August is the new date for NZ Book Month this year. Megan Dunn, Booksellers New Zealand Project Manager will very shortly be revealing details of the promotion that will have a huge impact on bookstores’ August turnover.
Which got us thinking: are there any other promotional opportunities bookshops could be maximising? We do Christmas pretty well, and Fathers Day is good if the right sports and non-fiction titles are on offer.
But perhaps for Mothers Day we could widen the selection offered? Mass market romantic fiction and family sagas are a staple, as are cookbooks. But what about incorporating more dēcor and gardening titles in the mix? Offering quality gift wrapping should also be a plus in gaining sales.
Let’s not get ahead of the calendar though: Easter is not much marked in the book trade, but long weekends get people in store ahead of time looking for the reads they want to relax with on the long break. Create an in-store display of titles you know fit the category and brief all staff on store suggestions and their selling points.
The World War 1 centenary this year has also produced a flurry of new books looking at the grim realities of that event, with new analysis of the battle decisions from the perspective of time. The effects of that war changed history, and the sacrifices made and the colossal mistakes in battle strategy need to be recognised. Well written war stories and histories are good sellers from many bookstores, and even young readers are covered with simple, moving titles for young readers recalling the human stories. Don’t overlook this centenary opportunity!
Publishers help with Promotions
Marthie Markstein, Random NZ’s key account manager and human dynamo in the cause of books (pictured), recently gave a presentation to their reps on ideas and practical steps to pass on to booksellers to motivate their customers. She called it: Better than the next guy? How to make your bookshop hum! and gathered ideas from an around-the-world website search.
Random also now puts out Marthie’s In the Know weekly newsletters – another way of helping bookstores to find those special books to market to their customers and offer more than online and e-books can. It has been getting great feedback, so make sure you are on the list and pay attention to the suggestions! Most publishers offer a range of marketing assistance, so ask for any help you may need.
- Coffee or food! Bookshop browsers like coffee! If you can’t fit a coffee maker in, think about a glass of wine after work. Even a fruit juice on hot days in summer time might be a good idea.
- Celebrate different times of the year, not only Christmas. Heart-shaped cookies on Valentine’s Day, at mid-winter a Christmas mince pie.
- Have your own release party/day for highly anticipated books. Invite customers to come in that day, welcome them, make them feel special for being amongst the first to have read the book. Take photos of them reading the book, post on Facebook. Ask them to post on their Facebook page too – people like being seen in bookshops. Plan some activity to create a buzz, hang banners announcing the date.
It is all about offering what the internet can’t – an ambience where people want to come in and linger, says Marthie.
- Encourage readings and signings whenever possible. Offer and promote signed copies of books for people who couldn’t come to an event.
- Host unusual events, like a fan night centred around a book or author.
- Encourage book clubs to use your premises.
- Invite local musicians/artists to display at your shop and even perform as a way to entertain and attract shoppers.
- Bring in knitters/craft people from the community to display/perform.
Be part of your ‘shop local’ community
Marthie suggests you could create excitement in store while at the same time supporting your community – promote the ‘shop local’ message. A great idea to raise your profile in your community is to do things like: host book donation drives for community events, write reviews for the local newspaper, get involved in local schools by sponsoring student essay contests, have a store table at suitable local events.
If you are in a city with significant literary connections, you could make a local map with all local literary info printed: shop, libraries, coffee places, historic homes etc. Literary tourists will love you for it (listen up, Hokitika!)
Pair up with local merchants who make interesting art/crafts/food and perhaps sell some of their wares. Make it your goal to get customers to leave with a book and something else. Part of this could be to cross-promote with local traders – as in encouraging the nearby bakery to cook from a new baking title, display the book and then to direct customers to your store (and vice versa.)
Another way to carry the local message through is to act like a small local paper – bring the store into people’s every day lives. Put as many photos and names of local people as possible in your email newsletter. Use Facebook to get a discussion going, ask people to share book recommendations and photos. Some other ideas:
- Create a monthly Top Ten as voted by your customers.
- Reward your customers: incentives, in-store contests, annual sales or have customer appreciation days with extra discount and something to eat/drink. Make regular customers feel special: offer advance reading copies, text them with exciting release news, offer them a special discount.
- Create a fabulous email newsletter with personality, and run off different versions for people who have different reading interests. Highlight the best and most relevant ‘must reads’ for them. Get them involved with making recommendations.
- What else do your customers like? Ask them, do some research.
- Start your own ‘mail order’ book club. Create a 12-month subscription or an ongoing monthly credit card charge where you can hand select noteworthy books for your customers which you then send to them on a regular basis.
- Deliver books in person if possible to people within a nearby radius of your store if they can’t come in.
Marthie says you should not forget to market using these basic tools: Shelf talkers; eye catching store windows; a whiteboard list near the cash register advertising upcoming releases with a pre-order offer; review boards; a shop-oriented bestsellers section. Display your team’s personal Best Books of all time, and of course, staff recommendations (Unity Books Wellington does this particularly well).
Don’t be scared of online – use it as a selling tool, Marthie says. “Stop worrying about the internet and social media and meet it head on, using it to your own benefit. Discuss top books on Amazon and Goodreads with customers, ask them if they have read them, tell them it is available right here, right now, plus it could be gift-wrapped! Busy people like me would certainly buy on the spot!”
Techniques to encourage regular customers to return
The Read would also suggest an early December wine and nibbles hosting night with the opportunity for regular customers to buy at a small discount for people on their Christmas gift list. This creates customer good will and good trading for the bookstore. Plus those shoppers usually come back later in the month for even more book gifts.
Create a new release sheet each month, and make sure you put it online! Perhaps you could even send it to loyalty card customers each month? Not doing this is a lost opportunity that could pay dividends…
Article by Jillian Ewart
This is the lead article for The Read, Booksellers NZ’s weekly newsletter.