Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Marketing in the Marketplace: Location, Location, Location by Elaine Marie Cooper

Bookstore booksignings - they are part of the "writer" job description. But, sometimes, they can seem like a waste of time when it comes to sales. Today, author Elaine Marie Cooper gives us a a tip that can enhance our enjoyment and success. -- Sandy

Elaine: Experts say that, when it comes to buying real estate, location means everything.

In my experience as an author, I’ve formed a similar philosophy: Your physical location within the store is a part of your selling success.

The first time I noticed this connection was during Christmas shopping season in 2013. Customers had flooded the small shop in which I’d set up my book display. The holiday was mere days away and shoppers appeared desperate to find gifts.

Anxious to promote my newly released historical, Fields of the Fatherless, I saw an opportunity when the line of customers waiting to check out wound its way next to the table where I displayed my book.

Engaging each customer with a smile, a free bookmark and a few well-timed words about my novel, I sold several books to those waiting to make purchases.

The next Christmas, I was blessed to be scheduled for a book signing at a national chain of large bookstores. I was delighted when the buyer told me he’d ordered 50 copies for me to sell. Delighted—and a bit nervous.

What if I only sell a few? I asked my husband to pray with me that the Lord would bless this book event. I took a deep breath, and entered the Taj Mahal of bookstores.

Inside, I met the manager who set my table up in what seemed like a practical location, just to the right of the main door. Because the store was huge, I stood and greeted customers, offering free bookmarks. I sold several books, but not as many as I’d hoped.

I suggested a change of location to the store manager. “How about along that crowded checkout line, where the customers have to stand and wait?” He was dubious, but agreed with my idea.

“Happy Holidays!” I said to each customer. My greeting was highlighted with a smile as I pitched a short statement about my book. If they looked away, I kept on grinning and spoke to the next one in line.

“Would you like a bookmark? It’s free.” If they read it and seemed at all interested, I gave my brief pitch again. “You can look at my book if you like.”

As they flipped through the pages, several seemed engaged in the story. “If you’d like to purchase it today, I can sign it for you.”

Frequently, the customers smiled and bought a signed copy. I gave away lots of bookmarks—and sold many books.

Two hours later, the manager’s jaw dropped as I handed him a small handful of leftovers. “This is great!” he said. “I never thought that location would work!”

I was ecstatic. Between the Lord and location, my book sales were a success.

Perhaps selling 43 books would seem like a paltry sum to a writer like Francine Rivers. But for this lesser-known author, it felt like a million.

Do you have tips for us from your bookstore experiences? 



Elaine Marie Cooper is the author of Bethany’s Calendar (nonfiction memoir) and Fields of the Fatherless (historical fiction). Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Prayer Connect, Splickety Prime and Fighting Fear -Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves For Battle by Edie Melson.


  1. Great idea, Elaine! I'd rather speak to a group of people than sign and sell books in a bookstore. :makes my knees wobble just thinking about it: :)

    1. I completely understand, Dora. My technique involved speaking one-on-one so it offered me personal interaction that naturally led them to consider purchasing. If they didn't purchase I just smiled anyway. Most were quite friendly but there are always a few who are standoffish. I tried not to take any of those interactions personally. After all, historical fiction (my genre) is not everyone's cup of tea!

  2. Wonderful idea, I would have never thought of that location. Now I just need a print book! I admire your determination and your fortitude. Way to put yourself out there. Good luck with future signings.

    1. Thank you, Terri! It takes determination and fortitude for all of us writers to stick with it even when discouraged. And there are plenty of those moments for all of us!! Best wishes for your dreams to appear in paperback. :)

  3. What a terrific idea, Elaine! I'm with Dora--signing in a bookstore is a daunting experience. The last one I did, they set me up in the back of the store, where there was a lot of room for a table and book display but very little traffic. And the people who did make it that far were clearly on a mission for another type of book. I'll definitely remember your post about "location" next time such an opportunity arises!

    1. Oh, I feel your pain, being in the back of the store!! Hopefully your store managers will be as flexible as mine was. I had to convince him this would help both the store and myself. And I definitely believe in covering my book signings in prayer. Best wishes!

  4. Elaine, you are so right about location. But I urge others to take your advice about standing, welcoming, and handing out free bookmarks. A bookstore owner told me that so many authors sit behind the table and wait and hope and sell few books. I did what you did and she said, "How nice to have a welcome-lady at the store." I sold 10 which was more than she or I thought I would.

    1. I agree, Zoe! My manager said the same thing. It can be hard to come out of our "writer shell," but it's the only way folks will notice our product. And ten books is a good book signing! Congratulations and thanks for commenting!

  5. Great article! I would never have thought that was a good location. When I reflected on how supermarkets put lots of products where customers wait in line, it made perfect sense.


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