Sunday, November 1, 2009

Further Adventures at Costco

Does anyone really want to hear any more about my Costco book signings? I wasn’t going to type any more because I wasn’t sure I had anything newly significant to say, but someone suggested that I do another blog, so here it is.

Let me start right off by saying that after reading someone else’s blog about their own Costco book signing, I feel a bit like a failure. This guy apparently sells, like, between 50-80 books per signing! My sales pale in comparison to that. However, in case you turn out to be a lower-sales author like me, I may as well share my experience with you so if it happens to you, at least you won’t feel alone, right?

Friday, October 30:

Signing at Tempe, Arizona. This time I called the day ahead to remind them I was coming since last week they’d neglected to read their email and weren’t expecting me. When I arrived this time, they already had a table set up for me with 27 copies of my book stacked on it. That was the total number of books they had stocked in the store that day. (If they had any tucked away in a storage room somewhere, nobody told me.) I had learned from my editor to ask for a black tablecloth, which they very kindly brought me. Sadly, this week they didn’t offer me (1) a bottle of water, (2) any vases to decorate the table, or (3) a cushy executive chair to sit in. They did provide me with a hard plastic chair, but I used that to prop up one of my larger posters. (They did post my large “Author Signing” poster on an easel at the front of the store.)

I arranged the books into four stacks, and lacking any vases with live flowers, sprinkled some red fake rose petals that I’d bought at Walmart around my books. The red stood out nicely against the black tablecloth. Since, as an unknown author, I find it easier to attract attention to my table standing up than sitting down, I didn’t miss having a chair too much, since the first day of the week that I do a signing, my feet don’t complain too much about the 4 hour stand. (By day 2 or 3, they’re protesting much more loudly.)

To be honest, I was quite worried about a second Tempe signing, since it was my worst signing, numbers-wise, last week. (Only sold 15 books.) However, to my surprise and pleasure, the traffic was quite a bit higher in the store this week and I matched my prior 15 sales within the first two hours. One woman stopped by to tell me she’d bought my book during the week, had just finished reading it, and loved it. That was a very nice boost to my confidence! A little while later, another woman came by and told me she’d also bought a copy of Illuminations of the Heart during the week, and was very disappointed, not in my book (which she hadn’t read yet), but because she didn’t know I’d be doing a signing at the store and would have waited to get her book autographed if she had known. A store worker overheard her and told her to go ahead and buy another book and have me sign it and just bring back the copy she bought earlier that week. So she did! J

But my greatest coup of the day was selling a copy of my medieval romance to a somewhat gruff-looking middle-aged man (I really ought to be careful about saying that, since I’m now middle-aged myself!), who had a suspense novel in his basket but seemed to be interested in the fact that there was an author in the store signing books. (That would be me. J) He asked me what my book was about, said, “I don’t read romances”, then picked up a copy of my book and started browsing through it. He browsed so long that I started handing out bookmarks to other customers (see my prior bookmark strategy). Occasionally I would glance at him and see him kind of smiling. Needless to say, I was worried that he was thinking my romance was simply a lot of mush. But to my surprise, he finally closed the book and said, “I don’t read romances, but I really like your dialogue, so here, sign a copy for me.” So I signed a copy to “Jim”. Then he took one of my business cards with my email address on it, and said, “I’ll read it and send you a critique.” LOL! Some people I’ve told this story to have said I must be a great salesman to have sold him a book, but the truth is, I simply left him alone to browse my book and make his own decision. It was simply luck (or hopefully, a knack for dialogue?) that made that sale for me!

Thanks to Jim and the helpful Costco saleswoman and the increased foot traffic in the store that day, I sold out all 27 copies of my book 10 minutes short of the end of my shift. Which I was feeling very pleased about until I read the blog about the man who sells 50-80 copies during his Costco shifts. Ah, well. It still felt pretty darn good at the time!

Saturday, October 31

Signing at the Costco store in Gilbert, Arizona. Although they were also expecting me, they had not set up my table ahead of time. Fortunately, I arrived about 15 minutes early, plenty of time to get set up, right? They brought me a table, black tablecloth, and another hard chair (to prop my large poster on) and set me up right next to my books in their book section. Unlike the meager 27 books I was given to sell at Tempe, the Gilbert store had set out 134 copies of Illuminations of the Heart in their book section. Oh, right, no pressure! The store was MOBBED with people…I’d expected everyone to be home getting ready for Halloween parties between 1-5 PM, so was stunned by the crowd. Before I could even pull any books off the shelf to set out on my table, four women rushed over to buy autographed copies. Not a bad start. J After that, I set out my stacks and sprinkled my rose petals, and set to work handing out bookmarks. I had one more “mobbing” during the day, when another 4-5 women all wanted to buy copies at once (that almost made me feel like “someone”!), but otherwise my sales were spread out and somewhat steady, but nothing to really brag about. I lost one sale because a woman wanted to buy a romance for her friend, but her friend liked “steamy romances”. However, I made at least two sales because the buyers saw “Deseret Book” on my bookmarks and said, “If they sell your books in Deseret Book, then they must be clean romances”. Which, I’m happy to say, they are. J Another woman didn’t know anything about Deseret Book, but was looking for a clean romance for her teenage daughter to read and bought a copy from me. So I look at it as, lost one, sold three. Guess those odds aren’t bad. J

Three wonderful writing friends…Deirdra Eden Coppel, Julia Griffin, and Cindy R. Williams (author of Chase McKay Didn’t Get Up Today) all stopped in to see me. Cindy was very sneaky, and when she ran into a friend of hers in the store, pretended like she didn’t know me personally but knew my books and convinced her friend to come over and buy a copy. Only afterwards did Cindy tell me that that friend was the younger sister of Danny Ainge, of the Boston Celtics! Alas, I had a brush with fame and didn’t know it in time to get my picture taken with her! (Sure hope she likes my book! Her brother could spread it all over national TV if she tells him it’s a dud!)

That was all the good news. The bad news is my energy took a major nose dive the last 45 minutes to an hour, and I simply didn’t have the umph! to round my book sales up to at least 30 books. I came in at 29 sales that day. So far, my “personal best,” but yes, alas, far fewer than 50 to 80. I must say, I hope my publisher isn’t reading that other fellow’s blog about his book signings in Utah!

Final observation: People don’t necessarily realize you’re the author of the book you’re signing until you say something like, “Would you like a free bookmark? I’m signing copies of this book until 5 PM today.” That’s when their faces light up (the ones who bother to pause long enough to hear you say that much) and they exclaim, “Oh, you’re the author?” And that’s when most of them will wander close enough to your table to actually pick up a copy of your book to look through and listen to you “pitch” a description of your book to them. As my friend Cindy suggested, and as I’d been thinking as this discovery was repeatedly driven home to me on Saturday, I think I need some way of distinguishing myself as the author vs simply a Costco worker trying to sell some random books. I think I’ll look into making a pin (perhaps on Zazzle) that says simply, “AUTHOR” to pin to my shirt when I do my book signings. Can’t hurt to try it and see whether or not more people stop by my table or not!


Glynis Peters said...

Oh I loved reading this. What a wonderful feeling it must be to see folk walk away with your book.
You must find some way of letting them know you are the author, I agree. Keep us up to date on your journey.
I am following this via a link from Twitter.

Anonymous said...

I am glad you are doing well with your book signing Joyce. Twenty-nine books sounds good to me. How about for the pin: "You buy it, I'll sign it"? Just kidding - but a pin is a great idea and keep handing out those book marks.
Barbara B

Valerie Ipson said...

I like the pin idea, too. Great tips again, Joyce.

Valerie Ipson said...

Oh, and definitely keep posting about your experiences!

Suzanne Barker said...

I am enjoying reading these too! Good for you! Do you have a signing on Nov.13? I thought Penny and I might stop by if you do.

Joyce DiPastena said...

Good news! My publisher says the "average" author sells between 25-40 copies of their books at a Costco signing (50-80 is "exceptional"), so I'm not doing so bad. :-)

Heidi said...

I'm so jealous that you got your book into Costco at all! That's awesome! My publisher won't deal with Costco, sadly . . .

Becki said...

I don't think that is too shabby at all! Even if you didn't sell a book to someone, you might have planted some interest in some people that will buy the book later. Good job!! Oh, and I just read what your publisher said! See??!