Monday, November 21, 2011

Art of the Meet and Greet: Part II

Art of the Meet and Greet: Part II By A. R. Silverberry

Last post, I described how to set up a bookstore author event called a meet and greet. I discussed the advantages of the meet and greet, and how it can fit into your overall marketing plan. Today, I’ll be discussing how to maximize sales on the day of your event. If you missed Part I, you can be read it on my blog.

Now we’ve come to the day of the event. Plan to get there early to set up. If you have a lot of stamina, you can stretch your selling period out, and sell earlier and later than the official time you’re there. I’ve found that customers start coming in greater numbers at around noon, and continue to come in waves until about 5 PM. My book is for children, so things slow down for me around then. I haven’t tested store traffic after 5 PM.

Stores will generally provide you with a table and chair, but it’s helpful to bring your own folding table and chair, just in case. Bring a friend if you can. It helps pass the time pleasantly. Also, if the store has more than one entrance, your friend can hand out fliers as people come through the other door, and invite them to meet you at the front of the store.

Each store has what they call their power aisle. This is the main aisle running from the front entrance and down the center of the store. Position you table as close to the power aisle as you can. Ask them if you can decorate the table. I bring a pink table cloth that coordinates with the color of my book. I’ve got a 36 X 24 poster of the cover that I set up on an easel behind me. An 11 X 18 laminated poster with reviews is placed on a small easel on the table. I arrange the books, and the bookmarks, postcards, and promotional fliers that I’ve brought. I also bring business cards along. I’ve almost always met people who want to contact me later, such as teachers who would like a school visit. Provide the store with a short announcement about you and your book, and ask if they could announce it every half hour.

Now we come to the most important part of the meet and greet. How to get customers to talk to you. You need to be active. Many customers will walk right by you if you’re sitting behind the table waiting for them to come over. You need to be standing, and as they approach, greet them with something that stops them. I use the following: "Good afternoon! May I introduce you to my award-winning novel?" You’ll get all kinds of responses, from an enthusiastic, "Yes!" to, "I’m in a rush," to no response at all. Decide that you’re there to have fun and to have a good time meeting people. A relaxed attitude about the whole thing really helps! In my younger years, when I hitchhiked to college, I used to tell myself that the cars that didn’t stop were making way for the car down the line that was going to pick me up. I have the same attitude toward the customers who don’t stop at my table. I smile and thank them! Sometimes, I’ll invite them to stop by later. Some actually do, and buy a book! I think they were impressed that I was sensitive to the fact that they were on a mission. Once that mission had been fulfilled, they were more relaxed, and curious about me.

This next part is very important. Once you have a customer who is interested in your book, you need to give a one- or two-line description of the book, and it should be memorized. It took me a good year to hone my synopsis to this: "A sinister shapeshifter threatens to shatter Jen’s world and the kingdom of Aerdem. She has one chance to stop them—with a magical cloak, too dangerous to use." I immediately follow with this: "If you love page-turners with secrets, riddles, mystery, treachery, and intrigue, you’ll enjoy Wyndano’s Cloak." And then I hand them the book, which I’ve been holding with the cover facing them.

At this point, allow them to look over the book, and answer any questions they might have. If they are interested, sign the book and include a bookmark!

Don’t start selling to someone else while you’re talking to a customer. You’ll lose the one you’re with. Some customers may want to take the book to look over as they walk around the store. This is fine, as long as the store was the one who ordered the books. If you brought the books, encourage them to look it over at your table. If the book walks out of the store, or is lost, you’re stuck.

At the end of the day, pack up and clean up your area. Thank the staff and managers, and send them another thank you by phone or email. They’ll often ask you back! One store has hosted me three times! Repeat the process with all the big stores in your area!

One final note. Some authors have a bowl of candy or a plate of cookies on their table as a way to lure customers. This didn’t work for me. People gobbled them up, but had no interest in staying to talk about the book. It actually got in the way of talking with customers who were genuinely interested. However, I imagine if you are selling a cookbook, some samples would be wonderful, and would provide a good lead in to your book!

Now make the process yours. The more meet and greets you do, the more comfortable you will become. I’m introverted and shy by nature, but I love talking about my book! It’s fun being in the spotlight and away from my writing desk. I’ve met wonderful readers and valuable contacts. At one meet and greet, a girl hugged my book in her arms as she walked out of the store. That’s a moment I’ll always treasure.

A. R. Silverberry

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