Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Guest Blogger

Sharon Rowse here – and I’d like to start by saying how pleased and honoured I am to be the first guest blogger on this site. Thanks to all of the TYPE M FOR MURDER gang for inviting me. I’ve been rereading the last few week’s posts in preparation, and was quite taken with the discussion of bookstore signings, what works and what doesn’t. I particularly liked Charles and Vicki’s comments on just enjoying the fact that you’re an author doing a signing (how cool is that?), and Rick’s experience of putting that philosophy into practice.

The timing was perfect – I had my first local book signing this afternoon. To put it in context, I’ve been doing readings and conferences, but my only other bookstore signing was in mid-January, just after THE SILK TRAIN MURDER came out. That was in Seattle, and with a combination of snow (in Seattle yet!) and a long weekend – the store was entirely empty except for me and the very nice staff for the first two and a half hours of the three hour signing.

I didn’t take it personally (mostly) but I was a little wary about today’s signing, which was at the Chapters in Langley, about an hour outside Vancouver. I’d been dropping in and chatting with staff at various local bookstores (before I figured out that wasn’t a particularly productive way to promote) and they asked me to do a signing. Today suited both our calendars; then after the signing I planned to take my mother, who lives in Langley, out for dinner because tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

Well, tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and this is a big box book and gift store. With a Starbucks. The store was jammed – for three straight hours - with focused shoppers. Like shooting fish in a barrel, except – did I mention they were focused? I was standing beside a table near the front door. Half the shoppers went down the other side of the aisle (about twelve feet away.) The other half came my way, but without making eye contact, and hurried on by. Hmmmm. Attempts to stop people and talk about my book are not likely to be welcomed.

On to plan B. I had bookmarks with me – one side has a book cover and brief plot summary, with an author photo and review highlights on the other. And because they are designed by my very talented graphic designer sister-in-law, they look great. Plan B involved holding out a bookmark, smiling and asking “would you like a bookmark?” to anyone who passed by or stopped to browse the table of fiction books in the middle of the aisle. Most took one and some were clearly pleased. Usually they walked off reading the blurb, and when they flipped it over the heads would whip around to compare me with the photo. You could almost see the thought process “oh, that’s the author!”

And people came back. Some right away, some did their browsing, then came back and stopped at my table and asked about the book. And they bought. Despite the fact that it’s a hardcover book, and that Canadians are generally more reluctant to buy hardcovers than their counterparts in the US. (A few readers did decide to wait for the paperback edition.) One reader was so enthusiastic when she purchased the book that the cashier later came over and bought one also. And the store manager was so thrilled with the success of the signing, she’s asked me to come back again the day before Father’s Day. Works for me!

I thoroughly enjoyed the signing – largely because I didn’t go in worried about making sales, I think. Charles, Vicki and Rick are right - I was just there to talk about my book, and thrilled to do so. And I gave bookmarks to everyone, without trying to guess who might actually buy, until nearly the end when I was running low on them. I found that my guess as to who might buy was wrong about half the time. Good to know. Next time, I’ll just bring more bookmarks.

To close, I have to say that as a fellow historical writer, I’m still chortling over Donis’ post from yesterday. “Live, damn you, live!” OK, Donis, I can’t top that! And since I’m editing the next John Granville/Emily Turner book, you know what I’ll be yelling at the laptop screen tomorrow…

8 comments:

Charles benoit said...

Sharon,
You did everything right. Signings at a larger stores like B&N, Borders and Chapters are the most challenging - just wait till you do a signing at the bookstore's mall entrance. You were up, you were animated, you were positive- the only thing you can't control is the customers. Here's a big bookstore line I've used of late to much (humorous) success -
Me: Excuse me, are you looking for a great book.
Them: Uh, not really.
Me: Oh then have I got the book for you!
If you have a sense of humor it can be fun. Or sad.
Thanks for joining us and I'll be on the lookout for The Silk Train Murder. I'm a big fan of railroad mysteries. My second book takes place primarily on/near trains. I have found the RR community very welcoming and supportive. Hmmmm...I've got an idea for a Trains And Mysteries article for Rail Fan magazine....Now if only I knew someone who'd want to write it. Any ideas Sharon?

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Hi Sharon,
I'm always interested in hearing authors' book-signing experiences. One dark and stormy night (I couldn't resist) in a San Diego bookstore, one person showed up for my signing. The store owners must have talked up my book later, because they posted on DorothyL that it was a best-seller for them that month. I know I didn't do it! Debby

J said...

hey, here is the site i was talking about where i made the extra cash, I was making about $900 extra a month...
check it out ..

J said...

hey, here is the site i was talking about where i made the extra cash, I was making about $900 extra a month...
check it out ..

Charles benoit said...

Whoever wrote: "hey, here is the site i was talking about where i made the extra cash, I was making about $900 extra a month..."
One thing's for sure, you're not working as a mystery author!

Sharon Rowse said...

Thanks for the welcome, Charles and Debby! Bookstore signings are clearly an art form - I'm learning!

Debby, the same thing happened after my Seattle signing - my book made their hardcover bestseller list that month. Certainly wasn't anything I did...

Charles, I enjoyed RELATIVE DANGER - I'll clearly have to look for the next one, if there are railroads in it! And Rail Fan magazine, hmmm? Now there's a thought - see, in the next book in the series, there's this complex train trip to Denver and...

Donis Casey said...

Sharon, have you read Ann Parker? There should be an association for people who write railroad mysteries.

Sharon Rowse said...

Hi Donis,
No, I haven't read Ann Parker, but keep hearing her name in context of stuff I write. She's moved to top of my list next time I'm in a bookstore...

Funny thing is, I didn't set out to write railroad mysteries - it's just that they were so central to everything in 1899 - and I find it fascinating how complicated it could be to get from here to there, especially in an age when I can go from Vancouver to Arlington VA and back in a weekend... (OK, a long weekend!)

And congratulations on your Arizona Book Award for Best Mystery. That's awesome!