Be a pro-active book promoter

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.


Page & Blackmore goes ecological.

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 alsocv_new_zealand_and_the_first_world_war 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 pp_marthie_marksteinaccount 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.

Marthie’s Tips
Here are a few ways to make your bookstore the place to come to celebrate all year round:vic_books_cafe

  • 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.

IndieboundposterhereswhatBe 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.

    2-12 Booklover shopper

    At The Booklover, Takapuna

  • 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).

pile_wrapped-booksDon’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.

Summer Reading Catalogue: Children & Young Adult

Welcome to our final dispatch from the front line about the Indiebound Christmas Summer Reading catalogue.

toucan_canOur top pick in the Children & Young Adult section for summer is Toucan Can, by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis. My glowing review of this can be found here – and when I bumped into Juliette at a launch of another book on the list (A Book is a Book) she said that Sarah had emailed her ‘we made somebody cry! How cool!’

Most of our suggestions for younger readers have been on the bestsellers’ lists for weeks and are all worth looking at. Since they were released, the two Scholastic titles, My Daddy ate an Apple by Craig Smith and She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, featuring a CD of the Topp Twins singing the eponymous song, have been jostling for top spot on the Poppies NZ Summer Cat 13_sml_Page_6_smlChildren’s and Teens Nielsen bestseller list. Another great suggestion is the Donovan Bixley-illustrated edition of Dashing Dog, by Margaret Mahy (HarperCollins NZ).

Junior fiction offerings include A Book is a Book (Gecko Press), by Jenny Bornholdt and Sarah Wilkins, which is a perfect celebration of reading for children and adults of any age. Donovan Bixley’s sophisticated picture book The Weather Machine (Hachette NZ) has also been reviewed favourably here, by Sue Esterman. And The Boring Book, by Vasanti Unka is a delightful dance of words, beautifully designed and illustrated by Vasanti, and published by Penguin.

It is difficult to go past Mortal Fire (Gecko Press), by Elizabeth Knox, for older readers, particularly those who enjoy magical realism (as I do). Set in the same world as the Dreamhunter duet, the story carries us on into a world post-dream palaces. Neil Gaiman also has a bit of magic in his bestselling Fortunately, the Milk…(Bloomsbury), which has received rave reviews worldwide.

John Boyne’s Stay where you are and then leave (Random House) is destined to be a classic, and is based on a boy’s search for his missing father during the First World War – perhaps something to heighten your teen’s awareness of the coming centenary?

The Divergent series of books (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant)cv_allegiant by Veronica Roth are going to be selling out all over the country in the lead-up to the release of the first movie based on these books on 10 April 2014. The final story in this trilogy, Allegiant, has now been published, and we encourage you to pick up all three as a great gift for your teen reader this summer.

Our other top pick is by an author vaunted as the ‘next Roald Dahl’, David Walliams. High praise! Demon Dentist is ‘a hilarious and teeth-chatteringly thrilling tale about an evil dentist who has an over-the-top devotion to teeth extractions…’ This sounds like a perfect book for the Jeff Kinney and Andy Griffiths-loving child in your life.

The staff at Booksellers NZ wish you and your families all the best for the Christmas period. We look forward to carrying on reading, reviewing and recommending fantastic books in the New Year.

P.S.  We ran out of time to cover the final two pages in the catalogue which feature, respectively, Kitchen, Home & Lifestyle (hint, try our article in The Read about cookbooks for tips in this category), and Travel & Sport. Whether you are a bit of Bear Grylls or one of life’s cruisy armchair readers the Christmas Catalogue has something to tickle your fancy. We hope some books from within are winging their way to a Christmas tree near you.

by Sarah Forster