Fall Events Frenzy (Part II)

Alison Morris - September 23, 2007

Continued from Fall Events Frenzy (Part I)…

On the day of an event in our store, we’ve got to rearrange fixtures in our Used Book Cellar to set up for a book reading, set up a book-signing table on the sales floor, and put the visiting authors’ books in one convenient, easy-to-buy-from location, then one of us has to run/oversee the actual event itself. After the event we have to put all of these things back in their original places. We usually need an extra person helping out with all this, as it can get crazy to try to make recommendations to browsing customers browsing iwhile you’ve got a store full of people milling about in a book-signing line and lots of sales being rung through the registers. On the whole, though, and all preparation work aside, the actual execution of an in-store event isn’t all that taxing, unlike the execution of an off-site event.

On the day of an off-site event, the person (or persons) running the event has to pull the visiting author’s books from all the displays and shelves in the store, assemble said books in boxes, put together a cash box, and create a book price list (including tax) for each of the author’s titles. When all of this has been done, they load up their vehicle(s) with boxes of books, in addition to the following: one or two credit card "machines" (we call them "kerchunkers" because that’s the noise they make when you run them over someone’s card), credit card slips, calculators, ballpoint pens, post-it notes (for personalizations), plastic bags, book stands, event fliers, newsletter sign-up sheets, store bookmarks, any publicity materials the author’s publisher has sent, and the store tablecloth (logo prominently appliqued to the front). After the event, the unsold books have to be carted back the store, put back on the shelves or on a "signed books" display (if we happen to have the space for one) or returned to the publisher. The credit card sales from the event rung seperately through the cash register, and we have to tally and ring in the sales from cash and checks.

In the case of huge off-site author events, along the lines of our events with Rick Riordan and Lemony Snicket, there’s a LOT more work involved than just what’s listed here, and a lot more people involved in making it happen. For your average event, though, two of us tackle all of the above, usually successfully. At library events we have the added benefit and help of several hard-working librarians. For school events, an increasingly common feature of our events calendar, it usually takes only one of us to supervise the show, but the pre-event planning is a lot more involved.

So, why am I putting myself through the paces again this season with all of these events? Because in the case of our store’s children’s events, we seem to be doing reasonably well on balance, and because I hate to give them up! Just like the customers who are overjoyed at the opportunity to meet the person behind their favorite titles, I get positively giddy over the prospect of meeting some of these talents and introducing them to our customers. Likewise, if I already know an author and we’ve become friendly, I’m anxious to do what I can to give a boost to both their visibility and their book sales.

I will readily admit, though, that tending to so many events during the ramp-up to our busiest time of year puts an enormous strain on my time and drains a great deal of my energy. Someday soon I hope to pass our children’s events responsibilities off to someone else who can do all the run-around and follow-ups and let me get back to discovering the authors we’d most want to host, instead of worrying about how best to do so.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been thrilled to kick off our events season with two incredibly friendly and easy-going authors — the kind I’m happy to have back at any time. Last Tuesday we had 90 people at our event with the ridiculously funny Jon Scieszka, and on Friday I had the pleasure of accompanying Kenneth Oppel to a local middle school where he did two presentations and then had lunch with 4 sixth graders who help put together the schools’ annual literary magazine. Both events included many reminders for me of why it is that we’re still happy to do author events. Yesterday as these 4 kids grinned over their slices of pizza and told Ken what sorts of books they like to read, one of them explained their typical cafeteria scenario, remarking "We don’t usually get to, like, have lunch with actual authors!" As the resident "actual author" in my apartment had lunch (and breakfast and dinner) with me today for the umpteenth time, I couldn’t help thinking it’s only right that I share the wealth.

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