Monday, 26 March 2012

ABIDE WITH ME: The First Book Signing

Romford Waterstones - 24th March 2012
What a day.  I turned up an hour early, complete with my bookmarks, a couple of pens which I'd had to borrow from Mollie because I'd lost mine, my seven foot pull-up screen of the cover, and wearing a black shirt that turned out to be easily mistaken for that of a Waterstones employee.  

More of that later . . .
I made myself known to the staff, who were incredibly friendly and helpful throughout the entire day.  I set up my ABIDE WITH ME pull-up screen against the front edge of a book case at the front of the shop where I'd be signing, and stood around for awhile not believing my good fortune.  Two members of staff brought the table from upstairs and we began to set up.  A black tablecloth, bookmarks, books, the screen - it all looked great.  

By just gone eleven o'clock, I'd sold four books, and was enjoying the whole experience more than I could ever have believed.  Just chatting to people as they came up, giving out bookmarks, handing out leaflets, even reading a bit of the book to those that asked questions about how I'd written it.  

My publisher turned up shortly after eleven with a decorative West Ham scarf, some some West Ham balloons, and a small West Ham pendant to hang over one corner of the screen.  The finishing touches.  


And as the day progressed, and more books were sold, I began for the first time, to feel myself a writer.  I looked round at the shop - a proper bookshop.  And here was I selling and signing copies of a book I'd poured the depths of my soul into, a book that not so long ago consisted of nothing more than dozens of pieces of A4 paper scattered around the house.

I realised very quickly, the most important thing about a book signing is the interaction with people.  The profile, the having a smile and a chat, and slipping in snippets about the book every now and then.  If they bought the book - great, if not, that was great as well.  It's all part of a process.

One of the interesting observations, which I suspect all writers conducting book signings experience, is that of the sneaky-look circuit punter.  Basically, this particular specimen of book buyer will sneak a look out of the corner of his eye on the way past the book signing display, and hurriedly carry on his way, only to seconds later reappear behind the book signing display having done a complete circuit around the bookcases adjacent to the signing stand.  He will then carry on at the same speed, sneak another quick look, then hurry back out the shop the same way he came in, his curiosity sated.

There were also plenty of customers - and I suspect this may be a sign of the inherent English reticence endemic to these shores - who would look on interested from afar, and when approached with a leaflet or a bookmark, would flee as fast as their little feet could fly.  Others were more confident and would approach the stand full on, asking what the book was about, if it was my first book, etc.

The black shirt.  Yep.  I was asked where the toilets were, where the children's section was, and where the boxing autobiographies could be found.  And it was great.  Had a bit of a laugh, and even found myself helping the woman who'd asked about the boxing autobiographies look for the boxing autobiographies, forgetting I was supposed to be doing a book signing and didn't actually work there.

All in all, we apparently sold enough copies to make it into the branch top twenty best sellers of the week for the coming week - a prominent place guaranteed, therefore on the most high-profile wall in the shop.

A fantastic experience, made even more fantastic by the warmth, the friendliness, and the loveliness of the Waterstones staff.  Can't thank them enough for an incredible day.

And at the end, as I was clearing up, I really did feel that in this world, dreams really do come true.

Next week, a different animal.  A shopping mall.  LAKESIDE, THURROCK from 11am.

And I can't wait . . .


  1. Your hard work is paying off. Enjoy it, buddy!!

  2. Oh it's all going so swimmingly for some. :-)

  3. Glad you had a good time and nerves didn't get the better of you mate!

  4. brilliant, ian, big's good to hear about it...keep us updated with every all sounded a little scary when i thought i may have to do signings, but you've put my mind at rest

  5. Excellent, man. I'm glad to hear it went well.