Shaun Allan – The Signing

Like a wanted man dragged to the gallows, with the haunting tones of the Last Post fading into the background, I prepared myself for my very first book signing.

Well, actually, that’s not true.  There was no hooded man standing at the bottom of my stairs as I counted out my books.  A bugler wasn’t tooting his own horn as I carried them out to my car.

There was just me.  Oh, and my fiancée finding it highly amusing that I was sooo nervous.

Hands shaking?  Check.

Palpitations?  Check

Fingers and thumbs doing what they wanted rather than what I was trying to tell them to?

Oh yes indeedy.

I was, as you might have gathered, a little anxious.  Here was I, tending my wares to all and sundry.  What if only one person turned up?  What if nobody did?

“What if they don’t?” said my fiancée.  I was taken aback for a moment.  But she was right.  What if?  So what?

I’d written my book.  This wasn’t the literary version of Field of Dreams, and I wasn’t Kevin Costner.  “If you write it, they will come.”  I had written it, but that was no guarantee that they’d be queuing up out of the door.  It also didn’t mean that they wouldn’t be…

If no-one turned up, that would be fine.  My book was published and in print.  The library, where the signing was situated, had already bought ten copies.  The eBook sales had made Sin a bestseller, reaching #9 in horror.  On one Goodreads list, it rated at #1 with The Hunger games trailing behind at #2.  The reviews I’d had said that it was ‘an incredible read’ and had compared it to Dean Koontz and Stephen King.

Even Hitchcock in a couple of cases.

I couldn’t argue with that, now could I?

So if not one solitary person turned up to buy my book, would I be bothered?  Of course I would.  But not as much as I’d have first thought.  I didn’t write it for glory or celebrity or money.  I wrote it because I had to.  Because it was in me and, if I hadn’t, Sin might well have burst forth and written his own story.

I knew, beforehand, that the location wasn’t exactly ideal.  Yes, it was a library, so the people there wanted books.  But that didn’t mean they wanted mine, nor did it mean that they’d be prepared to buy it when they could get them, including mine, on loan just through the door.

I was trying to sell books in a place where people could get them free.

It wasn’t right in the middle of town where hundreds of people would pass and could be tempted in.  It was just to the side of the shopping mall.  On the edge.  Right, in fact, where the first instance of things not being quite right happens – when the number five bus crashes through the post office.  Standing at the door of the library, that bus would go past.  Looking over to the right, I could see the post office.  But that was ok.  The library had been very supportive of my book from before it had actually gone to print.  It was only right that they had ‘first dibs’ on the signing.

So.  With heart a-flutter I bade farewell to my family.

Once parked up near the library, I heaved the box of books (books can be heavy can’t they!) and bag of bookmarks, cards and flyers and made the short but arduous (books can be HEAVY) walk to the library.

And breathe.  And calm.

And… I’d sold four books before I’d even managed to properly set up my table.  Huh?  How did that happen?  Where did they come from?  And where had my nerves gone?  Had they run and hidden, out of the way of these strangers eager to buy MY book?  Possibly, because, all of a sudden, I wasn’t nervous.  Well, I was a tad, just a touch, just a whisper or worry, but that was all.  Once I was speaking to them, I was fine.  My natural, let’s be honest, cheek, came out.

I could raise a smile from them.  They asked questions about the book – how long had it taken to write?  You say there’s a blog that’s a diary?  How does that fit in with the prologue and the rest of the book?  They wanted to sit and chat.

I’d been in the local newspapers the night and week before, thanks to my fiancée working next door to one and going in without me knowing and telling them about me and my book (and then worrying that she was interfering!?) and to a call I made to the local council offices  to ask about mental health care.  As my main character, Sin, incarcerates himself in a mental asylum, I’m researching the path of mental health from the archaic days to now.  I’d been in touch with the council regarding this, telling them about the book and the signing and they had, unbeknown to me, contacted the local paper.

You really do never know who might talk to whom and how that might benefit you.

A few people did come in thanks to the pieces in the newspaper.  All said that the picture didn’t look like me, which was a good thing, really, as it had sinister uplighting for effect!  It’s like when I tell people that there’s a lot of me in Sin.  People die around him – perhaps it’s not something I should mention?

The library staff themselves were wonderful.  They brought me coffee and biscuits, made sure I was ok.  They’d put up posters for the event too.  Now it was up to me.

The table was set.  My books were stacked and presentable (including the one that I’d accidentally put upside down).  I laid out my flyers, signed my bookmarks and put them in small pencil pots for people to take.  I’d also printed small cards declaring ‘I am a Sinner’ along with my web address and put them out amidst the rest.  By my side I had some sweets for any children looking bored by their parent’s interest in my book.

So, once done, I sat and waited.  Would a pile of people push through the doors, rushing to shove their money in my face and clutch a copy of Sin to their bosom?  I doubted it.  It would have been nice, though.

As it happened, the flow was steady.  There were lulls were nobody came in and I chatted to the woman in the ticket office opposite (whose mum had phoned her insisting she buy one of my books – don’t forget! – after seeing the piece in the newspaper).  I thought about just asking everyone who passed if they’d be interested in my book, but some were chasing children, others had earphones sprouting out of their heads and didn’t even notice I as sitting there and others, still, were grumpy or in the middle of conversations.  I tried to read the people.  Perhaps this was wrong, as I could have missed valuable customers, but I didn’t think the elderly couple on walking sticks would be interested in a paranormal thriller, nor the group of young teenagers with their behinds hanging out of their jeans.

In most cases, I had it right.  The people I… I almost said collared… erm… accosted?  No… approached.  That’s it.  Those that I approached were either very willing to buy, bought after a chat or chatted, decided it wasn’t for them, but would gladly accept the offered signed bookmark and flyer.  Even those who just said no straight away were offered a bookmark.  Each to their own and at least they’d see the cover and have the website.

My ‘I’m a Sinner’ cards went well, too, with a few laughing saying it suited them…  I can’t comment either way.

Part way through my two hour stint, the local paper that carried the story the week before popped by for a photo and follow up interview.  Unfortunately it wasn’t until they were leaving that another customer came.

The two hours had passed before I knew it, and before my nerves had plucked up the courage to come out from hiding and get their claws into me again.  I tidied away, left the library some flyers and bookmarks for people to take (and they said they’d leave the posters up until their next event for me), and carried my not-so-heavy box back to my car.  A smile was on my face.

I’d done it!  And I had enjoyed it too.

Of course I have another coming soon.  It’s at Waterstones, a big bookstore right in the middle of the shopping mall.  I think my nerves are there, in the shadows, waiting for their next chance.  Let’s see if I can be granted a stay of execution once more.

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