Saturday, July 19, 2008

Insight from 30-Year Bookseller Turned Author

Nancy Rips is the author of the book Seder Stories, published by Cumberland House earlier this year. Nancy has been a bookseller for 30 years with B. Dalton, Read All About It, and most recently The Bookworm in Omaha, NE, where she has sold the daylights out of her book. Nancy agreed to do an interview for our blog.

Nancy, how many copies have you sold from your store and how do you account for such success?
We've sold over 500! Even more than Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel (who's being whispered about as Vice Presidential material) when he did his signing at our store! I account for it because I'm very visible in the Omaha, Nebraska/Iowa area. I've been on KMTV, the CBS-TV affiliate in the Midwest since '94 doing regular weekly book segments on the noon news. Plus I do a regular radio book segment. I'm on the Library Board, appointed by the mayor. People know me as the 'Book Lady'. Also I'm extremely involved in the Jewish community, having served as this years major Women's Campaign Chairman, and having received numerous volunteer awards.

One man, from the Omaha JCC, bought over 150 copies to send to former Omahans. He thought this was the perfect gift at Passover for these people who continue to contribute money here.

I had great publicity that I arranged here--a full page interview and picture in the Sunday book section, plus two smaller papers. And I did a huge signing at the store where I work, The Bookworm.

I know some outstanding nationally known people who kindly gave me blurbs--Harold Kushner, Ron Wolfson, and Jules Harlow--all esteemed names in Jewish circles.

Check out my website and you'll see more of my activities.

Were you thinking about the marketing and sales potential of the book as you were writing it? When I first thought of writing the book, I knew as a long time bookseller and reviewer, that there had never been a book on Seder stories. There are hundreds of books on Passover, even how to do Seders, but none of personal stories. I knew I had a niche. And as I was working on it, I just kept discovering more and more fascinationg stories.

What's been your favorite experience so far in publishing your book? Any surprises?
My favorite experience has been going on the road and speaking to people. I'm a performer and I love marketing. I arranged my own 5-week tour before Passover, going to Chicago and it's suburbs, to Albequerque, Santa Fe, Lincon, NE and of course to many different groups in Omaha, where I live. Going to stores and meeting people who love my book is fabulous! One man at a Barnes & Noble in Deerfield, IL told me he heard me speaking, and came over and bought 12 copies to give to everyone at his Seder table.

A huge surprise--many people didn't buy just one--they bought one for everyone of their children or grandchildren. It's $14.95 and hardcover--a beautiful, lasting gift for Passover--and it doesn't cost so much!

It's pretty wonderful walking into a huge Borders or Barnes & Noble and seeing your name on a big poster by the door! Let alone walking into the Borders on 56th and Park in New York City and seeing 6 copies of your book in a Passover display or seeing it at the Borders at the Time/Warner Center at Columbus Circle. As a veteran bookseller, you'll understand--I put them face out! Recently I was in Montreal, in Chapters (their big chain store), and saw copies of my book. I asked if they wanted me to sign them, and they were delighted. What fun to see the "Signed by Author" sticker in French! At least that's what they told me it said!

What kind of things are you doing to promote and sell your book?
I just came home from the Jewish Book Council auditions in L.A. Attending were representatives from JCC's and synagogues all over the country - looking for speakers! So far I have inviations next year to speak in San Diego, Detroit, and St. Louis! And I hear more are interested in me next spring before Passover.

Two of the biggest churches in Omaha recently invited me to speak next fall. They told me they liked the idea of "family memories/stories".

I also led a women's Seder at my JCC for about 250 women, and we sold books after.

And I'm definitely hoping that by fall it will finally get in the biggest and only Jewish catalogue called HAMOKOR JUDAICA. [Cumberland House sales representative] Brian Ellsworth told me he's working on this dilegently.

Check out my website for last springs' appearances before Passover -

As a bookseller, what advice do you have for authors?
Be very nice to booksellers! They're the ones who sell your book when you're not there. They're the ones who remember if you were pleasant,and they're the ones who will say to a customer, "I have just the book for you! I met the author and loved her!" Booksellers are also the ones who won't display it nicely or remember to reorder if you're not pleasant.

Thank them profusely when you leave the store, and the next day write them a thank you note. It will go up on their bulletin boards, and they'll always remember you as a "nice one", and will be delighted to know you're coming back with your next book.

Any other comments you want to share?
Cumberland House has been a pleasure. From the first moment I spoke to Ron Pitkin, I knew I was in good hands. And Jennifer Padgett Behar is a true professional--always encouraging, smart, and efficient. It is because of Cumberland and Jennifer, specifically, that I got in many Jewish newspapers and did newspaper and radio interviews around the country. Bottom line - from my experience as a long time bookseller and reviewer, I think what helped me is
1. I found a subject that had never been done
2. I'm not a writer first. I'm a creator, a performer, and a killer worker!

All the best, Nancy


Jennifer Behar said...

Nancy has been a joy to work with. I think she's so successful because she really takes the time to network and promote her book! She works very hard and I believe she's seeing that hard work pay off for her. Also, Passover comes every year so there will always be renewed interest in her book surrounding a specific time frame.

Bill Hammond said...

Nancy gives good advice when she says be nice to booksellers. For my first novel, A Matter of Honor, I gave reading copies (many of which I paid for myself)to as many chain and independent stores as possible in the Twin Cities and in the greater Boston area. This was very much appreciated by everyone. Not only did store personnel read the book, they recommended it time and time again. I'd often drop by the stores to see how the book was selling, and I was always greeted with enthusiasm. One Borders store piled up the novel out front for no fee, as a personal favor. A little common courtesy can go a long way in this digital age!