Every now and then at 5am (probably posted by my clone) I will be bringing you a newsflash, update on what I’m doing, invited guest piece, or whatever takes my fancy, and today’s is the latter on the topic of book signings – brought to you by author, journalist, tutor, presenter Jane Wenham-Jones.
By the time you read this, I will probably be sitting in the middle of Waterstone’s at Westwood Cross (if you live in Thanet, please come and say hello!) being studiously ignored. Yes, it will be the first official book-signing (also known as Ritual Humiliation) for Prime Time and I have been reliving some of my finest signing moments…
Around Mother’s Day, Christmas or St Valentine’s are always good times to attempt to flog books – especially if the shoppers are male. Men as we know, are notoriously bad at present-buying and easy to persuade that this year’s must-have is a novel signed by the author. One Christmas Eve I sold twenty books in as many minutes to desperate husbands with a haunted-look in their eye who knew the hours were running out and all they’d managed so far was the same Body Shop basket they’d got her last year. If there’s no special date on the horizon, then there’s nothing for it but to make eye-contact and strike up conversation in your jolliest tones so that the hapless shopper cannot escape. Handing out bookmarks can work well along with a cheery description of the book hoping it is the sort that appeals. It doesn’t always.
“This is a good book,” I once said boldly to a stern-looking woman hovering by the best-sellers.
She regarded me suspiciously. “What’s it about?”
“Infidelity,” I explained brightly, expanding as she stared at me blankly, “lots of fun, sexy, racy, all about what women get up to when the old man’s not there…”
“I don’t like that sort of thing,” she said firmly.
“Well, never mind,” says I, hurriedly changing tack, “cos really it’s more of a romance – a love story in fact.”
She was still unimpressed. ”Don’t like them either.”
“What do you like?” I asked, as she tried to edge away and I prepared to highlight the sub-plot involving much adventure and intrigue in best thriller tradition and wondering if I could get away without describing it as a detective story.
“Blood and Guts,” she said.
If people do home straight in on you, you can safely assume they think you’re staff and are about to ask where the loo is, but just occasionally they really have come to see you. This can be awkward too. At one memorable signing session in Margate, a smiling chap arrived who looked vaguely familiar. “How are you?” he asked warmly, going on to enquire after my sister, husband and son, and to remind me of the helpful advice I’d given him last time we’d met. I didn’t have a clue who he was, which I was getting away with nicely until he picked up a book and handed it to me for signature. “Can you put my name in it?” he asked.
For a long moment I sat, pen hovering, my mind blank. “Just remind me which way you spell it,” I said at last, pleased by this stroke of genius. He looked at me strangely. “You know,” I trilled desperately, “there are so many variations these days, I always check…”
He frowned. “B – O – B,” he said.
My top book-signing tip – taken from Wannabe a Writer?…
Get three friends to turn up at the shop and stand in line in front of your table.
The British will always join a queue…
Morgen: It’s true. It’s just a shame that I won’t be in yours. That was great, thank you, Jane! I hope your signing goes well…
Jane Wenham-Jones is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books – Wannabe a Writer? – a humorous look at becoming a scribe – featuring contributions from a wide array of big name authors and journalists including Jilly Cooper, Frederick Forsyth and Michael Buerk with a foreword by Katie Fforde; and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? – a guide to the art of book and self-promotion which includes tips from a variety of celebrities. As a freelance journalist, Jane has written for The Guardian, The Daily Express, The Sunday Express, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and numerous women’s magazines. Regular spots include columns for her local paper – The Isle of Thanet Gazette, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special and Writing Magazine, where she is the agony aunt.
Jane is an experienced tutor who is regularly booked by writing conferences and literary festivals to run workshops, give talks and chair panels. In recent years she has interviewed dozens of best-selling authors and celebrities including Julian Clary, Richard Madeley, Victoria Hislop, Bel Mooney, Helen Lederer, Amanda Ross, Kate Mosse, Kay Burley, Jenny Éclair and Tim Bentinck. She is a member of Equity, has presented for the BBC on both TV and radio and has hosted the award ceremony for the RoNas (Romantic Novel of the Year Awards) for the last two years. Jane is not the sort of writer to remain in her garret, shunning publicity, and has also done her fair share of daytime TV, particularly when promoting her controversial second novel Perfect Alibis (subtitled ‘How to have an affair and get away with it…’). It was those – sometimes hair-raising – on screen experiences that inspired Prime Time, her new novel. For more information see www.janewenham-jones.com and http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com (the latter built by yours truly, Morgen Bailey, and lovingly crafted by us both. ).
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.