Some independent bookstores look to cash in on author events

Jun 23, 2011

Independent booksellers are continuously looking for ways to compete with online retail giants like Amazon.

A recent New York Times article highlights how some independent bookstores are taking advantage of something online retails can't provide: in-person author events. Here's an excerpt:

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.

“There’s no one right now who’s not considering it,” said Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson Books in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. “The entire independent bookstore model is based on selling books, but that model is changing because so many book sales are going online.”

Nicola Rooney owns Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor. She's against charging admission for author events because she thinks it alienates potential customers:

"It is an interesting development, but it makes me a little nervous. ... I’m never quite sure how you can start that as a practice without upsetting people. But I do understand the motivation."

Matt Norcross owns McLean and Eakin Bookstore in Petoskey, and he thinks charging for author events is fine if it’s paired with drinks or a meal. His bookstore hosts anywhere from 3 to 10 author luncheon events per summer, and each event costs $25 per ticket. As for his customers, they don't seem to mind the cost.

"I can’t remember a single negative comment around it. I guess we’re fortunate to have customers kind of understand the dynamic and feel that there’s value coming to these events."