Monday, 26 February 2018

Book signings revisited: Tips from author Julie McGowan for authors who want to be well prepared

Given that spring is on its way (we hope!), it's time for authors to get out and do some book signings. Last year, Julie McGowan gave us some marvellous tips to prepare for these events, so we thought we'd post these again. Like any performance, a book signing needs preparation, so read on to remind yourselves of what is important!

As Julie has said herself: "I've done loads of book signings, and now sell between 16 and 20 each time in a two hour slot." This is an impressive record, so her tips are invaluable for all authors, both newbies and old hands. 

Julie at one of her book signings

Planning your signings

Planning is an essential part of the book-signing process, as without it, many opportunities for extending your range and therefore the market for your book might be missed.        

  •  As soon as your release date is definite, phone as many book shops in your area as possible and ask if you can do a book signing. Waterstones can be difficult, as they have certain rules managers have to follow, local book stores’ reactions can vary, but I’ve found that WH Smith stores are invariably welcoming.
  • I suggest phoning rather than calling in because I personally find it easier to promote my book to a faceless voice on the phone than face to face, but it’s whatever works for you. Phoning is also quicker so in one morning you could arrange signings for weeks to come. Once you have one store booked, make sure you mention this to the next store as in, ‘I’m arranging signings in all the stores in the region and have already got them booked at ---- and ---- ’ to convince them of how extraordinarily popular you are!
  • Reassure the store manager that you will take up very little space, that you can bring the books with you so that they don’t have to order stock and all you will need from them is a small table and chair.
  • Try to book a Saturday as you will see a lot more people. The benefit of a store like WH Smith is that they have a greater footfall so more people will see your book. Of course it’s good to support the independent book store as well, so there’s no harm in doing a signing   in both, but I have found occasionally that independents can be a bit sniffy about ‘unknown’ writers.
  • Remember that the best sales are achieved within the first 6 months that your book is released, so the more active you can be in this time the better.


Preparations are another key aspect of book signings, so once your appointments are made, the following tips will ensure that you reach the widest audience. They will also help you to present yourself as a well-seasoned professional author rather than as an amateur writer. 

  1. Once your dates are confirmed, prepare a press release to send out, preferably by email to the local press, local radio and regional TV with details of when and where you will be doing signings. (the journalist’s golden maxim: who, when, where, why, how.) Make sure you send it to the appropriate reporter/editor (details can always be found online) rather than just to the newsdesk etc., because a week or so later you should follow up with a phone call to that person to ask if they received the details and asking whether they can use them.
2.    Prepare posters to take to each store at least 2 weeks before your signing date. Take 3 posters at least to each store, to encourage them to give you lots of publicity. Local libraries and info boards will often let you put up a poster too. When you take the poster to the store, try to give it to the person responsible for arranging your signing because you can then talk to them about where you will be placed. Use your charm to make sure they don’t put you in a corner at the back where only people wanting ordnance survey maps may venture. Next to the fiction stands, at the foot of a staircase or at the front of the shop are the best options – impress upon the manager that you need so little space you can fit into your chosen spot easily.

3.    Next, prepare some ‘hand-outs’ to entice shoppers. I make slips a bit wider than a bookmark (so that I can fit 3 onto a landscape sheet of A4 paper) giving a picture of the book, and brief details of the story, RRP etc. If you have access to a colour printer you can run them off on card or thick paper and then spend a happy hour cutting them up!

4.    Other ‘hooks’: You want people to stop and talk to you rather than avoid you, so you may like to offer them something – especially if you don’t have the means to produce ‘hand-outs’. For example, when promoting my Welsh novels I have a plate of Welsh cakes on my table, to offer to people browsing nearby. When I’m promoting my book set in Cornwall I have Cornish fudge.

5.    During the week before your signing, mention it as often as you can on facebook, twitter, any other form of social media, telling people you will be in the store between these times and you’d love them to stop by and have a chat.

Thank you so much for these tips, Julie! Next week, we'll post Julie's 'what to do on the day' suggestions, which are also very useful, especially for the shy and nervous authors!

Friday, 16 February 2018

Master of the Anecdote

William Wood has been one of the Sunpenny authors for many years. His delightful book 'A Little Book of Pleasures' has been a favourite on our list, and demonstrates what a master William is of the anecdotal memoir.

As one reviewer put it:

"William Wood's unusual book is a real gem. Others have already said that it is written in an unusual style, using the "you" instead of I as if the author is talking to himself throughout, and about how one can dip in at any point of the book instead of reading from cover to cover. What I found is that this is a beautifully written book, at times poetic, at times wryly humorous. The author's pleasures are as diverse as a child's smile, silence, a log fire or remembered fragments from his many journeys to far-away lands.

I found it thought-provoking and it made me contemplate the simple things in my own life that give me pleasure. Some passages were so poignant or evocative that I think they will stay with me long after I've finished reading it and this book is destined to become one of my own small pleasures or treasures."

A Little Book of Pleasures did well in the Wishing Shelf Awards in 2014, gaining a Bronze award. It was widely appreciated for its style and the memories it evoked. As the feedback said:

"This book was very much enjoyed by our older readers (aged 45 – 65). They loved the gentle prose and the wide range of ‘feel-good’ yarns the author entertained the reader with. They felt it would make a perfect travel companion, brightening up any lonely moment in a hotel room. One reader put in her feedback, ‘I loved The Morning Post story. It cheered me up as I happened to read it on the day my internet packed up and was driving me crazy. That’s the best bit about this book. You don’t have to read all of it in one sitting; you don’t even have to read it in the order it is written, but, trust me, there’s a story for everybody in here.’

A Little Book of Pleasures can tap into many people's memories of life as it was once lived, a simpler existence where value was placed in the small rituals of the day. Now, however, there is a new edition of William's anecdotes although so far, it is only available in paperback. 100 Little Pleasures can be found here:

William Wood also writes a blog and his most recent post is worth reading as a mini memoir in itself. It is titled 'In Memory of Typists' and is a poignant tribute to the secretaries he has known throughout his varied international career. Grab a cup of tea, sit down and read it here.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Blogging: how it can help authors

In previous posts, we've looked at both Twitter and Facebook as a means of helping writers become known, but another branch of social media is blogging. Many people don't view blogs as social media; they are more individualised, take more time and do not always result in a great deal of interaction, but blogs are one of the earliest forms of internet social media and a lively and regular blog can do much for an author's public profile.

The point with a blog is that it doesn't have to be about the author's books; in fact, it is better to avoid constant reference to them. A blog is a great way for readers to get to know something about the author's life, opinions, activities and interests. Of course, blog posts about writing with tips and ideas are always well received, but in principle, an author's blog is best used for the readers to learn about the author as a person.

Several of our authors are active, regular bloggers and their followers love to read their posts and give comments. While Twitter and Facebook are not designed for lengthy posts and articles, a blog is where authors can expand on a theme, reveal ideas and present themselves to their readers in a more in-depth way than they can on the other social media platforms.

Themed blogs are often popular too. Bloggers who focus on a specific aspect of their lives will often attract loyal followers and readers who enjoy the topic or approach. For example, some bloggers concentrate on writing humorous posts about their daily lives; others will write about art or music or faith; still others might focus on health, life as a senior citizen, or parenthood. Our author, William Wood writes thoughtful and reflective posts about his observations on life or on incidents from his past; Val Poore writes about travelling on her barge as well as her life in a Rotterdam harbour. The point is that each author has become known for writing blog posts on certain themes and this can encourage a loyal readership of followers who are then more likely to read their books.

Blogs can also be promoted easily on other social media sites. Links on Twitter and Facebook can result in hundreds, if not thousands, of views. Google + is also a worthwhile site on which to post blog links and the value of having posts shared through the various social media networks such as Tumblr, Instagram and Reddit means that although not everyone will comment, there is a strong chance that an author's readership will grow as a result.

Blogging is therefore a hugely worthwhile addition to an author's marketing arsenal, and not only that, it is a great creative outlet for those writers who value the self-discipline of having a weekly or monthly blog to produce.

For those interested in our authors' blogs, see the list in the sidebar at the top right-hand side of this page. We know that all of them would love to receive your comments!