Category Archives: retail

Author Book Fairs – A Behind the Scenes Look

I love book fairs. I attend them not just as an author, but as a reader as well. There is nothing like getting to walk around a bookstore and meet the authors who write the books we love. They have their tables set up with their books and other give-aways on it; they talk to their fans, old and new.  There are talks from several different authors in several different genres. What’s not to love? Walk in, meet the authors, hear some interesting stories, buy a book or two and go home; simple as can be, right? Well, for the fans, yes.

There is a lot that goes into setting up an event like this. My friend and assistant Kathy Porter is the co-chair of the Author Fair I am attending next weekend. Through her, my eyes have been opened to the tremendous amount of work that goes into putting on an event such as this. I thought it was time to give Kathy and others who do this work their due and to let them know how much we appreciate them.

The event is being organized through the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) and is being hosted by Barnes and Noble on July 23rd and 24th. Before anything else could be done to start planning, the first thing Kathy had to do was find a venue. She contacted Barnes and Noble; for this event she spoke with the Barnes and Noble in Marina Pacifica in Long Beach, California. She chose this venue because of the location and the openness of the meeting area which will allow enough room for all the fans we are hoping will join us.  Once Barnes and Noble agreed to host the event, GLAWS put out a call for authors.

There are certain qualifications for author participation in this event, and Kathy had the tough job of having to gently explain to several talented authors that they were not able to be featured.  In order to qualify for this event an author had to have books available through Baker &Taylor and also through Ingram, the books needed to be returnable and they needed to have enough books in the system to order (usually about 20 books). Out of the 41 authors who wished to participate, only 20 met the qualifications set by the store.

Kathy had to attend meetings with the bookstore to work out how many authors the store could support per day, the event room scheduling and seating as well as the food and drink to be available.  There were a lot of details to attend to such as where chairs should be placed, where microphones needed to be placed and which food and drinks would be free and which would be sold. The author schedule consisted of making sure each author was allotted 5-7 minutes in the event room to speak on his or her subject or to read an excerpt from his or her book(s). Along with that there was also the issue of author table placement in the store; each author’s table being placed according to genre and as close to the area in the store where his or her genre is housed as possible.

Once the authors had been chosen and informed of their ability to participate,  Kathy set out to help them learn how to set up their tables and sell their books; she also had to set expectations for mode of dress, manning the tables, what to bring and how to engage readers in conversation. She held a class for the authors to help get everyone comfortable with what was expected of them and how to best represent themselves and their work to their readers. She also needed to collect from each author their ISBN, title(s) of their work, their names or pen names, a biography, a head shot and a book description – all of which was used in the flyer she made to promote the event and the websites that are promoting the event. To see the websites click here: Greater Los Angeles Writers Society Author Fair and Barnes and Noble Event – GLAWS Author Fair.

Planning an event such as this is no small task and I just want to take this opportunity to thank Kathy, Gillian, others who plan events such as this. You should know how much the authors appreciate you and the opportunity you are giving us to meet and greet our fans and cultivate new fans and friends.  It takes months of hard work to pull off an event like this. Thank you for giving us your time and your skills.

~Darlene Quinn


Book Fairs, Festivals and Conventions; What Authors Should Expect

So you bought a booth, or table at a book convention, festival or fair, or perhaps you are sharing space with other authors who are also hopeful to sell lots of books. This is just one of the many ways authors are able to get there books in front of readers. But your wondering – does it have value? Is it worth the cost? They the cost of one of these events can range in price from as little as $100.00 to over $2,000.00 for larger events. What do I do to promote myself there?

The cold hard facts are that you may not sell enough books to cover the cost of your booth, or even your portion of a shared booth. However the exposure your book receives could be priceless. Keep in mind when you are at a book festival or fair you are in the midst of hundreds of other book authors also selling books. The most famous and popular draw the crowds and then wonder around looking for interesting books – maybe yours. So how do you stand out from the crowd?

The first thing you have to do is take off your writers hat. Today you are a marketer and to sell your book(s) you have to think like one. Think of several reasons a potential reader should buy your book. I know what your thinking – that is much easier for ‘how to’ and ‘self help’ books. But fiction books have the same ‘reason to buy’ potential. For example: does your book have a blurb from a well-know author? Is your background story based on real event that are prevalent today? Do you have a story that deals with a particular hardship, ethnicity, past or recent or future event, readers can identify with? Or are you in a niche genre like science fiction or fantasy? Are there characters or animals you can make eye catching visuals i.e. poster, Tee Shirts, 3D sculptures? All these things can be utilized to create a customers ‘need to buy’.

Your booth should to be neat and eye catching, featuring your book(s) in an enticing way. Now that doesn’t mean you can sit at your table inside your booth expecting your visuals to do the work for you. You have to get up and out of your both and engage people whose sense are overstimulated by the huge volume of wonderful and new books and other items on display. This means as they go past your booth it will hold their attention for only a few seconds. By standing in front of your booth with a bookmark or flyer to hand to them with a smile on your face and a one-liner to pique their interest in your book.

Here are some examples of what you can say – good and bad.

Bad: “Would you like a bookmark? ” – This question could generate an easy ‘No thank you’ and you have missed and opportunity to talk about your book.

Bad: “Can I tell you about my book?” – Never asked a question they can answer with ‘no’.

Good: “‘Webs of Power is a cross between” The Devil wears Prada” and Wall Street” and place the bookmark in their hand with a smile. As they reach for the bookmark you have a second moment of opportunity. “‘Webs of Power” is a character driven novel about the demise of our favorite stores in the ’80’s and how three corporate women struggled to survive.” — You have caught their attention and have a great opportunity at this point to get to your booth and get a book into their hands.

Think of one line introduction for your book that will entice a potential reader to want to hear more. Again, I know that it is easer for a self help book, but all books have potential platforms. Think about what your book relates to and deliver your one liner to a potential reader with a generous smile and a show of confidence. Be engaging, even if your conversation with a passerby begins with small talk – you have to drive the conversation back to your book. Bottom line is you have to believe in your book and its potential.

Attitude is everything at an event. If you are thirsty, over heated or cool, hungry, tired, or distracted your chances of selling are slim. So be prepared with an ample supply of water and snacks, a packed launch, layered clothing so you can adjust your comfort. Make sure you are well rested and prepared with to sell. Have a mirror and comb handy and most of all smile.

Get to know your neighbors in the surrounding booths. These people will most likely show up at many of the events you will attend to promote your book. You can be great assets to each other for referrals. Let’s not overlook those of you who are alone in the booth for the day – your booth neighbors can give you the few moments you need for a restroom break.

Okay authors here is the hardest thing you will do at book selling events – asked for the order! So you need a closing line right? Please don’t use words like ‘sell’ or ‘buy’. “Would you like to buy a copy for yourself or as a gift?” is asking for a ‘no’. Instead try, “Who should I sign a copy to?” – I like this one because it’s not a question they can answer with ‘no’. So it’s a better closing line. Or after telling someone about your book and their interest is obvious – “How would you like to pay for your copy? I take cash, checks or credit cards.” Or my favorite – “What’s your name so I can personalize your copy?”. Do you see how you need to take the emphasis off buying and selling to ‘how do you want it signed’ or what currency they want to use. Using the assumptive sale sells books. Your biggest mistake would be not to ask. You are not an author today you are a marketer and books are your product so you can’t wait for them to ask for a copy – though some will. But you can sell far more books by using the closing lines I just taught you.

As you can see the success of your convention, festival, book fair etc., depends on one major factor – YOU and how prepared you are to sell. Practice your one liner, your smile and know how to complete the sale. For your cash sales have plenty of change available. Don’t wait till the day of your event to find out how your new credit card processor works. Know what the local taxes are and make sure you have a sales tax permit either a permanent one for your state or a temporary one for out of state cities. These are very easy to obtain over the internet.

Finally talk to everyone. You never know who may come by your booth. Remember that today you are a marketer here to sell books. You may or may not cover your cost. But with a confident attitude your book exposure can result in future sale and more. In today’s publishing world your book sales depend largely on your marketing ability and how aggressive you are about getting the word out about your book. Festivals, conventions and fairs are potential gold mines. So make some posters out of your book cover, get bookmarks and flyers, have business cards, an enticing one-liner about your book, confidence a firm handshake, and a smile. I believe your are ready so get to yourself a booth, be prepared to sell, and most of all have fun.

“How would you like your copy of Darlene Quinn’s new sequel “Twisted Webs” to be signed?”

~Kathy Porter

Twisted Webs – A Novel


The new year is soon approaching and with it, it will bring the release of Twisted Webs, Darlene Quinn’s second in her series and the sequel to Webs of Power. Twisted Webs takes us through the saga of department store corporate struggles and the very personal struggles of remarkable characters. For those of you who have read Webs of Power your favorite characters are reprise, and for the rest of you may your journey into the elite world of corporate  jet-setters and intrigue begin.

Let me paraphrase her editors wonderful snapshot review of Twisted Webs:

In her soon to be released Twisted Webs, the follow-up to her novel Webs of Power, Darlene Quinn once again involves her main protagonists—Mark and Paige Toddmann and Conrad and Ashleigh Taylor—in personal and professional struggles. The author hooks the reader with a gripping case of kidnapping that is then interwoven with plot twists and intrigue that she conveyed so convincingly in her first work of fiction. Along the way, readers are once again treated to delicious descriptions of luxury department stores, designer clothes, and chic events as the characters hop flights from Dallas to Los Angeles to New York City.

Having read Webs of Power, I am looking forward to the release of Twisted Webs and “catching up” with characters I will welcome like old friends. Yes, I work closely with Darlene, and she has told me a little of what I can exect to find out about the characters in Twisted Webs, but just enough to wet my appetite. Like all of you, I have to wait for the release  date to enjoy reading Twisted Webs, with  a glass of wine. Believe me the wait will be worth it.

~Kathy Porter

Christmas Shopping Today

Now days, once school shopping is over Halloween takes one side of the aisles and Christmas ornaments adorn the other —an unlikely pair to share the beginning of our holiday season. Thanksgiving, which used to have its own special season, has been edged out in our department stores and has now become a grocery store holiday with food taking the center stage, as it was when the Pilgrims and Indians first celebrated together.

I miss the days when stores took their time with the holidays. Thanksgiving turkey cutouts hung from ceilings and you could find specially designed turkey serving platters and place settings, as well as some wonderfully decorative oven mitts and dish towels. Gone are the days of the beautifully ruffled aprons and table cloths featuring Thanksgiving cornucopia and fall colors.

Today Thanksgivings, the day before Black Friday, has been given little space in our department stores. Out of necessity, at his time of year retailers must gear up for the holidays sales period, which traditionally begins the day after Thanksgiving. Since the holiday period accounts for 40% of their sales and profit for the entire year, the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday has fallen through the cracks. Much has changed in the world of retail since the greedy, predatory 80″s. However, the importance of the holiday sales period for the retail community, is nothing new. Since before the time of FDR, this holiday period has been crucial for the survival of retailers. So crucial, that in 1939, leading department store merchants convinced FDR to change Thanksgiving from the last Thursday of the month to the fourth to widen the holiday window. Why would our president make such a decision? Simple economics. Retail sales account for 70% of our economy.

The 1980’s were the epitome of greed and a time when we sadly watched some of our finest well-known department stores disappear. To survive in today’s economy, retailers much concentrate on their bottom line. This means that they may entice you to rush from your Thanksgiving dinner to sit in long lines, sometimes overnight to purchase the most covenanted of gifts. Unfortunately, when the doors open and the stampede of customers begins, seeking the same gift for their child or other relative, you may get trampled and delayed long enough to lose the very item you had your sights on. They are sold out. After an employee was trampled to death in a Walmarts last year, retailers have taken extra precautions. (Some open 24 hours, others handing out tickets for early bird specials, etc.)

Not to worry, in today’s market we have what has come to be know as Cyber Monday, for all those items you couldn’t find on Black Friday. There are numerous websites to find the gifts that the department stores just didn’t have enough of. In the past we would have taken a rain check and waited for the next shipment to the department store of our choice. Today’s market is driven by instant gratification, and in many cases rain checks are not available. It needs to be in our hands on Black Friday or ordered over the internet, next day delivery, because we no longer have the time or the patience shoppers once had. We want it, and we want it now, before someone else gets it. You have to wonder if the retailers have trained us to be such frenzied shoppers unwilling to pay full- price or did we train the retailers to cater to our new shopping habits?

Yes, Christmas and the way we shop has changed. I’ll admit I took off work and headed out at 3Am to shop with my daughter on Black Friday, which has been our tradition since she could walk. We hit malls, large and small department stores, discount stores and specialty shops. One thing that hasn’t change – the Christmas cheer. Everywhere we went people were happily purchasing the best prices they could find while Christmas carols blared loudly for our entertainment. We chatted together in line about where the best deals were, and what stores to rush off to next in our quest to find then next gift on our shopping list. Although, at the end of the day, we didn’t have everything we set out for, there was a back up plan – Cyber Monday was just a few days away.

Yes, we rush our holidays, but they still bring families and friends together, and they are a wonderful reprieved from our daily lives. Although we blame the internet for some of our ills, you have to admit when you have reached the end of the mall and can’t find that special gift, Cyber Monday is a lifesaver. So if you are ready to sit down at your key board and find the last of your Christmas shopping, there are tons of sites to choose from. While your shopping don’t forget to order your copy of “Webs of Power”. You will be giving a gift that helps explain just how our departments stores became what they are today, and characters you won’t be able to forget. Luckily, the sequel, “Twisted Webs”, will be available next year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday!

~Kathy Porter

Mom and Pop stores are not the only retailers suffering from these economic times.

The focus of this morning’s interview  with Maria Keena & Tom Calhoun on KMOX-AM 1120 in St. Louis, MO centered on a the evidence that Mom and Pop stores are not the only retailers suffering from these economic times.

Where You Won’t Shop in 2009

Many of our beloved retailers will fail to survive the latest economic downturn, but most will. Click here: Where You Won’t Shop in 2009, The Crash of Retail Giants

When to say good bye to the character’s you’ve created

Meg Cabot is saying goodbye to her Princess series, I think this really underlines how writers have to find fresh things to write about to keep themselves engaged as well as the reader.

I am not even close to saying goodbye to Paige, Ashleigh, nor many of the dynamic character’s inhabiting the pages of “Webs of Power.” With all that is taking place in the world of retail today,  my caste of characters continue to be caught up in an abundance of  new, high-stakes challenges (personal and professional) in a fascinating, obstacle-ridden arena.  Look for Tangled Webs in 2010.