Lessons learnt from the 2017 NZ Book Festival in Auckland.Read More
Watch out for the crowds hurrying behind you, but they're in a hurry to come and see me at a couple of public events in New Zealand in the next two months.
Back in December I received an email inviting me to be part of a group of New Zealand authors who were planning a large joint book launch. That launch has now taken on a life of its own, and will see me flying to Wellington on the 18th February for a three hour event at Meow Cafe with six other amazing New Zealand authors for the first Kiwi Book Feast.
I know that through Facebook and Twitter, there are many of you I've interacted with online, but which I have yet to meet. I would love to finally meet you at Meow on the 18th February. We're providing nibbles, naturally, and there will be live readings, prizes and our books will be available to purchase, which we will of course sign for you.
And now I have a booking for March. As part of the Auckland Arts Festival, the Eden/Albert Board invited local artists to be part of the White Night on the 18th March. They specifically mentioned involving the iconic Dominion Road. I was all over that invite like a non contagious rash.
I'm happy to announce that Antique Alley will be open the evening of the 18th March, from 6pm to 11.30pm, and I'll be there, in the shop, doing live readings from my books and book signings. Both sides of the shop will be open, with my brother manning the business side of things.
What will April bring?! Should I pencil in April the 18th for some future event?!
So...who is going to come and see me in action in Wellington on the 18th February, or in Auckland on the 18th March?
This is a blog post about how to sell books at a book festival. I'm going to break it down into seven easy steps:
1. Book a stall. You'd think this was obvious, but last year, one errant author stomped around the NZ Book Festival asking if he could join someone else's table, anyone's table, as he hadn't organised himself a stand (and didn't want to pay for one). Don't be that person.
2. Have copies of your book available for sale. Fairly self explanatory. But, some people don't... I'm a firm believer that people go to book festivals/fairs to meet authors, and to buy copies of their books, which they then see the author sign - usually with a dedication. I know that's why I buy books direct from authors at festivals, or am happy to stand in a queue for two hours for a signature & photo (David Walliams!)
3. Unless you ARE David Walliams, you are going to need more than just a trestle table. A simple white sheet works wonders. No one wants to see the cartons under your table. A vase of flowers perhaps? A professionally printed sign saying who you are and what your book is. Something on an artists easel behind you? BUSINESS CARDS. You want to draw in the eye of the passersby. You have to make it easy for them. Most people are shy, and won't necessarily ask you what your book is about, or even how much it is. Signage is an easy fix. Invest in something professional.
4. Money matters. Have you got change? Lots of change? Do you have an EFTPOS machine (or another electronic payment system). How often do you carry cash? Do you think the attendees at the book festival will all be carrying cash? They might have $30, enough for one book maybe, but probably not. Make it easy for them, and you.
5. Gift with purchase. Ah, those are three lovely words aren't they? What can you give away with your book to make the purchase of it that much more enticing? A bookmark? A free novella? A book bag? Sweets? The list is endless, and should align somewhat with your book - if you can.
6. The right attitude. And yes, this includes dressing the part, and I don't mean dress ups. Are you schlepping around the festival in jeans and a singlet? Or are you wearing smart trousers or a skirt. Have you brushed your hair/done your teeth? All fairly benign things, but gosh it makes a difference to how you are perceived by people who don't know you or your book. You know how we all judge a book by its cover? You will be judged by your personal presentation. Make an effort. You're there as a serious author, selling your books, trying to gain traction in a market full of other authors doing the exact same thing.
7. Smile. Also self explanatory. A smile goes a lot further than you think.
I will be selling my books at the New Zealand Book Festival on Saturday 5th November from 10am-4.30pm at the Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, 487 Dominion Road, Mt Eden (across the road from Potters Park).
I would love to see you there, sell you a book or two, and sign them for you. xxx
How many bottles of red wine does it take to get over an armed robbery? I’ll let you know when I’ve finished drinking them.
On a September morning six years ago, I was at work in my antique shop on Dominion Road when a well-spoken young man entered the store, lifted the corner of his T-shirt, and took out a black pistol from the waistband of his trousers. He pointed it at my head, and ordered me to the ground. I was holding a handful of wristwatches in various states of repair. A customer was looking around down the back of the shop.
I said to the gunman, “You’ve got to be joking.”
He wasn’t joking.
When the police asked me how long the gunman and his accomplice were in the shop, I estimated four to five minutes. CCTV told a different story: 50 seconds. I’d had a gun pointed at my head for 50 seconds while another man helped himself to our antique jewellery, stuffing trays of gold rings into a bubblegum pink sports bag. I recall screaming at him not to take the men’s rings. Men’s rings were always so hard to get.
The last words the gunman spoke to me were, “You’re okay now.” Then he ran out of the shop. I ran out behind him, calling the police, the wristwatches still in one hand.
My memory is a little hazy after that. The neighbouring shopkeepers, undoubtedly alerted by my screaming, came out to help. It’d be interesting to hear the recording of my 111 call. I remember asking the woman from the Vodafone shop to check that the customer I’d left in the shop wasn’t stealing anything.
Hours later – after I’d relived the robbery second by second with the police – I was delivered home into the waiting arms of my first bottle of red wine. Victim Support rang to offer their assistance, but I had my mother, my husband, and my wine. I was fine.
Fine apart from the fact that after the robbery I never – and I mean never – sat down at work anymore. I was constantly on edge every time a customer entered the shop. I was always up and about, hovering by the newly installed panic button, calculating the intentions of everyone entering the shop.
I never watched the CCTV footage of the robbery. I didn’t need to. It played in technicolor glory over and over in my mind.
After my youngest daughter started school, I decided to write a book. They say write what you know, so I did. I wrote Fifteen Postcards, a novel about a girl who works in an antique shop. You could almost describe it as the back story behind the antiques in the shop – the journey those antiques had been on before languishing on the shelves. Before I knew it, without planning it, my protagonist was looking up the barrel of a gun.
I knew guns. I’d had a fair bit to do with rifles through the Air Training Corps – the Lee Enfield No 8 to be precise – and then the much lesser quality Norincos. I’d even passed my range safety officers course through the New Zealand Defence Force, and I’d qualified for my marksman badge. I used to seize the things when I worked for the New Zealand Customs Service. When I looked at the end of the gun pointing at me, I wondered whether it was real or a replica. But regardless of how familiar you are with weapons, when your whole world shrinks to the size of the barrel of a gun, you’re simply not in any position to make a rational judgement.
Writing about a traumatic experience can go two ways. It can act as a trigger to something similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. Or – and this was my experience – it can be cathartic. By writing about the robbery, it’s mostly ceased to be the big scary bogeyman that I’d allowed it to become since it happened. I allowed my protagonist to escape from the hold-up when I wrote about it in Fifteen Postcards, and it was as if I’d escaped too.
Trust me, though, when I say I much prefer my fictional ending. It remains the single most traumatic experience I’ve ever had.
As a tribute to my Welsh father, who started Antique Alley in 1971, Fifteen Postcards was published by Accent Press, based in Wales. Having the book published has done more for my recovery than the New Zealand Pinot Noir industry – although credit where credit’s due, their grape also helped immensely.
Note: This post first appeared on The Spinoff : http://thespinoff.co.nz/
29 September 2015