Representing books with charisma for adults, teens and children

Representing books with charisma for adults, teens and children

Representing books with charisma for adults, teens and children

Bookstores' secrets to exciting author events

Strand Book Store third floor reading room
"Because of the competition in New York City, we want to offer something experiential," says Kaylen Higgins, Events Director at Strand Book Store. "We want programming that's more dynamic than authors having a conversation." (Facebook photo: crowd for Dog Medicine by Julie Barton)

G. Brown (Red Rocks: The Concert Years) at Tattered Cover
Daniel George of Tattered Cover in Denver says, "Our most successful talks are the extremely prevalent and well-known authors on the national level, including bestsellers, genre writers or those heavily invest in social media." For authors of business books  "or businessmen and women who write a book about their work or their career or simply their approach to success, we can have 100 to 150 in attendance and sell around 70%."

BookCourt event space looking out from the speaker's spot
BookCourt in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, is "one of the premiere bookstores in the country with one of the biggest event spaces of any bookstore in the city," Andrew Unger says. (Facebook photo) "We can hold as many as 400 people in our space. Ethan Hawke has made a habit of launching his books here. The energy of the space when it's full is terrific." He advises authors to understand the capabilities of the space. "When a local author makes us the third or fourth stop in the city, it hurts us a lot. Come prepared for a big celebration. James McBride brought his band to help him celebrate. We can do a lot and we like it when we can do a lot!Authors who take advantage of that fact always sell the most books."

But books are usually sold for list price at events. How do stores motivate readers to pay full price for a book?  

"The best way is to give them an unforgettable experience," said Daniel of Tattered Cover. "A signed book only means so much to me, but if you felt like the presentation made you learn something about yourself, it solidifies an experience that could only be had at the Tattered Cover."

While most, if not all, author events at bookstores are free, Strand Book Store requires purchase of a $10-15 store gift card or purchase of the author's book. Charging admission hasn't really increased book sales, Kaylen says, but the store's third floor rare book room attracts a higher caliber of authors who offer an experience. "We've had stand-up comedians, podcasts and talks with slideshow components." (Facebook photo: Harry Potter coloring bar in the are book room)

BookCourt customers look for something unique and often literary. "Authors should present their book in a unique and compelling way," Andrew says. "I don't think anyone has truly figured out 'readings' yet. Word bookstore is doing a heck of a job. Book People in Austin is doing some excellent programming, too. I like to think that in some small way I might also be turning some heads. One of my favorite events was Robert Coover's conversation with Garth Risk Hallberg about his monster of a novel The Brunist Day of Wrath. There was a modest crowd, but I consider it one of our great successes. In terms of numbers we've hosted some hugely successful celebrity events. Elvis Costello sat and signed books here for almost three hours one night, meeting all his local fans. Anthony Bourdain read here with the artist of his graphic novels. Stephen King and Peter Straub talked with their kids Owen King and Emma Straub about growing up in a family of writers. Our customers look for something unique and often literary. The formula for captivating audiences en masse is still a mystery, though. Authors should know that beforehand. Invite everyone on earth you've ever talked to. Publicize yourself endlessly and tirelessly. Get people out! Don't be afraid to think of something you can do that will make your event a true Event, make it stand out. And authors will win innumerable handsells from booksellers."

First posted on 9/19/2016 on public speaking blog