Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wineries and book signings

My brother and his girlfriend came out to visit this past weekend, and because she's a real oenophile, we decided to take them up to the Finger Lakes and do the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, stopping at various wineries along the west side of the lake, for wine tastings and shopping in the winery gift stores.

As we were coming home, and as the designated driver who'd been drinking grape juice, I was the only one awake in the car, I started thinking about the similarities between wine tastings and book signings. In both cases, you're offering a fun experience for someone (a wine tasting, versus meeting an author or listening to an author's talk) that will hopefully encourage them to buy something (a bottle of wine or a copy of your book).

So, what did I learn?

1 - Talk about more than just the book. The winery where we purchased the most had a friendly staff member who talked about the history of the area, the various types of grapes used, how wine was produced, etc. The second-most had a friendly staff member who offered gossipy information on how the wine names and label art were created. The winery that got the least business from us limited their discussion to the qualities of the wine, and what foods it went with best.

2 - Customize your message. All the wineries offered a standard selection of wines to taste, but gave you the list of all available wines, and would pour you anything you wanted to try. So, if you have multiple books, slant your discussion to the ones that most suit your audience.

3 - Advertising and name recognition. One of the wineries was uniformly agreed to have the worst wines, by all attendees. (Not *bad* wine, I point out...just not as good as the others.) However, they also had huge signs up and down the lakeshore road, and made a big deal out of what honors they had received. So if you knew nothing else about wine, you'd know they were a local winery offering tours, and might want to stop in, where you wouldn't stop in at some of the others unless you were doing the whole wine trail. Usually book stores are responsible for advertising, but you can bring blow-ups of your book covers, or a poster saying "Author signing today" to put out at your table. And mention your awards. Readers might not know what the specific awards are or what they mean, but they'll be impressed that your books have won awards.

4 - Offer something for the non-reader. I mentioned I was the designated driver, so didn't actually sample any of the wines. One winery had a fudge tasting in addition to the wine. One poured me "samples" of grape juice, so I could sip along with everyone else. One offered cheese tastings. I bought fudge, and their consideration in offering me juice inspired other members of my party to buy more wine than they otherwise would have. So, offering something to occupy the non-reading members of a shopping party will encourage the shopper to stay longer, and buy more of your books.

5 - Tastes vary. Finally, remember that, like wine, reading tastes vary. Some members of our party wanted dry wine, some wanted sweet, some wanted red, some wanted white. Offering a dry red wine to someone looking for a sweet white does no good, no matter how fantastic the wine is. It's not what they want. Some people want erotic romance, some want fantasy, some want paranormal, some want something you might not write. It's not a reflection on you or the quality of your books -- it's simply a matter of matching what you write with what they want to read.


N.J.Walters said...

Very good advice, Jennifer, and the wine tasting trip sounds yummy too. :-)

Jennifer Dunne said...

Mmmm.... yeah. And we finished up by going to the Ithaca brewery, where my companions had five varieties of freshly brewed beer on tap, and I had draft Root beer and Ginger beer. Good stuff!!!

TJ Michaels said...

Good stuff lady. Ginger beer? That sounds awesome. My daughter made some ginger syrup the other day out of fresh ginger...I think I need to make a trip to the store and pick up some club soda and something to spike the ginger and club with :D

Jennifer Dunne said...

Yes, the Ginger Beer is AWESOME. Nice kick, and burns the back of your throat, but so smooth going down... kind of a liquid ginger snap. :-)

Plus, it's all-natural, *real* soda, not high-fructose corn syrup and water with flavor added. Ithaca soda company, distributed in NY, CT, MA, RI, VT, NH and now PA, and soon OH.