Monday, 1 March 2010

Launch of Still On The Sound at Waterstones, Edinburgh

Despite horrible weather conditions, Thursday's launch event in the George Street, Edinburgh branch of Waterstones went really well. Even I enjoyed it, which is saying something because as I said on the night, I sometimes feel a bit like Scout Finch at book talks: 'I can stand anything but a bunch of people looking at me.' The turnout was just under seventy, we had a lot of laughs and everyone seemed to enjoy the slides. The manager, Alex MacKinnon, did a professional (and amusing) job of introducing me and didn't push us out the door afterwards, which meant we were able to catch up with old friends and make some new ones over a glass of wine.

I think the sales tally was around forty-five books, which pleased Waterstones, so all in all a worthwhile evening.

Launches, readings etc in bookshops can be a hit and miss affair - the audience for one of mine, which I'll never forget, was my mother; the bookshop manager and his assistant; my editor, her husband and mother-in-law; and a couple who may have just happened by.. This probably explains the reluctance of bookshop managers to commit to events by lesser-known authors: the bookshop has to order extra copies in advance, announce the event with in-store displays, send out a press release (if the manager is on the ball), and then provide staff and stay open late on the night of the event. Quite a lot of effort if no-one shows up.

For this event, I first approached the bookshop in August of last year (not the best timing, as the International Book Festival was the following week and Edinburgh was probably awash with writers on similar missions), going through a familiar routine. I try to get my pitch down to 45 seconds before going in, then I wait in the queue, ask for the manager (giving my name but not mentioning either that I am a writer or that I want to talk about an event); and stand aside, keeping an eye out so that I can try to get the measure of the manager before he spots me. Not possible in this case. Alex is an experienced manager and I believe he would have had me pegged as an author from the other end of George Street. Fifteen seconds into my forty-five second spiel he said politely, and with great charm, 'You're the fourth author who has been in today asking about an event - could we talk about it in a couple of weeks, we're under a bit of pressure just now?' (Translation: 'It's been a long day, I'm being pulled in all directions and as you're clearly not Ian Rankine or Katie Price I'm afraid your persistence, and indeed your powers of persuasion, are about to be tested over the long haul.')

Thank goodness for websites - I gave Alex my card, asked him to have a look at the Blue Cabin website for previous events, island life etc. and said I'd call in next time I was in Edinburgh. Which I did, phoning ahead this time to say I would pop by the following day. To cut a long story short, we managed to get a date in the diary on my third visit, which I counted as a success - if it was easy to get an event in one of the chains they would be running them every day of the week, authors being hungry for exposure in a difficult market.


PS: Coming to Edinburgh, as always, was like coming to see an old friend who never changes. I didn't manage to get any pics this time so this rather off-season pic of Dean Bridge will have to do:-

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