Image Credit: Many thanks to Janet Williams for taking the signing photos at the railway station. Like many women, I can multi task but there is a limit and even I couldn’t take a picture of myself signing a book!
Many thanks to all who came to my book signing at our lovely railway station on Saturday 8th July. Particular thanks go to Mark Miller and Nick Farthing of the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership, Hilary Stone for “manning” the drinks and snacks bar, Janet Williams, Richard Hardie and Daniel Symes.
I would also like to thank Three Rivers because when I went to the station on the Thursday before the event (to check all was well), my heart fell through my boots to discover the “Station Shut on Saturday 8th July due to Staff Sickness” notice!
I was lucky enough to run into Mark and Nick on the platform at that exact moment who reassured me they had the keys to the station and would be opening up! (I like to think Someone with the capital S was looking after me here because I couldn’t have anticipated the staff sickness issue. Neither could the poor member of railway staff and I hope they are better soon! There are a few regulars at the station and one in particular has often chatted to me about my writing when I’ve been buying tickets to go to a conference here, a writers’ event there and so on).
I’d also like to thank Tescos and the Post Office at Hiltingbury for stocking my book’s postcards and also to Andersons’ News and Bay Leaves Larder for putting up my poster for the signing.
Many thanks also to Chandler’s Ford Library for doing both!! I had hoped to put more posters up, get the postcards out to more places before personal events intervened, limiting my time, but I know the postcards have been taken and the posters went up. At this stage, given I am seeking to raise awareness of what I do writing wise, I see this as a useful beginning.
I was also pleased Discover magazine for our area put my advert in under their Events Listings page. That was a quick way to reach lots of people!
What I did not know when I arranged the date and time with Mark was that 8th July saw events in the area from the Beggars’ Fair in Romsey to a Rock and Pop Concert in Southampton (starting at noon). The end result was our station was busy, the Three Rivers drinks and snacks bar were selling refreshments all morning (good!) and more people than I could have expected took postcards and/or business cards about From Light to Dark and Back Again.
More people than I could have expected did come over and talk to me about what flash fiction is and, as well as giving a brief explanation, I read one or two stories to give people a flavour of what flash fiction is and what I do here. I also sold some books! (And Mark was also kept busy giving out ticket advice to people so have we proved we really do need Chandler’s Ford Station to be manned as much as possible? I think so!).
My publisher, Chapeltown Books, advised me to focus on just enjoying the event and I certainly did that. In between trains and people coming in, there were many laughs and a wonderful chat with all who were supporting me (bless you, all!). I had no expectations so was delighted to sell books. Given almost every author at some point has those signings where either nobody turns up or something else goes wrong, I was very pleased with this.
I am glad to say Three Rivers were pleased too. They, as many of you will already know, do a lot of work promoting local stations so events which encourage people to come in are generally a good thing! Something different, like a book signing, also catches the eye. It also brings a sense of community to the station itself.
I am also pleased to say Three Rivers will now stock my book on their stall along with More Secret Lives of Chandler’s Ford. It is really good they are supporting local authors this way. And books and trains are linked. I’ve liked the fairly recent development of book donations at stations. People can pick up a book for a small donation and either keep it if they really like it or leave it at another station. How would I feel if my book ended up on a station shelf like that? Pleased! (I’d also be wondering how far around the country it had got but that’s another matter).
Flash fiction is the ultimate in quick reads and so ties in beautifully with using that “dead” time when waiting for a train or you’re on a short trip but just want something to entertain for that brief period. I’ve also lost count of how many times I’ve seen books at a railway station and given them a try or looked them up on the net later on and bought separately. (I must say the Fabers at Waterloo is a very nice bookshop indeed!)
So what is the point of book signing sessions then?
Obviously the chief point is author promotion and book selling but there are other reasons why they are invaluable.
- A book signing can tempt people into a book shop or library (which, for me, is the ultimate in try before you buy for books!). People like a good event.
- If you can have a signing at an unusual place for one (such as the railway station), you the author are reaching out to people whose natural home may not be the library or the book shop. I think that has to be a good thing. Even if just one person picks up a book on the day of the signing, they will be reading more than they would have done and, of course, it helps the author.
- A book signing can encourage a sense of community, especially if a group of authors get together and support one another at such an event. Watch this space for more on this later in the year.
- Book signings by local authors can raise awareness in the community as a whole that there is a literary side to it.
- In the case of our lovely station, events there can help prove its usefulness and again foster a sense of community. It adds another string to the bow of what Three Rivers are doing as, for those of you who don’t follow their Facebook page, guess who carries out so much of the gardening at our stations? Guess who takes the bags of rubbish away? And they supported the Station Walks book, also on sale at their stall, which I reviewed for CFT a while ago. (I highly recommend trying the walks. I’ve walked a couple of the Salisbury ones and they’re lovely).
- A book signing is a simple way for a debut author to introduce themselves and their work to a wider public.
I’d love to see other authors having successful signings at the station. Chandler’s Ford Railway Station would build up a reputation, over time, for sometimes hosting book events. It would make the station stand out.
Would I have another signing at the station then? You bet!
I was in the corner of the station under the destination board. It meant everyone got to see me, could easily come across and chat if they wanted to, but I was also not in the way of people trying to get to their train. Raising your profile is one thing. Being a pain in the neck because you’re in the way is another!
So onwards and upwards then. I would love to see more book signings at the station and not just mine. One thing I think people forget is the chief reason why authors write books at all. We love words, stories, literacy. We want people to read and enjoy books.
Having signings at the station can make more books available potentially to so many people. How many people go through the doors at Chandler’s Ford Railway Station over the course of a year? And with the loss of Arcade Books, there is no independent book store in Chandler’s Ford any more.
Is it a case then of us the writers bringing the books to you, the readers? Yes, I think so. And this is one great way of doing it.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.