June 7-10 this year we tried something new–displaying books at the Methodist Annual conference for Alabama and Northwest Florida. The choice of place was natural due to geography. The choice of denomination was not done because we publish only Methodist stuff, but rather because we do have books in our catalog by four different pastors in that conference. (They are Bob McKibben, Perry Dalton, Riley Richardson, and Geoffrey Lentz.)
Previously, events we have tried have not been our greatest opportunities. We sell the most books when one of our authors speaks on some occasion and we can offer his or her books for sale there. For the Methodist pastors, I had arranged book signings with Cokesbury, and had done quite well with those.
We went to the conference with three goals: 1) Sell books (of course!), 2) Contact more potential authors, and 3) Establish connections with churches and church accounts. Because we offer good quantity and non-profit discounts designed to be attractive to small churches, we felt that there would be a number of churches interested.
Our book table, with Jody Neufeld (left) and Janet Lister
On site sales of books were not overwhelmingly large, but were better than at many prior events. We found that there were more people at the conference who wanted to spend time talking about our books and how they might use them in their churches. This resulted in more than average sales for a conference event.
We also contacted quite a number of potential authors. Publishers know that you will look at quite a number of ideas and manuscripts before you find that one that really works, so we were very happy with the number of conversations we held with folks who either had done some writing or had ideas. We don’t know how many of these will bear fruit, but you don’t reap if you don’t sow!
Probably for the same reason that book sales were decent, our contacts with churches who might want materials were excellent. We were able to discuss materials and even set up church accounts for people that will permit them to order our materials online with correct discounts.
Finally, we even made some media contacts, though those were completely unexpected–though of course very welcome.
It was a wonderful fringe benefit to be located across the hall from the snack bar operated by Alabama Rural Ministries. I’m going to do a “Ministry Moment” post about them on Monday. For now, let me just say that the enthusiasm of these young folks was welcome and energizing, and we were happy to be able to support them.
We were also next to OurChurchVideos.com, which provides some very useful services to churches and other businesses. We have been talking to them since the event.
As a result of this experience, it is likely that we will display at more conferences over the next year.