Book Marketing 101: Creative Ways to Plan Author Events in Non-Bookstore Markets

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If you’ve been looking for ways to promote your book through creative book marketing, take heart. You have gotten more no’s than yes’s when trying to plan book signings at local bookstores.  Don’t let that deter you!

What if I told you I’ve set up successful book signings almost everywhere?


A book event at a local brewery? Of course! Think out of the box! #indieauthortip #bookmarketing…


Almost Everywhere?

Last week, we talked about book events in bookstores and libraries. Consider, for a moment, some of the places you’ve likely overlooked. Some ideas are coffee shops, craft beer breweries, gift stores, craft stores, sewing shops, Costco, and the list goes on.

Just about anywhere people shop, there’s an opportunity for a book event.

Part of the reason why I love book events in non-bookstore markets is the lack of direct author competition.

In bookstores (and often libraries) you’re positioned within a calendar month that may have a dozen other events. Most of these unique places I’ve mentioned probably haven’t done many author events, if any at all.

If you have a store locally (or within reasonable driving distance) that ties directly into your book’s theme or topic, you should consider approaching them for a book event.  The beauty is that it doesn’t matter what they sell!

But let’s talk first about the types of places you might want to consider, simply based on your buyer market and their interests.

Types of Venues

When it comes to non-bookstore markets, pretty much anything is fair game. It should make sense for your buyer market and the venue’s customer base.

If your book ties into cooking, you may want to consider a cooking store. This would apply similarly for crafts, or wine/mixology.

Romance authors can partner with lingerie stores or even adult retail stores!

I’ve done events in Hallmark stores, electronics stores and (years ago) in video stores (Blockbuster, remember them?).

I’ve also done events in restaurants. On slow nights, this works really well and restaurants tend to love this. It adds dimension to their event calendar as well.

The first thing you’ll want to do to pitch an event in a non-bookstore market is to figure out what makes sense for your readers. Where do they hang out? Start compiling a list of ideas and you’ll be surprised how inspired you are!

Once you have your idea store or stores, it’s time to get down to business.

What’s in it for the Store

Most of the time, stores will see the benefit right away if you have a solid pitch.

A unique event can drive more people into the store, and more sales.

Realize that this isn’t just about you. If a store is hesitant to have you do an event there, make sure they know that you’ll do a lot of promotion.

Ask if you can put up a sign in their venue and offer to bring goodies. Make the event special and memorable through freebies and other collateral. Remind them that if the media bites, there could be some nice local promotion for their shop as well!

Approaching The Stores

Prepare to lead the conversation, as these stores probably haven’t done an author event.

When I did a book signing at our local Hallmark, the owner knew me from my many visits there. I already knew who I needed to talk to which made it easy. If you don’t know who owns the store, ask the manager who you should approach with this idea. Be prepared to mention the numerous benefits to the store and anything fun you have planned.

Be prepared for a yes! Have a book and one sheet with you. If you need a refresher on how to bolster your book marketing with successful in-person events, click here.

Tips to Mind

If you’re trying to get into a chain like Starbucks or Costco, there are a few things you need to know.

Chains like Hallmark, Starbucks, etc. are allowed a certain number of local events a year. This means is that you don’t have to go through corporate to get approval or organize these. This is good for their regional presence and the corporate offices know this.

In the case of big box stores like Costco, just about all of their events have to have corporate approval.  This does vary from store to store. Go into your local Costco on a Monday or Tuesday and ask to speak to the store or floor manager.

Avoid days when they have tastings, or weekends. Internal store events makes the stores much busier and the managers harder to get time with. Ask them if they’re open to doing events with local authors.

Keep in mind that events can be planned months out. Don’t go in there tomorrow expecting an event around Christmas-time.

Call them first to make sure they’re even open to doing events. Some of the big box stores are, but others may not be. For some it’s an inventory issue. They don’t want to have to stock your book (and go through the approval process) just for one event.

Educating Them

As I mentioned previously, most of these stores have probably never done author events. In some cases, the sticky subject of book stocking may come up.

This happened with me when I was working on getting myself into a Hallmark store and again when was working on getting an author into a local big box electronics retailer.

In both cases, they refused to go through the stocking process. And I couldn’t blame them! I know this is a hassle.

Offer books on consignment!

The author brought twenty or so books with them and was able to give a 40% commission to the store. The store rang it up as a “special item” and it worked beautifully.

Each store will be different.  Be willing to bring your own books and sell them on consignment. You’ll get more yes’s than you get no’s.

This may be a hassle for you.  Equally, book stocking is a hassle for them.  Unless the venue is dying to have you, most won’t want to go through the extensive paperwork and approval process.

The takeaway here is to have a number of options at the ready, and sound confident in all of them.

Planning the Event

Much like with a bookstore event, you’ll want to be actively promoting your non-bookstore event.

You’ll want to offer to put up signage and bring goodies.

Take this a step further and put up fliers around the mall or shopping village, if that’s an option.

Check if there may be an online calendar you can get added to. Many local lifestyle publications have these, as well as local newspapers. Pitch to your local A&E journalists or even bloggers.

What is the difference between bookstore and non-bookstore events? Non-bookstores may set up to do events, so understand that you may not be able to do a talk, Q&A or reading.

Offer demonstrations if you have a book that involves any kind of activity like crafts or cooking. Even if it means bringing in samples you make in advance.

Plan to stand out if all you can do it sit at a table with a stack of your books.

Getting the Yes

Doing non-bookstore events can be a really fun addition to your book marketing and exposure!

Connect with new readers!  Turn this into ongoing gigs.

I’ve known prolific authors who publish regularly, who have multiple events a year in local stores.

Get the yes by being ready to sell your event idea.

Getting the Yes, step by step

  • Prepare plans A, B and C for how to make the event fun and unique.
  • Think of ways on how to benefit their customers.
  • Arm yourself with a list of ideas for promotion.
  • Be organized.
  • Create a straightforward list you can hand them.
  • If you have impressive social media numbers, or a decent mailing list, be sure to include those numbers.
  • If you have ideas for goodies or collateral definitely include that.
  • Let them know you plan to reach out to local media.
  • Get event listings with all the local publications as well.

Start brainstorming! Be amazed at how many good ideas come to you. If you aren’t a natural at this, don’t fret! I bet you have a friend that’s a fantastic host or hostess that you can brainstorm with for the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

Good luck! Be sure to comment on this post if you’ve pulled off a local event in a non-bookstore venue. We’d love to hear your inspiration!

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