Duncan Lay is on a mission to Save Our Bookstores as part of a tour to promote his new book Bridge of Swords, the first in the Empire of Bones trilogy. Duncan has been visiting bookshops to meet readers, sign copies and help boost bookstore profits. He is aiming to speak to as many people as possible about how important bookstores are.
Duncan Lay’s Tour blog
So, one week of the “official tour” is completed and now I kick off the interstate side of things, heading down to Adelaide to hit a whole bunch of new stores.
I say “official” as I went out to stores while I was working, notably my local Dymocks at Erina and Tuggerah, Unleash Books Kotara (formerly an A+R store), Galaxy and Kinokuniya in Sydney city and North Sydney Dymocks.
But the first big week of stores is over and it was generally very good. There were highlights at every store and that’s the way you have to look at it.
Every time you appear at a bookstore, stand out the front and try to talk to passersby, you are going to get knockbacks and sneers. That’s the price you must pay for speaking to people and, after all, acting like a kind of spruiker. It’s a price I’m always happy to pay but that doesn’t make it easier. For instance, Unleash Books Miranda was a case in point. Just 50m down the shopping centre was a pair of spruikers trying to flog people Oral B products. Naturally the glare from their white teeth was eye-piercing, while their patter was just as persistent. I quickly discovered people walking up from that direction were already in a bad frame of mind to respond to my line about reading. That swiftly proved a drawback, as half my traffic flow was coming past me having been assaulted with toothbrushes and tangled up in dental floss.
I also discovered that, for all its high socio-economic benchmarks, there was nobody wanting to try out the special deal on the original trilogy that Unleash was offering. It was interesting, because their I sold 40 books at their sister store at Kotara, in Newcastle, on a similar deal. Perhaps, if one believes Ten’s TV show The Shire, they need it all for surgical enhancements. More likely they are seen as well off because they don’t rashly hurl their money away by buying multiple books from authors, no matter how winning their talk is!
In the face of multiple knockbacks, not to mention negotiating the devilish car park at Miranda Fair, it would be easy to become dispirited. But instead I focused on the positives, of which there were many. For starters Bridge Of Swords was sitting at Number Five on the Unleash Top 10, one spot ahead of George RR Martin’s latest bestseller. And the people I did chat to in Miranda were wonderful – from Bel Every, who came in specially and has even created a Facebook page for me, to Ursula who couldn’t make it in that day but bought and left a copy of Bridge Of Swords for me to personalise, to all the others who bought books or just spoke to me.
Bookstore appearances are very much a “glass half-full” experience. It’s easy to get down but vital to focus on the good things.
Having said that, I struggled to find any negatives at Penrith Dymocks. Honestly, I could happily go back there every week. If you are an author on tour, put Penrith on your list. Forget about your inner-city trendy areas. Not only did I sell a record number of books that day (necessitating a frantic dash for resupply by the store owners) but the people were wonderful and genuinely interested to meet an author. I truly find the outer areas, such as Penrith, Campbelltown (when it had a bookshop), Rouse Hill and Tuggerah are always the most successful. Forget Leichhardt and Bondi – head west or north and reap the benefits!
Book Bazaar Umina was my Saturday shop, a small bookstore in a sleepy main street. But store owner Mandi is fantastic and has been a great supporter of mine from the start. Tellingly, almost half the books I sold were to readers who were coming in specially. That percentage is higher than anywhere else!
Then it was on to Dymocks Carlingford, a lovely shop run by a great bloke called Kosta but stuck in an unfortunate corner of a busy shopping centre. I was delighted to see Bridge Of Swords sitting at Number Six on his store’s Top 10 Bestsellers … beating all fantasy books and a huge swathe of general release fiction as well. We started slowly but moved closer to the escalators and finished strongly. I had some marvellous conversations with people here, several of them quickly “friending” me on Facebook or following me on Twitter afterwards, as well as a couple of budding authors. I hope to see them in print some day!
So the first week ended with more than 100 books hand-sold!
Now for the interstate portion, which will see things kick up a gear. I hit four stores in that first week and I was at SIX over the first weekend in Adelaide alone!
Read more about Adelaide on Duncan’s own blog!