Book Trailer The Noble Train

Thursday, December 21, 2017

What I learned After 31 Barnes and Noble Signings

The first thing I learned is people just want to hear a good story. In fact they are dying to hear a good story that will take them out of their everyday life for even a minute. I cant tell you the amount of times people came in looking for another book and walked out with mine. Especially when they are looking for a book to give someone. Many times people would buy all three of my titles after I spoke to them about my newest book. It is as if once they had stopped and started to listen then all sorts of possibilities opened up.

The second thing I learned after 31 signings in two months is that people don't care about price. Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair lists out the door at 36 dollars and my other two nonfiction titles Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson and Forging A President How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt lists out the door at about 32 dollars  On an average I would sell every signing 20-50 hardcovers. I can count on one hand the number of times people did not buy because of price. If the story is good and people want the book then people are willing to pay.

Women seem to buy more than men. They just do. Men are more reluctant to stop. Lets call it the hunter gather syndrome. Women are just more open to something new while many times men wont even stop to consider. Women think of others and are always considering what might make a great gift although many women buy for themselves. Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson was a surprise buy for many women who were caught up in the story of our First Woman President. Saying that, men did buy and  Forging A President How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt was a favorite. I learned never to assume. Many times I was surprised at who was a reader of history and who was not.

People want something for free. Even if it is something small. It is an icebreaker if nothing else. I give them a small business card with the name of my book on it and that initiates a conversation.  It is nothing really but a reason to stop and if they don't buy they take it with them and there is a chance they may buy later. I have had many people circle back later and buy a book. Also I learned people you don't think will buy will surprise you every time. So I give everyone a card and I cant tell you the amount of times I was floored when someone I assumed would never buy my book would do it.

Authors are their own best salesmen. A signed copy of a book by the author is coveted. People like having their book inscribed to them or to someone they will give it to. Many times people told me they had never met an author before. I am literally surrounded by bestsellers when I am selling books and yet they just lay there and people breeze right past them. I know my book. I can talk to anybody about Al Capone, The Worlds Fair, Sally Rand, Edith Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt. The biggest advantage Barnes and Nobles has over Amazon is that it is full of human beings who interact with other human beings. People like talking to an author who is dressed up in a tie and a vest and who has a story to tell and will also listen to a story.  I can't tell you the amount of stories I have heard about Al Capone from people who bought my book.

Finally people seem to buy during the day more than the evening. If I arrived around eleven AM then there seemed to be a sweet spot right up to about 4PM. Usually I stayed in the store four hours. By then I usually ran out of books or out of gas. Evenings were hit and miss and yet I have been in a Barnes and Noble when it was absolutely dead and sold all my books. More books are better than a few. It is better to stack up fifty or a hundred books than twenty. At one Barnes and Noble outside of Chicago there were 65 books stacked on a single table and they all sold. More books implies a successful author who has come to the store to sign his or her latest.

 In the end I chewed through thirty packs of gum. Ruined three ties with coffee. I was probably asked where the bathrooms were fifty times where the calendars were twenty times and where the Starbucks was at least ten. I gave out four thousand cards and bumped into that many people. I sold over 600 hardcovers in the last two months of my three nonfiction titles It was hard work and I have a real appreciation for the Barnes and Noble employees and the managers who do this for eight hours straight. But it was also fun.

What I learned finally is that  it isn't price that sells books and it isn't having an online store at your fingertips. You just need to tell a good story. Believe me... people will listen.

William Hazelgrove

Books by William Hazelgrove