300 Seconds

Media List Update

Each quarter I send out a reminder to update media lists–local print, radio and television outlets–for publicists. I don’t know if this is good or bad news, but this is our last media list update for the year! And it should take around 300 seconds.

Give your list a quick glance to see if anyone retired or moved on to a different market. Then take just a few minutes to call those on your list to verify that the contacts you have are still appropriate. If the newspaper is large enough to have a book page and a children/family writer, be sure to include names for these individual specialties. And news directors at radio and television stations tend to change often, so be sure to call them. For each individual listed, include the name, title, e-mail address, phone and fax numbers, and mailing address.

Once you’re finished, add an “Updated 10/06/15” footnote, then save it as a PDF. Now the list is ready to send to any publicist who might be sending an author your way. When you send it to the publicist, remind them that this is to replace the previous list. Otherwise multiple books might be sent to one media outlet.

If you have a bit more time to devote to marketing today, it’s also a good time to look at your own press release email list, which should include the names you just updated on your media list, but also weekly, daily, and specialty newspapers in your area. Errors can leave a long-lasting digital trail, so look at the reports from the latest releases you’ve sent, especially the bounce report. Some emails bounce because a mailbox might be full, or the recipient’s email service might have some other temporary glitch. But if an email address consistently shows up in the bounced field, the media person has probably moved on or you have a bad address. A quick web search or a phone call will yield the correct address for press releases.

If you haven’t created a press release email list, it’s not difficult to do. Consider the “reach” of your store and determine daily and weekly newspapers that fall in that area. Press associations often provide a list of newspapers with contact information on their websites. Here is a directory of state, regional and national press associations from the Newspaper Association of America.

300 Seconds: Fanatic Fans

Last night I did something I never thought I would do. I gushed over an author.

I’ve worked hundreds and hundreds of events. I’ve been tongue-tied. I’ve blushed. I think accidentally gleeked once. But, coming from a long line of stoic Germans, I’ve never gushed.

Until now.

It didn’t help that he was the first person I encountered after stepping out of the elevator, my stack of first printings in hand. I was as charmed by the writer as I was by his words, and I gushed. And I also had a clear view of a book signing from the audience perspective.

Now, before you tsk me for walking in with books not purchased at the event, let me assure you that I purchased the entire stack from the same local independent bookstore also selling books at the event. I just happened to buy and read them as they were released. And since this reading was not at the bookstore, but instead was organized and executed by a university creative writing department at a museum on campus, I wonder if that’s why I was able to fully experience it as a member of the audience. Whatever the case, it made me think about the super fans.

Typically my “300 Seconds” pieces offer tips and tidbits you can execute immediately. But this one is for the future. The next time you have an author event, allow an extra 300 Seconds for the fans. Not 5 minutes per fan, but cut the obvious ones some slack. Give each one a little bit more time with the author. Offer to take a photo. Chances are they drove in for the event, they have first printings, and they’ve read them all. This event that you’ve held for their favorite author might be the first time they’ve stepped foot in your store. This might be your only chance to make a good impression and win them as a fan of the store.

300 Seconds: Section Swap

Many bookstores keep shelves tidy using a divide-and-conquer approach. Stores are divided into sections, which are then assigned to various booksellers. While dusting and straightening, books are alphabetized, holes are corrected with face-outs, and backlists are maintained.

This is great for keeping sections in order, but not so great in terms of broadening staff horizons.

Take 300 Seconds today and plan for a Section Swap. If Ann traditionally maintains the children’s section, switch her to cookbooks for a day. If Ruth ensures that the history section is up to date, have her change to fiction. If Sarah is moved from music to juvenile picture books, she can look to see if any of her tried and true hand-sells are missing. And maybe moving Rachel from education to staff picks might offer a different perspective than a bookseller who’s vertically challenged.

Pulling staff out of their comfort zones will not only provide fresh eyes for the store, but also fresh titles for the booksellers.

300 Seconds: Let’s Engage Socially

It can be difficult to get moving on Mondays, especially on social media. Sometimes it can feel like so much has happened since Friday afternoon, you’ll never be able to catch up, much less share something yourself.

For today’s 300 Seconds, I’ve created an instant tweetable linking to a recent article on vanwinkles.com which outlines the hidden benefits of reading before bed… with facts and everything. It’s a short, yet interesting piece if you’d like to read it.

If you just trust me, click on this link to tweet from your own Twitter account: Reading before bed makes you sleep better. (And makes you a better person in general.) 

Now that that’s over, you can go ahead and spend the remaining 255 seconds catching up on what you missed on social media over the weekend.

Book Club Democracy

Book club selections can be a tricky business. We want to make sure our groups are reading great books, but we also want them to feel like they have a say in the selection process.

The Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana, has been blending the two selection methods for a couple of years now. “We pick a selection of books and customers can vote on what they want to read for book club,” explains Carson Evans, events coordinator for the store. “We have an in-store display with paper ballots, but we found that we could get twice as many votes cast if we made a web version.” They created a web form with checkboxes on their website with the same selection of books, so participants can vote either in the store or online.

The store uses this process for their main County Bookshelf book club, and they only have the selection process once a year, usually around March or April. “We tally the votes and then make the book club schedule for the whole next year,” says Evans.

Creating an online ballot is very simple (and free) with Google Drive. I created this quick example using titles from the Man Booker long list as my selection pool. Creating the form was as easy as logging into Google Drive and selecting “new” and then “form.” I could insert as many questions as I wanted. I chose to do four different questions: 1) a checklist of book selections, 2) participant’s name, 3) a question asking how often the participant attends book club, and 4) email address. I then added the form title and subtitle, then selected “embed,” which gave me the code to paste here.