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Running a successful in-store event

Aude Pasquier, Retail Sales Director, Hymns Ancient & Modern

The key to a successful event is to organise, advertise and promote it as early as possible. I would recommend a minimum of four weeks but it's best to give yourself eight weeks at least. With time on your side everything becomes easier and you can afford to be much more creative. If you spot an opportunity with a new title, a popular author, get in touch with them or their publisher early and offer a book-launch. Why wait to be asked if you think you stand a good chance to get a good crowd?

English Parish Churches And Chapels Launch

A recent launch at Church House Bookshop

Once you have a date you can start promoting your event through your website, emails to customers and of course through the wonders of social media, Twitter is particularly effective. Why not ask local clergy and church leaders if they would like to promote it too to their congregation, could they put up posters for you? 
Most publishers will design and print an invitation for you - remember to specify a starting and finishing time - they will also have a database which they can use to promote the launch and your store at the same time. Don't forget that the author will also have a list of people they would like to see at their book-launch, best to ask them early as they will spread the word too.

I recommend RSVPs a week before your event so you can keep an eye on numbers, that way you can also decide to cancel if you get a very poor response. I once made the mistake of cancelling an event because we had received only 9 RSVPs a week before the event, suddenly everybody wanted to come! It was the best advertisement for a launch ever and indeed for the book. We sold lots of copies and never had the launch! Perhaps a lesson there for us all...

You might consider selling tickets even at a very low price as it will oddly generate more interest. Folk are much more likely to turn up on the day if they have a ticket. They will have a drink, get to meet a favourite author, maybe get a signed copy of their latest book, it is a special occasion after all.

Now somebody will have to pay for the drinks and nibbles. It's always best to agree a budget for refreshments with the publishers before an event as you don't want to foot the whole bill at the end. Consider getting drinks on sale or return, most supermarkets are happy to do that so you only pay for what was actually consumed on the night.

Once you have a fair idea of numbers expected on the day it's time to order lots of books on sale or return or on consignment so you only need to pay for what you've sold after your event. Remember to check backlist titles by your author, they will be pleased to see that you remembered them and it's an easy way to generate extra sales! It might be worth checking with the author if there are other titles they might mention, quote from, perhaps a particular book that influenced them. It's a good time to check on the timetable and format of the event, who will introduce the author, how long they might want to speak, are they happy to take questions afterwards etc. It's time for you to start writing that speech...


The g-books bookshop at Greenbelt festival

On the actual day there are a number of material and logistical issues to bear in mind and I always find it helps to write a list. It's very mundane but it spares a lot of stress and last minute panic... well, if you can actually find that list.

Do you have enough staff and does everybody know who does what? Who is at the till, who is serving drinks? Who is greeting guests as they come in?

Do you have enough glasses, are they clean? Should you rent or borrow some? Do you have plenty of paper towels for the inevitable spillage?

Do you have a table or a desk ready for your author to sign copies?

Do you have or do you need a tablecloth for your drinks table? Where is the corkscrew when you need it? Do you have a safe space for coats and bags?

Ask the author to sign a few extra copies that you can sell or send after the event, a signed copy is always a perk.

Do you have another event planned? Why don't you start promoting it now that you have a captive audience and slip an invitation in each bag.

Now you've had a wonderful launch, everybody enjoyed themselves, customers had a great time and hopefully you've sold a lot of books. It's your turn to thank all those people who made it happen starting with the author, the publishers and all the staff and/or volunteers who made it happen. Well done!

We are always delighted to help with your events; we can supply SOR and can suggest booklists for you from our extensive stock selection. Contact aude.pasquier[at] for further assistance.