Have bookshop, will travel

Like lonesome modern day book-selling cowboys, this year we have been on the road again. 

Armed only with a range of books, a portable till and some snazzy branding we have been tracking that sometimes elusive creature—the book buyer—to ensure we are there when they are ready to make a purchase. These days, the agile indie and the well organised chain are out looking and scouting out where the readers and book buyers are, so they can be in position to snare those sales.

We organise over sixty events a year ourselves and host these in a range of venues around our local area. We offer a variety of talks and book signing events from major authors attracting large audiences of over 600 through to local author book launches which attract a far smaller but no less dedicated crowd.

In addition to this we sell books at a diverse range of conferences including those run by the Romantic Novelists Association and the Independent Financial Planners Association. We also set up book stalls at other people’s festivals such as Cardiff Explore! and monthly meetings such as Poetry on the Border and have run the signings at post-theatre talks with authors including Rob Brydon and Simon Callow. We are at most of the local community fairs in the summer and at Christmas, and attend many events held by schools and colleges throughout the year.

Customers who do not often travel to our high street location or who normally buy their books elsewhere can be tempted by convenience at off-site venues to buy from our bookstall. These additional sales generated by reaching out to new customers is a core benefit but by no means the only one. A travelling bookstall provides a natural social meeting point, facilitating new connections and ideas that can take you in surprising and unexpected directions. Other people’s conferences and festivals also offer a fascinating experience and provide ideas on how to run our own events.  

The benefit to the organiser, be it festival, conference, talk or fair, is that they get a professional bookstall. They can be reassured that an experienced retailer will handle on-site transactions by card or cash and will have the right range of books and gifts that appeal to their customers. Such a retailer thereby adds value and kudos to their event both for their audience and for their speakers. The bookshop can also provide advice on potential speakers, assist with marketing of the event to their customers and provide the additional staff to organise author signings.

Publishers benefit from working with a bookseller who is experienced in running events and therefore knows and delivers the amount of organisation that is needed and gets the right books in the right quantity.  The book sales go through Nielsen and any remaining signed copies go into the bookshop which means more sales recorded and less stock to return.

As a bookshop it is vital to engage with readers and writers, and third party events are a great way to do this.  Publishers and event organisers have a lot to gain by working with the many pro-active bookshops.  Lets build connections and sell books . . .