My experience: In-store Book Signings


Guest Post by Donald Tate

Can there be a more soul-destroying thing an author must do than fronting up to a book store, sit at a table, and flog your book knowing that the bookstore will get more profit from the enterprise than you will.

Been there, done that many times now.

Best result was about 50 copies; worst result was 2.

Some bookstore owners/managers will provide you with a bottle of water or a cup of tea; most won’t.

They will dictate where you sit- usually in an area less-frequented by browsers. Right in front of last year’s calendars, that’s the sot.

It means you have to project your animal magnetism some distance to attract the eye of a potential punter- and when you lock on, stay locked on. Smile. Warmth is important. Be effusive. Be charming. Be as full of yourself as you can while you bend an ear.

And have that stock answer ready when the inevitable question comes- ‘And what is your book about?’

What is ‘The War Within’ about?

Gawd- I need ten minutes to answer it…the processes that define a man; the evolution of mind and character; the inter-relationship of faith and chance; love; lust; the drama of jungle warfare and corruption and atrocities and…and…and…sex…and more sex…and …retribution and alienation; and …oh crikey, so much more. Have you seen the reviews? No? Well, here they are…” (nicely wrapped in cellophane on A3 posters, stting here right in front of you…and oh my God, how much longer do I have to do this?)

‘It’s about too many things to rattle off,” you say, not wanting to sound evasive, but knowing the human condition dictates that you only get about five seconds before his mind closes down.

The battle rages – you face rejection; the punter has to risk his hard-earned.

The assistant at the counter is all ears. She’ll hear it dozens of times in the two hours, and yet, each time, you’ll sound just as enthusiastic as she is bored witless.

Is it still hot outside? Is the surf up?

That’s three sold and a pile still sitting there perfectly arranged to show off its impressive cover- and there’s a couple of mature sorts over in the memoir section who look likely prospects. Pull out the sex appeal. Wander over casually. A hand on the shoulder? One day, someone will go ape-shit about that- but don’t let it be today. The hand is a comforter, a guide, foreplay if you like.

Gotta know your demographic. Men are inherently sceptical about anything;- tell them ‘it’s a man’s book, about war and sex, you know’…and smile conspiratorially; women are easier to woo- tell them “it’s about love and the struggle to survive a litany of trauma” and be ready to catch them when they swoon.

The hook is all important.

Two hours are over. Do the maths as you re-pack the boxes. You earned less than a Pakistani handbag-maker,but smile at the manager and shake hands with all and sundry and thank them for the privelege.

Last time, you tell yourself.

But you’ll be back.