It’s bookstore season

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Monday musings on books

By Scott Bury

The staircase at Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal.

We’re well into the fall season now. Where I am, the bright yellow, orange and red leaves are already thick on the ground, illuminating the bicycle path where it’s covered by overarching branches with a golden light.

It also turns out that it’s a busy season for authors willing to set up a table and meet potential readers. The bookstores in my city (Ottawa, Ontario) have their schedules filled with writers who sit behind a table groaning under their books.

Usually.

Personally, I love book signings, sales and other events where I can talk with readers directly. I’ve done a number of the past couple of years. Some were terrific, with lots of traffic and interaction. Some were … not so much, where I sold one or two books. And there was one where I did not sell a single copy.

For example, last summer I set up a table at an event called Arts in the Park, which as you probably guessed is a place where local artists of all kinds show off their work and sell it. It’s a big draw every year, and I always meet a lot of readers. This year was my third time at that event. One man, John, had bought a copy of one of my books at the previous Arts in the Park. This year, he returned and bought copies of all my other books!

Selling books at Arts in the Park,

Another highlight was meeting French artist Marc Laisne and his friend, Angel Tiah. It was a hot and very sunny day, and I was so glad to be able to enjoy the shade from their umbrella over their stand beside mine.

Marc’s art helped draw more people toward my booth, especially when he started painting a picture from scratch on a canvas more than a metre wide. I’m sure it contributed to my book sales at the event.

Later last summer, I had a book signing event at a downtown bookstore, Prospero The Book Seller. That was a lot of fun, because I spoke with readers about the stories and background of my books, which led to other conversations.

I also had a great time talking with the manager, Sarah Power, about books, readers and the industry.

Last summer, I exhibited a number of times at the ByWard Market in Ottawa, alongside other authors as well as vendors of clothing, fruit and vegetables. During Frosh Week, freshmen students from Carleton University came by on a scavenger hunt and helped promote my latest book at the time, Wildfire.

What readers like you can do

Writing and reading are solitary acts. So the opportunity to actually interact with other people, to talk about books and stories, is a real treat for me.

What’s better is finding out what readers like to read, what they don’t, and what might make them pick up a book and open it.

So get out there, readers. Visit your favorite bookstore, and when you see someone proudly, or nervously showing off the books they wrote, come over and say hi. That doesn’t obligate you to buy a book. But sharing a conversation with a writer can bring more interested potential readers over to find out more, which could spur more sales.

And it’s a great way to find out about new books and writers you just might enjoy reading. You might find someone who would be thrilled to talk to your book club.

Marc Laisne and Angel Tiah set up a lifesaving umbrella right behind my table.

As I write this, on July 16, 2019, I am getting ready for my next event, a book signing at Prospero The Book Company on Bank Street in downtown Ottawa. I’m hoping it goes well, but so far all the events I’ve attended at actual bookstores have gone well. I’ve never done a midweek event, though. The manager promises that mid-weekday is when this downtown location gets the most traffic, so we’ll see.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from my previous, successful events.

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