My last book tour has taken me all around the country, to smaller independent cookware stores in smaller cities that I normally don’t get to, like Des Moines, Madison, Savannah, and Anchorage. Everywhere I go I am working for my book sales. I have learned from past experience that unless you do a cooking demo and give out samples, people are not inclined to buy your book, particularly in this day and age of downloading recipes from the internet. It is so much harder to sell a cookbook (even if it is a really good one) than it used to be.
On my prior book tours I appeared mainly at the large national chain cookware stores. I didn’t feel that I got the same attention and yes, love, I have received from the small guys. In Pittsburgh, KC Lapiana of In the Kitchen, not only bought ads to announce my visit, she also hand picked a wonderful new hotel (the Fairmount) for me to stay at, picked me up in a limo (not necessary but it meant we could all have a glass of wine or two) and took me out to a splendid Italian dinner. The event at her store was well attended and I sold a fair number of books, including a book for each and every one of her employees, which she paid for! Now, her example is a little over the top but basically I have felt well taken care of everywhere I have gone.
It isn’t only me who is well taken care of, it is also the regular customers of these stores and boy do these stores have regular customers. Most of the places I visited have been in business for years (up to 30 years) and have had the same employees for most of that time. Not one has suffered greatly from the recession and some have not experienced any down turn at all. What are they doing right? After my travels all over the country I think I have an idea. It is sort of like what makes a good restaurant, it is all about good service. The staff members are well trained and very knowledgeable about the cookware products and, moreover, they actually care about the store they work at, almost like they owned it. It reminds me of an experience my husband had at one of his favorite restaurants in New York (a little Puerto Rican place, called La Taza de Oro, Numero Dos, now closed – boo hoo!). He went in one day for lunch and a waiter came up to tell him about the menu. When the waiter finished he said something to the effect of, “Try our special today, you will love our food, I promise” and he meant it. He really really cared.
But the other thing these independent stores have going for them is selection. They stock far more pots, pans, and gadgets in every category than the big guys do or even the stores on line. And you can pick the items up, read the instructions, talk to a sales rep and make a well informed purchase.