Sunday, 29 April 2012

Any excuse for a book tour, by Abie Longstaff




I recently visited my parents in Hong Kong – my childhood home. I go back as often as I can (not that often on an author’s income!) and it’s so great to be immersed back into the sights, smells and sounds of my youth; just visiting the park we used to play in or the beaches we used to build sandcastles on is so evocative and really reminds me of bossing my 5 sisters around and organising all kinds of games and adventures. 

One of my sisters still lives there and now runs a school. She asked me to come in and read my books and I suddenly thought: why not ask around book shops too? This was my first ‘book tour’ and, having no idea how to organise it, I contacted my publisher. The Hong Kong section were fantastic and my contact there managed to organise events at three different book shops.

Off I went, with hand luggage of a large doll, a baby’s hairbrush, and a selection of pirate clothes and coins. I was a bit nervous of speaking to a new market, especially as while I was there the visits started to snowball – suddenly one of my book readings had turned from a simple read aloud session into a yummy mummy and daughter pamper day, with a local salon sponsoring hair styling and nail painting while I read The Fairytale Hairdresser. Then Timeout Hong Kong somehow got wind of the ‘book tour’ and asked me to write an article about my writing process and my visit to Hong Kong.

As it turned out I had no reason to be nervous as of course (massive cliché coming up…) children are children. They loved hearing the stories and spotting the fairy tale characters in the illustrations. They queued up to brush Rapunzel’s hair and touch the pirate coins and pored over my sketchbooks and notes and at one of the visits I signed 200 books until my signature started to go a little too wiggly.


For me there was something very special about reading the stories in my childhood home. Many of the stories I told my younger sisters have become ideas for my picture books and it was really satisfying (and quite emotional) to bring things full circle.
So my conclusion – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Next time I travel anywhere I am definitely going to approach local book shops in advance.

 

You never know what might happen!

11 comments:

  1. Inspirational, Abie. It sounds as though you gained a lot from doing the tour in your childhood home. Maybe this added a piquancy to your events?

    It's fab that your activities were picked up by the cultural media and that you were such a wow with the children. Hooray for painful signing hands.

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  2. It must have been wonderful to go back as a successful writer! It sounds like it was a very successful series of events, Abie.

    I firmly believe that we as writers are often too reticent about asking!

    Some of my most interesting events have come about because I plucked up courage to speak to people and suggest events. They can only say yes, or no, and sometimes it can spiral into much more than you had imagined, just as yours did.

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  3. Lovely to read about your very special trip.

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  4. Congrats, Abie. Is there a Chinese edition?

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  5. Sounds great fun as well as being successful, Abie. I love the idea of a pampering session as well as a book reading session. Can I come next time! I've done a fair few events of various kinds but I do find it hard to control my nerves beforehand, so I must admit, I don't encourage them. Perhaps broadening out the event to include other activities would help me, so thanks for the inspiration.

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  6. Glad it all went so well, Abie. That's a whole lot of books to sign. Must have been fantastic for your sales.

    When I went to Orkney last year to visit my parents (who moved there after I left home), I did several events there, including one on the ferry over! They had posters up around the (huge) ferry and kept announcing it over the loud speaker. It was great and the parents were really glad of something to do for the children on the seven hour (?) crossing. A friend, Jon Mayhew, who writes for older children does 'drive-by signings' when he goes to a town/city with a Waterstone's or other bookshop and just asks if they'd like him to sign his books. Thanks for the post, Clare.

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  7. WOW - lovely story and great to hear how the events became bigger and bigger. Defiantly makes me want to build up courage and do the same.

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  8. Thanks for all your lovely comments! Paeony - there isn't a Chinese edition, but that would be fab. Clare - I did once overhear a customer in Waterstones asking staff to recommend a book for a 5 year old girl and I cheekily jumped up and said "buy mine! I'll sign it for you!" (yes, I know - so brazen and shameless - but it worked!)

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  9. Ha ha! "Jumped up" sounds like you were hiding, maybe disguised among the bookshelves : )

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  10. What a brilliant idea. Glad your holiday was able to become a promotion session too.

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  11. Note to self - must be braver, MUST be braver... lovely post, Abie.

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