Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Booksigning Event and the Indie Author

I recently attended a book signing event to promote my latest Redcliffe novel, Love Kills (A Redcliffe Novel). I returned to the Waterstones bookshop in Warrington, Cheshire. When I last visited this venue, it was in the run-up to Christmas and we had expected a busy day. At the time it was disappointingly quiet and I felt very disillusioned about the whole process. This time I swallowed my pride, and decided that I had to keep trying and get myself and my books out there.

It was good to see that many people still visit their local bookshop just to browse and buy something new. When I first entered the store it was vibrant and lively, with families filling up the children’s book section, couples of all ages wandering in and out, and groups of friends checking out the new releases and popular books in the charts. Despite all the doom and gloom in the media about the eBook revolution and the demise of the old-fashioned paperback, it seems that people do still enjoy the feel, smell, and texture of a good solid book in their hands. That said, I didn’t see very many hardback books in the shop. I believe these formats are now almost obsolete.

My table was set up at the front of the shop, near the door, where people could not fail to see me as they walked in and out. I had a low table on which to display my books, and I sat in a comfortable faux-leather armchair. Actually, it was quite nice to have the opportunity to sit still for a while and not be distracted by demanding children and pets (fellow parents, you know what I mean!) I sat back, settled comfortably in my chair, and watched the shoppers going about their business.

The first thing I noticed was that I was surrounded by piles of the current popular book: the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James. This book has exploded into the public sphere within a year it seems, and I am intrigued about how and why this has happened. All accounts I have heard from friends, colleagues and press attention do not exactly paint the books in a good picture. Yet here it is, now released by a large publishing house, and being bought by many thousands of people. I believe it is one of those stories that you simply have to try out for yourself…

After glancing at the book Fifty Shades of Grey, I am not compelled to read it myself. I have downloaded the free sample on my Kindle from Amazon, and I will give it a try just to be fair. I feel like I should read the book more for research purposes. It might help me with my own personal marketing campaign, since the genre is the same as that of my own Redcliffe novels. I am not immediately sure that I like the style of writing for Fifty Shades of Grey. It is presented in the first person present tense, and usually I find this irritating. However, I am currently reading another novel written in the same way and I am enjoying that one, so maybe I should get past that particular hump.

Books and authors are still perceived as glamorous, I think. People love the excitement and exhilaration they feel from discovering and reading a good book. It elicits all sorts of emotional responses, and allows us the freedom to push our boundaries, step outside our cultural and societal norms, or simply to try a new experience through a work of fiction. That said, I don’t think people are quite so concerned about having autographed, paperback copies of books these days. I noticed several customers pick up Fifty Shades of Grey and glance quickly at the back cover, before replacing it on the shelf and walking off. I suspect these people will be searching for the book at a cheaper price on the internet, or they will order an eBook version.

I think that the technological revolution is not to be feared or disliked. Yes, it is easier to get published nowadays. We have a much larger platform on which to sell our work. But that platform is also far more crowded, and we have to fight to be heard above the clamour. EBooks have intensified the game of publishing and selling books. We have stepped up a level, we must be strong, we must not back down. Let’s hear it for the Indie authors! Ding, ding!

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