Aug 132013

Author and and television personality Joanne Weir tells you how she works the audience into buying her latest cookbook.

A guest post by Joanne Weir

I’ve been really lucky with book sales and people often say “Oh, I forgot that you always sell a lot of books.” I want you to know that it took me a while to get the hang of selling books, but I do have a few pointers that work for me:

1. I hold the book in my arms the whole time, with the title facing out, and I hold it like I love it! That was told to me years ago, and if I love it and the audience likes me, they just might buy a copy.

2. I talk about the book like I love it. I get excited and passionate about the book. I tell stories that are in the book and get people involved by asking questions. I often quiz them and make them feel a part of the class or talk.

3. I always pick five to ten recipes and tell people about those particular recipes. I suggest that you choose ones that you are excited about. Tell a story about them, and get it to where the audience’s mouths are watering. It takes a lot of energy but it really works. I describe them in depth, getting the audience excited about each one. I give them the page numbers and they always start writing down the numbers. I always tell more than the five or ten recipes I’ve promised, because I want them to know that I just can’t stop with those five or ten because there are so many I love.

4. If I demonstrate a dish, even a simple recipe, people often buy the book.

5. Wine or a tequila cocktail is a great way to loosen people up.

6. And of course, samples of the food really help. Do both food and wine and you have it made.

(Thanks to Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books, who hosts countless cookbook authors at store events, and who hands out these great tips. And to Jennie Schacht and Carole Bidnick, who told me about them. — Dianne)


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  37 Responses to “6 Secrets to Selling Cookbooks at Events”

  1. Julia Usher does something I’ve rarely seen another author do. She brings her own signage and stickers designed to match the book, “Signed Author Copy.” After the author leaves the store, I’m willing to bet those autographed copies draw a lot of attention…and lead to sales. She also has a sign up sheet for her mailing list at the event. I’ve been to over a hundred author events, and she’s the ONLY one who had a sign up sheet. Savvy business woman, she is.

    • Very smart. Some bookstores also have stickers that say “Autographed Copy” and they have the author sign any remaining copies. The sign-up sheet is a great idea, as she can add those names to her newsletter.

  2. Great info! Thanks Dianne! Will tuck this one away for next spring!

  3. Great tips! #1 is also known as ‘rock the baby’ – I’ve seen it done by other successful speakers.

  4. I will keep these things in mind!

    I did my 1st signing at a bookstore last weekend… A. it was a tough sell to get people to show up at 2pm at a bookstore on a perfectly sunny Saturday. B. most people showed up with the book already having been purchased and just wanted it signed. and C. if serving food and alcohol were an option at Barnes & Noble, I’d have been all over that!

    • That does sound challenging, especially a summer Saturday afternoon. I bet the bookstore people were unhappy to see people show up with books already purchased elsewhere. That is rude!

    • You just about summed up why I don’t ever do book signings at Barnes & Noble (or almost anywhere anymore, unless I am also doing a demo), Lori! In the very beginning, with my first book, I did a ton of events (bookstores, Whole Foods, etc.). Now, I’d sooner teach a cooking class because I find those personally enjoyable (even though they require a ton of work).

      Just generally, though alcohol is a fabulous idea. I’m stashing that one in the recesses of my mind!


  5. Thanks Diane! Great post and a good reminder that enthusiasm and a show and tell approach still works well to connect with people!

    • Yes, it seems obvious — to be so excited about your new book, but maybe we think we should be more low key. Wrong! I always admire people who can pull off so much passion and enthusiasm.

  6. I’d add another tip — Weir has great name recognition — if you don’t you might want to review and supplement any publicity the bookstore is doing. Getting folks there is half the battle.

    Look for niche markets they might not think to contact, work your email list and promote on local area blogs (especially if you have a local tie in). Provide bookstores with articles/recipes/pix to help them promote on blogs/social media.

    I haven’t had a book published (sigh), but I know from public relations.

  7. After having met Joanne Weir in San Fransisco this past year, I think I’d buy just about anything she was selling. Passion and personality go a long way when selling books or products. If you love the author and are inspired by their passion for the topic they are writing about, I bet you buy the book.

    • I have not seen Joanne in action, but I bet I’d end up buying the book. I would be hooked by her own enthusiasm. So true, Deborah.

  8. Terrifically useful tips. Concise. To the point. I’m saving the list and will be sure to use Joanne’s suggestions when I’m on the road publicizing my souffl’e9 book next spring.

  9. Thanks, Dianne, for the timely and helpful post. I am part of artisans foliage tour on Columbus Day Weekend and was thinking about offering wine and sample food from my “Cooking with Feeling.” You and Joanne Weir just gave me the motivation I needed.

    • Oh good, Pat. Just don’t drink too much of the wine before you’re on — although I suppose it loosens people up a bit.

  10. Thanks to Dianne and Joanne for great tips. I’m doing a gluten-free whole-grain salad demo this coming weekend and will put these tips to use!

    • You are most welcome (on Joanne’s behalf), Carol. I’d love to know if you think your book sales increased, as a result.

  11. As a traveling teacher/author like Joanne.. I bring a little comicality to the class/demo. I tell them that the recipes that were giving out will not work unless they have the companion book to go with, that’s when I “hug” the book. I don’t give page numbers as I have found (crazy as it is) people taking pictures of the page with their smart phone. Sometimes I will even mention, I have seen that and tell them I have gone up to the person and said I have cursed the recipe and it will burn now!

    • Hey, whatever works, George. I’d love to see you in action. Re an audience member taking a photo with a smart phone so she won’t have to buy the book, that is frustrating! But maybe clever, from her standpoint.

  12. This is such simple but very good advise nonetheless. I’m not quite there yet but when I am I will heed this at that time. :-). Pinned it. :-)

    • It might be good advice in general, Susan, that whenever you have to convince people about something, you have to be in love with it and convince other people to love it too. It must apply to all kinds of things!

  13. Good advice. Funny – Joanne is so friendly and passionate that I’ll bet each of these tasks are second nature to her. :)

    • Maybe they are now, but she had to learn how to sell it when she first wrote cookbooks. You’re going to have the opportunity to sell it like this soon, young lady. Looking forward to your book.

  14. Great advice! I recently was at a book signing at a Costco and that one was awkward (at first). I had some yummy food samples and folks were eating my food before I could talk to them. Finally after about 30 minutes people who knew I’d be there came over and I was able to tell them all about my cookbook. Then all the foot traffic at Costco was a bonus. I had a captive audience 😉

  15. I assisted Joanne several times many years ago in cooking classes at Sur La Table. She held her book just as she described. It worked! She always sold a lot, but her books are really good. I still use them.

    • Perhaps she was too modest to mention the fact that her books are really good. Thanks for pointing that out, Carol.

  16. These tips are so wonderful! I’m about to embark on all of this, so this post is much appreciated. I love the suggestion of being really excited and holding your book in your arms front and center. I will definitely give that a try. One thing I have found from past book signings is (if possible) to offer food that requires a passerby to stop and serve themselves such as pimento cheese with crackers on the side. While they are spreading a little cheese on their cracker, you have the opportunity for a quick chat. I’ve found that this really helps in terms of engagement versus putting out cookies or something similar where people can just grab one and keep walking.

    • Yes, that is always a good one, and since this is a site about food writing, chances are good that the writers have a legitimate excuse to offer something delectable that causes people to stop.

      I once gave a talk at a bookstore and told my aerobics class members I was serving 3 kinds of cake. They came for the cake but no one bought a thing, not my book or anyone else’s! The bookstore owner was furious.

  17. This is a simple yet really great post! One thing I remember from the IACP conference book fair was the different effect it had on me whether the author behind the table was standing up or sitting down. Obviously, most were sitting because they were waiting to sign books, or just biding the time till someone came to their table. But those standing up were the ones that drew me over… it just seemed (subconsciously, I think) that they were more welcoming, ready to lean over and engage in conversation. I found myself walking up to authors’ tables who were standing rather than sitting.

    I would love Joanne’s thoughts on this. Thanks!

  18. I’ve had book signings and sold lots of books and signings when I sold one! It’s frustrating to only see a few, but I always feel that once you’ve been in a store, you have the chance to catch the attention of the employees. That’s a plus as they can promote your book. I’m doing a class/ book signing at the MN State Fair this week and will use Joanne’s ideas.

    • Good tip. Bookstore employees who are excited about your book can make a difference long after you’ve left, also. I hope Joanne’s tips are helpful at this next appearance, Pat. Good luck!

  19. Great tips! Showing your own love and enthusiasm for your book is so simple and makes so much sense. If you don’t love it, who will? Perfectly timed for me as I set out on my own book events in the coming months. Thank you.

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