Monthly Archives: May 2010

When Authors Help with Events

Josie Leavitt - May 6, 2010

Tomorrow, we’re very lucky to host Cynthia Lord for her book Hot Rod Hamster. Usually, for an event like this, we’d do several things.
– Promote the book through various means: calendar listings, ads,  social media, email list blasts, and in-store flyers.
– Have plenty of copies of the book on display and read it at story hour.
– Recommend it to parents and kids at the register.
– Get the room ready for little ones, with chairs and a snack table.
I thought we were on the ball, and then Cynthia Lord sent us a letter about two weeks ago, which I’ve copied below:
“We’re less than two weeks away now from my visit to Flying Pig, so I wanted to send you an email and say how excited I am to come and see you again. I’m really looking forward to being there. So my event is at 4:00 pm on 7th. Is it upstairs at the store?  I ask because if it isn’t too much trouble, I’d like to use my projector and project the book onto a blank wall, instead of holding the book as I read it.  Because Hot Rod Hamster has choices in it, it’s easier for the kids to see those choices, if the pages are big. I have all my own equipment, so all I’d need is a small table for the projector and an outlet.  But I can certainly hold the book if that’s any problem at all.
Derek Anderson did a wonderful drawing page that kids have enjoyed at other events I’ve done. The kids draw Hamster a new race car. Would it be okay with you if I invite the kids to do this when I’m done reading?  If you like this idea, I can bring copies and crayons with me.
Scholastic also asked me to write a letter about the writing of Hot Rod Hamster that you’re welcome to copy, if you’d like to use it in any way.
So I’ll come by around 3:30 that Friday to set up, but is there anything else you’d like from me?  I have a school visit the day before in White River Junction, and then I have booked a hotel room in South Burlington that night. So no pressure at all (because I know you’re very busy!) but I am offering that if there’s anything else you’d like me to do the night before (come to a book group, have a supper with teachers, etc,) or the day of my signing while I’m in your area, just ask.”
I was thrilled to get this letter. What an organized author who is extremely generous with her time. How great it is to know what she needs ahead of time. Yes, I have a table and an extension cord for her projector and will reconfigure the room for that kind of set up. Knowing this ahead of time saves me from scrambling the day of the event. I like to have the event room looking perfect before the event; I want authors to walk into a room that’s ready for them and looks great.
What a great idea to have the book on the projector.  This way everyone can see all the art and the author can just focus on her reading and not worry about holding the book up. Hot Rod Hamster begs to have kids shouting out choices and having fun, and to being able see the book projected on a screen will make it a very lively reading, not to mention making it seem a little bit like magic.
A drawing page from the book is a wonderful idea, too. Kids can color while others ask questions. Cynthia has clearly laid out how the event can be successful and heaps of fun.  She’s even offered to bring crayons! I can’t wait to see all these kids drawing a page from the book, after reading the book and meeting the author. What a wonderful experience for them.
I’ve never gotten a letter like this before from an author who was so clear about her needs, but I love it. Her tone is not demanding at all, it’s collaborative.  I can’t wait to meet Cynthia and to have a great event. I’ll post pictures from the event next Monday.  And honestly? I can’t wait to color a page from the book.

2D Barcodes and What They Mean to You

Josie Leavitt - May 4, 2010

Maybe I’m behind the times, but I’ve just learned about 2D barcodes. I’ve been noticing these odd-looking barcodes on more and more books every day. At first I  wondered what these things were, I was busy shelving and not paying much attention, until today. I was shelving SuperFreakonomics and the 2D barcode finally caught my eye.
First you must have a “smart phone” and a free or 99 cent app to get the reader to work. I have an iPhone so I downloaded my app and took a picture of the barcode. I wasn’t expecting much, but then I was blown away. The photo of the barcode led me to a web page that was all about SuperFreakonomics. It was as exhilarating and it was creepy. Everything you’d want to know about the book was right there, in less than two seconds. Can’t bother to read the back of the book? Just download the barcode and you’ve got a multi-media bononza awaiting you on your phone.
Want to read the author’s blog? Just scroll down. Want to know where to buy the book, and compare prices with Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound and Powell’s, that’s just another click away. You can even take a quiz to find out if you’re a “SuperFreak.”  It’s like a toy version of the book. All the cool features of a promotional website, but you don’t have to be a computer to get there. It’s genius and it scares the heck out of me.
Lauren Conrad’s book, L.A. Candy, has very interactive content aimed at the adolescents the book is marketed for. There are video clips, hair and make-up pages, links to her other books, and of course, a buy the book page. Of course Amazon is listed first because these lists are always alphabetical. It sort of makes me wish the ABA had named Indiebound, All About Indies so it would show first on these lists and not after Borders, but I digress.
I think 2D barcodes are here to stay and I suspect we’ll see them on more and more books, especially books for Young Adults.  I think what’s seemingly a gadget right now, will be the wave of the future. I haven’t decided if being able to access all sorts of a book before you buy is a good thing, or if it will spoil the reader’s enjoyment of the book.
I’ll let everyone know once I’m done taking the SuperFreak quiz.

#SaleFail: Losing Sales Through Every Fault of Your Own

Elizabeth Bluemle - May 3, 2010

A lovely Canadian tourist couple came into the store the other day, and after browsing for a while, they bought a couple of books, among them a book group reading log we’ve had on the shelf for a good long while. I was delighted to see it leaving the store in the hands of an appreciative buyer — especially one who lives out of the country, which diminishes the possibility of returns by about 100%. (Doesn’t it seem as though the books you’re most happy to see leaving the store are always the ones that get returned?)
We chatted a little about her book group; she was getting the log as a gift for one of her reading companions. Suddenly, I remembered a brand-new reading-group log we’d just gotten in — one with a less handsome cover but a lot more oomph inside, most notably checklists of up-to-date literary prize winners. I suppose I was thinking the customer might want a reading log for herself, too; at least, that’s how I justify the following downward spiral of salesmanship:
“Oh!” I said. “If you like reading logs, you need to see the one we just got in. It’s jam-packed with features…” At this point, I started seeing the yellow flags alerting my inner Paco Underhill to the bad path I was heading down. I was committing a couple of errors here: 1) undermining a customer’s purchase; 2) pointing them toward a different, less expensive alternative.
Unable to stop myself, I leapt out from behind the counter and dashed to the Book Group Picks shelf where she’d found the other log. I could have pretended we were out of the new book, sure, and I certainly didn’t need to point out all of the cool features it had. But I am a book enthusiast first and a businesswoman second, and truthfully, in good conscience I couldn’t just let her leave the store without seeing all of the choices.
As surely as bread falls jelly-side down, she hesitantly asked if she could exchange the first book for the second. “Of course!” I said brightly, hiding my disappointment. To add insult to injury, the new book was $3 cheaper. Why didn’t I let her leave with a book I wanted to get rid of, that she was perfectly happy with? Now I had to run a credit through the machine, and since her card is from a Canadian bank, I racked up a few extra fees on both sides of that transaction. #SaleFail!
I comforted myself by not offering to giftwrap the book, and she didn’t ask, so at least I wasn’t out the price of the paper.
The bookseller in me is, of course, happy that she left my store with the best possible book, but I was kicking myself for the rest of the day for my idiocy. The spine of the older, less oomph-y, nonreturnable reading log sits spitefully on the shelf, a mute reminder of my failure.
In case you’re curious about the new reading log, there are actually two versions, adult and teen. Both are really terrific (although I wish their covers looked less “school assignment”-y) and are nicely and cleanly designed inside. Read, Remember, Recommend: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers and Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers, both by Rachelle Rogers Knight (Sourcebooks, $15.99, EAN 978-1402237188 and EAN 978-1402237195 respectively).
Booksellers, have any remarkable sales fails to share? Tell us. It’s cathartic. Kind of.