What It Takes

What It Takes

On Bookbuying and Events

By Callie Oettinger | Published: February 25, 2011

When I want a surprise read, I hold my three-year old daughter over the Costco book table and let her pick out a few books. (recent picks: Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Marilynne Robinson’s Home, and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge.) Or—I do a reverse pin-the-tail on the donkey in airport and train station book sections. I close my eyes, spin around, and then buy whatever book I grab. (recent pick: Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack). Some rock, others stink—all are a surprise.

When I buy my niece the Barnes & Noble gift cards she loves, I grab them off the gift card stand in the grocery store.

And when I’m looking for a specific book for myself or my kids, I log into Amazon.com.

The only time I go into a bookstore is when I’m attending an author signing—or killing time waiting for someone.

So when the events coordinator at an indy bookstore, in a market in which Steve has a large number of readers, told me he’s not interested in doing a signing with Steve, because the store doesn’t sell many of his books, I wondered how Steve’s readers buy books.

Do they exist in certain markets the way I think they do? Do they avoid the brick-and-mortar stores and buy via specialty stores and/or online?

Or am I wrong and the bookstore events coordinator I spoke with is right?

Because that bookstore hasn’t sold many of Steve’s books, maybe readers in that area aren’t interested in reading them?

Through all this online connecting, we’ve learned that it is better to go to your audience than hang in a place your audience might not visit—and wait for your audience to show up.

So by asking this one events coordinator a few different ways to reconsider, was I asking for an event at a place that wasn’t of interest to Steve’s readers?

Or was it a store readers didn’t go to because they buy books other ways? But maybe, like me, they’d show up for—and buy books at—a signing?

I don’t know.

In the past, Steve’s always visited the military academies and installations. When I attended his signing at the United States Naval Academy a few years ago, his books were sold out before he arrived. I had to grab a few boxes from the back of my car, and even those weren’t enough.

And when he’s done signings, he’s always tried to connect them with talks and one-on-one meetings with those attending, staying a day or two sometimes, to answer questions, say hello, and thank everyone. They’re kind enough to support his work. It’s important to him to give back—to do more than show up to make a sale and then take off.

So why start approaching the traditional bookstores?

Steve’s received a great deal of support from military readers in the past, which is why he always visits with them.

In these past almost-two years of blogging, he’s been introduced to readers from so many other communities, and he’s interested in meeting with them, too. But, will traditional stores support his events? And, are bookstore events the best way to connect with readers?

Steve’s publisher has received interest from a few, so we’ll explore them and let you know.

Right now, Steve has events scheduled at these locations:

June 13 or 15: 29 Palms (still working on this one)

June 17: Camp Pendleton

June 27: Camp LeJeune

June 30: Quantico

(We’ll provide updates moving forward.)

For now, as we look into Steve traveling to thank readers for supporting his work, as he releases his new novel, The Profession, will you let us know how you buy books and, if given an opportunity to meet with an author you support, how you’d like to meet him or her? In a store? At a convention? At a luncheon? At a sporting event?

Knowing that it’s hard for authors to meet one-on-one with each of their readers, what would be your choice to connect? What would work for you?

Thanks for your help!

Posted in What It Takes

45 Responses to “On Bookbuying and Events”

  1. February 25, 2011 at 2:59 am

    As a non-US nor resident in an English speaking country (I’m in Barcelona, Spain), I buy Steven’s books online. I could probably find Spanish translations of his novels, but as far as I know, there is no Spanish translation of The War of Art, for example. I prefer to buy and read in the original language, if I understand it. The world is full of great translators but it is also full of lousy ones, and (a handful) Spanish editors are starting to rely more on bulk translation than in quality translation.

    On the other hand, as a reader of his books, if he was to appear in a bookstore where I don’t buy books, and I got to know it, I would definitely come and probably (I like bookstores!) buy books from the store. I think the shop owner that declined the offer has some marketing/opportunity grabbing problems.

    Cheers,

    Ruben

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 25, 2011 at 6:31 am

      Thanks for your reply, Ruben. I like bookstores, too, but seem to spend so little time in them myself, so I wondered what others might do. Your comments about translations are interesting. We’ll have to do some exploring there.

    • February 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      Ruben, maybe YOU should translate and publish “War of Art” in Spanish. We’ll make you a deal!

      • Matt Aaron
        April 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm

        Steven,

        I am living in Colombia and have a lot of Spanish speakers I would like to get the book to.

        I have lent it to two people with rave reviews, but they would still like a copy in their native language

        I would be interested in translating the book. Let me know if you would like to discuss this further.

        aaron.matt AT gmail.com

  2. February 25, 2011 at 4:54 am

    My two pesos:

    I buy 90% of my books online and 90% of those are eBooks.

    I prefer to hear authors speak and value the opportunity to meet and chat with them briefly (a decent Q and A does the trick).

    I would drive 100 miles to meet/interact/learn from Steven and gladly buy a hardcover copy of his works (likely with a group of people).

    Hope to see you in New England!

    RHM

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 25, 2011 at 6:35 am

      Thanks, Randall! This is helpful. We’re looking into New England. Will get back to you on that… Thanks again! Callie

    • February 26, 2011 at 4:10 am

      I agree with Randell, a talk with a Q & A. I’m thinking like TED Talks format, but I’d buy a ticket to hear Stephen speak after following this blog. I think the War of Art is about the war of life. My writers’ group eats it up. Thanks for asking.

      • February 26, 2011 at 4:14 am

        My apologies, Randall, for the iPhone typo on your name.

      • Callie Oettinger
        February 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

        Thanks, Joyce! I agree. TED talks are wonderful. A great way to share ideas. Callie

  3. Billy Schmidt
    February 25, 2011 at 6:15 am

    I can understand Steve’s popularity with the military. He’s also known in the fire service as well. As a fire instructor, I like to use storytelling about the warrior spirit and leadership. His books provide great material for discussion.

    Because I am interested in many subjects outside the norm, I search for and find most books on line. I carry a “wish list” on my phone.

    I also like to peruse bookstores, especially independent and used book stores because they have such a variety.

    I would travel many miles to have a conversation with my favorite authors in person.

    I look forward to Steve coming to South Florida sometime.

    Regards,

    Billy

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 25, 2011 at 6:40 am

      Thanks for sharing all of this, Billy. All helpful! I’ll touch base with you about South Florida. I’m betting Steve might like being close to one of SF’s many golf courses. Callie

  4. Sarah Clithero
    February 25, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I visit bookstores to browse the shelves and to buy a cappuccino – it usually doesn’t matter to me whether there’s an author book signing taking place at any given time.

    But would I visit a bookstore solely to have one of his books signed personally by Mr. Pressfield? Yes, I would.

    Sarah Palin visited a nearby town last November and had a booksigning at the Dillons Marketplace there, and I understand the line was very long.

    So I guess this is my way of suggesting that if Mr. Pressfield would like to meet with fans, a bookstore would still be the way to go. And if he wants to sign books, even a Dillons would be fine.

    Would Mr. Pressfield also be willing to hold an online chat? Maybe have a talk and a Q&A session at the local public library?

    Just some food for thought!

    Regards,
    Sarah (I’m a California transplant now living in Kansas)

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Sarah! Steve’s done twitter chats in the past, and he’s doing more via Skype, too. What do you think of contacting with authors that way?

      • Sarah Clithero
        February 27, 2011 at 12:37 pm

        Truth be told, it can be a little confusing if people are talking all at once during the chat, but that makes it more fun and interesting. :)

        • Callie Oettinger
          February 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm

          The chats can get a little crazy, but they are awesome for real-time answering. A challenge on authors to keep up with all of the questions.

  5. Paul C
    February 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I buy books mostly through Amazon as well. Hopefully Steve can do some signings and such in Michigan. We have some great golf courses as well, especially in northern Michigan. There’s also the Traverse City film festival. I bet WJR (Detroit), one of the largest radio stations in the Midwest, would love to have Steve stop by for a visit, and interview. WJR’s Frank Beckman or Mitch Albom would be great for Steve.

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm

      Thanks, Paul. I haven’t looked into Michigan yet. Will do so. Golf is always good, too.

      • February 26, 2011 at 8:53 am

        A second vote for Michigan and a TED-type talk by Steven. I’d make an overnight trip for that!

        It would be amazing to hear him speak at an event like the CrossFit Games or The Best Ranger Competition, even if I have to watch it online or televised.

        I don’t go to a lot of book signings, but will travel to make it to a favorite authors’. I went to a book signing and Q&A with Elmore and Peter Leonard at a Schuler Books, and it was great. Very relaxed and intimate with a group of true fans.

        As for buying books, I usually check the local B&N first, as I’m impatient and when I find out about a great book, I want it NOW. This was the case with The War of Art, and they had it in stock. If they don’t have the book I want, I’ll order from Amazon and usually end up ordering several on my list to save on shipping.

        • Callie Oettinger
          February 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm

          Thanks, Jeremy! How would you see an author visit fitting into high-adrenaline events like the CrossFit Games or The Best Ranger Competition? Is a talk appropriate or would it just not hold attention for long? Or just a signing? Or another type of one-on-one connection?

  6. February 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    When I lived in the U.S. I would walk to Barnes and Noble’s on most weekends. I would look but rarely buy. I have never, ever been to an book signing. I used to but 3-4 books every month, sometimes more via Amazon. Hard to buy at Barnes and Noble when Amazon is so much cheaper – especially the used books.

    Now that I live in Mexico I purchase 5-6 Kindle books every month. I don’t read them on the Kindle but on the Kindle app for Mac.

    Other than my well, worn copy of the War of Art (and the audio version narrated by Stephen which is awesome) I have read Stephen’s other books after checking them out at the library…

    cheers! – Ryan

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      Ryan – Thanks for leaving these comments. Interesting to read how those outside the U.S. are purchasing books, too! Callie

  7. February 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I buy an obscene amount of books online, but still like to physically go to a bricks and mortar book store every few weeks or so. There’s nothing like physically browsing through real stacks of books. Most of the time, I simply make a mental note of the titles I’m interested in and then buy them at Amazon, but I still purchase maybe 5-10 books a year at Barnes & Noble or Books a Million.

    I’ve bought many of Steve’s books at book stores. I’ll realize it’s been too long since I’ve read an actual novel and my hunger for fiction will drive me to a bookstore, searching for my favorite authors’ works. I’ve only been to a few book signings in my life, but I’d gladly go to one of Steve’s and Pensacola is a military town (though arguably more closely associated with the Navy than USMC). Let me know if he makes the trip down to the Gulf!

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks, Jeff! All helpful! Will try to sort out a visit for Steve near you! Callie

  8. Darrelyn Saloom
    February 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    I love author events and attend book signings whenever I can find the time. I often drive two and a half hours to New Orleans to meet a favorite author because my local Barnes and Noble does not have many events. Garden District and Maple Street in NOLA are two of my favorite independents. Also, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. Tell Steve if he shows up in the Big Easy, I’ll be there to write all about it on my guest blog for Jane Friedman.

    Enjoyed your post, Callie. Steve is lucky to have you.

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks, Darrelyn! You’re among the amazing individuals that we’ve had the HONOR of meeting through blogging. Thanks for your continued support and kindness! Callie

  9. February 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Oops! Forgot to post the link to my blog site. I need my own Callie Oettinger!

  10. February 26, 2011 at 4:48 am

    As a US citizen living in Cannes, I buy most of my books thru Amazon.Fr in English. I would most likely attend a Q and A at a brick and mortar shop and pay the additional cost for the chance to engage in a discussion.
    Having lived in LA for 18 years, I would have most likely attended a bookstore appearance had I been given the chance.

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      Thank you for sending this input from Cannes, Ben!

  11. February 26, 2011 at 5:13 am

    Since money’s short, I test read books through the library first. If I like them, I try to buy them through brick and mortar stores. Amazon is a last resort, though sometimes a necessity.

    I would meet an author anywhere. Would I meet them on a stair, would I meet them in the air? Yes! Yes, I would meet them there. Okay, I’ve been reading waaaay too much Dr. Seuss to the kidlit. LOL

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      Love this reply, Victoria! Thanks for putting an ear-to-ear smile on my face, for your input and your continued support!

  12. Hannah Conley
    February 26, 2011 at 5:28 am

    If I want a specific book I order it through Amazon. I bought The War of Art this way. I knew I wanted to own it. I didn’t have to drive 30 miles to a book store. It took all of two minutes to order. Sure, I had to wait for it to be shipped but I enjoy the anticipation.
    If I don’t have a particular book in mind, and I want to enjoy the experience of shopping, I go to a book store.

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      Thanks, Hannah. Why Amazon over other online booksellers? That’s what I do, too, so I’ve been wondering how I ended up going to Amazon all the time, and why others go there, too, v. other online booksellers.

  13. Rick Morrissey
    February 26, 2011 at 7:15 am

    The first book of Steve’s that I read was Gates of Fire. I discovered it on an expedition to B&N. It was a less complicated time in my life when I could consider spending an hour or two scanning shelves looking for a spark. I would do that every day if I could. Amazon speeds the discovery process by offering books in similar genres, helpful but not as much fun. My “reading” fixes lately are satisfied by e-audio books. I live near the Groton Sub base, a possible enclave of readers. The downside is that the local Borders Books is closed. I’d be willing to drive to RI to attend a signing. Really enjoy Steven’s work and can always count on being transported by reading (or listening) to it

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks, Rick. Interesting to learn about readers that prefer audio books, too.

  14. Sonja Eaton
    February 26, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I adore War of Art and bought it on amazon because it’s so much cheaper and more convenient. I have two young toddlers so the bookstore is a rare event.

    However, I WOULD drive to a bookstore for a favorite author (work out logistics with my husband to watch the kids) if the author holds my interest.

    For Mr. Pressfield? Absolutely!

    I haven’t read his other books, but plan on buying Gates of Fire soon, and The Profession (all through amazon).

    If I didn’t regularly visit his site though, I don’t know if I would have known about his latest book.

    I was hooked with The War of Art (and writing wednesdays).

    So please come to the Bay Area!

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks, Sonja! Will look into the Bay Area, too.

  15. February 26, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Chiming in as someone who buys nearly everything from my little indie neighborhood bookstore, and attends readings there at least once a month – why? B/c the bookstore owner recognizes that books are a commodity business and what she can offer is experience. When I walk in, she greets me by name, suggests books based on past purchases, and tells me what’s coming out. She pulls in fantastic, nationally recognized authors and puts them face to face with her loyal customers – I’ve gotten to meet some of my writing heroes there. And I’ve been introduced to books and authors I’d never know or care about otherwise.

    The only stuff I buy online is what I know she doesn’t stock or can’t order for me, which is not much. I pay more to buy from her than Amazon, but I’m keeping a taxpaying neighbor in business in the process.

    In short: the indies can play a CRUCIAL role in building audience, if they know what they’re doing.

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks, Nancy. Agree! You indie neighborhood store sounds amazing! Will you share the name with us? Which one is it? Thanks!

  16. February 26, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Steve and Callie,
    I have a new book coming out in the fall and I’ve been thinking about the very same questions! Thanks so much for posting.

    Not only does the Internet connect us to our readers in virtual space, it shows us where in the world they live, but there is certainly no guarantee that if we go there, they will come.

    Best of luck with the launch!

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks, Christina! Best of luck with your new book, too!

  17. Urs Keller
    February 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I don’t attend book signings of writers which I don’t know. I have attended about seven book signings over the years. The signings were all with writers I already knew or writers who are household names.

    To reach new readers I recommend that you look at referrals. I for example bought “Revise the World” because Jerry Weinberg recommended it on his blog. Jerry shut down weinbergonwriting.blogspot.com, but his review is still available on amazon.com

    • Callie Oettinger
      February 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm

      Thanks, Urs!

  18. Roger Fullerton
    February 28, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    I have been to several book signings over the years and always enjoy them. If it’s an author I really enjoy, like Mr. Pressfield, I wouldn’t mind driving a good distance.

    Personally I buy a third of my books from the major chains, a third from indie and used book stores and a third form online sources. I for one love spending hours browsing bookstore shelves even if on a particular day I end up not buying. I mean who wouldnt – that’s where the books are!

    I live in Austin, Texas and we have A Lot of inde book stores. ‘Book People’ http://www.bookpeople.com is a large store here that has frequent major author visits. Please consider visiting here while promotimg “The Profession”. Even though this is considered a liberal city I guarantee that if an author the stature of Steven Pressfield were to host an event he would draw a large enthusiastic crowd.

    PS – I know Kindle and Nooks are the wave of the future but I refuse to buy one and think they are an abombination.
    Roger F.

  19. Brian Saxon
    March 2, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I rarely go to B&N for anything but coffee and browsing. I tend to buy my books online because the titles I want are easier to find and I don’t have to depend on staff tracking down rogue copies. For example, two years ago I was looking for “The War of Art” to pass along to a fellow designer and I couldn’t find it. I tried asking the staff and not only were they clueless but when they finally managed to track down the title in their computer system, the clerk insisted that the title “wasn’t even published yet” and it was scheduled to be published “in 2010, maybe” and would not believe I have my well-read and dog-eared copy in my computer bag. (Steve has his lucky acorn for inspiration, I have my copy of WoA for luck.) I managed to track a copy down on their shelves but that was my last book purchase there!

    A virtual talk with Mr. Pressfield via TED or Skype would be excellent, but the being the fan I am I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to meet him face to face for an autograph and to show some appreciation for his work! But as I’m currently living in Florida, I couldn’t blame anyone if you spared him the agony of the humidity!

  20. March 5, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    There is a great big Border’s bookstore with a decent coffee bar and lots of tables, cushy chairs, etc. for hanging out that my wife and I go to at least twice a month. With a big stack of books we chill out in the cafe and if a book or two grabs us we end up taking them home.
    It’s not unusual for all 15 or so tables to be full on a Friday or Saturday night. I buy most of my books there. I hardly ever order online but I do borrow from friends and loan out books.
    I think signings are lame. I’m not going to stand in line for an extended length of time for a signature. But if an author I liked was going to do a “performance” – meaning tell a story or something, than I would be there.
    If an author like Steve did a twenty or forty minute talk, and then fielded questions for twenty or forty minutes, I think the turnout would be standing room only, lot’s of people would by his books, and attendees would get a memory. A memory is worth more than a signature to me.