Art of the Meet and Greet, Part I

A. R. Silverberry

Do you have a physical edition of your book? If so, live events at bookstores can be an important part of your book marketing plan. Benefits include the opportunity to meet readers in person, increase exposure, generate publicity, and build a local or regional following. There are different kinds of events that authors can do at bookstores, including author talks, author panels, book fairs, and meet and greets. This is the first in a two-part series on the art of meeting and greeting. In today’s blog, I’ll discuss the benefits of doing meet and greets, and how to set them up. In part two, I’ll show you how to maximize sales at the meet and greet.

 

The first step is to look for a high-traffic store in your area, such as Barnes and Noble. Call the store and ask to speak to their community relations manager, or the manager in charge of booking author events. Tell them you are an author, and would like to set up a meet and greet at their store. They will ask you for the ISBN number to see if they can order the books from a distributor or wholesaler. Most stores will prefer to order books this way, even if you offer to provide them. If your book is only available through you, ask them if they can buy them from you on consignment. Most consignment sales are for the same price the store would have paid the wholesaler.

 

The bigger stores may not be doing author events during the holidays. They may have a black out period any time from Thanksgiving through Christmas. I’ve been able to get into stores as late as December 11th, so it’s well worth a try. The increased foot traffic from shoppers looking for gifts can increase your sales.

 

Schedule the event on a Saturday or Sunday, 1 – 4 PM. Ask if they can place you at the front of the store. All of the Barnes and Noble stores I’ve worked with do this routinely, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

 

Barnes and Noble likes to order books into their warehouse, which then ships them to the store. If there’s a time crunch, they may order the books from a wholesaler, such as Ingram. If you use a distributor, you’ll need to allow 4-6 weeks for the store to get your books. If you will be providing the books, make sure you allow time for you to receive them.

 

How many books should you or the store order? This will depend on many factors, including time of the year, the kind of book you are selling, and your ability to sell the book to customers. I’ve sold anywhere from 6 to 14 books at a meet and greet. Initially, I encouraged the store to order 15. A lot of books arranged on the table looks attractive, and it can be problematic if you run out. As I’m moving into the Christmas season, the stores are ordering 20 – 30 books for me. You should ALWAYS have books that you bring with you, so even if the store is ordering them, you’ll have some as a back up. However, ultimately, this decision will be up to the store manager. Politely accept what they want to do. Recently, a manager told me that they had ordered nine books. I encouraged them to order more. They didn’t, and I sold out very quickly. This wasn’t a bad thing. The store was so impressed, they invited me back for the Saturday before Christmas, at a time they never allow author events!

 

Take advantage of the fact that you are having an event. Send out press releases on the internet. Send press packets with a copy of your book to local media, and suggest that they do an interview or feature article about you and the book. If you can, tie this into something timely, or that has local interest. Being a local author is compelling for many small-town papers. Highlight exceptional reviews, awards, or testimonials that you have. Announce the event on your blog and social media.

 

Three weeks before your event, call or email the manager to confirm that all is set and that they were able to get your book. If there is a snag, offer to bring books. I’ve seen consignment sales done three ways. First, I’m paid on the spot for the books. Second, the store has me fill out a W-9 form, and the company cuts me a check later. Third, the store orders books from the distributor, and gives me back the books that I sold at the store. In California, the Board of Equalization (BOE) requires the store to complete a California Resale Certificate that includes their sellers permit number. This is required to prove that the store collected the sales tax. Don’t be surprised if large stores, like Barnes and Noble, won’t do this. Check with your state’s BOE for guidance if this happens. Finally, you should have an invoice prepared which documents the sale, and retain a copy for your records.

Next week, I’ll guest post Part II of “Art of the Meet and Greet” here, on Patricia McCallum’s blog, Indiewriterszone. I’ll describe how to maximize sales on the day of the event. Happy Selling!

 

 

7 Comments

  • Posted November 14, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Thank you for such a helpful article! We are just at the point where we need to consider book signings. Your tips are most appreciated! We especially are interested in the number of books to order!
    Karen & PJ (Wodke Hawkinson)

  • Posted November 14, 2011 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    Thanks for stopping by, Karen and PJ. If you have any questions as you start setting up your events, don’t hesitate to post them here, or to contact me directly. One other benefit to the meet and greet occurred to me after I did the post. Authors doing book tours sometimes find that little or no publicity was done when they arrive, or there was a miscommunication about the date, or just a poor turnout. Learning how to meet and greet customers can turn disaster into opportunity!

    Best wishes for your book signings!

    Peter

  • Carrie Green
    Posted November 14, 2011 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    Peter, I’m so impressed, this is the most detailed overview of running a Meet & Greet (AKA an Author Book Signing Event) that I’ve ever read. Thank you for your openness and in sharing your knowledge with other authors still learning the ropes! Cheers, Carrie

  • Posted November 14, 2011 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Carrie! You made my day!

    I’m thinking of writing a Part III, which would be about how to do a regular speaking event. They are different, but if an author can get people to attend, they’re also a wonderful way to connect with readers!

    Best!

    Peter

  • A. C. Ellis
    Posted November 23, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for a great article. This was really helpful.

  • Posted April 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Peter. This is very informative.

    Any suggestions that might help me put my mind at ease? I’m rather shy, and I hate talking on the phone. How open have you found bookstores, like your local Barnes and Nobles, to letting you have an event in their stores? Who exactly should I ask to speak with? Thanks!

  • Posted April 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Barnes and Noble was very open. You can call and ask for their community relations manager, and if the store doesn’t have one, ask for the person who schedules author events. My response with other bookstores was variable. Borders was terrific, but alas, they’re no more. One local indie store turned me down, saying that children’s books don’t sell well to their clientele. One thing that you might do before calling any store, is go down their and scope them out. Do they do live events? (Just ask if they have an event calendar, or look online.) Do they have a section for local authors? That can be helpful. In the case of the indie store above, they charge the authors for shelf space! I understand! This is a hard time for them just to survive!

    One thing I did early on is write out a script that I used when I called. Seriously, it helped!

    Don’t hesitate to post any questions that come up, Shevi, or feel free to DM me.

    Best,

    Peter

One Trackback

  1. By An Interview with A. R. Silverberry » On Writing on January 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    […] with real people. For anyone curious as to how I do these events, please see my blog article, Art of the Meet and Greet.  With the e-edition, I’ll continue seeking reviews, and I’m planning a blog tour. The […]

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