So the book signing in Hadley, MA took place on Sunday as per schedule.
First off, I must say a huge thank you to the Hadley Barnes & Noble folks. They were very friendly, wonderful, and I feel did their best in the face of whatever is going on in B&N’s HQ these days.
Which brings me to the full detailed version. Again: local store awesome; corporate to blame.
- Is 1 week prior to Father’s Day a good date to have a Teen Fest thing? I don’t know, maybe something closer to July or closer to Memorial Day or nearer to an approximation of Spring Break? Suffice to say the teens that were there were shopping for Daddy, not for themselves.
- Advertisement. You’re Barnes & Noble for crying out loud. Did you leave all the promo up to the individual stores? I hope not. Especially for something you were doing across all your stores. This is a good time to get maximum bang for your advertising dollars by running national ad campaigns to draw attention to this thing. Sure, local stores do a little on their social media and in-store, maybe local papers to highlight just who is going to be this store’s guests, but … come on. Then again, B&N doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on marketing. I mean, have you ever seen them advertise much? Never mind their stores, how about the Nook? Their stores are their primary POS for the thing, and their website, but how many B&N banner ads have you seen on websites, or radio/tv/billboard/newspaper adverts have you seen for the Nook, the B&N website, or the physical stores? Sorry guys, but you’re second or lower to Amazon (who is an evil evil bunch of people whose downfall I shall cheer greatly) … follow Avis car rentals’ example “We’re number 2, but we try harder” philosophy!
- A clearer vision and communication of what the Teen Fest would be. Looking around online at what other stores were doing, it was rather mixed methods and mixed thinking. Some stores had workshops that … well … someone explaining how to write a long line description – you know the dreaded Twitter Blurb! Okay, first off, that’s hard for a lot of writers to do. Come on, for crying out loud, we just took 400 pages and 500 000 words to say “boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, they date and fall in love and get married and have 65 kids, 8000 grandkids, and 14 goats, and the kingdom was saved!” we really aren’t going to squeeze it all down with ease. I mean, a writers’ panel with Q&A for geeky fannish teens to come to, certainly, but traditional writers’ workshop kind of stuff doesn’t tend to be a crowd draw for any age demographic, targeting it to teens is going to get you maybe 3 people.
Honestly, I rather expected something like this. I mean B&N was virtually the only bookstore around in the part of Georgia I moved from so it was the place that got people like Steve Harvey … and few people showed up because few people knew about it. I now know why Terry Brooks‘ appearance that same day in South Hadley, was at a little place called Odyssey Bookshop. Big name authors often are very expressive about wanting to support the small mom & pop sort of stores. Which, I believe, is definitely a big part of it. But it’s also that I believe the smaller stores have a better means of reaching people and bringing folks in.
A small bookshop actually is more likely to have regulars engaged both in face-to-face conversations as well as social media interactions. Your smaller bookshop is more likely to have the customer walk in for a copy of Wintersmith and wind up staying to chit chat for 3 hours while browsing around for 2. Watch folks at a big chain store, they walk in, pause at the display of the latest from Stephen King, then make a beeline for what they’re there for, spend a few minutes finding it on the shelf, a couple more minutes looking around that same few feet to see if there’s anything else by that author they want to grab, then back to the cash register. If they stay, it’s to drink coffee and use the free wifi. The small shoppe is almost always in a location with a lot of passerby foot traffic and so puts out a chalkboard sign that is colourful and attention getting so all those window shoppers and bankers-off-to-lunch pass and see it. B&N is starting to trend itself into malls, but there’s no chalkboard signs. B&N isn’t likely to take out an ad in the paper. Small shoppe knows that most subscriptions doesn’t equal most readers, they know the little (usually free, so ads cost a little more, but it’s worth it) local indie paper (i.e. The Metro Spirit in the CSRA) is the way to go and put in a good sized ad there. The little shoppe also knows that an investment in a few minutes with a desktop publishing software, a printer, and a few dozen sheets of paper taken around to the local coffee shops and other places with a bulletin board … or adhered to a few strategic lampposts …
Really; never blame the local personification of the chain store. They’re following corporate dictates which nearly never make the slightest sense and trying to run on a very restricted and controlled budget. It’s the folks in HQ who deserve a great big “Are you one drugs?” response.
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