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!