Waterstones has issued new advice to its bookstores on running author events, after concern that customers were being put off by writers handselling their own books, and that signings were lasting too long. One author was told that going forward author events should last no longer than 90 minutes, and be staffed by booksellers.
A spokesperson for Waterstones head office said: “We are reviewing the experience that we offer our customers and are moving away from open-ended, handselling events and asking shops to focus on well rounded event programmes that are more engaging in the long term.” The spokesperson added: “The intention is not to immediately cancel events, or to shut anyone out but over time shops might want to adjust the format of certain events and rebalance the activity that they have planned."
However the move has caused some concern among authors. Leigh Russell, author of crime novel Cut Short (No Exit Books) said she thought Waterstones’ policy on events was “misguided”. She said: “I just signed over 400 books in bookshops around Waterstones. There are lots of authors who wouldn’t do that, who would sit at home and get publicity through social media and Twitter and through writing blogs, which I could do, but I think it is important to support physical bookshops.”
Self-published author Ben Galley said in his blog he had had three events cancelled. “It appears that while Waterstones were initially keen to open their doors to new authors, it hasn't quite had the effect they had desired. Increased revenue aside, it has actually garnered some complaints from customers,” he said. “Apparently some authors have been rather pushy, insistent, and in some cases, downright rude. This pains me, as it's another case of the few spoiling it for the many."