Category Archives: shopping

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


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

Books for the Holidays

It’s time to start looking ahead to the holidays which will soon be upon us.  Gift buying for Christmas and Hanukkah is sometimes difficult, like knowing  just what to give Uncle Joe or Aunt Mary. There will always be a huge variety of department store wonders to choose from, but you can spend hours agonizing over who gets what.  Then there is the problem of  it being sold out while you were taking  the time to make your decision. Do you order or choose something else? Holiday shopping  can be a challenge.

To make your Christmas and Hanukkah shopping easier I suggest you buy books. There are thousands to choose from in book stores and online. You can find  book gift suggestions on the internet, books to give  mom’s, dad’s, grandparents, teens, children, and then there are also many book club recommendations.

After the hustle and bustle of bumper to bumper Mall traffic you will find that a book store filled with the scent of new books and hot coffee offers the tranquility and solace you need.  Uncle Joe would like a mystery, Aunt Mary enjoys mainstream fiction all easy to find on the well marked book shelves. Once your shopping is complete you will still have time to sit and have a nice relaxing cup of coffee.

Remember if you do your book shopping early you can mail out your books using media mail rates, a special low rates for books, through the US Postal Service.

Now that you know how to make your holiday shopping far more enjoyable and easy I have a few book suggestions for you. For your friends and relatives who enjoy feeling smarter about things they have heard or read about, while sharing the lives of fascinating characters and being thoroughly entertained – I suggest Darlene Quinn’s “Webs of Power”, which is now in paperback! Let’s not forget the mystery readers, especially those who watched Barnaby Jones, or the Beverly Hillbillies and enjoyed Buddy Ebsen’s many talents. For this select group I recommend “Sizzling Cold Case” a Barnaby Jones mystery. Darlene complete this novel for Buddy Ebsen at the request of Buddy’s widow Dorothy. 

Each of your relatives and friends has their own unique taste in books,  however, you can rest assure that “Sizzling Cold Case” or “Webs of Power” can cover the  majority of your gift giving needs. So go and buy several copies and take a huge bit out of you holiday shopping needs.  Please don’t forget to have a rewarding cup of coffee after you shop! You deserve it. 

 ~Kathy Porter

Hardcover vs Paperback

Hardcover books are usually the first round of publication to arrive in bookstores. This is true of many genres, especially mainstream fiction. Many of us are excited about the feel of a new edition hardcover book. Let’s face it, hardcover books with their thicker softer paper, dust jackets, and smooth surface grace bookshelves in stores, as well as the shelves of home libraries, in a particularly appealing way. They stand rigid, and tall, and although they have been read, perhaps several times, still displaying their title and author proudly.

After hardcover books have been available for one year, which is standard for most publishers, the paperback edition will be printed. Once a paperback is available there is a typically a surge in book sales among the paperback readers, who have been waiting patiently for the latest paperbacks to arrive in their favorite bookstores . Paperback readers usually have a practical reason to purchasing a soft cover book. Millions of readers take trains, or buses to work daily. For many readers commuting to and from work takes up a substantial part of their day. Hardcover books are heavier and difficult to stuff into a purse, tote bag or briefcase, so paperback is the best choice for traveling.

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, by air or sea, a paperback is a traveler’s choice. Most airport bookstores primarily carry paperback books, and only a few choice hardcovers. When you look across the aisle on an airplane, or while relaxing on the deck of a ship, or on a sandy beach, you will see readers clasping well-worn light weight paperback books held easily in one hand. Whether you take a bus, train, taxi, airplane or ship, millions of travelers find that reading a good book is one of the most relaxing ways to spend their time.

Webs of Power is about to hit shelves everywhere as a paperback book in August. So for those of you who have been waiting for the lighter weight, easier to carry version of Webs of Power your wait is about to be over. Start watching the bookshelves of your local bookseller, or better yet, place an advance order so you’ll will be one of the first to commute with a Webs of Power paperback clutched in your hand.

~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

Vanishing Department Stores. . .

Big corporations have taken over many of our regional department stores.

Is this a good thing, or is it bad?
What have we gained?
What have we lost?

Department stores are not actually vanishing. Department stores are everywhere.What is vanishing are our favorite brands–the department stores we grew up with; those wonderful department stores where we could go and knew that they would have the merchandise that was selected with us in mind. We could count on those stores not only for quality but also for service. The ambienceof meeting for lunch in their fabulous tearooms was special.
While we have many more shopping options than in the past (on-line, catalogues, e-bay, large discounters, and small shops in shopping malls . . .) those options fail to meet all needs. Since the 1980’s, when many of our regional departmentstores were taken over by larger department store conglomerates, there have been cries of dismay from coast to cost. In Chicago, they are doing more that just moaning about their loss of Marshall Field’s, they have mounted a huge protest to regain the Marshall Fields name. While their sole motivation is to restore Marshall Fields, their efforts have significantly eroded the profits of Macy’s in the Chicago area.
On the other hand, large department store conglomerateshave a lot more clot at the bargaining table. They are able to purchase mechandise at lower prices and pass the savings on to their customers.
Whether the loss of our regional department stores is this a good thing or bad actually depends on your perspective.