An Authorly Strange Encounter

Quite by chance, last Saturday, I stumbled across an author’s book signing event. I had simply entered the shop for a lazy browse at the books. As I was heading towards the books a gentleman pounced at me from behind a small table, quite hidden from view behind a display of football cards.

‘Thank you so much for coming to support my book,’ said the gentleman, thrusting a copy of his book into my hands. ‘And it’s wonderful to see you bringing your children to meet me.’

Now the top half of my 8 year-old was, at that precise moment in time, buried deep in the tub of ‘Match Attax’ football cards. My 4 year-old was busy straightening the chocolate bars into neat rows on the shelves and my 1 year-old was grinning inanely from the pushchair.

‘This book,’ continued the gentleman, ‘will be the best book you’ve ever read. I can guarantee you that.’

‘Oh,’ I replied, a little surprised by the amount of self-confidence that was sprouting from his every pore. ‘And getting children to read is the most important thing a parent should do.’

Now this, I happened to agree with.

‘Absolutely,’ I said. ‘Unfortunately, my eldest is what we might call a ‘reluctant reader’.’

‘Once he’s read the first line of my book,’ said the gentleman, ‘he’ll be a reader for life.’

Another rather grand guarantee. I was starting to feel like I was listening to a market vendor trying to sell the latest cleaning gadget, guaranteed to make your house sparkle and gleam whilst you sit watching telly.

‘Now who should I dedicate the book to?’ he asked. ‘I’m sure you’ll be happy, just this once, to allow me to dedicate it to your boys here.’

He snatched the book from my hands and asked for my sons’ names. As I watched him write, I thought I’d venture into some polite conversation, after all, there didn’t seem to be a surge of readers heading his way.

‘Um … I write for children too …’ I said. ‘Um … my first book is coming out next year.’

The gentleman stared at me in a ‘is she crazy?’ kind of way for a few seconds, before painting on a tight smile and saying,’Well, good luck … you’ll never write a book as good as this one.’

With that, he handed the book back to me and gave me a gentle shove towards the tills.

‘You pay here, dear. And once more, thank you for your support.’

He then disappeared once again behind the football cards display (from which my son had finally emerged).

In my rather stunned state following this rather bizarre encounter, I paid for the book (along with five packs of football cards and two chocolate bars which I hadn’t notice being passed to the cashier’s hands).

Outside, my eldest son said,’ Who was that man you were talking to?’

I looked at my son and said, ‘I have absolutely no idea.’

Driving home, I couldn’t help but ponder about the afternoon’s events and I started thinking about author etiquette at book signings. I imagined that if I’m ever in the privileged position to be invited to a shop to sign my books, I would most certainly feel immensely proud and quite in awe of the kindly reader(s) who may come and meet me. I most certainly wouldn’t claim that my book could perform miracles. I’m a writer, not Jesus and the Bible.

I would love to hear any ideas from writers about the dos and don’ts of book signings. Thank you.

Hwyl am y tro x

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