The Curzon Group red-eye
It isn’t every morning you get up thinking you might have a claim to a place in the Guinness Book of Records. I can’t claim to have taken part in the biggest book signing ever, nor the most lucrative, or even the most colourful. But I may well have taken part in the earliest.
Last Saturday morning, I walked through the grey Nottinghamshire dawn towards East Midlands airport at 5.00 am, in what one of my colleagues in this slightly eccentric venture, Richard Jay Parker, called The Curzon Group red-eye. It was day two of our Airport Tour. Together with another of the Curzon writers, Leigh Russell, we were off to test out our theory that holiday-makers milling around in departures before getting onto that plane for Greece of Spain might like to spend a few minutes talking to a writer and even buying a signed book to take with them.
A couple of months earlier, when Richard and I discussed it in the pub, the airport tour made a lot of sense. My military thriller Death Force would be out from Headline in paperback over the summer, whilst his psychological crime thriller Stop Me would be out from Alison & Busby in trade paperback. We were talking about how we write what the book trade often refers to as airport thrillers: fast-paced, exciting, escapist entertainment, pitched at businessmen filling up long flights, or people relaxing by the pool in August. Over the second lager we had a brain wave. Why not sell them in an airport?
Authors usually sign their books at literary festivals, or at big city centre bookshops. But, heck, there is no rule that says you can’t sign them in a departure lounge. There are bookshops. There are customers. There are even pens. What more do you need?
Well, permission. Via Headline, we talked to WH Smith, and they were fantastically helpful. To make it work, we needed to go ‘airside’ as it’s known in the travel industry, and that meant getting BAA on board as well. But everyone was enthusiastic, and the paperwork was soon sorted out.
We kicked off at WH Smith in Manchester’s Terminal 1 at noon on Friday. The next day, we were at East Midlands for a 5.30 am start: it might seem early, but that’s when people are checking in for the holiday flights. By 9.00 am the place is empty.
It was great. Obviously, it’s different from a High Street bookshop. Lots of people are just popping in to buy a bottle of water. Others are hurrying for last boarding. But plenty of people had time to stop and chat, and find out more about our books, and quite a few of them bought them. I signed about 50 books over the two days, and Richard and Leigh did a similar number. Those were sales I wouldn’t have made if I wasn’t there in person.
What did we learn? Plenty. The way that books get sold is changing all the time. Authors, publishers and retailers have to be thinking about new ways of getting their books out to people. Get stuck in a rut and you are already dead.
Next up, we’d like to try a supermarket tour. All we need to do is get Tesco or Asda to agree to it. Although maybe this time we’ll skip on the 5.30 am start.