The three that got away

Saturday 24 February - Books etc Staines today. Very surprised. Nice place, good shopping centre, easy to find and park. Could see the Books etc shop sign very clearly from the car and when I glimpsed Waitrose nearby guessed I was in for a fairly middle class audience, which proved correct.

I'm getting the hang of these book signings now. Of course, I haven't been at it very long, only my third novel and second year of being published, and NO BIG PUBLISHING HOUSE or marketing budget behind me, so I don't expect to see a queue forming at the door, or people rushing up to me eager to talk about my books. I have to work hard to get my signings and sell books. Still, there was a photographer waiting to greet me, which made me FEEL famous at least. When he told me he was from a picture press agency I felt even more famous.

The manager, Mike, was really nice. Extremely friendly, enthusiastic, bright and cheery, and he actually seemed to love his job, which makes a nice change, though the staff in Borders in Kingston Upon Thames on Thursday night came close to it. Claire was a delight, a bright girl who loved books and selling books and the manager also went out of his way to say 'hello.' Of course, I haven't told you about Borders.

Thursday night, wet and windy, a busy town centre with a huge John Lewis that I wouldn't have been able to get my sister's friend, Heather, out of for a week, at least! I wasn't sure what to expect and neither was Claire. It was meant to be a reading and signing session from 7pm onwards but it's hard to do a reading with an audience of one, though he did ask me, but I was too embarassed to try. Nice man, with thick round spectacles, a Pompey football fan, which made me feel at home and perhaps persuaded him to buy Tide of Death, which is set in Portsmouth. One sale down, how many more milllions before I get up there with Patricia Cornwell? It was disappointing for both me and Claire who had worked really hard on the marketing, but a photographer from the Surrey Comet did turn up and take pictures so maybe fame still awaits me in Surrey... And it all helps to sell books. I left loads of signed copies in the hope that they won't be returned.

Anyway, back to Books etc. I loved the shop, it had a good feel about it, nice music (and I hate music in shops but this was at just the right level and just the right mix). The tables were well spaced out, and piled with books, of course, the shelves were full and the whole atmosphere was one where you could browse for ages and not feel uncomfortable. They have a brilliant crime section thanks to the efforts of one of the booksellers, Sam. I didn't meet her, unfortunately, because it was her first Saturday off since Christmas. There is another reason why I liked this store, and that is because at least two of the staff had read my books and LOVED them. Sam is great at recommending me to new readers. So, thank you Sam.

Using my best selling skills gleaned from selling at exhibitions, I managed to lock eye contact with eight people on their way through the store and get five of them to buy a book. I must be losing my touch. The three that got away were: a timid middle aged lady who was very keen to purchase but had clearly been banned from buying another book that day, week or month, I wasn't quite sure which, because her husband appeared out of nowhere and whisked her away as if I was about to sell her some dodgy drugs; the next, a man in his late thirties, very pleasant but who looked as though he prefered Andy McNab, and the third, a biggish man with a round face, who was waiting for pay day and had come inside to get out of the rain.

All in all though not a bad couple of hours, and Books etc certainly gets the thumbs up. Good store, nice feel, nice local people. I hope to be back.

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