After all the recent bad press about open ended Saturday signings in Waterstones, I thought I’d interrupt my sequence of posts on getting started on a new picture book to list a few positives about these signing events.
But first I must add that I totally agree with the complaint that sparked the controversy - authors should not be over-zealous in their selling, pursuing around the shop, customers who have come in for a quiet browse. Nor should self published authors be selling poor quality material. However, to ban these signings because a minority have broken the rules is short sighted. Authors give up their Saturdays to help boost Waterstones sales. We sell a lot of books over time and get rewarded in all sorts of ways - like, in my case, meeting a customer who as a child had to learn by heart my picture book What’s the Time Rory Wolf? because it was one of the books on the National Curriculum list for the 7 year old tests. I guess she passed the test as here she was buying books for her own children, not to test them but to instil a love of reading.
Then there were the two little girls who recognised Selkie. It turned out they owned an earlier edition that I’d signed for them after a visit to their school a few years ago. Even though they were now too old for picture books, they persuaded their mother to buy Zoe’s Boat and then peered keenly at my signature to make sure it was the same as the one in their copy of Selkie.
Perhaps the nicest moment of all in an open ended Waterstones Saturday signing was when a sales assistant called me over to the phone to speak to a customer who had bought a copy of Zoe’s Boat earlier in the day. It wasn’t a complaint – instead the customer told me she had read the story to her two year old daughter as soon as they got home and she was phoning because she wanted me to know it was the very first book her daughter had listened to from start to finish.