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Monday, July 19, 2010


What a day I had on Saturday July 17!

It’s not that I haven’t done some book-signing before, but usually it’s been a case of trying to flog my children’s non-fiction at a science fiction event, the only opportunity I’ve been given. And if you were at a con and could buy the latest bit of speculative fiction and have it signed, or a children’s book about spies or crime, which would you choose, unless you knew the author personally and wanted to be supportive? (Or you were, say, Jeanette Allen who knew the author, wanted to be supportive AND loved true crime!)

Ironically, I ended up selling more books at Dymock’s last weekend than the YA novelists, because the people who wandered in to buy books brought their small children, not their teenagers. Even Hazel Edwards, who is the best self-promoter I have ever met, ended up signing a whole lot of copies of There’s A Hippopotamus On My Roof Eating Cake and not so many copies of F2M, her new novel, for this reason (not to mention her fans who had read Hippo as children!).

I left Mum’s place early on Saturday morning, picked up some of my Crime Time mini-posters from home (Paul, my publisher, has run out, but I haven’t) and went off to Cheltenham by train, arriving at Southland early enough to take a quick look at what the bookshop had arranged for us.

It was excellent! They had a timetable planned out, balloons outside, our books in the windows – really, more like a mini writers’ festival than a standard bookshop event. I met the organiser, Alice, and had a short chat with her before going off for a coffee and cake – there was plenty of time – until it was time. I rang a couple of people who were coming to assure them it looked like a great gig.

And so it was. Alice told me that when it was time, they would go round up some children for our audience. I was on first, at the back of the store in the children’s section. Before that, a store manager offered to put my stuff into the back room, which I accepted gratefully. He said, “When I was reading your blog this morning…”

Wow! Reading MY blog? Silly me. It was Chuck McKenzie, fan extraordinaire and LiveJournal friend! We’d never met, but it was nice to meet him for the first time.

That shop has a small press stand, which includes one of Chuck’s own books and other Aussie small press titles, including both the Peggy Bright books.

I told him about my novel and he said that when it comes out, they will put it face out on the paranormal fiction stand, which sells about five times more than the SF section. I left a copy of my cover/blurb with Alice, who will see if she can’t organise something for me in December, although at Christmas the place will be overflowing and not much space for signings and such.
When I saw my audience consisted of very young children, probably way too young for my book, I had to change my planned talk. I sat down on one of the tiny stools and asked if they’d rather hear scary stories or funny ones.

“Funny ones!” they chorused, so I told them about the silly people who robbed the Cuckoo restaurant and came home with only a bag of bread rolls, and the very naughty nana – “not like YOUR nana, I bet!” to which they agreed – who had poisoned members of her family. Fortunately, they had elder siblings listening, so I actually sold two copies that morning, signed to the older kids, of course, not the little ones. But the little ones did laugh at the right spots.

On to roaming the shop with copies and mini-posters, and smiling at customers and persuading them to buy my book and get it signed. One lady who thought I was staff glared at me till I assured her I didn’t work there, I was only a writer, then relaxed and bought a copy.

By the time I was signing in the window, I’d sold five copies of Crime Time, then another three. I even sold some books to adults, for themselves! One couple came along and bought two copies of Crime Time – one for the wife, the other for her mother – and a copy of Your Cat Could Be A Spy, which her husband wanted for himself. I sold another copy of Cat to a child, who was fascinated by my story of the cat which had been wired for sound and then killed on the road on its first day as a spy. She went to find her father to buy it. These copies of Cat were actually print-on-demand, which Allen and Unwin is doing now, so had had to be bought on firm sale. They looked fine – just like the originals. I offered to buy any unsold, but Alice assured me they would sell – she asked me just to sign anything unsold, which then had a sticker to say they were signed.

I finally got to meet Grant Gittus, the designer, whom I told that this was the best cover I’d ever had. Grant was wandering around taking photos, which added to the festive atmosphere. He mentioned he knew of a company who could do me some more bookmarks for a reasonable price. I’m going to follow it up. I know stickers are a good thing and I gave away a lot of mini-posters for kids to put on their schoolbooks, but bookmarks always work.

Chuck told me that the book had originally been in true crime because the head office had thought the cover looked adult. I’d thought that too, but as it turned out, later, there was more to it. There was a mistake on the distributors’ web site, which Paul has now fixed.

Anyway, Chuck told me that once he’d put it face out in the children’s section it had sold just fine. He was going to let head office know.

The next gig was at Angus and Robertson at Victoria Gardens in Richmond. That one was just a signing – I have to admit I was relieved; although the morning had been fun, I was tired. The signing tables were set up in the entrance, with a thoughtful bottle of water for each of us (I NEEDED a drink by then!) and a very nice pen for each.

The manager here told me that he’d ordered twenty copies of my book and sold a large number of them in the days before we arrived. He was going to order another ten and invited me to come back for another event. I only sold two that afternoon, but the staff didn’t seem bothered. Again, we signed and put stickers on unsold stock.

After finding my way back to Church Street, I took the tram homewards and went out to celebrate a great day with dinner at the Presse café, including a glass of white wine.



Romy @ said...

Hi Sue, it sounds like you had a great time with your book signing. I just read your 'Of Followers and Posts' post (hmm does that doesn't sound right) so I thought I better introduce myself. So hi, I'm Romy, (your newest follower) from Melbourne. I was searching google for 6 impossible things by Fiona Wood and your review came up so here I am! Love your reviews, so I decided to follow. Have a great week.

Romy :)

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Romy! Welcome to The Great Raven and lovely to hear from you. From your blurb, you seem to have similar reading tastes to mine - YA, paranormal, spec fic and such, so I will certainly find my way to your blog and follow THAT. If you're coming to Aussiecon 4, perhaps we'll meet - I'm doing panels on YA spec fic in the library, YA paranormal and one on whether SF is for boys, but I'll also be on the Andromeda table.