I know you’ve all been on tenterhooks to know how today’s book-signing session went in my local branch of WHSmith. Well, not well. On reflection, this is probably not the shop in which to try to interest people in historical crime fiction by an unknown author. The staff could not have been friendlier or more helpful; they set up a table for me in the upstairs book department for two hours and then for the next three hours they moved me downstairs into the general shop, by the main entrance (where it’s quite chilly, hence the fetching yellow jacket):
Upstairs, there was no interest at all: everyone headed straight for the children’s books or asked me if there was a loo (there isn’t – luckily I have excellent bladder control). It was good to see so many families in a bookshop, but I have to confess that they mostly bought sticker books “for the car/bus/plane”. Downstairs there was a little more curiosity, although I am still mulling over this exchange: a woman stopped at my table and picked up one of my books. “It’s historical crime,” I said, “set in London in the 1820s”. She put the book down and said, “No” – completely deadpan – before walking off without another word. No, it’s not historical crime? No, I’m not interested? Downstairs was indeed busier, but bestsellers here were chocolate (including Easter eggs), scratchcards and slime. The most popular book seemed to be something called “Mrs Hinch”, which is about cleaning and was half price.
So let’s get to the hard facts: how many did I sell? Two books (both “Fatal Forgery”): one to a woman who thought her banker brother would like it, and the other to a nice Slovak chap who was very excited to meet a real author and bought it to prove to his father that he had met an author “even though I probably won’t read it”. As I had offered a special price on the books (which I had to buy and supply) and WHSmith takes 50% of the sale price, over the five hours I made 98p. And to cheer myself up on the way home I bought a chocolate cake from Sainsbury’s for £2, so the whole day cost me £1.02. It’s a good job I’ve resolved to hang fire on the marketing for a while – I can’t afford it.
Roy McCarthy said:
Susan you’re brave to put yourself out there. It’s disheartening, but good that you can see the humour in it all. Fair play to the WHS staff as well. Battle on.
It was a fairly lonely experience, Roy, but excellent for people-watching… The great British public at leisure is a sight to behold.
Graham Thomas said:
That is such a shame, as you were no doubt looking forward to a potentially exciting and interesting day. It must have seemed like a very long 5 hours. As Roy said though, all credit to you for taking the plunge. Hopefully the chocolate cake was a particularly nice one!
It was a bit of a sad sight, Graham, but we live and learn: as I say, I think perhaps the book-buying public in WHSmith is interested more in children’s books and well-known titles. And yes, the chocolate cake was delicious – Sainsbury’s own chocolate fudge layer cake. Recommended!
Best wishes from Susan
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