This time of year is always a busy period for conferences and 2017 has been no different, with Flo at BAAL, Sarah at the Visitor Economy conference and me at EuroSLA last week. Along with selling the books, conferences are a great opportunity for us to speak with delegates. Of course, most conversations centre around the content of the books and vary depending on what we have with us. But you’d probably be surprised at how frequently we are asked some particular questions, and sometimes we are surprised that people even ask them! Here are a selection of our favourites:
How do you choose which conferences you attend?
Firstly, we look at the theme of a conference, the size of it (big isn’t always better) and who has recommended it or told us they’ll be attending. We then look at whether it is affordable and decide whether to attend in person or send a display. Finally, we check our travel schedule and agree who will go where. As conferences often fall at roughly the same time and sometimes, to our frustration, even clash with each other, they take a considerable amount of logistical planning. Funny as it sounds, as well as coordinating ourselves, we also have to make sure that things such as tablecloths are in the right places with the right people!
How do you decide which books to bring?
Once we have decided to be involved in a conference, as Marketing Manager, it is my job to sort out all the details. I look at the programme and decide which of our recent books are relevant and which of our authors are attending. It is often a real challenge to cut a list of perhaps 100 books down to a reasonable number that will fit on a single table! But having to cut down a long list of books that we’re keen to show off is not a bad position to be in.
How many copies do you bring of each book?
This is another source of much umming and ahhing! I come up with a figure by combining information about how popular a book has been at previous conferences and its sales in general, with how relevant it is to the themes of a conference and whether the author will be there to promote their book. It is not the most scientific of processes but, having been to many conferences, I have a good feeling for what is about right. I’ll then check the list with whoever is attending the conference and they’ll make further suggestions or amendments.
Did you bring the books here in your suitcase?
No! This always makes us laugh because the books are really heavy and usually fill several big boxes! Except in exceptional circumstances, such as when we are going by car, the books are delivered straight from our warehouse to the conference.
Why is my book not here?
We do our best to bring authors’ books to conferences if they have forewarned us that they’ll be there. If we haven’t got your book, it might be because it is slightly older and we have to give preference on the stand to newer books. My favourite response to this question is that if it’s too old to have made the cut, it might be time for you to think about writing us a new one to bring!
Can you ship the book to me for free?
If we have sold out and there is no copy for you to take, then yes, we will gladly send you a copy with free shipping. This is a sign that I didn’t get the numbers quite right and should have brought more so that you can take one. But if there is a copy on the table and you want it shipped, we do ask that you pay the shipping. It makes sense really: we will have paid to have the book shipped to the conference, will then pay to have the booked shipped back to the warehouse and then pay again to ship the book to your home. If we did all that shipping, the costs would soon add up to way more than the price at which we sell the book. So, in order to continue to offer the books at a special conference discount, we cannot also offer free shipping.
Why are your books so much cheaper here?
You’re buying directly from us, so we don’t have to give a cut to any booksellers or wholesalers who might otherwise be involved in the book selling chain. We don’t expect to make a profit through book sales at a conference; conferences have an immeasurable value for us in terms of meeting people; showing our books to a new audience and keeping up with trends in the field. The price we charge is therefore as cheap as we can afford to sell it at, with a small contribution to the cost of attending conferences.
Do you get to go to the sessions?
Yes, sometimes, especially if there are two of us and one can man the stand while the other goes to a talk. We are also usually able to attend the plenaries as most other delegates will do so too and thus these are quiet periods at the stand. At other times, delegates may make the most of a session when there is no paper of interest to them to browse the books and chat with us. This is often much easier done when we are quiet than during the rush of the coffee or lunch break and we’re usually glad of the company!
What do you do when it’s quiet?
If we’ve just had a busy coffee break then we’re usually glad to have a moment to sit down! If there’s no-one browsing books and no session we want to attend, then we might tidy the stand, check emails and social media or catch up with the other publishers. And of course, if it’s really quiet, we have plenty of reading material in front of us!
What makes a good conference?
We’ve had fun reminiscing about previous conferences and come up with the following that may combine to make a really good conference from a publishing perspective: excellent speakers whose presentations spark interesting conversations and discussions; a well-organised committee and host venue; being close to the refreshments (not only because we enjoy them, but because this is where delegates tend to congregate); a location that will attract many attendees and is easy to get to; a well-thought-out schedule that isn’t overcrowded and runs to time; plenty of table space so we can spread out our books; double-sided name tags with large print and, even though it’s out of everyone’s control, rain! A wet conference means that delegates are more likely to spend the time between sessions browsing books than out enjoying the host city!
Do you have a book on x-y-z?
We can’t promise to know all our books inside out but we’ll do our best to help you find what you’re looking for. And if neither you nor we can find it, then that’s probably a good sign that you have pointed out a gap in the market! Why not talk to us about writing for us?
Where are the toilets? Is this the registration desk? Can I put my coat under your table? Can I leave my child with you? Do you have a USB stick I can borrow? Can I check a reference in a book?
These and many others are frequently asked and we’re always willing to answer and help out where we can, even if it’s just sending someone in the right direction. Sometimes it’s from the small interactions that the greater conversations begin.
We’re busy making plans for 2018 and hope to see you at a conference somewhere soon!