Paying to Meet an Author

In today’s economic climate, bookstores are desperately looking for ways to keep their revenues flowing. As a result, a few bookstores have begun to charge customers to attend authors’ events held at their stores.

Some stores are requiring a book purchase to attend an author reading or signing. Others are charging $5.00 per person to attend an author event in their bookstore.

It used to be that bookstores held author events to bring business into their stores. The theory was that an author appearance would itself generate revenue by bringing customers in. These customers would then shop while in the bookstore and make purchases.

It appears that this is not happening the way it used to. Bookstore owners now say they are charging customers to attend author events because too many people regularly come to events having already bought a book online or are planning to do so later. These bookstore owners feel that consumers now see the bookstore merely as another library — a place to browse, do informal research and pick up staff recommendations.

I can fully appreciate a bookstore expecting and requiring customers to purchase the book at their store when attending an author signing. Bringing a book purchased elsewhere into a bookstore just for the purpose of having the author sign the book is cheesy.

Bookstores do need to make money. However, the concern has been raised that, if this practice becomes wide-spread, lesser-known, non-bestselling authors may lose out. Bookstores might not be willing to host authors who may not be able to generate enough “revenue” through book sales or advance ticket sales.

I can only hope that bookstores, especially Christian bookstores, will continue to provide venues for lesser-known authors as a means of generating interest and sales in their stores.

For those bookstores considering charging, I would urge you to continue to offer author events for non-bestselling authors that are free to the public. I believe it is still good for business; and good for the Kingdom as well.

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