As part of my effort

by francine Hardaway on February 12, 2005

As part of my effort to capture the trophy for Mother of the Year, I flew up to the Bay Area yesterday to help my daughter do some publicity for her upcoming book, “Why Business People Speak Like Idiots.” She’s a bit shy (but a great writer), so here are her thoughts on our experience–good for anyone who has written a book:

“Well, today I shuffled around hawking our book to two bookstores in Oakland and at the Churchill Club’s annual dinner in San Jose.

The highlights:

First stop: Borders in Oakland. The store manager offered to put out
some of our cards, and suggested we come back when the books arrive to
sign some copies. These signed copies will then get an “author
signature” sticker on the cover, and be displayed at the information desk
(right above Eats, Shoots & Leaves, btw).

Borders Corporate does tell them
what books they have to display around the store, but if the stores want to put
out books of their own choosing, they can do that by displaying them at
the information desk. They had ordered six copies. The store manager
gave me the name of the regional coordinator for marketing/events, and
told me to call her. She also said it was a huge coup that we had even
made it into their inventory system. I walked away thinking this signing
deal could be a great grass-roots way to get our books more prominent
placement in stores. I also realized (duh) that anything we can do to
help these stores sell more books will be welcomed by them.

Feeling good, we then skipped off to the Barnes & Noble at Jack London
Square in Oakland. There we were quickly introduced to Jerry, an extremely energetic, supportive guy who runs events for the entire region. As soon as I said I was there to pimp my book, he let his true self out, started cracking jokes, and got really into it — saying he had
chills, that his hands were sweating, etc, etc. He was very into the idea of the book.

He took us around the store for a tour, and the first
stop was the Events Loft. They hold events there everyday — some for
children, and some for local authors. He wanted to do a huge party there
for us, do in-store flyers to publicize it, put it in their store
calendar, use their mailing list of business people to promote it,
perhaps start targeting specific companies to come in for “training
events” on the topic, and promote attendance by doing it as a
fundraiser for a local school.

Jerry was full of ideas. This is his sole job, and B&N is trying to get more stores to do it. Then he took us to the ordering system, where he showed us that theyhad five books on order. He then showed us how many books were in the 10
warehouses they have around the country (477, 300, 500, etc), and he
said, “Oh, this book is going to be very big. This is a BIG book. You
didn’t tell me this was a BIG DEAL.” He promptly typed in an order for
15 more books, said they’d arrive tomorrow, and said he’d be displaying them immediately right by the door. Then he showed us around the store to where our books would be displayed, and said he would make a special
effort to make sure they were facing out (rather than just filed away alphabetically with only the spine showing).

I must say, I think it was
my mom that he fell in love with, but what the hell! I’ll be talking to him next week to make plans. When we left, he gave me a hug.

My take-away from all this: the in-store visits are HUGE. HUGE! We
can’t visit enough bookstores or Costco’s. I am going to try to hit
every single Borders and Barnes & Noble in the Bay Area, but also work
through the regional events people here. I think if we can each do as
much of this as possible, and show that we are fun authors — not the
usual stuffy ones — we will be well on our way to building momentum.

Then, if we can get our friends to go out and pimp the book at their
local stores, well who knows what could happen. Don’t think they will
have as much luck given that we are not from their towns, but still …
once you make personal contact with the store manager, you have a much
better chance of them buying more books. I also think B&N caters more to
authors than Borders. Seems like it is a corporate initiative or something.

Then we headed down to San Jose for the Bezos Churchill Club’s 20th Anniversary Dinner, starring Jeff Bezos, who is mentioned in the book.

During cocktails, I ran into Guy Kawasaki’s partner, who told me Guy had done 55
events from the time his book, Art of the Start, was released, to now (it was released Sept ’04). He said he was really happy with sales – had hit
WSJ bestseller, Business Week bestseller, and #34 at Amazon. Didn’t have
much time with him to get into more detail, but he said it was selling better than his first book, Rules for Revolutionaries.

And then, finally, after swilling as much wine as possible during the cocktail hour, I caught a glimpse of Jeff Bezos sitting down at the head table
for dinner. After a few more swigs, I decided to make my approach.

Me: Excuse me, Jeff? Sorry to interrupt your dinner. I wanted to give
you this book. First, because I wrote it. Second, because you were a
big inspiration for it. And third, because you are featured in it
(marked the pages w/ our cards).

Jeff: What is it? Why Business People Speak Like Idiots? I’m probably
about to do some of that on stage tonight. This is great! (flipping
through it). Wow, so was I a good inspiration? I hope?

Me: You are one of a select few we hold up as an example of someone who
does not speak like an idiot.

Jeff (flipping through more furiously now): Well, did you sign it?

Me: Uh, no.

Jeff: Well, could you go remedy that please?

[2 minutes later]

Me: Okay — here it is.

Jeff: Oh, excellent. I am hereby inducted into the Loyal Order of
Bullfighters! (loud voice) AWESOME! Thank you. You are so kind. I
really appreciate this.

He was very kind, and I do believe he will look at it.

He gave an awesome interview with Josh Quittner (editor of Business
2.0). Made me proud we had put him in the book. He talked about how, 4
years ago, they decided to stop advertising and instead put their ad
budget back into improving the customer experience. So that includes
supersaver shipping, spending a lot on 1-to-1 technology, their A9 search
subsidiary, etc. He talked a lot about information transparency and
putting the consumer first. It was very non-sell sell-oriented. He was funny, forthcoming, self-deprecating, personable, told stories — he was
really better than I’d even expected. Talked a lot about blogs and even
mentioned a few he reads daily (boingboing, for one). He had that same
boyish optimism we mention in the book … about the future of their
business and the future of online commerce. Very clear-headed, very
focused, sound strategic mind, and ZERO bull.

fyi — how I signed it:
Jeff, you are hereby inducted into the loyal order of Bullfighters. Thanks for being an inspiration to business people everywhere.
Now, go forth and continue to fight the bull!

So — that’s the wrap up. I am going to continue visiting bookstores as
much as possible. I think we all should continue to do the same. It’s a
real high. And the more ideas you can offer them (offering to sign their
copies, ideas for events, etc), the more receptive they are.

But, alas, I am not a sales person by nature, so I am exhausted.

Nighty night.”

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