The things I’ve learnt about hosting a book signing event.

Signing my first book of the day

Signing my first book of the day

Every writer, at some point in their writing career, hosts a book signing event for their latest book. It can be a daunting prospect for both experienced and inexperienced writers, because there is always the fear that no one will turn up. Authors are divided on how much value a book signing event holds, some go on to do many, others the bare minimum. Some, I suspect, have never done one or ever will.

Last month, I held my first book signing event and I’m pleased to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In this blog post I will share my experience in the hope that other writers will learn from it and readers will gain insight into the hidden side of a book signing event.

How many authors does it take..?

My book signing event was shared with seven other authors. This is a great way to learn the process, pick up tips, share its eventual success (or failure) whilst gaining additional access to readers who may attend the event to see your fellow authors. There are other benefits too. An event hosted by multiple authors will have a unique angle and be more newsworthy, which will improve your chances of securing radio airtime and newspaper editors’ attention to spread the word.
J.Jackson, K.Ryder, me, CLoveday, C.Vermaat, M.J.Logue, S.J.Haxton &A.MartinIt may also increase your chances of securing your preferred venue, particularly if the venue is connected to a café/gallery etc, which will benefit from the increased footfall attracted to your book signing event.

Tip No. 1:- Team up with other authors in your area and host an event together. I was lucky to be able to team up with Jane Jackson (Historical Romance), Kate Ryder (Romantic Fiction) Chrissie Loveday (Romance/Murder Mystery) Carla Vermaat (Crime Fiction) M.J.Logue (Historical Fiction) S.J.Haxton (Historical) & Adrian Martin (Horror).


Why do you want to hold one?

A book signing event is about selling books. Wrong! Book signing events are much more than that. Success or failure should not be measured by the number of books you sell on the day. If Author A sells one book and Author B sells ten, it’s understandable to think that Author B has had the most successful day. However, Author A gave away 50 bookmarks, engaged with visitors to her table in a friendly, positive manner and had an enjoyable experience. The visitors went home later that day and downloaded her latest two ebooks (which were publicised on her bookmark). On the other hand, Author B, who sold ten books, barely looked up from his scribbling to speak to his customer. They went home feeling a little resentful at his arrogant manner and, frankly, who can blame them? Suddenly Author A appears to have had the most successful event, even though they sold only one book on the day.

Tip No. 2:- A Book Signing event is about meeting like minded people who love books. Enjoy it, have fun and don’t panic if you don’t sell very many.

Location, location, location

Finding the right venue is always a challenge. Consideration has to be given to the location. Is it accessible? Are there other services onsite which will entice visitors?  Does the theme fit with your books and if it doesn’t, does it matter? How much do they charge? Is it available for the date required? Where can signs be displayed to help show the way? Are the owners happy for you to give out freebies/business cards etc.? A visit to the venue will help alleviate any concerns or raise a few issues.

Tip No. 3:- Always visit the venue. Recommendations by fellow authors are always helpful. See the venue through the eyes of a shy reader. Would you visit an author at this venue? What would stop you? What would make it easier for you to step inside and browse?

The word on the street…

It’s no use booking the venue if no one knows it’s happening. Today’s author is used to the publicity machine and if they are not, they soon have to learn how it works. It may come as a surprise to most readers to discover that many writers are not “A list” writers who earn big bucks. Many are struggling to make a living and probably have a day job to support their writing career. For these authors, IMG_0205publicity events, radio interviews and newspaper articles are organised by the writer themselves and not by their publisher or agent. A book signing event is no different. Local radio, podcasts and social media networks are all great ways to spread the news. Flyers, posters, newspaper articles and parish magazines are more traditional methods and just as valuable for informing the public of your special event.

Tip No. 4:- Don’t be shy about spreading the word. Keep notes on who you approached and who were supportive, so you can use them again for future book releases and events.

Informing the shy reader about your book…

The big day has arrived! You’ve booked the venue, done the publicity and now you want to encourage the reader to your table. The best way to do that is to display what you would want to see if you were a visitor. Again, I imagined I was a shy reader and asked myself the question, what would make it easier for me? I came to the conclusion I would want to know what the book was about, without feeling watched or badgered into buying it. This is what I kept in mind when I set up my table.

I write romances and therefore wanted romance readers to recognise my genre from afar and find my table interesting enough to take a closer look. In order to do that, I covered the table with a white table cloth and decorated it with heart shaped confetti. I filled heart shaped bowls with business cards, bookmarks and sweets with a note saying “Please take one”.  These things helped to set the genre and gave visitors “permission” to take any freebies they fancied without having to ask. While they munched, or considered which bookmark to take, I wanted to promote my book in what I hoped was not a “sales pitch” or hard sell. I displayed several copies of my book, an A4 poster detailing the book blurb and my credentials and a video of my book trailer which played on a continuous loop. If the customer had any questions, I was nearby to help. If my table became quiet, I walked around the room offering sweets and free bookmarks, but with no pressure to buy my book and no sales pitches. There is no bigger turn off than someone saying, “Buy my book! Buy my book!”

Tip No. 5:- Make/order bookmarks and business cards in plenty of time to allow for delivery. If you use sweets and chocolates to entice readers to your table, put a few out at a time and not the whole lot. I have heard of customers taking handfuls of sweets, even emptying a bowl into their handbag, before disappearing without a backward glance. If this happens, your sweets will not last long! However, I must confess, I would probably take far more than I should if I was a visitor, as I find it very hard to say no to free sweets and chocolate!

The end is not the end…

I really enjoyed my first book signing event. My fellow authors were great fun and it was a privilege to share the experience with them. The visitors and owners of the venue appeared to enjoy the day too. However, the benefits of hosting a book signing event continues long after it is ended. Photographs taken on the day can be used for publicity purposes in the future, whether on twitter, Facebook, Pin Interest or a blog post. Within 24 hours of posting the photographs of our event on Facebook, one author saw her viewing stats soar to over 400!

Tip No. 6:- Take plenty of photographs so readers, family, bloggers and fellow authors can share and remember the experience with you. A book signing event is not the time to become camera shy!

Kate and Brenda-crop

Kate Ryder and I (B.D.Hawkey)


Chrissie Loveday

Dear reader…

So if you hear of a book signing event near you, do come along and say hello. Authors don’t bite and we would love to see you – after-all we are holding the event to meet people just like you! Please don’t be afraid you will be pressured into buying something. We just want to engage with readers, share our love of books and let you know we have a book out at the moment.

Hannah Carla Adrian

M.J.Logue, Carla Vermaat & Adrian Martin

Take a look at the books on show, just as you would in any bookshop, but unlike an ordinary bookshop experience, you will have an opportunity to chat to the author about all things to do with writing.

Jane Jackson & S.J.Haxton

Jane Jackson & S.J.Haxton

If you like a book, you can buy a signed copy. It’s fun and a signed book makes a unique gift. If nothing interests you, we will understand. Authors understand that readers have their preferences and we would rather you buy a book you will love, than a book you will hate.

My final thoughts…

I have always been a reader, but more recently, as an author, I have experienced the other side of a book signing event. I’ve learnt that, in the majority of cases, authors are not rich celebrities with a queue of excited fans forming in the streets. They are just ordinary people with a passion for books, hoping to meet like minded people. They might also be a dash nervous, a little excited and a smidgen worried that no one will come, so they will be glad to see you should you choose to drop in.


Valentine’s Day…a day for love

It is February, the month of chilly winds, lashing rain and bouquets of red roses, for we mustn’t forget February has the day dedicated to love. Valentine’s Day is a day eagerly awaited by many and dreaded by some, yet within 24 hours it’s over and done with and nothing more than a memory. It should be nothing to get worked up about, but inevitably some of us will. How we, as individuals, celebrate Valentine’s Day  may evolve over the years, but come the 14th February, our thoughts will still turn to love – even if its just briefly.

 Yes, this is me.

Yes, this is me.

I was a child when I received my first Valentine’s card. It was from my mother, who placed it carefully in my cardigan pocket for me to find before I went to school. She put it there because she didn’t want me to feel the heartache of not receiving one. Even though I was young, I appreciated the thought.


Me, dreaming of my latest crush.

As a teenager, Valentine’s Day began with high hopes which slowly dwindled as the day progressed. On the rare occasion I did receive one, the guessing game of who it might be from was far more exciting than the discovery of the sender. Needless to say, it was never the boy I had a crush on at the time.

Having a regular boyfriend finally guaranteed a token of love on Valentine’s Day.Blackpool C By then it was the 80’s and padded cards, with cute, fluffy animals, were the vogue. It was also the age when size really did matter. Shopkeepers rubbed their hands with glee as they watched a trail of young men carry large, unwieldy cards under their arms in the hope of impressing their girlfriends. If you received a card which had all three elements (size, padding and a cute animal), then you were well and truly loved and he was a keeper.

Wedding C-cropMarriage and children adds a new dimension to Valentine’s Day. Meals out have to be planned, babysitters booked in advance and chocolates and wine are added to the shopping trolley – along with a tin of  baked beans,  two loaves of bread and a GetAttachment (5)packet of nappies. When life is busy, Valentine’s Day becomes a touchstone and a reminder to show our appreciation to our partners. A wise person once said, “Before children, a couple holds hands together. When children come along they hold hands with the children. Sometimes we need to be reminded to hold hands again.” Valentine’s Day is that extra reminder to us all.

So how do I celebrate Valentine’s Day now? We will probably choose a box of chocolates and a nice bottle of wine together. We have long given up going out for a meal on one of the busiest nights of the year, so we will spend the evening at home. If the weather is fine we might go for a nice long walk and just appreciate life in general. Perhaps it will not be as exciting as a teenager’s experience – or as devastating, but it will be calmer and less planned than when we were young parents.

And did I marry the boy who gave me the biggest, most padded, Valentine’s card? Yes, I did and this year we will be celebrating our pearl wedding anniversary. Although, it might have been a whole different story if he had forgotten it was Valentine’s Day!

3d Old Sins Long Shadows

Why wait for a man to make Valentine’s Day special for you? Snuggle up with a dark, mysterious hero, like Daniel Kellow, from my debut novel Old Sins Long Shadows

3d The Gossamer Trail


curl up with Joss, the troubled hero in The Gossamer Trail , who’s dislike for Beth turns into a passion so strong that he is willing to give up his own identity to be with her.

book the gossamer trail



In conversation with Georgia Hill

At this time of year it is only natural to remember the year that has just ended and look forward to the months ahead. We find ourselves making plans and resolutions that may, ultimately, change our lives forever.

Georgia Hill

Georgia Hill

Author of contemporary romance, Georgia Hill, made such a change in 2015 by stepping outside her normal genre and publishing her first historical romance. I’m, therefore, delighted to welcome Georgia to my blog to find out how and why she made the change.

Georgia used to live in London, where she worked in the theatre. Later, she got the bizarre job of teaching road safety to the U.S. navy – in Marble Arch! She now lives in a tiny Herefordshire village, where, she tells me, she scandalises the neighbours by not keeping ‘country hours’ and being unable to make a decent pot of plum jam. Her home is a converted oast house, which she shares with her two beloved spaniels, husband and a ghost called Zoe.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today, Georgia, and not bringing Zoe with you!

I’m delighted to be with you, thank you so much for having me on! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you too! The start of a new year is a time for making resolutions, plans or setting goals. Can you share with us your resolutions and plans for 2016?

 I didn’t make any resolutions for 2015 so am determined to make some for the forthcoming year. We’re hoping to move house, so relocating is the main goal for 2016. However, we still haven’t decided where we want to go! I need to finish the WIP (work in progress) and return to a book I’ve  abandoned. I’d also like to begin the search for an agent and I’m going to self-publish three books for which I’ve just received the rights back. There’s a visit to the Harper Collins headquarters arranged for February and I’m going to be brave and try getting my books into local shops. So, the first few months of 2016 are already mapped out.

It sounds like the coming year is going to be very busy with serious lifestyle and career changes. Just for fun, if you were able to do/achieve anything you like in 2016, no matter how outrageous, what would it be and why?

This question has me stumped! I can think of lots of things I’d like to learn – Italian, how to ballroom dance and I’d love to learn to sing. I really ought to learn how to use my new laptop as I keep putting that off but something outrageous? What I’d really love to do is be able to tell people exactly what I think – just for a day – with no repercussions. That would be fun! Or be able to talk dog language so I know what’s going on in the heads of my two spaniels. I’m pretty sure I know anyway – walkies, food, tummy rubs just about covers their needs. Mine too, come to think about it!

I think my dog, Alfie, would probably say the same things! You have been a successful author of contemporary romance for many years, but in 2015 you had your first historical romance, While I Was Waiting , published. Why did you decide to change subgenres and was it an easy or hard WIWW final coverdecision to make?

That’s very kind of you! I’ve always written and have been writing seriously for the last ten years but have only been published since 2009, so I still think of myself as a beginner! I wrote novellas while I was working as a teacher as they fitted into the time I had available. I love historical fiction, especially dual narrative – my all-time favourite book is Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine. I wanted to see if I could write in that genre. Although I enjoy writing and reading rom-coms, I knew I had something else to offer. While I Was Waiting evolved over a long time and I poured my heart and soul into it. It’s the book I’m proudest of. I have many other ideas for books in a similar genre, but another novella in the Sequins series is planned too. Writing is like reading; you work on different things at different times. Sometimes you’re in the mood for something short and sassy, sometimes you want a slow-burner or something more serious. I find each genre has its challenges. Nothing is easy to write!

Were there any surprises or difficulties about changing subgenre?

I think I relaxed more! I think historical, dual narrative is more me. I also had to plan more efficiently and develop a more organised way to work. I learned lots during the process of writing While I Was Waiting. Hopefully, that will feed into any future writing.

Were you nervous about how While I Was Waiting would be received by readers who enjoy your contemporary romances?

Very! I considered using another name, or a variation of my author name. However, my editor raised no concerns so While I Was Waiting is published under Georgia Hill. Thankfully, it seems my readers have accepted the change in direction. Thinking about it though, my novellas dealt with serious issues such as bullying, body image, agoraphobia and While I Was Waiting has a lot of humour in it. Maybe they’re not so different after all?

Your first historical romance has received great reviews. Do you have plans to write more or try another sub-genre?

Thank you! As it’s the book of my heart, I’m thrilled and humbled readers love it. The next book is in the same genre; it’s a dual narrative supernatural set on the Jurassic Coast. The one after that has numerous narrative strands, but with a strong supernatural element. The three books should stand together well, although they’re only linked by genre. As for other genres, never say never. I’d love to have a go at children’s fiction or an adult fairy tale.

When a new year starts, many of us think about making changes or trying new things over the coming months, but do not have the courage to do it. From your experience, what advice can you offer others about trying something different to what is expected of you?

I’m possibly the worst person to ask this – I don’t always respond to change easily. I suppose I’d say, have a go. You never know what you can achieve unless you try. And what have you got to lose?

Can you share with us what you are working on at the moment?

I’d love to! It’s the story of recently bereaved Charlie, who travels to Lyme Regis in Dorset to investigate a family scandal. She meets Matt and together they discover her family’s secret and why Charlie is being haunted by the ghost of a Victorian fossil collector – who means her and those she loves great harm.

It sounds intriguing. Thank you for your candid interview, Georgia. Your experience has certainly inspired me to explore other genres, both as a writer and as a reader, and I wish you all the best for your next book.

Thank you for having me on Brenda, I’ve loved talking to you. I hope 2016 brings you all you wish for!

You can visit Georgia’s blog and website page here and her Facebook page here . You can also follow her on twitter @georgiawrites .

Click on While I Was Waiting to buy the book.

Be the friend you wish you had.

A few days ago I met up with some fellow authors for lunch. We talked a lot, laughed a bit and, I believe, an enjoyable time was had by all. I went home feeling inspired to return to my writing and happier for having a pleasant lunch with some friends. I call them my friends, even though our lunch date was the first time I had met them face to face.

Illustration by Digitalart

Illustration by Digitalart

In the past, a friend was considered someone whom one has a bond of mutual affection. Today, however, the term friend is used more liberally and can take many forms. Here is just a few I have thought of, although I’m sure there are many more.

Illustration by Digitalart

Illustration by Digitalart

The friend on social media who you have never met.

The friend on social media who you have never met, yet you share more with them than the people in your life.

The friend on social media you have met and accepted as a friend, but only because you did not want to offend them.

The friend in your life who is really a friend of a friend. You speak and socialize, but in reality, if it was not for the mutual friend, you probably wouldn’t be friends.

The friend at work. You enjoy each other’s company at work and at work functions, but would not socialize outside of work. This one could also include clubs, the gym etc.

The toxic friend, who drains you emotionally, uses or manipulates you, or is just generally unsupportive.

Photo by Witthaya Phonsawat

Photo by Witthaya Phonsawat

The friend you meet up with regularly, enjoy each other’s company, but would never trust with a secret.

The friend you meet up with regularly, enjoy each other’s company and feel you can trust with a secret.

The friend you meet up with regularly, enjoy each other’s company, feel you can trust with a secret and will remain your friend when times get tough. This is the friend we all want to have and those that find it are very lucky.

Photo by Nenetus

Photo by Nenetus

From childhood through to young adulthood, we are busy making friends. New schools, different classes, hobbies, nights out, college, university and work are all great opportunities to make friends. As we get older, settle into our careers and have families, opportunities to make friends become less and some old friends, for one reason or another, fall by the wayside. In the case of toxic friends, I recommend you kick them to the kerb with a hobnailed boot. Suddenly, time has moved on and we find we have fewer friends than we once had.

Photo by Nenetus

Photo by Nenetus

There is nothing lonelier than to feel one has no friends. The reality is, we are surrounded by potential friends, it’s just having the courage to go out to find them and invite them into our life. The depth and quality of the friendship may vary, but as long as we are realistic in our expectations, new friends can be made. You never know, one of them might be the friend that lasts a lifetime and if not, at least you will have some fun along the way. And how do you keep a friend? I would think trying to be the friend you wish you had.

All illustrations and  photos from

Tears are valuable, do not waste them.

Photo by Xedos4

I have come to the conclusion that being a writer is similar to being on a roller coaster. There are highs and lows, twists and turns, and terrifying moments when you have to muster up some courage from the darkest recess of your psyche…. or wherever courage tends to lurk. At times I wonder why I even climbed on board, considering that in reality I am not very brave when it comes to roller coasters.

The highs are many, ranging from that “eureka moment” when you have an idea for a novel, to the feeling of satisfaction when the words on the page vividly portrays what has been playing out in your mind. There are also thrilling moments – like seeing your book in print for the first time or being nominated for an award. It is at times like this I feel like screaming “faster” and start planning my next ride.

Needless to say, the lows can be painful, crushing and a reality check. I experienced one only the other day when my laptop took a document and book trailer I had been working on within its technical claws and refuse to give it back.

FreeDigital Photo by Jesadaphorn

Photo by Jesadaphorn

When a technically minded knight in shining armour managed to get the laptop working again, my document and book trailer had disappeared into the ether – leaving my knight somewhat perplexed. Even a magic aide called a “recovery thingummy-jig” did not help. I normally save things elsewhere to avoid such a catastrophe, but this time I did not and now they are gone – forever. Lesson well and truly learnt.

So I moped, grumbled and felt very sorry for myself, but it got me nowhere as moping, grumbling and feeling sorry for oneself tends to do. I realised that if I wanted to lessen my misery, the only thing I could do was do something about it. After-all, in the grand scheme of things when the world is in such turmoil and real life tragedies are being experienced every second of every day, my loss is so very minor. Determined (and too stubborn to allow a computer to have the upper hand) I started all over again, trying to remember what I had written before my memory began to fail me and I ran out of chocolate.

There are far more worthy things to shed a tear over than the many things we allow to make us miserable. The lows in life are many, so it only seems sensible to be discerning on which “lows” we allow to affect us. An annoying, temperamental laptop, with a diva complex, is not going to be one of them and my tears deserve a more worthy cause.

Photo by Iosphere

Photo by Iosphere


All photos are from

Value our YOUth of today…

Photo Stuart Miles

I, like many people, dislike having my photograph taken. It’s not that I have a phobia of the little digital box pointing at my face; it’s the result that I dread. The image staring back at me is often a disappointment, every flaw is magnified in high definition and even a few more that I did not think I had!

Jayne Gordon (right) Portrait of a Writer

When photographer, Jayne Gordon, required a number of authors to take part in her project Portrait of a Writer, I gladly volunteered in the hope I would pick up a few tips along the way. Jayne’s exhibition, which was held in May, was a great success. When I accepted an invitation to view the results, I also had a chance to meet up with some fellow authors who were also involved in the project. If only all my experiences of photography were as pleasant or fun.

When I look back at the photos of my younger self, I am not so critical. Yes, some of my fashion choices were rather cringe worthy, but I like to think that the 70s and 80s were ground breaking eras where fashion rules were broken and, in some cases, pulverised into a glittering mess. I have a sneaking suspicion that when I am in my twilight years (stop laughing, I am not quite there yet) I will look back on my photos of today and be less critical.

It reminds me of Mary Schmich’s “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young” which was published in the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1997. Her words were later put to music by Baz Luhrmann in the song “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen”.  Schmich’s words of wisdom cover many topics and I strongly believe that everyone should listen to it at least once in their life. One astute piece of advice is about appreciating the power and beauty of our youth.

Photo Ambro

However, I would like to think that “youth” is not just confined to the first two decades of our life. We are still considered young when we are compared to someone who is ten or twenty years older than ourselves. After all, a  fifty year old is young compared to someone who is seventy and a seventy year old is considered young by a ninety year old.  So whatever our age, we should value our “youth of today” as in a few years time we will look back on the photos of ourselves as we are today and finally see how truly fabulous we really are.

I will try and remember this next time I look in the lens of my digital tormentor or study my flaws in high definition. If I do not like the photo, I will try and see it with the eyes and wisdom of my older self and, perhaps, I will not consider it so bad after all.

Own it, share it, tackle it.

“This is an opportunity too good to miss,” I said to my husband as I read the article. St.Ives Literary Festival was being held the following week and one particular event seemed tailor-made for me. Aptly called Free Speech, the event allowed writers to read extracts of their work to the unsuspecting public.  What could possibly go wrong? I thought to myself as I packed my latest novel in a bag, downloaded a map from the internet and set off in my car which was desperately in need of a wash.

I arrived in high spirits and in plenty of time. Even the fact that the car park meter swallowed up my money and refused to give me a ticket did not dampen my mood – much. Luckily, I still had some cash left and marched off to another, more friendly, meter, before making my way down the hill to the quaint little town of St.Ives.IMG_1193[1]

The historic Cornish port is a picturesque gem. Unsurprisingly, it is a popular town for tourists, with plenty of time to window-shop, to visit. I, on the other hand, was on quite a different mission and struggled to find the venue amongst the warren of narrow streets. My search was made all the more difficult by the map I had brought with me. I had foolishly printed it out in draft to save ink, which made it so faint I could not see the streets, let alone read their names. However, my perseverance paid off, (coupled with asking a bemused pasty seller for directions) and I finally arrived at the venue. I put my name on the list to be the first speaker. This was not the act of bravery, but the heart sinking realisation that my car park ticket would run out before the event finished.

As the venue began to fill with people, my nerves kicked in – and for a very good reason. What I had failed to dwell on, until that moment, was my long-held fear of reading out-loud to people.sad young girl At school I dreaded the Thursday afternoon English lesson, when our young, bohemian teacher would make us take turns reading passages from Watership Down. No matter how hard I tried, I always seemed to mess up when it came to my turn. I would miss sentences, read the same sentence twice, or just lack the fluency to tell the story well. My ears would burn with humiliation as I listened to my classmates stifled giggles. The more I messed up the more my anxiety grew. I even resorted to faking sore throats to get out of my turn. To many, rabbits are soft fluffy creatures, to me they are reminders of my torture. Yet, here I was, volunteering to do it all again.

As I stood up my right leg began to shake, involuntary beating a drum beat against my chair. At this point I had a choice – give up, fake confidence (despite my trembling body telling a very different story), or share my fear of reading out-loud with the audience.

I did the latter and, after some understanding nods and smiles, I began to read. When I finally ended, their enthusiastic applause suggested that they genuinely enjoyed my reading. I had done it and felt a great sense of achievement that it had gone well. This first reading was going to be the start of many and, surprisingly, I even enjoyed the experience.

happy womanOn reflection, by sharing my fear with the audience I was freed from having to be perfect. This change in my own expectation gave me the space to just have a go. This freedom relaxed me and, if I say so myself, the reading ended up being pretty flawless.  Sometimes it takes strength to share one’s weaknesses. Own it, share it and tackle it, then move forward. We must not let our insecurities from the past prevent us from being who we want to be today.