Over Thanksgiving Weekend I spent some time with my wife’s uncle and he told me about a company he works for that arranges for product demonstrations at bulk stories like BJ’s and Costco’s. For instance, if a food vendor wants to hand out samples or a manufacturer wants a product such as a household item or toy put on display and demonstrated, the would arrange for it. It occurred to me that bookstores need to do this.
They started the process a long time ago by having authors come to talk, answer questions, and autograph books. But the format needs improvement.
First, every store needs to hold events and they need to happen around the clock. Stores must actively woo customers and increase foot traffic. Once in the store, people are bound to buy something.
Second, turn the author appearance into a show. Have a comic author do standup. Have dramatic readings of a novel or get people to act it out. Dress up in costumes, sing, and have fun.
Third, get it to be interactive. Use a screen to help make the presentation with multimedia. Get the audience to participate and feel involved.
Fourth, do demonstrations of products. Talk about the Nook or showcase new books with a store clerk talking briefly about each one. Give people some perspective by comparing competing titles of a similar subject matter. Insight and information helps people make buying decisions and leads them to buy something.
Fifth, stores should use their sound systems to provide sample book readings that are pre-recorded – or better yet, share audiobook samples.
Sixth, hand out a flier each day that highlights what’s new in a genre or by a revered author. Bridge the past with the present by showing how today’s bestseller is covering a topic that had been covered 20, 40, 60 or 100 years ago, but differently and in conjunction with the mores of those times.
Seventh, have a screen showing film clips of books turned into movies.
Eighth, have a meet the author section where authors are not physically present, but patrons can view a short video by the author that is not shown anywhere else. Call it exclusive content. Make it so the bookstore experience is that, an experience, one to be shared, felt, and worthy of inspiring a purchase.
What I don’t believe in, however, is book exclusivity or exclusion. Right now we have two worlds trying to co-exist. For instance, bookstores may not carry certain print-on-demand titles, especially if they are from Amazon-owned Create Space. Further, Amazon sells ebooks formatted for Kindle, so they will vary from what the Nook sells. I like the idea that every book retailer – whether physical or digital – sells every book in every format. Books aren’t vacuum cleaners, where one stores ells one brand, and another store sells a different one.
Bookstores can be unique in how they display books, how they service and inform people, how they bring in people to connect to consumers – whether they are authors, professional experts, or community members.
Once bookstores realize they can do anything Amazon does online AND leverage its shelf space with human contact, the book marketplace would shift back to brick and mortar. Maybe one day a book will be written about such a phenomenon and the author will come to a store to discuss it and drink wine with the patrons.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014
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