Monday, November 8, 2010

We Need a Bicycle Store Partner--a post for Across America by Bicycle Event this Sunday.

Our recent Debbie Stoller event for Stitch 'n' Bitch Superstar Knitting was just great (we have signed copies). We had our 100 fans at the store, some following along on the free lace class, while others were just there to enjoy the show. I know Stoller's had nice followings in the past, but it was a good feeling to really blow out the numbers, especially compared to (city not to be named), a larger metro that, nonetheless, had a much smaller turnout.

There's no question that for Milwaukee to stay on tours, we have to do better with our events than other larger and more important media markets, like Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and, well, most cities you've heard of in the midwest. In fact, when Schwartz started building up its author program, publishers sent more authors to Madison than Milwaukee. Smaller, yes, but a much higher level of book buying.

There's no question that working with Loop is part of the success. Caitlin and Patricia have a devoted following, and bring enthusiasm to the process (and yes, we have at least once decided not to do a partnership on a book that they were not hot on). I'm at the point where I'm going through catalogs (both paper and "e") looking for the next good cosponsorship.

Similarly, I never expected to be a regular stop on quilter Jennifer Chiaverini's tours. I wasn't sure we'd draw a decent crowd, at least based on the sales of her books at the old Downer Avenue Schwartz. Yes, we've broadened our audience a bit, but by how much? Then I was talking to a customer and decided to reach out to Elm Grove's Patched Works. It turned out Julie was up for doing an event together, and it turned out to be a great time.

For the next novel, The Union Quilters, we're actually doing the launch event, on February 22nd (yes, mark your calendars). This time I went to Julie (clearing it also with the publisher to see if I wasn't stepping on anyone else's toes) and said, let's try the event at your store in Elm Grove. But the store isn't qiute big enough. So Julie take the reins and got us the Sunset Playhouse. You'll hear more about this event closer to the date; we haven't really worked out the details. But there's no question the co-sponsorship is a big double win.

So we need to do this more, right? And there are a lot of ways I can go with this. As I look over the schedule of the first 18 months, however, I realize that one missing partnership that would be mutually beneficial is a bicycle shop. This coming Sunday (11/14, 2 PM) is our third bicycle event since we've opened, for Across America by Bicycle: Alice and Bobbi's Summer on Wheels. It's a fun travel narrative about two friends ("retirement age") who head off on a cross-country trek, from Oregon to Maine. As Kirkus said in their review, "How can you not like this book?"

And with Milwaukee at #25 for best cities for bicycling (that's either very good, if we're talking "out of 100" or really bad if they mean "out of 25"; boy I hate not knowing the field when I read a ranking), we'll probably have more bicycling events in the future.

The problem (unlike knitting and quilting shops) is that there are so many bike shops, many of which with very good reputations. I don't want to pick one at random (I'm having the same problem picking out a company car--that's for another post), even though I know we can just work with a different shop if the first one doesn't work for both of us. And there are some books that are more racing-focused, some skew young, this skews touring and older. Who knows? Our last event we worked with Cog Magazine which was really great (and I link to again here), but I'd love to be able to cross-promote to another store.

So we need:
1. a store that does a good job, and sort of matches our "service" profile (not that we always live up to it).
2. a store that does a decent amount of marketing, with an email newsletter and some social networking, to help get the word out.
3. with a reasonably overlapping customer base--they don't need to be around the corner, because we are both destination operations, but 20 minutes away seems fair (yes, it's a little more to Patched Works, but I went door-to-door in non-rush hour in about 25 minutes)
4. that is suitably locally-based.
We won't be able to do this in time for our event for Across America by Bicycle, but it's a start to have the conversation. And there will be a next time.

Any ideas? Let me know.

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