Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Book table observations

Over the past six years or so, I have spent quite a few hours in Christian bookstores promoting my books. Last year alone, I made eight author visits to Koorong stores, most of which lasted for at least five hours. Also, on several occasions I have been allocated a book table at conferences and each year, at one of these, I share a space with staff from a Christian bookstore who have a whole range of books on offer. In all these settings, I have had ample time to listen to and observe potential customers as they make their selections.

In an actual bookstore context, I often see customers for whom the whole experience is obviously an enjoyable outing. They are not in a hurry and are happy to come and chat to this unknown author giving out bookmarks and find out about her books. And they can always graciously remove themselves without choosing any when I comment how many other books there are in the store. You see, I like to give people an ‘out’. Perhaps I’m not at heart a good salesperson, but I don’t want people to be embarrassed or pressured into buying. Often these encounters lead to some precious ‘God conversation’—something I always ask God for before I enter a bookstore to promote my books. The whole enterprise is worth it just for those moments.

Then there are those customers who are in a hurry and don’t want to be diverted. They know what they want in that bookstore—and it definitely isn’t any of my books! I’m sure I myself have fitted into this harassed customer role at times. Some might not be in a hurry but are still on a mission. They enter the store in a focussed manner, clutching their list of desired books. They might even be a little suspicious when I explain what sort of books I write, while they hold my bookmark rather gingerly as if debating whether to take it or not. Some might even look askance at my novels.\

‘But are they true stories? I don’t read fiction.’
At which point, I hasten to show them my non-fiction book Soul Friend. It comes in handy.
Then there are those who do read fiction but have made up their minds long ago which authors are worthwhile reading. In a conference setting recently, I watched as a customer stood gazing down at the novels on display at the official bookstore opposite my table. She proceeded to proclaim loudly how disappointed she was because there were no novels by Francine Rivers or certain other famous authors left and how she loves their books and wouldn’t read anything else. Now everyone is of course entitled to have favourite authors. After all, I don’t want to be told who I should like and not like. Besides, I suspect this person did not realise there was any author within earshot—albeit a humble Aussie one. But ... well, let’s just say I find such experiences somewhat character-building!
Despite this, I aim to persevere with my promotional adventures. For me, it is such a privilege to be able to offer something to others that I believe in with all my heart and that I trust God can use. But how about you? Have you too made some interesting observations as you promote your books? Or as a reader, how do you respond to those lovely, hopeful authors at book tables?

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com or www.soulfriend.com.au.

6 comments:

  1. I agree it's always helpful to give the potential reader an 'out'. Sometimes I take the books of fellow authors who have similar works I know people might enjoy. Even if people aren't ready for my books, just letting them know about the existence of Aussie and Kiwi Christian writers can often be an eye-opening experience.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Anne. Yes, I often tell people during an author visit to a bookstore that one reason for my being there is to let everyone know there are some great Aussie and Kiwi Christian authors around. And if I'm displaying my books at a conference or after a meeting, I've found it has helped not only to have other authors' books at times but also to have some copies of those Aussie Stories or Aussie Reflections that have contained some of my short stories/blogs over the years. This gives people who don't want a full length novel another option. In the past, I have also sold some packs of cards produced by a Christian friend who lives in Turkey, which worked really well for all concerned. Some people want to encourage you but just aren't readers, so are happy to pay five dollars for five lovely cards. Whatever happens, I offer my bookmarks to everyone and most people accept.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My comment just disappeared. Here we go again. Yes, Jo, some dear folk are sure set in their ways. Never mind, one of these days they'll read an Aussie book and 'get converted'!

    Good for you with the promotional side of things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for persevering, Rita! Yes, sometimes I almost laugh out loud at the things I find myself doing to promote my books, but all I can say is that God sure enables. And I do find now that I actually enjoy it all, despite its being a bit tiring at times.

      Delete
  4. Jo-Anne, wow, 5+ hours at a signing. I think a 5 hour retail shift is a long time to be in a store. I was reading Kristen Lamb's blog, and she wrote a post last week on social media and book signings. One thing she said was book signings were about readers making a connection with the author as a person, rather than book sales. It sounds like you're successfully doing this, and blessing the customers who stop by and chat :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree, five hours is pretty long, Narelle, but often I have been interstate when doing these author appearances, so I like to stay for as long as I can in the store while I'm there. And I agree that these book signings are more about connecting personally with the author rather than sales, although it's nice to see a few extra copies going out those doors too!

      Delete