July, 2009

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Bookstore Feedback – Part One

A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about our research in to bookstore events. We also indicated that the results would be coming soon. We’ll most likely separate our many findings in to several posts.

First is the results of an extensive telemarketing campaign that our team put together. I think you might be as surprised as we were….

Over the past six months, The Cadence Group called 1034 bookstores and asked following question:

“Do you host author events?”

We called a wide range of stores. We called independent bookstores. We called chain bookstore. We called gift shops. We called institutional bookstores. The answers we received were varied and surprising.

“I don’t do events anymore.” “I can’t afford the extra staff, time and effort that book signings entail.” “Will the author bring their own books?” “We don’t do well with author signings.” “We only book events from large publishers.” “We’re too small for events.” “We only book local authors for signings.” “Our customers don’t come out for events.”

This small sampling drove home how deeply the struggling economy is affecting retailers everywhere. It also highlighted the many ways that the face of event marketing in the publishing industry is changing.

When our marketing team started our calls, we expected an enthusiastic and positive response from retailers. We thought we knew that bookstores were ready, able, and excited to host local and regional authors. We thought we knew that retailers were looking for ways to draw people to their stores and that author events would be near the top of the list of how to do so.

We thought wrong. We’ll let the numbers tell the tale…

Out of the 1034 stores we contacted:

  • 825 were Chain or Institutional Stores
  • 209 were Independents and Gift Stores
  • 254 stores told us that they did not do events because they were too small or did not have the staff
  • 117 stores told us that they did not do signings because no one came
  • 21 stores told us that they were not booking events because they were not sure if they were going out of business or had recently closed their store fronts.
  • 18 hung up on us
  • 4 yelled and then hung up on us
  • 620 stores did events and booked authors for readings, signings, story times or workshops

Out of 1034 stores, only 620 indicated that they do events. That’s roughly 60% (according to my trusty calculator).

While that may seem like a high percentage, you then need to factor in location, region and genre. How many were children’s bookstores? How many were category-specific? How many were located in smaller regions around the country?

When you start asking these questions and reviewing the results, you realize that 60% is not that high of a percentage at all.

So now the question is…..if fewer and fewer bookstores are hosting author events, what’s the next “big thing” for marketing a new book?

And, if authors and events don’t draw people to bookstores, than what, if anything, does?

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Color

Just yesterday, someone posted an interesting question to one of the discussion groups that we follow.

Basically, the question was “Does anyone have any idea what the “ideal color” for a business book should be?”

I was surprised by the number of responses that actually suggested a color! Blue, it seems, is the color people associate with business books. Apparently, content and subcategory doesn’t matter. It should just be blue.

To me, responses such as these are dangerously irresponsible. How can a group of people suggest a “sellable” color without doing the extensive research needed to choose a book’s packaging?

How can something as vitally important as a book’s cover be reduced to the simple question of: “What color should a [insert your own category here] book be?”

Below are some highlights from my response to the “color” discussion. I hope you find them useful:

Asking about the color of a business book doesn’t take in to account so many important variables. To come up with a thoroughly competitive cover design, you should do the following:

1. Research the subcategory – leadership, time management, ethics, human resources, business management, management, how-to business, marketing, etc.

2. Purchase (or at least go to the bookstore and look at) the top sellers in your subcategory. Identify the colors, fonts and images used.

3. Find out what’s working and why. Are they all the same color, same title treatment, same image pattern? I’m guessing not. Why not? Which of the books “popped” off the shelf most. Why? (the color could be why)

4. Pull out books in colors that you and your client like that are in your cover design. Put them in the shelf within your category. Can you see them? Why? Why not? Which colors will stand out on the shelf.

It’s important to keep in mind that cover design is ultimately driven by the consumer. We teach people what to expect when they go in to the business category in terms of look, feel, trim size and even price. So, you want to be sure that you’re what they expect. At the same time, it’s important to stand out. If every book in your subcategory is blue, you might want to try red, or green or muted purple. You might want to try something very bright that practically leaps off the shelf.

Most importantly, there is no set formula for choosing “a color” for any category of books. you need to thoroughly research the subcategory and find out how you can match up against the competition and get noticed on the shelf.

Bookstore Events – Your Thoughts?

The Cadence Group is doing some research in to bookstore events and we’d love your thoughts!

As we know, the landscape of book marketing is changing on a daily basis. Budgets are being slashed at all ends of the publishing process from advances to marketing to promotional placements to author tours. Publishers and authors are trying to figure out how to best reach their readers.

The avenue that we’re currently exploring is the author tour, book signings, and/or bookstore events.

Do they work? The Cadence Group has interviewed a number of authors, independent retailers, publishers and chain bookstores. We’d love to get your thoughts and feedback as well.

What’s your experience?

Results coming soon….