Beth Golay

Head & Shoulders Above

Last week I wrote about the need to update the staff images on your website. Rachel Bellavia, marketing and events coordinator at Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock, IL, sent another great staff photo suggestion.

“You never know who among your customers are professional (or semi-pro) photographers,” writes Rachel. “We have a number of photographers among ours, but our employee Evie’s mom offered to take free headshots of all the staff.”

Evie’s mom is Nancy Merkling of Nancy Merkling Productions in Harvard, IL. She took shots of all of the staff holding their favorite book. The images are featured along with staff bios on the Meet the Read Between the Lynes Staff page on the store website.

Rachel (pictured here with The Hobbit) adds, “She made us all look extra amazing!”

Rachel is right when she says sometimes we don’t know when there are professional or semi-professional photographers among our customers. It’s worth putting a query out in the store newsletter or on social media.

Free headshots are extremely generous. If you don’t have an employee’s photographer-mother among your customer database, you might have a customer who would be willing to extend a discount if you’re willing to extend the same courtesy. In the end, even if you cannot work out a discount or a trade, it’s good business to support your customers.

About Face

After inventory and rent, I’d bet your greatest expense at the bookstore is payroll. Since you invest so much in your staff, you really should let them work for you… off the sales floor.

I’m talking about showing your customers a face that goes with the name on the review or shelf talker, or the voice that answers the phone. There are several ways you can share staff images with your public, and the one I’d like to focus on today is probably the most basic: your store website.

Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia, features large images of the staff on their ‘staff picks’ page. Even with the whimsy, I think I’d be able to identify the staff in the store based on these images.

Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington, also has a really nice ‘meet our staff’ page. I like the way the large staff images are accompanied by a book image and a bio.

If you do not have staff images on your site, these are two great examples of engaging photos. If you do already have images, take a few minutes and see if any need to be updated. Did you last update your image about 10 years ago? It might be time to take a new photo. You might have changed a bit since then. I’ll use myself as an example. Here are my most recent mug shots–and none of them are 10 years old:



I keep saying that books are personal. So is a friendly face.

Thanks, Chronicle Books!

I’d like to send a special thank you to Lara Starr, senior publicist at Chronicle Books for giving me the VIP tour of today!

(I forced Lara to sit on Specs the Book Bike–@SpecsBookBike on Twitter–which was created to help celebrate Chronicle Books’ 50th Anniversary.)

Chronicle Books was born in 1967 during the Summer of Love. And since I also got my start that same year, I will carry my 50 Years bag proudly.

Thanks, Chronicle Books! And happy anniversary.

Kelly, Kelly, Kelly…

It’s no secret that I am always looking for email subject lines that are clever and compelling. Why are subject lines so important?

If they’re not opening your email, you’re not delivering your content.

Well, Fountain Bookstore owner Kelly Justice stopped me mid-sentence today. No kidding. I was in the middle of a conversation and left three people staring at me while I stopped everything to open the email I’d just received from Kelly. This was the subject line:

Kevin. Kevin. Kevin. Kevin. Kevin.

Then I made those three wait even longer while I opened the email to read this note from Kelly:

So…I’ve got a problem.

No matter who I’m talking to, no matter how often I repeat it, I keep calling our feature author for Tuesday’s event Brian.

His name is Kevin.

I am certain I am going to do this in his introduction.  

My brother’s name is Kevin. (Yo, Bro!) You’d think I could remember this guy’s name, but you can ask my staff, my sales reps, his fans that have called…for whatever reason, I can’t get “Brian” out of my head or stop it from coming out of my mouth. This is not normally an issue with me. But for whatever reason, I can’t seem to shake it. So if you see me around the store for the next few days muttering “kevin, kevin, kevin, kevin, kevin” under my breath, just ignore me.

There are several reasons I love this. One, it was a great stop-in-your-tracks subject line. I had to open it immediately to find out more. Two, the message was personal. Kelly felt comfortable enough to share her ‘problem’ with me. Three, she tied her message to an event in the store. Even though I will not be near Richmond on Tuesday, I still wanted to learn more about Kevin and his upcoming event.

Even though I already mentioned it once, it bears repeating. Why are subject lines important? If they’re not opening, you’re not delivering.

300 Seconds: Choose Just One

This week I had a top-of-the-refrigerator moment. And I’m not even talking about the dust.

It seems that since the refrigerator top is actually a surface, well… it must be filled. Old party trays. Empty muffin baskets. A dishwashing drip pan. A jar of peanut butter. [Sigh.] These items had been collecting for months, yet I didn’t notice them until I was in the middle of giving a tour. [Heavier sigh.]

Today, your 5 minute marketing task is to choose an area in your store you tend to ignore. Here are a few ideas:

  • Light bulbs. We haven’t done this one in a while! Take 300 seconds and look up. Have any of the bulbs expired? It’s time to change them. Try to get this task on your weekly teux-deux list. I know. I know. Your customers do not notice that you keep the store well-lit. But they’ll sure notice when you don’t.
  • Lower shelves. Customers also tend to see the dust build-up on unused and lower shelves. Why do they see it while we don’t? Well, they don’t know not to look in those spaces for books or merchandise.
  • Baseboards. These tend to collect dust and bugs, seemingly overnight. A quick vacuum with one of those fancy attachments should take care of both for a while.
  • Restrooms. If you have a public restroom, you should probably look around the base of the toilet. Is it gross? You’re probably not the only one who feels that way.

We all have areas that are overlooked because we see them daily. You could probably come up with your own list. But why are these labeled as marketing? Perspective and perception follow customers out of your store. We can’t stop it, but we can control it.

It’s just 300 seconds. So choose just one. (You can assign the rest.)