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?

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