The Power of the RSVP

Josie Leavitt - September 17, 2010

We all know bookstore events are fickle things. Sometimes, no matter how much planning, press, social media or in-store promotion goes into an event, it can be still be under-attended. At the Flying Pig we are trying something new with a few upcoming events. It’s a simple line on all our promotional materials: “Must RSVP, space limited.”
It’s working. We’ve been flooded with RSVPs for two events. The beauty of an RSVP is it automatically is it forces people to think ahead for events. All too often people have the best intentions but in the grind of daily life sometimes people forget events. But if they know they might not be able to come to the event because we’ll have run out of space, they are more likely to commit to attending. By having an event be RSVP it heightens the allure of the event, and it makes folks remember that these events are special. I’ve noticed that once something makes it on the family calendar, it tends to happen. The mere act of seeing an event listed somewhere, on our website, a flyer, or even in the store, and then making a phone call to the store and asking to be put on the list, makes the customer lock the event into their brain so they actually come.
When we take RSVP information we ask for phone numbers and emails. We will try to send out reminder emails the week of the event to the RSVP folks. Having the contact info is also important should there be a change of venue or a cancellation due to weather. Plus, having customer emails is always a great thing as most folks prefer to be contacted via email.
The beauty of the RSVP list is when it works, people fill the store during events. Once you’ve got them there, you can promote other events. We try to always have our next month’s event flyer out for folks to take with them. Busy people need to be reminded, again and again, of upcoming events in as many ways possible. Plus, as a bookseller who has hosted many events, there is something thrilling about an RSVP list that is robust weeks before the event. Also, the list helps you order your event books with a greater sense of control. That’s a huge bonus and helps to take some of the anxiety out of events.
What customers forget is that all events are special, and booksellers try very hard to make each one a rousing success. Are there any tips booksellers have to make every event a well-attended success?

4 thoughts on “The Power of the RSVP

  1. Rich Rennicks

    Another advantage of a robust RSVP list is when — as happened with one of my authors this year — a flight gets canceled and the author cannot make the event, the store can contact everyone on the list. In our case, we rescheduled a meet & greet for the morning after the event was to have taken place, and a good number of people were able to attend, and the store sold quite a few books. What could have been an expensive disappointment was saved because the store had all those RSVPs.

    1. Mairin

      That’s a wonderful consideration you gave your clients. I’ll bet you gained more good will than you know- word of mouth spreads quickly.

  2. Donna Marie Merritt

    Good advice from both Josie and Rich! I love the “space limited” line. You’re right—people are so busy that it helps if they’ve made a commitment to attend. Book events are special (for the author/illustrator and guests) and should be treated as such.

  3. penny

    We have been doing that at The Norwich Bookstore for years and it has worked very well. We actually go to the extreme of putting people’s names on chairs. They feel very special.


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