Monthly Archives: May 2007

Our Fair Lady

Alison Morris - May 8, 2007

Last week our store experienced two "firsts" (so far as I'm aware). One was our first true CELEBRITY event — an in-store book-signing with Julie Andrews Edwards, the author of such books as Mandy, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, and the brand-new Thanks to You; the Academy Award-winning star of The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and (for a new generation of movie-goers) The Princess Diaries; the Tony Award-winning star of My Fair Lady and Camelot, and… Need I go on?

As you might imagine, the logistics of organizing such an event were… tricky at best, terrifying at worst. Thankfully, though, everything went swimmingly during our evening with Julie, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the event, rather than fretting about it the way I had been in the days preceding.

Julie herself was wonderful. She took the time to speak with each and every one of the 400+ customers lucky (or die-hard) enough to get tickets to the signing line, and was charming and friendly from the time she arrived until the time she departed (about three hours later). From the sincerity of her responses you would have thought our customers were the first to thank her, the first to gush over their fondness for her books and movies, the first to share personal anecdotes about how much she (or their perceptions of her) meant to them, her loyal fans.

While we did have one or two extreme "fanatics" in attendance, we didn't have the crush of crazies I'd originally feared. We snaked our signing line so that customers walking away from Julie's signing table couldn't help but march right in the direction of our store's back door, making it easy for us to then usher them out and thank them for coming. From my post at the door I could see customers' reactions as they stepped up to the table to meet Julie and (better still) see their reactions as they walked away and grasped hands or exchanged overwhelmed looks with the friends they'd brought with them.

THIS was amazing! Watching 40-something and 50-something women nearly hyperventilate is an experience I've not often had at our events, even the best of them, and it was pretty remarkable to watch. It's not every day that I see people come face-to-face with one of their idols, then see the reality of it sweep them practically off their feet. It was also heartwarming to see several generations bonding in such rapid fashion. Girls and their mothers clutched each other (and their books) as they stepped out of the store, squealing with delight as they left the store and headed for the parking lot. ALL EVENING I heard thank you after thank you after thank you.

Which brings me to the second "first" of our remarkable night with Julie: the morning after, when the phone rang repeatedly with customers we didn't know personally calling to thank us and tell us what a wonderful job we'd done running the event. In my six years with Wellesley Booksmith, I have organized, executed, and hosted many, many, many events with authors and illustrators, and in all that time I've never known the phone to ring so often for such a gratifying reason. Makes me want to want to host EVERYONE's childhood idols at our lovely independent bookstore!

In order to start that ball rolling, though, you'll have to identify them for me. Enter your childhood idol in the comments space. If we wind up hosting that person, I'll give you ticket number one to their autographing or (if they can actually write and publish something of QUALITY) book-signing line!

Bookselling Tips from The Lemonade War (Part Two)

Alison Morris - May 1, 2007

Continued from "Bookselling Tips from The Lemonade War (Part One)"

How could a book written for third graders be of help to you, a grown-up? Because Jackie introduces readers to 10 key selling tips, referred to in the book as "Ten Tips for Turning Lemons into Loot." Each of these tips manages to benefit either Jessie or Evan in their lemonade war, and each of these techniques or approaches was (perhaps inadvertently?) employed by Jackie in the ways that she put together one of the most thoughtfully orchestrated events we've ever hosted at our bookstore.

I won't explain how she managed to succeed at using all ten tips, because it would make for an extra long blog entry, and it would steal Jackie's thunder. If you want to learn the remaining tips, read The Lemonade War! But first, read about four things that Jackie did to promote her event and her books.

1. "Location: It all starts with where you put your lemonade stand." Jackie chose a good location by selecting her kid-friendly local independent bookstore, but she also created an eye-catching location within a location by building her own lemonade stand (out of a $25 table and some PVC pipe!). Customers couldn't help but stop when they saw the bright blue banners on the stand, and they couldn't help but ask about her book, as Jackie poured them a free cup of very tasty lemonade. In many cases this resulted in what? A sale.

Here we see Jackie, in her booth, talking with Karen Day, whose first book Tall Tales should be arriving at the store any day now. In the photo on the left you can see the actual lemonade in Jackie's stand. In the photo on the right you can see that the lemonade booth doubles perfectly as a booksigning table.


2. "Advertising: Make your lemons stand out in a crowd." Jackie not only promoted her event to those on her own mailing list, she also designed a large poster advertising the event, sent me a proof to look over, then printed a few copies for me, so that I could hang them at the store and elsewhere. Creating the poster gave Jackie some creative control, plus the satisfaction of knowing that we'd be visibly advertising her event. It gave ME the sense that Jackie wanted to make my job easier, which makes me like her even more, which makes me even more keen to sell her books. Win, win, win. You can see one of Jackie's posters below, as it appeared on our endcap display featuring Jackie's books.

3. "Value-added: Giving your lemons that something extra." Jackie not only brought enough lemonade for all in attendance, she brought homemade chocolate chip cookies too! (Talk about added value…) She also brought paper giveaways, each advertising The Lemonade War, and each giving younger attendees something more to do if they became bored with the banter of their accompanying grown-ups. She brought bookmarks, a brochure of "Ten Terrific Tips for the best lemonade stand ever!", a word search, and a trivia quiz. All of them were designed and printed by her, and all of them were a big hit with customers. All of them also include a link to Jackie's Lemonade War website (smart, smart, smart!).

4. "Goodwill: How to make people love your lemons." Kids who entered Jackie's trivia quiz filled out their names and ages in designated spaces on the back of the form. They then stuck their trivia quiz forms into a raffle box, from which Jackie drew one name at two different times during her event. To each of the selected kids she gave away a free book.

But what about the kids who were too young to enter the trivia contest or those who hadn't yet read The Lemonade War? Jackie made it pretty darn easy for everyone. She printed the answer to each question on its own lemon-shaped piece of paper, laminated those lemons, and stuck them in obvious places around the store, making the trivia quiz more like a matching game than an actual memory test. Below are two examples of her highly visible clues.


The end result of Jackie's efforts was a wonderful event with about 50 people in attendance and book sales that far exceeded those we've had even at some of our "bigger name" readings and signings.

What additional sales tips can you learn from Jackie Davies? Read The Lemonade War to find out! Want writing tips too? I'd suggest signing up for a session of Rising River, Jackie's "Working Retreat for the Writer of Children's Books." I hear it's about as soul-satisfying as a home-baked cookie and a cup of cold lemonade.