Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Signing for Red Room

Signings are notoriously unpredictable, if you're not utterly famous, and I sometimes wonder why bookshops bother to hold them at all. You're not offering a reading, or any sort of entertainment  apart from a bit of individual chat, and it's up to people to make the effort to leave their browsing and come and see what you're all about (and many people seem too scared to do that!). I've known of many signings where the author sits there for two hours and not a single person approaches, and not a single book is sold! However, York Waterstone's stuck their necks out and last Saturday hosted a signing session for Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontes, which I, fellow contributor Bill Broady and editor A J Ashworth attended.

At a Christmas meeting of writers, author Helen Cadbury had aired the notion of getting actors to dress up appropriately and hand out leaflets in the street beforehand. I was determined to make a go of the signing if we could, so I took up the idea: since Bill and I were taking turns to sign, and Bill was going first,  I dressed myself up - with a little trepidation - in a long black seventies cloak and a Victorian bonnet and parked myself outside the bookshop while he signed, handing out leaflets our publisher Unthank had had printed.

Well, it certainly attracted attention! First of all, a tiny dog on a lead took one look at me and jumped away, yelping in fright (my bonnet was black, too), and I began to wonder if, rather than attracting people, I must be scaring them off! But then a little sixty-ish woman made a determined beeline towards me. I said my piece, telling her briefly what we were all about, and she began: 'This is what I'm coming to the shop for! The thing is, I'm an utter Bronte fan!' My heart swelled: success! She went on: 'You see, I've read every single book by the Brontes, and I've read them over and over again! And I've read all the biographies!' I thought: a sure sale! And then she said, 'That's why I'm coming here, because the last one I read I got from the library, and I want to get hold of a copy of my own!' My mouth fell open, but I had my wits about me: 'Oh great, I said, and I'm sure you'd love this book of Bronte-inspired stories too -' She cut me off. She said, becoming very intent, 'This is what I want to know, dear: whether you're likely to have it?'  'Well, I don't work in the bookshop, you'd have to ask at the counter. I'm just here for the signing, it's a book of really great stories -' She cut me off again: 'My favourite one of all is Wuthering Heights!' I jumped in quickly: 'Oh, my story is based on Wuthering Heights! It's about a girl who bases her life too much -' 'And I've seen all the films of it. And would you believe it, dear, how different they are?' 'Oh yes,' I said quickly, 'that's one of the points of my story: the films forget about the second generation! But the second generation is the point!' 'The best one's the second BBC one, but when I went to get it - well! It costs so much!  Do you know, there's one film where they even have Heathcliff dying by falling off his horse!' She stopped, utterly indignant, and I got in, 'Well, there's even a piece at the back of the book where I discuss these issues.'

She seemed to hear me suddenly. She took a step back and looked at me properly. 'What did you say you were here for, dear?' 'For a book signing. It's a book I think you'd really enjoy, a book of new stories inspired by the Brontes.' 'Oh no, dear, I'm sorry, I don't have time!' And she turned on her heel and walked off, not into the bookshop, but away in the opposite direction altogether.

But people did take leaflets, and they did take them up to our desk in the shop, and we did sell several books!

Thank you to Waterstone's, and to the lovely staff present who kept bringing us cups of tea!

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