Day in the Life of a first time author

So, I was coming out of the Green Room for authors at the Chip Lit Festival – and there was Lord Julian Fellowes, renowned author of Downton Abbey fame.

He was surrounded by admirers, as is his right, and regaling them with a tale. As I approached I heard him say the line:

“But nobody could believe she had ignored the obsequies of a Duchess!”

It was clearly the punch line to some joke or anecdote, though one pitched at a frequency so high and wild that, to my ears, it might as well have been a dog whistle.

I chuckled for a while at having heard Julian Fellowes say such a Julian Fellowes like thing – what were the chances of that happening? But on reflection I think that he probably just talks like that all the time. He probably mentions Duchesses and obsequies about as often as I talk about telly or football.

top-logoIt was certainly a high point in what was a baffling morning. As for my reading at the festival – well, basically, it never happened. I turned up at the appointed time to find the café completely empty, except for the staff and for lovely Liz Harris who was the author due to appear after me. Basically the event hadn’t been included in the programme – so the publicity was limited to say the least. It was on the website and there was a poster on the café door – still, if the aim had been to keep it top secret so that nobody knew about it, then it was a roaring success.

DSC00997Liz and I sat and nursed coffees in the silent venue through my slot and hers – when finally one or two people did filter through the doors they had come not to hear us read or talk about writing – but just to get a cup of coffee. We know this because we asked them – well, Liz did. “No,” they said. “We’re not here for the authors – we’re here for some cake.”

So it would have been a disaster, except for the fact that Liz and I got on like a house on fire and had a good old chat. One of the things we talked about was other disastrous reading events we’d done in the past. Tellingly, this one was not the worst experience for either of us. And that’s a thought would be authors ought to mull over as they seek publication. It’s not all champagne launches and glittering prizes. No – it’s empty venues and lumping unsold books back to the car.

Market_Hall_and_the_Co-op_-_geograph_org_uk_-_236399After our non-reading at the café we wandered over to the author’s room at the theatre in Chipping Norton – which is a beautiful little town you should visit if you get chance. There we consumed brownies with other authors and agents and so on who were lovely and might well have been very important people, except that I’m too much of a rube to know. And after that I drove home through a spring day in the Cotswolds with scenery so idyllic it was like the Centre Parcs brochure for heaven.

So there we have it in a nutshell – a day in the life of a first time literary novelist. And, you know what, bizarre as it may seem, I quite enjoyed it.

Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God. You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

10 thoughts on “Day in the Life of a first time author”

  1. Oh Chris,what a disappointment. I’ve never done a reading at an event that hasn’t already had a captive audience, so I’ve been lucky – not that I’ve done many anyway, but they’ve always been at regular meetings of book clubs or such. Nothing as exalted as a literary festival in any event 🙂 At least you had good company in Liz (what does she write?). And it sounds as if the day out was pleasant in any event. I hope you get another opportunity soon!

    1. Hmm yes – was a little bit of a downer – but we pulled it back! Liz does commercial fiction and I hope to have an author profile with her on my blog soon so watch this space!

  2. Sorry to hear that you had to go through that, but don’t despair, just keep plugging away at it and eventually it will be worthwhile. There is always something positive that will come out of it too!

    1. Thanks Lisa! As an experience it really wasn’t that bad -as I say I’ve had worse. The festival was well organised, just not our bit, and the people were nice. These things are what you make of them aren’t they?

  3. When I was a teenager, I read that Margaret Atwood held her first book signing in the men’s sock department at Hudson’s Bay (the Canadian department store). That was a very good warning.

  4. I’ve never done a reading or a signing. I don’t have the courage to try, to be honest. I went to be moral support for a friend on one of his signing sessions in a Waterstones, and it was heartbreaking to see the indifference of the passing public.

    1. I’ve done quite a few now Vivienne and it’s fair to say you do need a thick skin. I remember doing a Waterstones signing where people were coming up asking me where the John Grishams were – they thought I worked there, despite the pile of books in front of me and the poster with my face on.
      They don’t all go amusingly badly of course, sometimes they go fine and you sell a few books. I suppose the key is to be prepared for anything and not expect too much. I always go in with very low expectations – that way I am rarely disappointed! And it is possible to have fun even at the ones which don’t go well, you often get to meet some nice people for example 🙂

  5. When I was booksigning last July, Grey? was being promoted on a table nearby. I had to smile to myself as people would listen to my description of my historical saga, excuse themselves politely, grab one of these naughty books, rush up to the counter to pay, then sidle past me!

    1. Ha – we must be writing the wrong kind of books, need to put more salacious bits in. Not really my style though unfortunately, even my current rom com is rather more com than rom.

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