For the love of pete, it's FREE MONEY! Why are you saying no??

I work for a publishing company, and we have a book out on the last decade of SEC mens basketball. Traces their rise into the best conference today, yadda yadda yadda. The coaches love it, the athletic departments love it, the fans love it.

The SEC tournament is taking place in New Orleans this year, so we’re looking to do a book-signing down there. 30,000 SEC fans in one location equals primo opportunity. And our author is gonna be there already, so no travel fees.

We’ve called a good dozen bookstores and NONE of them want to host a book-signing. What does it entail? Put up flyers in your store for a week prior – SEC fans walking by will see it. We have other marketing connections to promote the signing as well. The day of, put up a table in your bookstore for the author to sit at. Buy X cases of books from us. After the signing, YOU CAN RETURN WHAT DIDN’T SELL.

Yes, that’s right – if the store purchases 100 books from us and the signing only sells 50, they can return the other 50 and we’ll credit their account. At the discounts we use for bookstores, they stand to make $10 a book, so with 50 books sold that’s $500 in FREE MONEY, and who knows what other stuff the tourists will buy when they’re in the store. And all they have to do is have an employee there to ring up the sales.

Unbelievable. We’d sell them ourselves in a hotel lobby, but you need a New Orleans license. It’s pretty much free money … I can’t see why so many people are refusing this. Gah.

Why don’t you ask them?

Gee, 100 rabid basketball fans choking off my lobby? Why on earth would I object to that?


Well, part of it might be the suspicion, likely unjustified, that sports fans aren’t big readers, so the signing will not generate very many new sales, and may displace sales they might have made from regular customers. Not to mention the possibility of property damage from that many fans jamming into their bookstore at once, even if they’re on their best behavior.

That’s just conjecture, though. Bookstore owners are not exactly proverbial for their good financial sense.

I always hated signings when I worked at a bookstore. You have to pay people to work extra hours setting up the event, staffing the signing and cleaning up once the people have cleared out. That kind of huge traffic flow creates wear and tear on the store and the inventory. You have to have staff available for crowd control and other signing-related tasks as well as having people on hand to ring up the normal sales, handle the additional customers and try to restock and reorganize apace with the extra people messing up the shelves in the course of their shopping.

A signing could cost a bookseller $500 easily, in staffing costs alone. Unless the author’s a big name, signing events are hardly worth the hassle for the staff, IMHO.

“If the store purchases… they can return…we’ll credit their account”.

That one makes me ask for details in and of itself.

If it’s a big bookstore and a big publisher and they do a lot of business every month it’s probably SOP, but there are hundreds of small traders in the back of my head screaming about birds in the hand versus those in the bush.

I don’t know much about sports, but I do know that there are sporting related shops that sell signed baseballs, sports trading cards, memorabilia, that sort of thing. Have you approached any of them about it?

There is a lot more involved in a book-signing than merely having an employee there to ring up sales. Perhaps these bookstores don’t think they will make enough money to justify the expense? Plus there is the cost of having to pay someone to prepare the unsold books to send back to you - someone has to repack them, prepare labels, deal with the shipper, etc. It’s not like there is no effort on the part of the bookstore.

What sort of moron would go to a book signing about the Securities and Exchange Commission basketball team?

I would think that basketball fans would be interested in metting basketball PLAYERS, not just some schmuck who wrote a book about them.

(“Schmuck” being their point of view, not mine. I feed myself on what authors write.)

My initial thought were exactly the same as a few other’s. It is clear that the book stores believe, and probably rightly so, that this event will cost them more than the $500 benefit that they stand to make. “Free” money indeed.


When exactly would this be? Is this March Madness? Because that is WAY too soon for a bookstore to plan properly. When I worked for a bookstore, we planned our events five or six months ahead of time, in order to send out fliers to the mailing list, put ads in the papers, etc. One month is just not enough time to plan a proper promotion.

Thanks for the replies, all, but it’s still frustrating to consider. I realize there would be SOME expense – although I find it hard to believe it’d approach anything near $500 in expenses – but we’ve even asked a couple of them “if we secure space in another location such as a restaurant for a booksigning, would you be the seller of record?” Again, we can’t sell them ourselves because we’d need a license from what I’ve been told.

We’ve had signings in ESPNZones in the past, and we simply found a local bookstore to purchase the books from us, sell what they could, and then return the unsold portions (when there were any). So I’m in talks with a few hotel sports bars and a couple restaurants to see if they’d be willing to host such an event. If they are, we’d need a local bookseller so I’ve brought it up as a possibility. Even THIS has been turned down by the bookstores. One employee for two hours at the signing, plus however long it takes them to box up any unsold books and return them. Barely any cost there.

I don’t recall the specifics of it, but I remember reading an article about some test sociologists have done in the past where one person is told “We’re going to give that person over there $100 – but ONLY if you say we should. We’re going to tell him that you allowed us to give him the money, and if he wants he can give you a token of his thanks. Should we give him the money?” Some people actually said no! I dunno, I just kinda see this as the same thing – “why should I help you make money, even though I’m gonna make some too? I’ll make less, so forget about it.”

PS – Kyla, I just saw your post after I’d written my reply. That wouldn’t work in this situation because the potential customers are all going to be tourists. The local bookstore’s mailing list and local papers are unlikely to be any help. Our marketing efforts would be geared towards them – event listings in hotels, flyers on the store itself for the tourist walking past, mention on SEC or team websites, etc. If the customers are only going to be in town one weekend, you can’t advertise conventionally. I agree, though, we should have been on top of this a while back. I’ll leave that blame on our author not telling us he was going to be there, though. lol.

Well, if the coaches and players are such big fans, why not approach a university campus bookstore? I realize that Louisiana’s SEC representative, LSU, is not in New Orleans, but maybe you could get one of the local colleges to open their bookstore for your plan.

On a more general note, i think the issue for some bookstores might be that of weighing up the chance of making a few bucks selling your book (and remember, there are no guarantees that many copies would be sold) against the chance of alienating their regular customers. And i think that a lot of bookstores know that some of their regular customers, like me for example, avoid the stores like the plague when they host book-signings, unless the author is someone i have a particular interest in. I’m not that interested in browsing when the store is chock-full of a bunch of sweaty-palmed rubber-neckers waiting in line for a meaningless signature.