I get Publishers Lunch every morning – and so should every person who’s involved in this crazy thing we call publishing. In my morning meal, I saw that a Denver indie bookstore is going to start charging people to attend a book event – anywhere between $5-$10. That money will be used as coupon toward buying the author’s book. I found the article on GalleyCat, so you can read the article for yourself.
Store owner, David Bolduc, explains:
“Publishers place certain expectations on us when we host events, and so in order to continually attract authors, we must fulfill these expectations. Oftentimes, in return for sending an author to a bookstore, publishers expect us to attract a certain number of people and sell a certain number of books.”
How do you feel about this? I have to admit that I was shocked at this decision. From a purely publisher mindset, I am concerned this will chase event goers away. For one thing, I don’t agree with this logic. Maybe some publishers have those expectations, but I always have the attitude that the author needs to have enough of a platform, or an enticing book, to pull in event goers.
I know that when I was doing the big promo push for Tackle Box, I told the bookstores of all the writer’s groups I’d contacted and my belief that the event would be well attended. And they always were. But I did my homework because I didn’t want to sit on my arse with my finger up my nose. In other words, those stores had a compelling reason to host my book event, and that was to bring in shoppers who will buy my book and maybe a few more as well. I became a revenue stream for them.
And that’s the idea behind hosting book events. It’s give and take, and there has to be something in it for the one hosting the event. Otherwise, what’s the point? But then came along the vanity and POD authors, and bookstores saw a huge downturn in the quality of books that waltzed into those book events. The authors had zero experience, and their “publishers” were deliciously AWOL in terms of publicizing the event. The results were that few attend the events, and the store lost money. Or didn’t gain a thing.
So booksellers have become careful about whom they agree to host. Few will host vanity or POD books. Others demand a list of people who agree to attend. Others still, charge the author – or the publisher – to host the event. But to date, no one has ever charged the attendees.
Do you see this as an effective way to attract customers to come into your store? If anything, I see this as bug repellant. I have attended a number of my friends’ book events, and if I knew I was going to be charged $5 or $10 just to sit my rusty dusty in one of their chairs, I might think twice about it. True, I basically get paid back when I buy the author’s book, but what if I already bought the book? Or I bought the e-book?
I understand the owner’s plight – to get people to shop locally and support local bookstores – but I wonder if he’s shooting himself in the foot. You can’t mandate where people shop – especially in this economy. If a bookstore is going to accept the burden of hosting an event, then they do the natural things that will attract attention. They print up posters and hang them around the store. Some take out small ads in their local newspaper. They do it to create excitement and gain customers.
But how many customers are you going to attract if they know they’re going to be dinged just for attending an event?
I realize there are no easy answers. Stores are closing right and left – which makes me infinitely sad. Many stores have stopped hosting author events altogether – another sad plight. But what I don’t think is right is fleecing the golden goose to simply attend a book event.
I don’t know…am I wrong? Would you pay to attend a book event for an unknown author? Do you see this as a profit center for the bookstore and not much upside for the customer?