I held my breath as I walked into the reception room to have coffee with all the other attending authors. I recognised faces from chatting on Facebook and Twitter, but names escaped me, due to nerves. However, people were warm and friendly, and I realised I was amongst a great crowd of people, ready to make the day fun for all involved.
Walking into the actual author room was breath-taking. Tables with our names on lay around the periphery and in the centre of the room, each bearing a gift bag from Hourglass, containing a bottle of water (much needed), a notepad (in case it was difficult to hear the reader’s name, so they could write it down), and a personal gift – I was given a most beautiful scarf. I covered the table in a white tablecloth (a 6ft one is needed), and a table runner bearing my name and logo on it. Suddenly, the table was taking shape, and even more so once I began piling my novels on it. I said hello to my table neighbours, and we laughed at how nervous we were all feeling.
I placed the freebies (bookmarks, fridge magnets, all with my logo on, and postcards of my book covers) along the front of the table, so people could take them freely. However, no one did, everyone asked if they could, which was sweet. Talking of which, I had a big tin of sweets on the table too, to entice people in my direction – well those with a sweet-tooth at least!
My husband erected my author banner, but for some reason it wouldn’t stand up straight, so he lent it against the window behind me. It stood up at home when my daughter put it up, so I was bemused. It was only at the end of the day when he was putting it away, did he realise he’d forgotten to put the feet out – bless him!
When the first reader approached my table, I was mortified; I lost the power of speech, and could only smile my toothpaste grin. However, once she asked me about my books, the chatty person hidden within me immerged. She bought my book and the first thing I forgot was to sign it, then I looked blankly at her as she held out money for me. How amateur must I have looked! I redeemed myself by presenting my book in a cotton book bag with the cover of the book printed on it, which was always appreciated.
A steady flow of readers attended my table and bought books, asked me to sign kindle cases, and had photos taken with me. It was a most glorious day, and I enjoyed every minute of it. There was a camaraderie amongst authors of all genres, and the readers made the day really special. Hourglass ran a very tight-ship, so the event flowed smoothly.
What did I learn from the day? Well, I need to look less like a scared rabbit; avoiding eye contact, and not smiling, as I have a very miserable-looking face if I don’t smile. Freebies are a great concept, and people like items with author logos on them. Standing a copy of each of my books on a book stand is good for catching readers’ eyes. Make sure my piles of books are towards the back of the table, as those authors who had them at the front, had some stolen. This is exceedingly rare, so I understand, and generally readers are there to enjoy the day and purchase books, not steal them, so don’t be put off, but be aware. Take two bottles of water, as the mouth gets very dry with all the talking and smiling, and lip salve to drench parched lips. And don’t forget a Sharpie to sign books and other items.
I definitely recommend authors attend such events, as it’s a great way to meet readers and make connections with book blogs and other authors. I had a blast, and can’t wait for my next one in Birmingham in July.
Happy Word Flow and Reading One & All.