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View Full Version : Want to have an Author Event here? Hope you don't mind if we charge admission.



fourlittlebees
06-22-2011, 07:42 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/business/media/22events.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

Ugh. While I understand the plight of the indie bookseller, and I can see this working for big-time writers, what about the little guys?

thothguard51
06-22-2011, 08:11 AM
I totally agree with the bookstores. If we don't support them, then they are going to stop supporting us and start selling bikini waxes...

blacbird
06-22-2011, 08:19 AM
All manner of speakers and lecturers arrange gigs where admission is charged, no different from, say, musicians, or visual artists. Your point is what, exactly?

benbradley
06-22-2011, 09:34 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/business/media/22events.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

Ugh. While I understand the plight of the indie bookseller, and I can see this working for big-time writers, what about the little guys?
I decided to (gasp) read the article before deciding whether to comment. Glad I did, as the third paragraph says:

Bookstores, including some of the most prominent around the country, have begun selling tickets or requiring a book purchase of customers who attend author readings and signings, a practice once considered unthinkable.
Seeing that, it puts the story in a different light, and I even think the thread topic might be misleading - I''ve always bought the book at the store of any signing I've been to, so the "if you don't buy" admissiob charge wouldn't apply to me. So I have no problem with the part I bolded. I think someone who goes to get a book signed and doesn't buy the book from the store hosting the signing is <non-RYFW-compliant comment deleted>.

Anne Lyle
06-22-2011, 11:13 AM
Our local small-chain bookstore organises paid events, but on the plus side they provide free wine and soft drinks, and the event often includes several well-known names. The most recent SFF night I went to included China Mieville and Alastair Reynolds, as well as a bunch of midlister friends of mine like Stephen Deas.

shaldna
06-22-2011, 02:09 PM
I'm torn on this one. One one hand paid events have the advantage of a guarenteed admission. The last thing anyone wants is to arrive at an event to be told that they are full. Also, they are usually much better organised and usually have some sort of refreshement, which is nice. All in all a much better atmosphere.

All the signings I have been to in Belfast have had the policy that you should buy the book there, but that said, every one I've been to the writers have all agreed to sign other books for people - like when a writers new book comes out and they do a signing for that, but you get a lot of people who also bring a favourite book of thiers along and they can get that signed too. Within reason of course, people are discouraged from brining 20 books.

Anne Lyle
06-22-2011, 02:16 PM
It seems to be a "two-tier" thing, at least in the UK - if it's just a simple signing session when the bookshop would be open anyway, they don't charge (and usually can't, because there's no way to keep the ordinary browsing public out!). If it's outside bookshop hours, they have staff overtime to pay but OTOH can make it more of an occasion, with readings and so on, so charging entrance doesn't seem so unreasonable.

seun
06-22-2011, 03:01 PM
We have author visits at work quite often. They're arranged with Waterstones and the charge is something like 3 (or 2 for the oldies). They're always popular.

fourlittlebees
06-22-2011, 04:41 PM
I understand if it's two-tiered: say, charging the fee for big authors and not for little guys.

What does bother me is the presumption of guilt and a concern that for debut or lesser-known authors, adding on an admission charge, even if it is a gift card for books or whatever, would dissuade people from coming and discovering new authors.

Libbie
06-22-2011, 04:48 PM
Ooooh...I'd pay a good chunk of money to go to an event like Shaldna described, with several authors and WINE.

Also, as the article states, it's a buy-book/pay-admission dichotomy, which makes sense. Book stores are businesses. Their ventures need to be profitable, including hosting author events, or they'll stop doing them. I think it's a bit odd to go to an author event and not buy a copy of their book from that store, really, so I don't see the problem.

thothguard51
06-22-2011, 05:06 PM
What does bother me is the presumption of guilt and a concern that for debut or lesser-known authors, adding on an admission charge, even if it is a gift card for books or whatever, would dissuade people from coming and discovering new authors.

Would you rather have the book stores charge the debut author for space, by the hour perhaps? I would imagine this would cut down on book signings even more.

fourlittlebees
06-22-2011, 05:16 PM
Would you rather have the book stores charge the debut author for space, by the hour perhaps? I would imagine this would cut down on book signings even more.

And either way, the bookstore would also lose.

The whole point of having author events is to bring people into the bookstore. Hopefully, if it's a debut or lesser-known author, the author's name gets out there and the bookstore sells a few books.

Keep in mind, this doesn't just affect those who buy books online (which appears to be the issue). It also affects those who may already have purchased the book AT THAT BOOKSELLER. If a fan buys the book on release day, then attends an event with the author two weeks later, they have to buy another book?

That's what I mean presumption of guilt. Author events and bookstores have always had a symbiotic relationship. I can certainly understand doing this for NYT bestselling authors. But for smaller authors, it creates an adversarial relationship between bookseller and potential customers, as well as potentially between booksellers and lesser-known authors. And that's not a good thing for anyone.

ChaosTitan
06-22-2011, 05:28 PM
The whole point of having author events is to bring people into the bookstore.

Exactly. However, as the article points out, a lot of those people come in the store with previously-purchased books, or they go out and buy the book later, likely from an online retailer. I've spoken with a lot of bookstore employees over the years who've faced this very same frustration. They do feel like library employees, instead of booksellers, and it's just as frustrating for authors who love their local bookstores.

Setting up book signings costs the bookstore money. Not only do they have to take the payroll hours to set up the space, they likely have to spend extra payroll on extra staff to have around for the event. Add in cost of advertising. Plus the cost of order, you know, the actual books--the bookstore has to pay for all of those books, and if they don't sell them, then what's the point?

So on one hand I totally support the idea, and I can see it working for popular authors who will absolutely draw a crowd.

On the other hand, for a small-fry author like me, no one's going to pay money to go to my reading. Hell, I've had free signings where I've sold two whole books.

Libbie
06-22-2011, 06:05 PM
If a fan buys the book on release day, then attends an event with the author two weeks later, they have to buy another book?



Good point. Maybe these stores can look up receipts made with card payments or something to verify that the person attending has already supported the book store.

I'm in favor of supporting book stores and I have run businesses before myself -- I understand that events like this need to be profitable for stores to continue to do them. Book signings may have become the kind of uninvestment that Groupon and similar "services" have become: ostensibly "good advertising" meant to draw in future customers, but really only bringing in bargain-hounds (or in this case, fans who will show up to meet the author in person but who will continue to buy their books from Amazon). In the end, no increase in business is seen, and the financial hit taken to host the event hurts the business even more. It becomes a huge loss for the business and accomplishes nothing for the bottom line.




On the other hand, for a small-fry author like me, no one's going to pay money to go to my reading. Hell, I've had free signings where I've sold two whole books.

That right there is exactly why I will never do signings unless I have a publisher putting a little money into publicity. I'm willing to work my butt off for the cause of publicity -- doing the work of setting up radio interviews myself, etc. -- but only if they'd be willing to put a little cash behind it. Because I think author events are going to be paid-admission in the near future (even if just a couple bucks), or buy-a-book admission, so it's not likely that readers will come a-runnin' unless they've heard of me somewhere beforehand. That's assuming I ever get published, of course! And how likely is it that my first novel(s) will garner any publicity budget at all? Not very. ;)

veinglory
06-22-2011, 06:06 PM
I think there is a difference between a 5 cover charge and requiring the purchase of a hardback book ($30?). Especially if you are coming to see if you like the author, not on the assumption that you do.

I paid to see Jodie Picoult once (in a hall), didn't buy a book though and would resent being forced to.

What the bookstores get is people through the door, whether they manage to sell them a book is rather in their court.

Libbie
06-22-2011, 06:21 PM
My understanding is it's either/or. As in, the cover is (for example) $5.00, but if you buy the book then the cover is waived.

And ordinarily I would agree with the ball being in the book store's court in the pre-Amazon age. I am not an Amazon disparager. I live about two miles from their headquarters and the company employs a LOT of people in my community. I generally like Amazon, though they are not perfect. Still, it's hard to deny that online bookbuying is contributing to the decline of brick-and-mortar book stores. Why would a person attending a book reading/signing event buy a book at that store if she could buy it online for 15% or 25% less? Or WAY less, if the book has been out for more than a few weeks and she can find used copies online for $8.99 hardback? In this economy, it's usually smarter for readers to buy their books online than in stores. Book stores have to make their money somewhere, and author events cost them money. I don't see a problem with paying $5.00 to attend a reading OR buying a book from that store to attend a reading.

I don't think anybody is proposing a forced sale of books. This is no different from paying a small cover fee to get into a bar to see a band play, except at the bar you'd also be expected to buy drinks and food in addition to the cover charge.

veinglory
06-22-2011, 06:34 PM
If they can get away with it, the ads are clear, and it doesn't get in the way of normal customers, sure. Their business, they can do what they want IMHO.

shaldna
06-22-2011, 06:37 PM
Keep in mind, this doesn't just affect those who buy books online (which appears to be the issue). It also affects those who may already have purchased the book AT THAT BOOKSELLER. If a fan buys the book on release day, then attends an event with the author two weeks later, they have to buy another book?

I experienced this once at a shop in Belfast. I bought a book on release and at the checkout the guy said that the author was doing a signing in a couple of weeks and if I kept my receipt I could bring my book along to get signed.

I think this would be a simple enough policy to implement.

veinglory
06-22-2011, 06:38 PM
But the store might also have the goal of getting new customers, even if they did happen to buy that book elsewhere.

muravyets
06-22-2011, 07:02 PM
This sounds like this could be done right and be a new direction in bookselling, or it could be done wrong and be a business-killing waste of everyone's time and money.

In any event, you have to ask what's going to motivate the public to fork over their money. I'm sorry, but meeting a writer just isn't privilege enough to pay for, imo. Hell, many of us can't even sing or dance. ;) A book event needs to be an event if it's going to support both bookstores and writers.

I agree with the tiered approach concept. Simple signings, at a foldaway desk, during regular shop hours, should not be special, paid events. I think they should be just part of the repertoire of promotions that bookstores and writers do.

Special events that are set-off spaces, or off regular hours, and may require reassigning staff, should be a pay-or-buy proposition, and they should be advertised widely and in sufficient advance. And they should always offer something more than just standing in line for a signature -- a wine reception/meet-n-greet; book readings; maybe a writers panel discussion of some sort. Event things. If they can showcase emerging/debut authors alongside more established authors, that would increase their value as well, imo.

Yeah, I can see a lot of ways this could be very good and a lot of ways it could be made of fail.

Jamesaritchie
06-22-2011, 07:12 PM
Robert James Waller used to change readers twenty bucks for signing a book they just bought. This seems very mild compared to that.

I really see little reason to go to book signing unless you intend to buy a book. You're just taking up space. If you buy a book, you should get the admission price back. If not, I see no problem with paying a few bucks to meet a writer.

thothguard51
06-22-2011, 07:17 PM
On the other hand, for a small-fry author like me, no one's going to pay money to go to my reading. Hell, I've had free signings where I've sold two whole books.

And this is the problem, especially among self published authors in that they sell very few books at signings, but yet the book store footed the bill for employee time, lighting, heating/cooling etc while the author is there. And lets not forget insurance. Insurance you say?

Just having an event could turn into a very large liability lawsuit for the bookstore if something happened during the signing. Like an angry person who is not a fan of the author and he shoots up the place.

I know, I know, the store carries liability insurance anyway, but the point being is that its the bookstores that are taking all the burden of a book signing and as noted above, sometimes the number of books sold is not worth the effort.

thothguard51
06-22-2011, 07:19 PM
Robert James Waller used to change readers twenty bucks for signing a book they just bought. This seems very mild compared to that.


Lots of pro athletes charge for autographs...

veinglory
06-22-2011, 07:38 PM
I go to signing, readings and appearances to consider buying a book. Sometimes I don't. It isn't a contractual obligation and there are always *plenty* of empty seats at least to the ones I have gone to--up to including to me being the only one there.

I would considered the 'buy a book or F.O.' attitude to be one that won't help the store or the author.

muravyets
06-22-2011, 07:42 PM
...

I know, I know, the store carries liability insurance anyway, but the point being is that its the bookstores that are taking all the burden of a book signing and as noted above, sometimes the number of books sold is not worth the effort.
That's a risk with any promotion -- that it won't pay off. It's the responsibility of people doing promotions to make them the best they can to increase the likelihood they'll make money off them.

While I agree that for special events, stores should be able to charge some admission to cover the extra costs of doing it, they should also recognize that they are not charitable organizations and no one is going to give them money just because. What are the people getting for their entry fee? If events are not paying off for a store, first take a good look at what value they are offering the customers who they want to attract, and either improve or decide hosting events is not a good allocation of their business resources.

I'm sure there are people who will pay to meet a writer but won't pay to buy a book at list price in the store. But I think there are also people who won't pay to meet a writer at all, but would pay to hear a reading or attend a lecture. What I'm talking about is increasing the value of book events by using them both to generate immediate sales and as general promotion for the shop and the writers.

By the way, art galleries usually charge an entry fee to artists to participate in group shows. It's usually about $20/artist and it covers the cost of wine for the reception and advertising of the show. The motivation for paying the entry fee is the certainty of exhibition and the chance of making a sale (and for artists who work enough to qualify as professional for tax purposes, it can be a deductible expense). Is there anything like that for writers?

Anne Lyle
06-22-2011, 07:53 PM
By the way, art galleries usually charge an entry fee to artists to participate in group shows. It's usually about $20/artist and it covers the cost of wine for the reception and advertising of the show. The motivation for paying the entry fee is the certainty of exhibition and the chance of making a sale (and for artists who work enough to qualify as professional for tax purposes, it can be a deductible expense). Is there anything like that for writers?

I think charging the writer is more likely with an event such as a book launch for a debut/minor author, because the venue has far less certainty of sales than with an established author. I'm planning to have one because my husband has business contacts (and I have a lot of fans locally, e.g. all my NaNoWriMo buddies), but I have no idea yet what the costs will be.

muravyets
06-22-2011, 08:09 PM
Good luck with it, Anne. I have no clue at all how bookstores would handle that. It's standard in art galleries -- I mean non-profit or co-op galleries; commercial galleries often have exhibition agreements with artists they represent -- so the costs are structured to fall within the amount of fees collected from the participants. It's basically cost-sharing.

ETA: I'm suddenly remembering, years ago, maybe in the 80s, Harlan Ellison once spent a day or two writing in a front window at a big bookstore in NYC, might have been a Barnes & Noble. He just set up a desk and typewriter in the front window and went to work. I think there was a meet-n-greet with him at some point during the event. I wonder who got paid for that appearance. ;)

Kitty Pryde
06-22-2011, 08:54 PM
Here in LA (a book-hating city if there ever was one), this is what they do at the indies and the big chains:

-If they think it's going to be insanely crowded at the event, or if they have to rent out a big space like a theater, you have to buy the book and/or pay an extra fee. For Janet Jackson's new book, people had to come early, buy the book, then leave the store and form a line down the sidewalk (at a teensy little bookstore).
-If they think it's going to be slightly crowded, you can come for free but if you want your book signed, you have to buy it from the store.
-If they don't anticipate a big crowd you can bring your own books to be signed, and it's free.

I was a little shocked at how few people come out for author events. I've been to three events in the last year for what I would consider successful and prolific award-winning midlisters, who all had 2 or 3 books out in the past year (Francesc@ Lia Block, Jeff Vanderm33r, and Catherynne Va1ente): two events had about fifteen attendees, and one had only six, and some of those are friends and family. Yipes! The only crowded book signings I've been to were Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury, who are more deities than authors at this point.

Point is, charging money or requiring book purchases is just a way to control the crowd, and if it's going to cause the event to be a failure, they won't do it. Bookstore owners are clever like that.

Libbie
06-22-2011, 09:00 PM
While I agree that for special events, stores should be able to charge some admission to cover the extra costs of doing it, they should also recognize that they are not charitable organizations and no one is going to give them money just because. What are the people getting for their entry fee?

Yeah, I would hope that events that charged a cover would include an entertaining reading and a Q&A session with the writer. All the signings/readings I've been to have been a lot of fun, and would have been well worth the $5.00 to attend, if they'd charged. If it was just a writer sitting at a table signing copies, I wouldn't pay to go.

I've never heard of writers paying to be "exhibited" at an event as artists in a gallery. First, I'm from a family of artists and as far as I know none of them have ever paid to have work in a gallery or show; the gallery invites them, requires X number of paintings to hang, and always foots the bill for the reception at the opening. Of course, the gallery gets a good commission on anything sold during the show, too. In that respect, the galleries are not unlike literary agents, connecting the right work with the right audience, and taking a cut for their expertise and networking.

If artists are paying $20 to be included in a show, they are probably artists struggling to have their work seen. Unfortunately there isn't a good online venue for art reviewing and recommendations, like we have with Amazon, Goodreads, etc. if there were, artists might find more free promotion opportunities.

I don't think I'd personally ever pay to have my writing included in that kind of "group screening" thing, unless the money went to charity. It's a pretty interesting idea, getting a lot of literature fans together to listen to several different authors read their work and talk about their new books, but I wouldn't want to risk the perception that I was desperate enough for publicity to pay to be included, or that I was small-time enough that I needed the exposure that badly. (Even though I might be desperate and small-time indeed! ;) )

Anne Lyle
06-22-2011, 09:36 PM
I was a little shocked at how few people come out for author events. I've been to three events in the last year for what I would consider successful and prolific award-winning midlisters, who all had 2 or 3 books out in the past year (Francesc@ Lia Block, Jeff Vanderm33r, and Catherynne Va1ente): two events had about fifteen attendees, and one had only six, and some of those are friends and family. Yipes! The only crowded book signings I've been to were Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury, who are more deities than authors at this point.


Yeah, I went to a (free) group signing in the middle of Birmingham on a sunny Easter Saturday afternoon, and very few people turned up. All at ASDA buying their BBQ buns and burgers, I reckon!

OTOH the entrance-fee-charging evening event in Cambridge was pretty well attended - no big queues for individual writers (not even China Mieville) but lots of folks milling around and getting books signed, listening to readings and so on.

MaryMumsy
06-23-2011, 12:38 AM
At least two of the indie stores here in Phoenix have a 'purchase the book here' requirement for events they think will draw large crowds. And I think that is only fair. At the one where I have attended a signing they will also allow you to bring one or two earlier books to be signed. And that is OK too. That store always specifies in their promotion if you must buy the book there, so no one should be surprised when they get there.

About 25-30 years ago I went to a signing at B Dalton in the mall. The line was halfway down the mall, easily 75-100 people. One older man had two shopping bags full of earlier books by the author, and he got every one signed.

MM

AlishaS
06-23-2011, 01:19 AM
I read the article. I'm on the fence. My city, never, ever has Author events. I've been to one book signing where it was a local author (that I knew personally) and did in fact buy one of her books.
However, if I got the chance to see some famous' out there, if they came to my city I would pay a few dollars to see them. And would buy the book.

muravyets
06-23-2011, 05:08 AM
Yeah, I would hope that events that charged a cover would include an entertaining reading and a Q&A session with the writer. All the signings/readings I've been to have been a lot of fun, and would have been well worth the $5.00 to attend, if they'd charged. If it was just a writer sitting at a table signing copies, I wouldn't pay to go.

I've never heard of writers paying to be "exhibited" at an event as artists in a gallery. First, I'm from a family of artists and as far as I know none of them have ever paid to have work in a gallery or show; the gallery invites them, requires X number of paintings to hang, and always foots the bill for the reception at the opening. Of course, the gallery gets a good commission on anything sold during the show, too. In that respect, the galleries are not unlike literary agents, connecting the right work with the right audience, and taking a cut for their expertise and networking.

If artists are paying $20 to be included in a show, they are probably artists struggling to have their work seen. Unfortunately there isn't a good online venue for art reviewing and recommendations, like we have with Amazon, Goodreads, etc. if there were, artists might find more free promotion opportunities.

I don't think I'd personally ever pay to have my writing included in that kind of "group screening" thing, unless the money went to charity. It's a pretty interesting idea, getting a lot of literature fans together to listen to several different authors read their work and talk about their new books, but I wouldn't want to risk the perception that I was desperate enough for publicity to pay to be included, or that I was small-time enough that I needed the exposure that badly. (Even though I might be desperate and small-time indeed! ;) )
No, actually, they are artists showing in non-profit and/or co-op galleries, and they are not fees to hang the art. As I said, they are cost-sharing fees to cover the expenses of an essentially non-commercial exhibition. Sometimes they can be to pay jurors in juried shows. For example, the Lynn Center for the Arts, a non-profit in Lynn MA, charges $12-$15 to enter a juried show, half of which is refundable if the work doesn't make it into the show, the other half going to the juror. I was in a juried show last year in Salem that was judged by a curator from the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, as the show was a thematic partner to that summer's interactive art exhibition at the museum. $20 for that one. The Brickbottom Gallery, which is run by the artists association I belong to, charges a fee for some of its shows and not others, depending on who is in charge of it (in-house or guest-run) and if it's open to non-members, and other issues. Members of the Brickbottom Association include some quite prominent Massachusetts artists who have well established careers, plenty of money and recognition, works held in area museums, etc. I've been in many shows there and have paid to get into maybe a quarter or third of them.

Hell, I curated a show there and wasn't going to charge anything because it was an invitational, but the participants, every one of whom had shinier careers than I do, volunteered the usual $20 ante. It was flat-out cost-sharing. The money went to reception snacks and getting the promotional pieces designed, since the gallery provided reception wine and postcard printing out of their own budget.

To clarify again, I'm not talking about a hanging fee, which is a hallmark of vanity galleries. I'm talking about cost-sharing fees or jury fees, which are a hallmark of non-profit galleries. I did try to say earlier, but probably failed, that commercial galleries don't charge such fees.

Libbie
06-23-2011, 06:12 AM
Oh, juried shows and co-ops are a different bag. I thought you were talking about commercial galleries at first.

muravyets
06-23-2011, 06:20 PM
Oh, nah, commercial galleries should never charge such fees.

I think it's both a boon and a pitfall for emerging artists, because when legit, it allows for the support of non-commercial venues that can and will host non-traditional and not necessarily commercial exhibitions that help artists build a fan/buyer base. But when not legit, well, it's not legit. It's a rip-off. Telling the difference can be tricky.

I was wondering if there's anything comparable for writers. Not a vanity press, but a legitimate system for writers to share costs with venues/shops for promotional book events. I guess the answer is "No, not really."