Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The benefits of bookstore appearances

When my first novel was published in 2007, author appearances at our nearest Christian bookstore here in Sydney were not overly encouraged, so I gave up the whole idea. In recent years, however, the situation has changed and the store manager now warmly welcomes author visits. I have made several and enjoy them immensely.

For starters, it feels special when I arrive to find a table strategically placed near the main entrance ready for me, along with whatever stocks of my books are available, promotional posters, pens, notepads and even a bottle of water! I am always provided with a comfortable chair as well and asked if I need anything else. Then at intervals during the day, a staff member makes an announcement over the PA system, encouraging customers to come and chat with me. At first, I wondered if I enjoyed all this simply because it was feeding my ego! Yet now I believe it’s more about feeling acknowledged and respected in a healthy way and allowing that to encourage me in my writing journey. For me, it’s about sensing God’s grace in the way these staff members look after me and allowing myself to be blessed in the process. And I hope and pray I bless them in return.
This whole experience also makes me realise God’s faithfulness and grace in my life in an even deeper way and to be so thankful. I often almost pinch myself in amazement as I see all six of my books published so far on display on that book table. Back in 2004, when I began writing in earnest, I could never have envisaged the day when I would be standing in a bookstore, talking about my writing and offering to sign my books for customers. That was the stuff dreams were made of! But God brought it about, enabling me to fulfil those dreams—and I am so grateful.

But there are also other benefits that flow from these author appearances. I do think they are a valuable way of promoting my books and obtaining higher sales than would otherwise be the case. It’s about making my books more visible among the thousands and thousands of others in that bookstore and enabling potential readers to put a face to that author’s name on the cover and to glimpse my heart in writing my books. Then hopefully, as more customers buy them, the store will order more from my publisher, which will eventually result in more royalties for me.
As well, I always give many of my business cards out to customers, whether they come up to my book table or not. It can be done in a polite, non-intrusive way and often leads to interesting conversations and connections. At my last book signing event, I approached a young woman, who, on taking my card, immediately looked up with a delighted smile and exclaimed, ‘Jo-Anne Berthelsen!’ I had known her years ago in a mentoring group and her excitement at hearing about my writing journey since then was so heart-warming for me. Giving customers my card also provides them with a way of connecting with me, should they ever be looking for a speaker.

How have you found your own author visits to bookstores? Do you feel they are worthwhile? Does the way they are conducted perhaps vary from country to country?
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of five published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Her sixth novel, The Inheritance, will be released in September. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com or www.soulfriend.com.au.


  1. Ah, the dreaded bookstore signing. Some people love 'em and some people hate 'em. Personally, I've had good and bad experiences. It's fun to talk with potential readers but it's horrible to sit there with a glued on smile while shoppers avoid even looking at you.
    Glad they work for you.

  2. Hi Alice! I do understand how you feel--especially re the glued on smile when shoppers try to avoid looking at you! Now I just kind of laugh inside and make it a bit of a game when that happens--plus I also remember I've probably done that to other poor authors in the past! I do remember a time at one bookstore too when nothing was ready and it was hard work to stay positive all day, but then even one conversation with one person can be worth while. And you're right--it might depend on our personalities as well.

  3. Yes Jo, it's a marvellous opportunity but like you and Alice I also have a love-hate relationship with a bookstore signing op.

  4. My thinking, Rita, is that if the opportunity is there to do it and if I have the time to fit it in, then why not? It can't do our books any harm--and as I said, even one conversation with a person might be a God opportunity. I don't go overboard about them, but I do have some lined up for my next novel due out on 1st September.