Friday, March 03, 2006

The Art of Handselling: a Lesson and a Contest

Lisa See, the author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, wrote this lovely article/editorial for PW awhile back about how her book would never have taken off if not for booksellers handselling the hell out of it. Being a fan of See--and part of a bookstore that tried to do its own small piece for See's sales--it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Moral boosted and smile in place, I then attempted to handsell a favorite book to a customer...

And realized I probably sounded like an idiot.

It's hard to sum up the plot, not give too much away, but not make the book sound like something that might scare this person off, especially when you have thirty seconds or less to make your case (and I'm being generous).

Try it. Sum up your favorite book in fifty words or less. "Handsell" it to other readers of this blog.

To sweeten the deal I promise if we get enough entries, I'll figure out how to set up a poll voting system and give out some sort of prize. Please include the title and author somewhere on the post (if you can't work both into the actual handsell), and you have all weekend to enter (until whenever I get up on Monday, not real scientific, I know, but thems the breaks).

ETA:

If you have anymore questions, please see the first two comments where I tried to clarify this whole thing.

7 comments:

jason evans said...

Can I slip a question in here, BSC? You know your expertise draws us like moths to a flame (bleh, I hate cliches. I can't believe I just used one).

I have a suspicion. It strikes me that the more a blurb (or a salesperson) narrows the description of a book, the more likely someone who likes that one area will buy it. However, it is also more likely that everyone else will not buy it. Should a blurb be a bit ambiguous? Is it better to give a book a wider feel and risk alienating someone who bought it or give a book a narrower feel to better ensure the buyer will like it?

Personally, I'm inclined to sell the book widely and hope readers like it. Nothing risked, nothing gained in my opinion. A non-sale doesn't even get you onto the playing field. (another cliche. two strikes are enough, I'm out. *slaps head* That makes three).

Bookseller Chick said...

Darn, Jason, you caught on to my evil scheme to not have to give any prizes! Curses, foiled again.

Actually I was thinking the very same thing at work today, which just goes to show that I shouldn't come up with a contest (and rules) in the ten minutes before showering. I'm going to say that you should aim widely, lure them in with broad generalizations before they realize you are talking them into a fantasy when they only read mystery. If there were the ideal handsell experience you would be standing in the appropriate section, holding the book in your hand as you talk to the customer (or even better, you will have slipped into their hands because studies show that once a person has touched something--as in actually holding it--they are more likely to buy the item). I thought about narrowing the field down to one category, but that seemed kind of limiting. So aim broad, says I, aim broad and see what comes about.

Kate R said...

It's got this kid, a boy, and this bear, see. But there are other animals too. They, er, all live near each other and visit each other a lot. The bear eats as much honey as he can. It could use more female characters -- there's only one and she's a mother figure -- but it's a pretty appealing book--set of books actually -- anyway.

[why I'd never make it in sales]

lady t said...

Some books are tricky to handsell(one of my toughest challenges was MiddleSex,a book I truly adored but as soon as I uttered the word "hermaphrodite",folks would back off. Fortunately,winning a couple of awards made it easier to sell) but let me give this one a try:

Shadow of The Wind is like one of those old fashioned Hollywood movies-it has mystery,romance and a great opening scene set in The Cemetary of Forgotten Books! This is the first of Carlos Ruiz Zafron's books to be translated and I for one, look forward to reading more.

MaryJanice said...

UNDEAD AND UNWED is about a secretary who loses her job and then gets run over by a Pontiac Aztec. When she wakes up in the morgue, she has no idea she's the queen of the vampires. Hilarity ensues.

Written by...me! Hee.

--MaryJanice Davidson

jason evans said...

My hand sell:

Are you afraid of the dark? Not if someone's with you, right? But what if that someone is a killer. His thoughts. His philosophy. His words. What if you forgot who you are?

Arden Davis knows this killer. Can she catch him? Perhaps. But first she must find herself.

Before I Wake by Anne Frasier.

Bethany said...

Need some good mommy talk? [hand book to patron].

You know the good birthing disasters and is-it-really-this-hard discussions. Well, trust me, LITTLE EARTHQUAKES (Jennifer Weiner) is all that and then some tears. Really. I've read it whenever I need a pick me up. Or some girlfriends and can't get away.