Thursday, November 5, 2015

Open the bag – Get ready to make a sale

I recently attended the 87th Bi-Annual Book & Author Luncheon in Livonia, MI. I expected it to provide networking opportunities as well as a chance to meet some really cool authors: Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jason Gay, John Katzenbach, David Maraniss and Lily Tuck.

When I walked into the reception room with elegant, cloth-clad tables with coffee, tea and some nibbles, I realized that I was one of the younger ones there. And the group was 90 percent women. I recognized that this multitude of retired women would not be a good networking group – so I disabused myself of that notion.

I did have a pleasant chat with two women who were sitting next to me along a wall lined with chairs. They had been to nearly all of the book and author luncheons in the last 10 to 15 years. They asked what author I had come to see. I mentioned David Maraniss, who wrote “Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story” and Jason Gay, author of “Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living.” I believe they mentioned Lily Tuck as their favorite.

The vast reception room had eight tables set up in a square pattern with two tables on each side. In the center were displays and boxes of books that the authors had written. If you couldn't make a sale here, chances are your book didn't have much of a chance. I had not come intending to buy a book; isn't that what libraries are for? However, when I approached one of the booksellers tables, manned by matronly females and avid book lovers, I was drawn in.

I thought, let me see if any of these are worth buying. As I picked up a book, an 80-year-old woman on the seller's side picked up a purple bag and waited. I fingered through the “Little Victories” book, but stopped myself, knowing that I'm a sucker for these types of books that aren't really a story but more of a compilation of tips for living a good life. Been there. Read that. My life is pretty darn good.

When turning the pages of David's book, I recalled the interviews and reviews that I had read. This seemed like the genuine article – while it wasn't Osh Kosh, it did focus on a period of time in Detroit's history in which Motown, the Civil Rights Movement and a thriving auto industry were at their peak. The contents of the book was intriguing. As I perused the book, the matronly woman holding the purple bag started to open the bag. Consciously or subconsciously, that act – opening the purple bag in anticipation of selling a book – actually triggered me to buy the book.

As a bonus, I got my book signed by David after the luncheon, with the inscription: “To Liz, A fellow Detroiter!”

The event was handled with panache. I was impressed by how much these book-lover book sellers want others to share in the joy of a good book, and also help the author earn money for a craft they do so well.

The lesson this event teaches is that to be a good marketer/seller, you must be eager for the sale. Open the bag - whether it's purple, black, blue or clear - it's only a metaphor. Be patient...let the buyer check out the goods. Explain the product if you are asked. Get excited about selling the item to the buyer – not just for the money taken in but also for the joy of the exchange. In this case, the bookseller gets some green and the buyer gets the goods – all the research, creativity, knowledge and editing that went into writing the book. Selling goods that the buyer desires is the real treasure – no matter what business you are in.