Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reading for Chorlton Book Festival

I was so nervous about my Chorlton Book Festival reading on Monday night, for this reason: good little (or at least well-intentioned) author-marketer as I am, I had invited Chorlton Bookshop to sell my books at the event. Chorlton Bookshop is one of those little independent bookshops still, amazingly, existing (in spite of the situation outlined in Tuesday's Guardian): a tiny space stacked high with not just the bestsellers but interesting books. And Vicky, the shop's owner, has always been wonderfully supportive of my work. So I needed to get enough people through the door of Lounge Bar on the night to get enough books sold to make it worth her while having ordered the books, and Jo and Michelle's giving up an evening with them. I publicised the event like mad, went leafleting and stuck up posters, and provided the bookshop with leaflets and slips about the event to put into customer bags (and, as my Facebook friends will know, I plastered it all over FB). I've been in the local paper recently twice, as well, and lots of people had commented to me that they'd seen it, but you never know, do you, whether these things will link up in the minds of the general public...?

In the afternoon I went to the first event of the festival in Chorlton Library, an interesting talk and reading by Ruth Estevez, author of the novel Meeting Coty. There was a reasonable gathering for an early afternoon Monday event and they seemed to be made up of members of the general public, middle-aged and elderly people wrapped up in hats and scarves for the brilliantly sunny cold day outside, the first real day of winter. I began to think that this might bode well for the evening, when people are generally more free. Never (or hardly ever) one to miss a publicity opportunity, I handed out leaflets for my own event. One of them, an elderly lady, jumped back in horror at the mention of 'the evening', and that was my first moment of real worry. As I waited for the bus back to Didsbury afterwards the sun went, the cold dropped down, a mist began to form. The people around me at the bus stop were quiet and miserable and huddled, as if they just couldn't wait to get back home and shut the door and stay there for the rest of the evening. For god's sake, I felt like it myself: I was frozen to the bone in spite of my leather jacket. By the time I left the house again for my reading the fog was thick and most definitely freezing. Who in their right mind would go out on such an evening, a Monday evening at that?

Well, the evening turned out lovely. In the end, in spite of the weather, a not-bad sized audience of chiefly writers turned up and contributed to a good discussion. And there was a lovely atmosphere: it might have been freezing outside, but the back room at Lounge Bar is a scruffily cosy space, with warm colours and benches and sofas with cushions, and candles on the tables - and there had been an 18th birthday party there earlier, so there were even balloons on the walls! And David Green, the festival's organiser, had arranged for nibbles to be brought down, and the huge platter of sandwiches you can see in the pic above!

But what about the bookshop? The audience was so very literary and in the know, and I knew that some people there had already bought my books, and that one or two had already even read the new novel, Too Many Magpies. So I went on worrying that poor Jo and Michelle were wasting their time. But when I spoke to them at the end they turned out to have sold ten books, which it seems was enough to make them happy! (And they could have sold another: writer Jim Doxford decided he wanted a second copy of Magpies for his sister's Christmas present, but realized that they'd gone, and he'd now need to go to the shop for it.)

Phew. My huge thanks to Chorlton Bookshop, and to the audience for helping to make the evening, and also to David Green and the festival.

You can read a less anxiety-filled account of the event in a Manchester Literature Festival blog post, written by Clare Conlon who won Best New Blog in the 2009 Manchester Blog Awards.

Here are some of the writerly audience after the reading:

Jim Doxford (poet and short-story writer) is standing, novelist Clare Sudbery is in the yellow top with her back to the camera, writer Zoe Lambert is standing to her right and writer and blogger Adrian Slatcher is sitting on the far right behind the wooden panel.

The Chorlton Book Festival continues until Saturday 21st November. Tonight my fellow Salt author Robert Graham will be reading from his collection of stories The Only Living Boy, Lloyds Hotel, 8pm, and next week Adrian Slatcher will conduct a workshop for writers on using the web as a marketing tool.


Sue Guiney said...

Oh, fantastic! I'm so glad it went well and all your hard work paid off.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Thanks, Sue. But since the audience was so writerly, I'm not sure how relevant it had been to do all that leafleting aimed at the general public. Although, as Ben said (ref my earlier post) with leafleting it's not simply a question of getting people into an event, but also of spreading the word...

adele said...

I'm sorry I missed it Helen but it does sound a good evening.