Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interview With Independent Bookstore Events Coordinator

Michele Filgate has been the events coordinator at one of NYC’s premiere independent bookstores, McNally Jackson, for the past three months. She ran events at RiverRun Bookstore for three and a half years prior to that and worked there for two years while attending college. She also worked at her college bookstore and volunteered at an Indie bookstore as a kid. She loves books. Before she worked ar RiverRun, she helped produce a segment for CBS Evening News with Katie Couric called “Assignment America.”

BookMarketingBuzzBlog conducted an interview, via email, this past week with Michele. Here’s what she had to share:

1.            What do you like best about what you do? There are so many things I love about my job. It's hard to narrow it down to one thing. I suppose it would have to be connecting writers with devoted and new fans.
2.            Are you in awe when best-selling authors and famous people come in to your store to do a book signing? Who were some of your favorites? Sometimes! We recently had a wonderful event with Edna O'Brien and the actor Gabriel Byrne. That was without a doubt one of the best events I've ever hosted. What an incredible conversation between two great artists! I loved hosting Stephen King at RiverRun Bookstore. He's charming and very down-to-earth.

3.            What do you look for in determining which author/book you will hold an autograph signing for? Several things, including: Is someone on staff passionate about the book? Is the author a big name? If the author isn't a big name, will we get a good turnout if we host the author? Is there some really good pre-publication buzz about the book?

4.            You do more than just have authors sign books. Tell us what goes into planning your events. I like to think of our series as more curated than just "this author is reading on this date." I shy away from an author reading by him or herself (unless it makes sense), and try to pair a lot of authors together. I'm big on in-conversation events, where a lesser known author is interviewed by a big name writer or editor. I also love to book panels, and social events. We're hosting Nerd Jeopardy soon, a fun night of literary trivia and wine.  There's a lot that goes into planning events. It's good to balance the calendar and always keep it interesting.

5.            What do you think independent bookstores can do to differentiate from the chains? One word: community. Indie bookstores often become cultural centers-- a gathering place for events, the exchange of ideas, and even community involvement.
6.            As more books are purchased online or as e-books, where does that leave the independent bookseller five years from now?  There's nothing that can replace the experience of shopping in a brick and mortar store, and getting recommendations from people who read all the time. Indie bookstores are here to stay, and many of them are keeping up with technological advances. At McNally Jackson, we sell e-books via our website. We also have an Espresso Book Machine, and can print lots of backlist titles and self-published books in a matter of minutes.

7.            Some independent bookstores are charging  for author presentations.  How will that help bring in more bookstore traffic? I know that some bookstores who follow that model are seeing an increase in turnout and an increase in sales at events. Having some sort of financial investment in the event-- even if it's a five dollar ticket-- can make a difference in people showing up the night of the reading. 

Book Marketing Tool:  Language

Although the English lexicon consists of some two million words, most people have  a functioning vocabulary of about 60,000 words. But the 100 most frequently used words make up 50% of all that we read and write.  The top 300 words make up 65% of all that we read and write.

Does that mean the typical book of some 80,000 words consists largely of just the repeated use of 300 words?  Does that mean the one-third of text that doesn’t call upon those words is really what makes one book different from another?

It would seem a book is just one long string of words – a puzzle that expands 224 pages.  Arrange them one way and you get a best-seller; arrange them another way and you get something that sits in a remainder bin.

It is interesting to explore how so many words are just stated in different versions, thus creating new words.  When you take different tenses, prefixes, suffixes and the plural into consideration, you can have many words from one.  Take love for example.  We also get:


Just by adding one word before and/or after another word can completely alter the significance of a word:

I love you
I don’t love you
I love no more
Loving unconditionally
Toxic love
True love
Forever loved
Never loved

Of course none of this is new or unusual for those of us who love words and even make a living with them. But sometimes we forget to dance and sing with our words, to bring them to the fore of our minds. Life offers, a big playground and words are the toys we get to play with all the time, 24-7, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

In case you wondered, here are the 20 most frequently used words.  Use them wisely.  It’ll be the words that you connect to those 20 that will make all the difference in the world to your writing:

1.     the                          11.  he
2.     of                           12.  was
3.     to                           13.  for
4.    and                         14.  on
5.    A                             15.  are
6.    in                             16.  with
7.     is                            17.  us
8.     it                             18.  I
9.    you                          19.  his
10.   that                         20.  they

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts (www.plannedtvarts.com) and blogs daily at http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

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