On arrival I was delighted to see my posters in the window, but was quickly distracted by the size of the store. With my family in tow helping me to carry the supplies, we wound our way around the store which seemed to just get bigger.
My target for the day was to sell six books, one more than my last signing, I had over thirty with me incase there was a run!
At the foot of the escalator I found a black board with my poster and a lovely sign made by the Books Manager. I asked for Sharon and followed the directions to the book department, still marvelling in the size of the place.
After a lovely greeting Sharon showed me back to the table, checking I was happy with the location and letting me know I could go wherever I wanted, I set up my stall whilst I laughed at the caricature one of the staff had drawn on the board.
Instead of one long table as I had in Uxbridge, I had a small table which Sharon added another to at my request and set everything up. With my family off shopping for the next four hours I took a deep breath and pushed on my smile.
I wondered around the table finally standing opposite trying to say hello or good morning to everyone passing by. People were being very pleasant and I started offering out bookmarks. After half an hour or so I moved again as I realised every time I said hello I forced people’s attention away from the lovely signs and my set up. So moving positions again, I stayed next to the table for the rest of my time.
After an hour I’d had a couple of people take interest, but no one made it across the line. Two authors stopped and wished me well, but didn’t care for the book. After another half an hour I still hadn’t got any across the line. Although my spirits were still high I started thinking about managing my expectations.
Instead of letting the slow start getting the better of me I thought of Nick’s words. He’s the ex-WHSmith store manager who contacted me after my last post. He said I needed to put myself out there and be more forward. So I gave that a go.
I started offering a bookmark to everyone, saying “Would you like a bookmark for my book?” Most reactions would go in phases.
1) What is this person pushing out in front of me?
2) Oh it’s a bookmark.
3) Wow this guy wrote a book. I can’t really say no.
Most people took the bookmark and for those smiling I add, ‘There’s no obligation to buy my book!” I also started having a laugh and a joke with people, complimenting them on their attire, if they had a quirky t-shirt on for example. One young woman said she didn’t read because it gave her a headache, so I pointed her in the direction of the chemist.
People started taking note. When they came to the table I would welcome them and reaffirm that it was my book on the table and I would also quickly say “It’s a Zombie Apocalypse Thriller. It’s not for everyone.” Most people would say, no it’s not my thing. But some would also say, but my son would love it. By 3pm I had grown much more confident in my approach and I’d sold and signed seven copies, including one to a member of staff.
The key things I learnt this time are:
- Despite all the signage people still need to be told it is my book. Their whole demeanour changes. I’m getting a badge made. It says ‘GJ STEVENS, AUTHOR’
- Most people who read the blurb on the back of the book bought the book.
- Most people would read the bookmark as they walked away, only one person came back after they read the bookmark. I’ve redesigned the bookmarks as they are my key sales tool on the day. It now has the book cover, and just the short version of the blurb on the front and the review snippets on the back. It is very simple and clear to read.
- I need to do what Nick advised. I need to be forward with people and draw them into the stall. One of the best reactions I got was when I would try and give a bookmark to someone who already had one as they headed my way again. They would say “I already have one,” and I would reply that they haven’t got the book to go with it!
- I won’t have my family in tow for the next one so I need to get myself a small cart to carry the boxes of books in!
The first event two weeks ago introduced me to the experience, but I feel this event is where I grew in confidence in actually speaking to people to push (gently) the book out to those walking by. I’m very hopeful for the next event in Staines in just under two weeks.
As I said goodbye the Sharon, she invited me back in a few months and I gave her a box of chocolates for all she’d done. She was suitably surprised and grateful. Thank you to all the WHSmith’s team on the day!