap as I type away.
While I wrestle with the sequel to White Mountain, which I am determined to finish in the next few months, I have been very productive on the short story front. So, what better day to tell you all about new stories and new books coming up, than to announce it on World Book Day! 😀
For White Mountain fans, you have two Darkling Tales/short novellas winging their way to you VERY soon. A Friendship Forged – charting how Mr. Agyk and Gralen first met, why dragons have disappeared from the world and the first dark inklings, has just gone through it’s last round of edits (thank you Robyn!) and is looking VERY good! The second story, The Siege of Kallorm – recounts the tragic tale of Korrun of Koralan, how one fateful mistake can change your life forever and his attempts to find redemption. Can you ever atone for your sins? Sooooooo excited about these! 😀
For lovers of dark fairytales, there’s a wonderful anthology – Shadows Of The Oak, by Tenebris Books, on its way very soon and I’ll have a sweetly dark and twisted tale in it, ‘The Orphan and the Iron Troll’ and two illustrations.
And for lovers of kick-ass fiction…wow you have a treat coming! A brilliant and prestigious group of the best female sci-fi/fantasy writers in the country all gathered together for one awesome anthology – Fight Like A Girl! The theme is all about strong empowered women, female protagonists who kick ass whether they be natural born fighters, soldiers, mercenaries, assassins, hardened warriors or ordinary women thrown into extraordinary circumstances. What makes this anthology unique, apart from the talent gathered together to create it, is that all the people involved in it are women. Female writers writing about powerful females, women editors (the brilliant Joanne Hall & Roz Clarke), and uber-cool publishing house, Grimbold Books, run by two women (the galactically awesome Sammy HK Smith & Zoe Harris)!
Having said all that, the book is designed to appeal to both genders. It’s choc full of battles, violence, dark humour and cool kick-ass action! The grand launch is on Saturday 2nd April at the Hatchet Inn in Bristol where there will be a panel, readings and even some swordplay! Fighting and buffet food too – grab your tickets now!* 😀
I must confess I’m rather honoured and more than a little humbled to be included in this collection amongst such prestigious writers with my own gritty sci-fi tale – ‘Silent Running’, nestled amongst a host of other great stories from luminaries like Juliet McKenna, Julia Knight, KT Davies, Kim Lakin-Smith, Gaie Sebold, Danie Ware, Dolly Garland, Lou Morgan, KR Green, Joanne Hall, Roz Clarke, Fran Terminiello, Nadine West and Kelda Crich!
It’s true that there are a lot of exciting bookish things happening this year, but being a part of this anthology is definitely one them!
*This book launch event has been kindly funded by the BristolCon Foundation
For more information: http://www.bristolcon.org/?page_id=2654
For tickets – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fight-like-a-girl-flag-launch-event-tickets-20658444965
Wherever you are and whatever you’re reading – Happy World Book Day!!!! 😀 xxxx
Listen Again – Fight Like A Girl On The Radio!
Am SO excited about this…more ‘Fight Like A Girl’ news to follow! Exciting times!!! 😀
This afternoon my co-editor Roz Clarke and I went down to Ujiima Radio to chat to Cheryl Morgan about Fight Like a Girl.
You can listen to the interview again here.
I will be back on tomorrow morning talking about World Book Day!
Meet the Grimbold Authors.
A brilliant blog post this, check it out guys! Many thanks to CN Lesley and Robyn Croshain. 😀 xx
There is something wonderful happening soon but we are not going to tell you what it is just yet. In the meantime enjoy a chance to meet some of my very talented colleagues.
Here is the first, Ellen Crosháin, author of Cruelty.
Hi Ellen Crosháin and Welcome. Would you like to begin by telling the readers something about yourself?
Hi, thanks for having me. Well, I’m from Northern Ireland originally but I now live in Cardiff, in South Wales with my husband and six guinea pigs. I teach English in a high school just outside the city but I am currently on maternity leave as I wait for our first baby to arrive. I’m a ferocious reader, there’s very little I don’t read or enjoy, but I’m knee-deep in Irish mythology at the moment as I write the follow up to ‘Cruelty.’
What is your book about and what inspired you…
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6 months of magic and mayhem…with more to follow!
Today’s post is a rather reflective one, so apologies for getting a little misty-eyed and overawed!
Six months ago on the 1st December 2014 my debut novel, White Mountain, the first of my Darkling Chronicles trilogy, was gloriously published by Grimbold Books & their imprint Kristell Ink Publishing. I knew at the time that the merry-go-round of madness was about to begin, but boy what a rollercoaster ride it’s been!
White Mountain, as most of my friends, family and supporters know, was a complete labour of love that took over ten years to write, research and worldbuild (yes, I am a VERY slow writer! I promise that Book 2 WILL be finished and ready next year, so no decade to wait!). All my interests in ancient history, world mythology, geography, geology, natural history, ecology, anthropology etc., etc., dripped into the history and worldbuilding behind the story of White Mountain; and my personal experiences and complicated relationships seeped into the characters and their lives.
No matter what genre you write in, no matter how fantastical or other-worldly it may be, use your life in what you write.
For me it was a wonderful cathartic experience of writing about dysfunctional relationships I knew, about friendships, inner turmoil, feelings of atonement, guilt, rage, loneliness and yes, it was liberating to write my villain, a thoroughly nasty, manipulative, violent and cruel character who I have openly admitted is based on my father. Do I have baggage to write about? Hell, yes…don’t we all?
Anyway, White Mountain was born into the world with its awesome new cover and that’s when all the fun began!
The last six months has been a manic ride. I attended my very first fantasy/sci-fi convention, BristolCon, (huge thanks to the multi-talented and fellow fantasy writer, Joanne Hall who founded & runs it brilliantly). I went to my first book fair and did my first public reading (terrifying but brilliant!). I then embarked on a hectic book-signing tour around Wales and the West Country, signing in some truly gorgeous and prestigious bookshops and meeting some terrifically awesome people along the way. Best of all though, has to be that sense of tingling excitement when someone buys your book! I don’t think I’ll ever feel blasé about that, it’s a truly humbling experience chatting to customers, signing and dedicating books to them and loved ones. Simply put, it’s just one of the most magical experiences and completely eclipses the awkwardness and embarrassment of sitting in a bookshop feeling like a lemon waiting to be squeezed!
Amongst the book-signing tour and newspaper articles I went to my first literary festival as an author, to do a poetry and fiction reading. The tiny but potent, Hawkesbury Upton (HULit) Literary Festival, founded by local indie author, Debbie Young, who is a one-woman self-publishing whizz and who managed to not only organise the whole event but to even attract big name authors such as Katie Fforde – who opened the event, read from her book and graciously took a photo op with little old me!
White Mountain, continued to pick up momentum and great reviews, including gaining a 5 star review and shiny medal from Reader’s Favorite and from very popular websites, Girl Who Reads and Brainfluff among others. Of course we authors are always desperate for more reviews as we know that getting reviews is absolutely crucial to whether a book succeeds or fails. So if you read a book you love, help that book and author and post a review!
Then, amongst the book signings and readings, I was asked to participate in the Cirencester Literary Festival in July, as an author and illustrator and run my own illustration workshop for children in Bingham Gallery!
With more bookshop signings and book fairs on the horizon in addition to BristolCon 2015 and FantasyCon coming up in the Autumn, it has been a gloriously nutty few months!
Then…to top it all off, White Mountain, has been shortlisted in The People’s Book Prize! The People’s Book Prize is the only major literary award voted by the people, as a way of finding new books and new talent which may have been overlooked by mainstream markets. Founded by Dame Beryl Bainbridge and with Frederick Forsythe as it’s current Patron, it is wonderful to be nominated.
Do I have a chance of winning?
I’d certainly LOVE to win as it’s a fantastic way of raising your book’s profile, with the awards ceremony even being televised on SKY News, but honestly I don’t hold out much hope. White Mountain is in the Children’s category and the competition is very stiff with the most likely winner being a larger mainstream author who sells in Waterstones, has a larger fanbase and has won it before. BUT, you never know…could David defeat Goliath?
So here’s my shameless plugging bit…can I ask EVERYONE reading this to PLEASE lend your support and give the underdog a chance by voting for White Mountain? It only takes a few moments of your time, is totally FREE and really would make all the difference to a little indie author like me. Voting continues until August, but every single vote counts! Just pop on the website, register by giving your name and email, they will then send you a password. Then click back onto my book, put in your name, password, VOTE and leave a short comment. http://www.peoplesbookprize.com/book.php?id=1295
A MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who has already voted, especially those who have left comments too, and to those who are going to vote. It really is hugely appreciated, so thank you guys, you are the best! Lol, I won’t hold my breath, but I’ll quietly keep my fingers, toes and dragon wings crossed! 😉
So, there you go…as my little blog passes 39,000 visitors (a truly humbling number for such a tiny online diary about writing), I can only wonder what the next six months will bring… 😀
A HUGE thank you to all of you who keep the fires burning in this quiet cloister of the internet! You are all amazing and uber-cool dudes and dudettes! THANK YOU!!!!!! 😀 xxxx
The lifeblood of any book and author…REVIEWS!!!!
Okay, I admit to being a lucky lady. Yes, I’ve certainly had more than my fair share of dramas, difficulties and bad times, but it’s 2015 and the sun is shining and I’m feeling very lucky and very thankful.
Not only has my little blog now passed 36,000 visitors, HUGE thanks to all of you who continue to visit and support this quiet corner of the internet (despite my…ahem…rather sporadic postings! 😀 xxx) but things are going well.
After having had my hopes, dreams and heart crushed by a terrible experience with my dreadful ex-publishers, that left me scarred and more than a little battered and bruised, I was incredibly lucky to have my novel, White Mountain, taken on by a new and wonderful publisher, Grimbold Books and their imprint, Kristell Ink. I couldn’t have asked for more. They are the polar opposite of my previous experiences, honest, open, very author friendly and just super cool people who place an emphasis on producing the highest quality books.
White Mountain, the first of my Darkling Chronicles trilogy, has had new life breathed into it, a wonderful new cover, new editing, new formatting, beautiful calligraphy, quality lovingly put into every page. For this and so much more, I am and will always be eternally grateful to Sammy HK Smith & Zoe Harris of Grimbold Books, for believing in me and the novel and seeing what a great book it could be in the right hands. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It IS possible to have a second chance, I am proof of that! 😀
I’ve also been lucky enough to be doing a wonderful book signing tour around Wales and the West Country, including in some very prestigious Bookseller Award winning bookshops that are used to having big celebrities signing in them, like my hero David Attenborough, extraordinary astronaut and David Bowie fan Chris Hadfield, Michael Palin, Michael Parkinson, Nigella Lawson etc., etc. In every bookshop I have signed in, I have had a fantastic and truly humbling response. People are loving White Mountain and sharing their stories and reactions to it with me, I’ve even been approached by two different people interested in trying to make it into a movie! For any author this is manna from heaven, getting feedback from readers and fans doesn’t get any better!
Yes…it’s better than chocolate and better than sex!
And there we get to the heart of this post…REVIEWS!
I’ve just received another brilliant review of White Mountain, this time from American website, Reader’s Favorite, who gave it a glowing 5*star review and even a lovely shiny 5*star seal/medal! Wow! I couldn’t be more thrilled! Check it out here folks! : https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/white-mountain
But all this got me thinking about reviews in general, probably because, like all authors, I really want and need more reviews…as many as possible, please! Lol! A fellow Grimbold author, the lovely and talented Ellen Croshain, did a brilliant blog herself on reviews, check it out here: http://wp.me/p52Vmq-36
It is true that getting reviews nowadays is like gold dust, in fact it’s tougher than that and is probably akin to trying to grab star dust with nothing but an old sieve with more holes in it than your Granny’s tights! The equalizer though, is that it doesn’t matter how big a writing star you are, authors at every end of the writing spectrum all love getting reviews and rely on them to a greater extent than perhaps the reviewers realise. Often the success or failure of a book depends hugely on getting reviews, getting word of mouth out there. Look at terribly written books like ’50 Shades of Blah Blah Blah…’ without the initial buzz, the readers’ word of mouth, it simply wouldn’t have become the sensation that it did. Ironically, even though that particular book generated a massive backlash and an ocean of critical reviews, those reviews still got people interested in wanting to find out what all the fuss was about.
I know it myself. Whether I’m shopping on Amazon, Trip Advisor or any place, I first and foremost look for reviews.
Reviews are our first post of call, that critical first impression of a product. When it comes to books, in particular, I always look at the reviews first often before I even glance at the blurb. Yes it’s unbelievably fantastic to get verbal feedback from fans and readers (please don’t stop!), but getting that feedback translated into actual reviews really DOES make all the difference. Yes it’s a hassle to do, and yes 90% of people who read your book won’t write a review or simply don’t think they can. But none the less, reviews are what all authors crave, as they know just how damn important they are.
Reviews immediately raise the profile of your book, immediately make it more noticeable to new readers and push it above the massive and saturated marketplace. Reviews generate word of mouth, interest, the sort of publicity that a struggling author simply can’t afford. Unfortunately there are dishonest and immoral authors out there that will pay individuals for reviews, particularly 5*star reviews, and what a slippery slope that is! Well, in my mind, any author that pays for reviews is not only cheating the system, but most importantly, they are CHEATING THEIR READERS. An absolute NO NO! Yes there are sites out there where you can pay, if you choose, for a quick review or wait weeks or months for a free one. I take the latter.
I’m also talking about genuine reviews. Yes I’m human and I’d love all my reviews to be glowing 5*star reviews simply because I want people to love my book as much as I love it and I naturally want the best for my novel. And yes, when someone doesn’t love the book or totally misinterprets the story, it hurts. I had a reader recently who seemed to think the whole story was a comedy! Yeap, time to grit teeth and smile – NEVER be tempted to respond guys, there is nothing worse than an author defending their book, they just end up cheapening themselves and their work and looking like an amateur idiot!
BUT, despite our sensitive nature’s and bruised ego’s, any author worth their salt actually just wants truthful, constructive reviews.
Apart from hugely helping a book, in terms of profile, publicity, even sales, reviews are also an invaluable tool for authors. A constructive review may reveal plot inconsistencies or character problems that the author and publisher simply missed, or at least give a fresh perspective on how certain aspects of the story came across to the reader. But it can also help the author to improve and fine tune their storytelling skills for the next book.
So guys…the next time you read a book that you love or have any strong and passionate reaction to, share it with others, WRITE A REVIEW and be a part of that book’s story! As Ellen so eloquently said in her blog, don’t make personal attacks on the author if you hate the book, but explain why you hated it or loved it.
Lol, I have my own groaning list of books I have to review and I WILL get round to each and every one, as I know how damn important they are! 😀 xxx
Book Signing: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!
This is the second post I’ve written specifically on book signing, as this is a topic I have some experience with. So, I’d like to share what I’ve learnt and what the experience is like for authors embarking on this scary and exciting journey.
Back in 2012, I had a sell out book launch in prestigious ‘Bookseller Award Winning’ Octavia’s Bookshop, followed by a very successful Waterstones book signing tour. It was both exhausting and exhilarating and costly in terms of petrol/gas and parking, but I loved it and sold a lot of books! Yay!
Fast forward to now. I’ve done my first book fair, my first reading and attended my first convention for my novel, White Mountain (published 1st Dec 2014 by Grimbold Books & Kristell Ink Publishing), and am embarking on yet more signing dates.
Along the way, I’ve learnt things that work and things that don’t and have had invaluable advice from booksellers and staff on what they like and are looking for, and what they really don’t like!
Now, getting any signing dates is an achievement in itself, it’s very tough out there and many bookshops simply aren’t interested in smaller press and indie authors, sadly all they want are the big names and celebrities to draw big crowds. However, another HUGE reason the large bookshop chains such as Waterstones, WHSmith’s, Foyles or Barnes & Noble in the US have pretty much stopped all indie author signings, is due to the bad behaviour of a few over zealous writers who have ruined things for the rest of us.
Stories of customers being accosted by authors prowling the shops, book in hand, and pouncing upon them or frogmarching them to the tills, have effectively given Waterstones the excuse to shut their doors to all of us. Yes, that one rotten apple really can spoil the barrel!
The climate out there for any author wanting to do signings, is certainly not easy. Waterstones in particular have actually stated that they are no longer doing local author signings in any of their stores, this is a new company wide policy, since I did my Waterstones signings two years ago, which has to be at least partly due to unprofessional bad behaviour by a few idiot authors.
So, what makes an author attractive or not to a bookshop?
For what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve learnt about the art of book signing, I hope you find it helpful. In no particular order, here are my 8 do’s and don’ts:
- Do your homework on the shop you’re signing in. What sort of books do they sell more of? What authors have signed there? Do they have a particular specialism or niche? What is the name of the owner or event manager? If you’re prepared, you’ll look like a true professional and will immediately impress the bookshop owner/staff. No, you don’t need to know every little detail about the shop, but you do need to look like you’re interested in them.
- Do organise yourself. Plan your event, what to take/is appropriate to take (depending on whether it’s a children’s bookshop, fantasy/horror bookshop, general book store etc.), know your route there, where the shop is, how to get there, how long it takes, petrol/gas needed, tolls, parking, everything. Will you be eating at any stage? Take water…ALWAYS TAKE WATER! Trust me, you’ll need it!
- Do publicise the event. You want it to be as big a success as it can be. So set up FB event pages, tell your family and friends and anyone who will listen. If it’s appropriate make up some cheap flyers or photocopies advertising the event that you can leave at work, try to organise some newspaper coverage if possible.
- Do be professional. Remember that the bookshop is doing YOU a favour in having you sign there. Yes, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship as they will take between 30 – 40% from each book sold. But do be thankful and courteous – humility goes a long way and will get you asked back again!
- Do be flexible in approach and practicalities. Obviously bookshops vary in size from the very petite to the large. By all means take that huge banner along with you, but be aware that some shops may not want it taking up precious floor space if space is tight.
- Do provide as many visual aids as possible. We are a very visual species, we buy with our eyes, which is why book covers are so crucial and a bad cover can do untold damage on a great book (I have personal experience in having previously had a very crappy cover – I LOVE my new publisher’s cover which is so good it’s edible!). So, provide materials which will draw the customer to you, whether it’s posters, flyers, bookmarks, postcards or illustrations from your book. Use them. A note of caution though, you have to use your judgement here as an over cluttered table will detract rather than attract, so choose a few striking images/visuals only. For me, being an illustrator too, it’s quite easy as I take along an illustration book to showcase my work, pull in curious customers and it’s a great thing for people to flick through. This is especially useful if you have more than one customer at your table, so while you’re chatting to one person the other is kept busy and interested by the illustrations.
- Do keep a record of the number of books you actually sign and sell, this may sound obvious and rather daft, but in amidst the nerves, adrenaline and chatting to customers it’s easy to lose track. You’ll need to know the exact number of books sold either for your publisher or yourself so that invoices to the bookshops are accurate.
- Do enjoy yourself or at least try to. Yes it can be nervous as hell, embarrassing and buttock clenching at times, but you’ll need to try and relax. No customer is going to approach an uptight nut job. Find your pace, what makes you comfortable and enjoy yourself. Remember, if you can get a signing in a bookshop, that’s one more bookshop stocking YOUR book and before you know it you’ll be wanting to do more and more signings for the rush of adrenaline as much as for the book sales!
- Don’t behave like a diva. You’re not the star, your book is. Diva behaviour will GUARANTEE that you won’t be asked back again. Although you should pat yourself on the back for having written a book, you must also temper that ego with the fact that nowadays every other person seems to have written a book too. The market has never been more saturated and sadly, a lot of it is detritus, poorly written and poorly edited, but nonetheless, it also makes it damn difficult for your brilliant fiction to rise above the masses and be noticed. Acting like a diva will get you remembered in the wrong way!
- Don’t be offended or put off if your signing table is the size of a napkin, or if you are placed at the back of the shop, behind a sign, next to the toilet, out in the cold entrance, or are given no table are all. Every bookshop is different, EVERY one, even the big chains differ from shop to shop, so be adaptable.
- Don’t intimidate your customers. An obvious, eh? Well you’d be surprised how many authors can come across in a very intimidating fashion and end up putting more potential buyers off just by their body language. Be cheerful, approachable, don’t stare or keep eye contact too long if the customer is merely browsing and casting a curious look your way and don’t cross your arms.
- Don’t pounce on customers, shadow them, follow them around the shop like a puppy, frogmarch them to the tills, prowl the shop like a cougar book in hand and strike up false conversations. People aren’t stupid, they know you’re bothering them to try to sell them your book. DON’T DO IT!!! You’re not a secondhand car salesman or trying to hock some dodgy stuff from the back of a van. It’s tacky and unprofessional. You are a professional writer, an author, novelist, behave like one. If people are interested in your book, THEY WILL COME TO YOU! If they’re not interested, then shoving your book under their nose won’t get them buying it and again, will guarantee complaints against you and guarantee that you won’t be invited back! Respect your customers enough to let them CHOOSE what they want to buy. Hard sell NEVER works. Honestly ask yourself – when you’re quietly browsing in a bookshop, do YOU want a stranger sidling up to you? No.
- Don’t be late. I know I’m terrible at being late for things, but you really cannot be late for signings. If you say you’ll be there at a certain time, BE THERE! In fact, a good rule is simply to be 30 mins early (40 mins if you want), that way you can introduce yourself, see what space you’ll be working in and have time to set up without being too flushed and flustered.
- Don’t be too laid back. This is a big thing, someone has actually invited you to sign your book in their store. So be professional, be organised, know your route there, exactly where the shop is, where you’re going to be parking, exactly how long it takes to get there, what materials you need to take with you, etc., etc. Think of it like a job interview, at the beginning you’ll be as nervous as a job interview before you settle into it and start to enjoy yourself, but you need to look and act the part. Be yourself, but on a good day!
- Don’t be too pushy. Even when customers are interested and come to you, you still need to sell them your book, get them interested, hooked, in what makes your book special. But don’t be too pushy about it. It is a fine line, but there’s nothing more off-putting that a desperate person. So practice your spiel beforehand on your friends and family, anyone who will listen, so you can perfect how you’ll speak and deal with people.
- Don’t stand! This may sound weird to you, but if you don’t follow any of the advice above, FOLLOW THIS! I cannot tell you how important this is and just how many times bookshop staff have said to me that they like their authors to stay seated. It’s what bookshops and customers expect. SO SIT YOUR ASS DOWN! Actually a recent bookshop member of staff put it brilliantly, “People like to feel at ease. You have to make the customer feel in charge, in power, so they have to be taller than you. If you’re sitting down you’re more approachable, so more people will approach you.” Absolutely! It’s basic psychology 101, let the customer be in the position of power. Stay seated and let them come to you. You won’t look lazy, indifferent or too laid back, you’ll look like a professional. Since when did you ever see a major writer standing up to do a book signing? They don’t. They’re always seated. They’re not signing autographs outside of a football stadium or a film premiere, and neither are you. SIT DOWN!
There, that’s about it! Some of the points may seem obvious but you’d be amazed how you forget everything. It’s easy to panic and forget your name when your first customer looms up. Just breathe, try to calm down, smile and be friendly. Don’t talk too fast and remember to sign your books properly. Even after doing quite a few signings, at a recent book fair and in the heat of the moment, I found myself signing my scribbling signature like I’d do for a cheque rather than actually writing my name! Duh! Remember too, that a lot of customers want their books dedicated/scribed to someone, rather than just having an author’s name.
Other than that, just make sure you have a good supply of reliable pens (black looks best), some clear acrylic book stands (not all bookshops will supply you with these so bring your own), water, a notepad, some good visual aids and of course your lovely books!
For more information on the mechanics of how it actually feels doing a book signing, check out my previous post: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/book-signing-what-you-need-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/
There you go! GOOD LUCK my friends and may the pen be with you! 😀 xxxx
Book Review: White Mountain
The wonderful Tricia Drammeh has left the most amazing review of White Mountain on her blog and Amazon, thank you so much Tricia, I’m speechless!!!! Please check her wonderful blog out folks, not just for my review but for all the gems and pearls of wisdom Tricia has. Whether you’re a reader or writer yourself, her blog is NOT to be missed! 😀 xxxxx