by Dennis John Woods
This event took place in the Barnes & Nobel at Virginia Beach Town Center on May 27th and 28, 2017. It was advertised on Barnes & Nobel’s website, as well as many of the participating authors’ social media sites.
The store was set up with tables in one corner of the building, creating an authors’ area. Each author’s table consisted of a short stack of books and one plastic book stand. Some of the authors had handouts and give-away items available for store patrons. Others designed displays and had personal items to use as conversation starters.
To increase visibility, book related items were placed close to the store checkout area. Patrons passed by the authors’ tables on the way to the registers. Many patrons had already made their purchase selections; however, this arrangement allowed authors to engage with the patrons concerning their purchases.
The store had 15-20 patrons at any given time throughout the day; few initiated contact. To counter this, Koehler Book authors engaged patrons in a group setting to start a conversation. At one point, an author initiated an impromptu book reading to generate interest. Each author read aloud one short vignette from their work. This spectacle was successful in drawing attention. One author also brought an additional person to hand out promotional material near the store entrance.
Issue 1: Low patron interest in engaging with book authors.
Observation: Many of the Barnes and Nobel patrons were not interested in interacting with a sales person. Initially many people would simply walk by the authors’ area, avoiding eye contact. Whenever contact was made, it was sometimes necessary to focus their attention. The first step is to determine the patrons’ buying motives. They can then be directed to works that address their interests. Of course to accomplish this, one first has to develop an understanding of everyone else’s work at the book signing.
Issue 2: During the entire two days, there was only one in-store announcement for the book signing event.
Observation: As soon as that announcement was made, three people approached the authors area. In retrospect, we should have arranged for the store to make regular announcements.
Issue 3: At one point the authors group encountered a negative contact not interested in making a purchase. That individual tied up several authors’ time, draining much of their emotional energy.
Observation: Methods of extracting authors trapped in negative conversations need to be developed by the group.
- Design table setups to highlight the product. One author had a reference photo on his phone that allowed him to set up the same display in every venue.
- Give away items like book marks and charms. The act of giving an item to someone generates rapport. If one accepts your token, that person is more likely to show interest in your work and make a purchase.
- Prior to the event, write a basic in-store announcement inviting patrons to visit the author’s corner. Coordinate with the store staff to have it read over the public address every 15-30 minutes.
- Develop an understanding of everyone else’s work attending the book signing. Use this in conversation to refer prospective buyers to other authors.
- Bring refreshments so you don’t have to leave your station.
- Advertise on social media concerning the event. Update the post as the event unfolds.
- Select short excerpts of your book to present as samples. In my case, I mention that the book was originally written for my daughter, and I direct them to a letter addressed to her. While they’re reading, I step away to remove any.
- Agree upon a signal among the authors so that one can be extracted from conversations that grow too lengthy.
- Plan on a mini book-reading event to draw patrons’ attention. Choose sections of your book that are short and powerful.
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