I recently hosted a book signing event at Waterstones book store in Chester, UK. The city is a beautiful place, steeped in Roman history, crammed with original Tudor buildings and a wonderful Victorian shopping arcade in the city centre. Whenever you visit the place you will find people dressed up for weddings and formal occasions, mixing with people who are relaxing on a day off from work or domestic chores. It is wonderfully eclectic! I have also attended ghost hunts before now in a Tudor house called Stanley Palace, and that holds a special place in my heart from the experiences I had on those events.
Anyway, back to the book signing. What I am beginning to learn about doing these events, is that no store is the same. Even though they are all part of the same chain, Waterstones, they are adapted to suit the needs of their customer base, and the aesthetic qualities of their location. My last book signing event was in Warrington, Cheshire, which is a fairly modern town to my knowledge. That store was inside a large, purpose built shopping mall, and the intention was definitely commercial above all else.
The first things I noticed about the Waterstones store in Chester was its position and the classical music that played in the shop all day long. This store is on one of the historic Victorian shopping terraces right in the heart of Chester. It is on the first floor, and you have to climb a set of steep, stone steps to reach it. There must be lifts available in some of the neighbouring shops though, because plenty of families came into the shop with pushchairs and prams.
My opinion of the Waterstones store in Chester is that of a neat, orderly and organized space. There are no books stacked up on the floor like there were in Warrington. Everything is minimalist, with tables neatly spaced and no garish posters or signs to fight for your visual attention. The Warrington Waterstones store felt more chaotic, crammed with tables and promotional stands. I noticed also that in Chester there were more hardback fiction books for sale than there were in Warrington.
I was not bombarded with the now-famous book 50 Shades of Grey in the Chester Waterstones store, like I was in Warrington only a month ago. Does this mean the furore has died down? The book is still no1 in the Waterstones charts, but apparently not so popular in Chester, or at least not now. The promoted book in this store was The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory, one of my favourite historical authors.
All in all, I had a very pleasant day in Chester. I sold a respectable number of books, despite it being very quiet. I decided that a Bank Holiday weekend is not a good time to do a book promotion, unless I am a famous author. I did meet a fellow Indie author in the science fiction genre, Geoff Nelder. He was very supportive and friendly, and I look forward to continued correspondence with him. I had conversations with some lovely people who took pity on a poor, lonely, neglected author, and I enjoyed the beautiful city. Happy days!