Meeting Readers

Rare lightsChristina here. Authors are mostly solitary creatures, holed up in our lair with just our characters for company, and snarling at anyone who interrupts us when we’re in the writing zone. But sometimes we need to get out and see people, and one of the very best things is meeting readers. Having someone buy your books or tell you that they enjoyed one of your stories is lovely, and although getting messages like that on social media is always appreciated, meeting readers face to face is even better. So when I got the opportunity to join a big book signing event at London’s ExCel exhibition centre recently, I jumped at the chance. It was something I simply couldn’t miss!

Rare bannerRARE (Romance Author & Reader Events) book signing events are organised by two indomitable ladies, and they move around to venues in various different countries around the world. It’s been held at places like Melbourne, Paris, Berlin and Edinburgh, and there are lots more to come. The aim is to bring together as many authors and readers as possible for one-day book signings, but it has also created a romance reading community. There’s a dedicated FaceBook group and RARE can also be found on Instagram. Some of the readers travel huge distances in order to attend, and they are very enthusiastic and loyal. It sounded fantastic, and I couldn’t wait to take part.

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And a book signing

Wenches Joanna and Mary Jo will be signing books in Charlottesville,
Virginia this Saturday morning, March 23,  as part of the five-day
Virginia Festival of the Book. Final

The Romance portion of the Festival is an all-day event with more than a dozen Romance writers.  We'll be on the 10 am panel — Harridans & Hoydens: Researching Independent Women in History and Historical Romance — with Romance writers Grace Burrowes and Kristen Callihan and with historical biographer Jehanne Wake.

Click on the poster to see a list of authors who'll be at the event. 

It should be an interesting day.  Please come by and say hello.  More information here and here

Book-signings, anyone?

ChloeBoa Anne here, responding to quite an old question from one of our readers, MaryKatherine Kennedy, who wins one of my books for asking it. (Questions sent to the wenches never die, they just ripen until they hit the spot.) 

MaryKatherine sent this question: I'd like to know how authors at book-signings would like signees to behave.  I've only been to one book signing, and it was horrible.  I didn't know what to say so I didn't say anything – just got my book signed and left.  The bad thing is that I was the only one there with two tables of authors.  Now I have a phobia of book signings.

 MaryKatherine, I'm so sorry you were traumatised. But you've raised an excellent question. I haven't been to very many signings but I've learned a bit. And what follows is entirely my own opinion, so if other authors have a different point of view, I'd love them to post a comment. I've never had a solo book signing, but I've been one of two, and one of hundreds and everything in between. (None of these pictures is of me, by the way – my computer is at the shop, so I'm using photos from my website of a group signing I did with my friends.)Trish2

My very first ever book-signing was a bit crazy, because a friend of mine talked me into putting my name down for the Literacy Book-signing at RWA National. At that point (2000) I had no books out in the USA, but my first book (Gallant Waif, which had been published in the UK) was a finalist for the RITA Best First Book, and the National Readers Choice Award, which is why I was there. Luckily my UK editor came, and brought with her a pile of my second book (Tallie's Knight) so I at least had books to sell, even if nobody came.

I expected nobody to come. I was all set to sit and just people-watch, but as it happened, quite a few people came past to say hi — people who'd read my book in the competitions, people I'd got to know on-line – other authors, members of the Georgette Heyer group and others, various people from my publisher, and some people stopped to chat simply because they were nice people (and I probably looked pathetic <G>) 

So you don't have to buy a book to make an author happy. It's nice if you can but don't feel embarrassed if you don't want to buy one. If you want to wriggle out, say you already have it, and if they ask you what you thought of it, you can say you haven't read it yet. Signup

Most authors will still be happy if you just talk to them for a minute or two — ask them about their books or about writing or how they got their agent – or even what kind of a book you should get your great uncle whose birthday is tomorrow.

I attended a book-signing last year, and there were just two of us, sitting at a table at the entrance of the store with mounds of books in front of us looking hungry and expectant. A very scary sight for shoppers, I'm sure. It wasn't very well advertised, either, so not many people knew about it, and my book had already been out for several months so anyone I knew had already bought it.

So, how should you treat an author at a book signing? NZ

1) Smile — they're probably as nervous as you. 

2) Talk to them. There's nothing worse than sitting at a table not selling books,trying to look as though you're having the time of your life.
Say hi. Ask them questions. What sort of questions? Are they local? From out of town? How they got started writing, what the book's about, what's their favorite story, what's their favorite children's book? Do they write by pen or straight onto computer? What's the best/worst thing about being a writer. Ask whatever you like — with the bounds of politeness, of course. It's just conversation and being friendly.

3) If you've read any of their books, say so, but beware, it can get you into hot water. 
At my second RWA conference, I lined up at a Berkley signing to get a book signed by one of my favorite authors.  When I handed her the book to sign, she glanced at my name tag and said "Oh, Anne Gracie, I liked your book" or words to that effect.
It wiped my brain completely. Couldn't think of a thing to say.
"One of your books is an all time favorite keeper of mine," I blurted. It was true.   
"Oh, which one?" she asked. 
Of course I couldn't think of the title to save my life. Stood there like a dummy, no doubt turning bright red, but still grinning foolishly because Mary Jo Putney had liked my book!!! 
So be careful what you say.(The keeper book was Veils of Silk, by the way.)

4) If they're giving out bookmarks or a pamphlet, take one.
 And don't throw them away in front of them.

Most of the book-signings I've attended are with a large group of authors, and they're easier. The book signing with just two of us — my friend Christine Darcas and I — was made both easier and more fun because a good friend of mine dropped by, as well as a representative from the Australian branch of my publisher, and they hung around, chatting and looking friendly, which I think decreased the slightly intimidating authors-in-waiting effect heaps. 

I didn't hassle anyone to buy. I think that's what people are afraid of, that they'll  get the hard sell "buy-my-book" routine. Not from me, and I suspect not from a lot of authors.  

I'd brought a pile of little mini books with excerpts of my books in them and my friend Alison wandered through the bookstore giving them out to people and chatting, which was brilliant.

Lots of people came up and chatted. I met a few people who'd read some of my books — they didn't buy anything, but I didn't care. I talked to some ladies about books for kids. I met some students doing a writing course, and they talked to me about writing. I got some fantasy recommendations from a couple of readers, and recommended some books myself. And once people saw a group standing around our table, talking, they came to listen, and some stayed to buy.

To my surprise, a number of the people I talked to ended up buying my books, not from my table, but from the store bookshelf well behind me, and after they'd been to the cash register, they  brought them over for me to sign. 

So if you see some author sitting at a table waiting to sign books, don't be afraid to wander over to talk to them. At the very least, it makes for an ice-breaker and might encourage others to wander over. You don't have to buy (see hints for wriggling out of buying, above) but it's nice to be a bit friendly. If you're the tongue-tied type, you can always just say "Hi, nice to meet you," and ask for an autograph. At the very least that author will leave thinking good things about the friendly people in your town or suburb.

So what about you? Have you ever been to a signing? Good or bad experiences? Have you met a favorite author? What happened?


Touring the north

Lnandtoys Hi, here's Jo and with a picture of Charlie and the toys with Lady Notorious.

Waterstones_southampton We're taking a little break at home between the book tour of the south of England and the upcoming one of the north. In the south we mostly followed the route Cyn and Chastity took in (My) Lady Notorious. (The UK publisher dropped the my.) The picture on the right is at Southampton, which they didn't actually visit, but as they swung south or their way to Winchester, they would have come close.

The handsome young men in their regimentals, which were the sort Cyn would have worn, are to intrigue the passers-by, which they did very well as you can see. You'd like a closer look? If you click on any of the pictures here you can get a larger version.

Heroesand jo The tall one on the left is Mr. England. Andreas is 24, which is a good age for some of my heroes. The other young man was local and I forgot to get his name, but he was very handsome with a lovely smile. Alas, he isn't smiling on any of my pictures, but here's a close up of the two with Everlyn's PR genious, Claire.IMG_4989w

Lady Notorious is the first book of my Georgian series about the Malloren family, and if you've wondered, I pronounce that with the emphasis on the first syllable. MALLoren. And Mall as in pal, not as in a North American shopping mall.

You do all know that The Mall in London is pronounced like pal, yes? Ah, those English pronunciations. So tricky.

I've blogged with pics on my personal blog Jo Talk but I'll repeat some details here.

We started in Shaftesbury,which is still a lovely old town with plenty of old coaching inns, most converted to other uses, as in this one.Shaftesburyinn You can see the pinkish building with the big, arched doors through which a coach would go to access the inn yard behind.

Here's a picture showing a coach leaving through such an arch. The old woman in the basket on the back looks in danger of a bump on the head! This is from "A Visit To The Wells" in Tunbridge Wells (home of my eccentric old Trayce ladies in Winter Fire, who also turn up in The Secret Duke.) It's a wonderful place to visit.Twellscoach 

By the way, have you ever wondered what an EO table was? It's an early form of roulette with only even and odd. Here's a picture from A Day At The Wells.


We moved on to Salisbury, where Cyn and Chastity stay at the Black Horse. This old inn still exists, but cut down to the main building. The arch now leads to a parking lot for a nearby office block.

P1020885wWe had a lovely launch party there, attended by the mayor of Salisbury.

Then we were on to Southampton and Winchester, then Cardiff where Everlyn Books is based. There, one of my soldiers was Mark Tancock, Mr. Wales. You might enjoy the slide show of all the finalists.


Wednesday, 11th was Newcastle and Stockton. Thursday, Scarborough and Whitby.

Today is Blackpool, and Saturday is my home town, Morecambe.

All the details are here.

Here are a few more pictures from the tour. The Bear in Maidstone, mentioned in Lady Notorious. (The Saracen's Head, where they stays, has given way to a Marks and Spencers.) Thatched cottages in Shaftesbury. An old street in Winchester. A view into the Cathedral close in Winchester.

Thebear ShaftesburyhousesWinchesterstreet  Winchesterclose 

And in case you've forgotten,Lord Wraybourne's Betrothed is out now.