The New York Times reported that independent bookstores, squeezed by competition for Amazon, are now charging admission for author events. Many have begun selling tickets or requiring a book purchase of customers who attend author readings and signings. Bookstore owners say that too many people come to events having already bought a book online.

Most bookstores in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, where I live, don't charge admission, and those that do, only charge for the biggest names. A spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble, stated that the nation's largest bookstore chain has never charged admission to its events.

So what's your take? Should bookstores charge admission or require attendees to purchase a copy of your book? Have any independent bookstores charged customers attending your reading or signing, or required them to purchase your book?

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All of this hasn't really been my experience.  I discovered late that my publishers paid for any extra displays and that stock order shipments for the signing were also paid for, including the returns, by the publisher. No announcements by the store were made in most cases, beyond a hand-typed sign at the door. Yes, there can be hand-selling, at least for a while.  I bribed book store owners with boxes of Godiva candy and the purchase of one of their books. But after you come lots of others, and the numbers of sales are utterly negligible and have absolutely no influence on subsequent sales.  Shelf space goes to proven sellers. Handselling also focuses on them. The rest fall into the category where the store will be happy to order the book for the customer.  Most customers find Amazon less trouble.  Perhaps a store will try to get something into the local paper for a famous author, but they don't do this for everybody. 

I understand that they have to look after their business, but so do I.  And store promotion is bad business for me.

I.J.

I've found that bookstores in which I've had signings, both independents and the larger retail outlets like B&N, now stock my books and will order my latest. If I hadn't been there, they might not stock them, nor would I be invited back with subsequent releases. I've also been invited to a number of mystery book clubs connected with B&N and independent stores, which often have quite a few readers. Again, I think a direct result of having had signings at the store. Granted it's a lot of work and time, but I think it's definitely growing my audience.

For example, 2 years ago at a Borders in town, I sold 175 books over a 3 day period around Christmas. Always a good time to have a book signing. I was only scheduled for 1 day, but since I was selling so well, they ordered more books and asked me to come back. Also, a number of employees have read my books and have recommended them to customers. I should have no trouble scheduling an event when my third Santana novel is released in September.

Good for you.  That wasn't my experience at my B&N signings, and at Borders I couldn't get a signing.  We have one independent books store. They wanted a list of all my friends and relatives! I refused.  No deal!
I'm not saying that everyone's mileage won't vary, I. J. All I can say is that from my 30 years in the business--since 1980, I haven't had a job that didn't revolve around writing, editing, publishing, and bookselling--I have seen author signings work very well for people, and not so well for others. I've probably done a couple hundred, at bookstores, conventions, libraries, and various other venues, for my own books, and I'm nobody's idea of a famous author. As a marketing guy, I've set up signings and tours for many other authors. And as a bookseller, I've been involved in literally thousands of signings (at my bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy, we typically host about a hundred authors a year, and I worked at other active independent bookstores before we opened that one). Some folks will not have good experiences with signings. But it's damn hard for an author to sell books these days, so I would not want to see any discouraged from trying something that is still done a lot because it has worked, for many people, for a long time.
Thanks, Jeffrey.  Your bookstore's name rings a bell. The situation would be very different for someone who enjoys the signing experience for its own sake.  I do not. They cost me time and money, and my share of the handful of sales is minuscule.  I'm, in fact, working for the store and the publisher. 

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