Books and Clothes, Authors and Stores

In the inbox this morning: NYT bestselling author Mary Jane Clark is going to be signing books at a Manhattan outpost of Coldwater Creek, a women’s clothing store that caters to a rather upscale audience above the age of 35-40. Have a look at the email graphic:

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For a $50 purchase, shoppers get a copy of the book, and the author is there to sign it. This lights a fire under my synapses for a host of reasons, because it is a strange extension of author branding: matching a clothing store to an author, and potentially her readership, and then combining the two for a promotional event. On one hand, if the marketing arrangement matches the audience of an author to a specific store or clothing style, that could be a win/win for the store and the author. On the other hand, identifying a clothing store could address only a narrow portion of an audience.

On another hand, there’s a more limited number of signing options, should an author wish to host one, with some publishers canceling signings at Borders. It seems Clark’s signings are mostly at libraries after the Coldwater Creek signing.

On yet ANOTHER hand, the possibilities are endless: are you a J. Jill author, or a Banana Republic author? An Old Navy author or a Hot Topic author? Do you think book signings in clothing retail outlets might work for romance authors? Would you go to this book signing – or a book signing at a clothing store?

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Joyce says:

    She’s Mary Higgins Clark’s former DIL.
    I’ve only read one of her books, but I would have thought it would narrow her audience, because the book I read was a mystery, not a romance.

  2. 2

    I’m also wondering about this because the book has something to do with wedding cake decorating.  Interesting!

  3. 3
    Jewel Dedmon says:

    Tim Gunn came to Nashville to the Kate Spade store promoting his book, but that made perfect sense as he’s the Chief Creative Officer of Liz Claiborn Inc which owns Kate Spade.

    For me it would depend on the author – if it’s someone I love, I would go anywhere for them. If it’s just eh, their work is ok, I wouldn’t bother.

  4. 4
    Steffie says:

    I would say there’s only one clothing store that woul fit to romance writers promoting their books: victoria’s secret.

    Everything else seems kind of odd to me. I don’t like the idea of authers combined with clothing stores. It wouldn’t keep me from getting a copy if one of my fav authors was signing there but it would definitely feel weird if I would be standing in line for an autograph while the people around me are buying new socks for their kids…

  5. 5
    jody says:

    If I’d published books, the appropriate signing venue would probably be Goodwill.

    Heh.

  6. 6
    Fiamma says:

    I love the idea of book signings at libraries, but clothing stores? Maybe for folks like Tim Gunn as Jewel mentioned and I understand Paula Deen at Williams-Sonoma, but I don’t think I enjoy the idea of authors being linked to specific corporations. Kind of jumbles the idea of why we become writers in the first place. Then again, I have no right to speak for others so let that just be my own preference.

  7. 7

    Oh Lord, I am terrified that my store would be Wal-Mart. Or maybe Hand Me Ups. Or possibly, given the last book, Big Daddy Rod’s House of Deadly Discount Pistols, where the motto is “Guns Don’t Kill People. Not Without a Little HELP, Anyways.”

    GAH!

    I wish my store was Anthropologie. But I suspect…not.

  8. 8
    Jeannie says:

    I could see it with non-fiction authors like the ones mentioned here, but…

    For Romance authors that’s a big NO! NO! NO! It’s too much like typecasting/stereotyping and we all know romance readers are all over the map. As an example, I’m in Ms. Clark’s “demographic” and I don’t like her books and I don’t shop at Coldwater Creek. Too tame for me. See? It’s hit or miss, so good luck with that.

  9. 9
    Nadia says:

    I can see how this is a nice cross-marketing opportunity if you have a distinct demographic, but it can be limiting.  If I were a big fan of hers, I would rather just buy the book than try to figure out $50 worth of stuff to buy at a store I never shop in.  And so I might get cheesed if this were my only opportunity to meet her in the area.

  10. 10
    AgTigress says:

    It is a strange idea, and presumably a twist on product-placement (for a fee) in the book itself.  There must be a basic conviction involved that novels are ‘lifestyle choices’ and that literary taste can be inferred from the reader’s preferences in clothing, food and other trappings of everyday life, and vice versa.
    I don’t believe that is true;  it’s a market-researcher’s hopeful fantasy.  Anyone who has read and taken part in internet discussions of romance and related novels is aware of how vast the differences can be between readers who enjoy the same books:  different generations, nationalities, educational levels, political and religious views—the list is a long one.  By the same token, two people with almost identical backgrounds and closely similar tastes in the way they live their lives can have diametrically opposite tastes in leisure reading.

  11. 11
    Chicklet says:

    As always, I read “Mary Jane Clark” and my brain thought “Mary Higgins Clark,” and then the connection to Coldwater Creek made perfect sense: My mom made it through about 50 pages of a Mary Higgins Clark book back in the day and had to give up because every few pages, all of the action would stop so MHC could describe what everyone was wearing.

  12. 12
    SB Sarah says:

    Two people with almost identical backgrounds and closely similar tastes in the way they live their lives can have diametrically opposite tastes in leisure reading.

    AGTigress, I was thinking that as I was driving this morning. I have often a very little in common with many women on this site, except romances – and that gives us a LOT to talk about – but I don’t know we could go shopping together at the same places!

    And LOL @Joshilyn Jackson. Which author would be at Strawberry, or Steinmart, or Barney’s or Kohls or Dillards? It is tricky branding and not for everyone, that’s definitely sure.

  13. 13
    elph says:

    It’s an interesting choice. Some authors are more known for food, or for music. Would there be tie-in potential for record stores or restaurants in that case? And then there are the romances coming out lately that are centered around comic books. Comic Con maybe? I’d go to that signing.

  14. 14
    Perry says:

    What a cool idea.

  15. 15
    AgTigress says:

    …every few pages, all of the action would stop so MHC could describe what everyone was wearing.

    LOL!  Actually, I love to have detailed descriptions of physical appearance, clothing, interior and outdoor settings and so forth, but good writers can always work those in smoothly without stopping the action!  Because I ‘see’ the action of the book taking place before me, like watching a play, I like to know that what I see bears as close a resemblance as possible to what the author saw.  I’ll invent it anyway, if visual description is lacking, but I prefer to be given guidance.

  16. 16
    TaraL says:

    You know, I think with the right combo it could work.

    The author that first popped into my head was Barbara (Samuel) O’Neal (probably because I’ve been kind of bouncing in place for the last few weeks, waiting for my budget to recover from the holidays so I could buy her latest). A lot of her titles are ideal to attract foodies. A rack of her books in someplace like a Williams-Sonoma might do pretty well. And it might even work in reverse. If she had a book signing there it might attract readers who would become Williams-Sonoma (or similar type store) customers. Even better would be someplace like Penzey’s Spices. Lord knows I damn near bought some of their red salt after reading The Secret of Everything.

    Having said all that, I don’t really get this store-author pairing.

  17. 17
    Lil' Deviant says:

    I have been to a book signing at Walmart.  *shrugs*  Didn’t think it was odd at the time.

  18. 18

    When I get published, any minute now, I’m gonna ask for the Harley Davidson Store featured in my book.  At least five or six locals would show up for sure.

  19. 19
    Kate Pearce says:

    I’d say the 35-40 years demographic for Coldwater Creek was pushing it. When I go in there, I’m about the youngest person by about 20 years and I’m in my 40’s. But they do have the odd lovely dress. :)

  20. 20
    jayhjay says:

    I have been to a book signing at Walmart.  *shrugs*  Didn’t think it was odd at the time.

    That doesn’t seem as weird to me b/c Walmart sells books.  They aren’t technically a book store, but they are a retailer that would actually sell that product.  A clothing store seems stranger b/c the are not at all related.

    I also think it is weird that she is essentially charging for an autograph.  Technically the cost is to get the book, but can you bring in your copy w/o having to buy something there and still get it signed?

  21. 21
    Vicki says:

    Ran into James Burke signing his latest at the Costco in Missoula last year. It seemed strange initially but he was thronged and people seemed thrilled to meet him.

  22. 22

    @TaraL wrote:

    The author that first popped into my head was Barbara (Samuel) O’Neal. A lot of her titles are ideal to attract foodies. A rack of her books in someplace like a Williams-Sonoma might do pretty well. And it might even work in reverse.

    I agree. I like browsing in non-bookish stores and suddenly coming across a stack of books. The books don’t feature the wares of the stores, but the do feature stories and characters from the same demographic and tastes as the buyers in the store. Most such books also feature themes similar to the store (a fiction book that primarily takes place on a beach in a beach apparel store). I believe this is an entirely valid reason to cross-sell, cross-promote even.

  23. 23
    Jody W. says:

    Like the other Jody, I’m totally a thrift store author. Problem is, not many people thrift $50 worth of stuff at a pop. We’d have to lower the price to $20 worth of stuff, and I could sit at a wicker coffeetable with a cracked glass top that cost $19.95 and on a couch with really big flowers that cost $49.95. And probably also tell people where the bathrooms are.

  24. 24
    orangehands says:

    I don’t see how this would narrow her audience. I guess because I see this as a fun promotional event, but more tied into finding (future) readers at a store with maybe clients (romance readers tend to be women so go where women are, her books tend to talk about clothing go to a clothing store) than as a regular book signing. I see it more as trying to attract new readers than as a signing for old readers.

    Not necessarily how she wants it seen, or how it should be seen, but it is how I see it. I’d enjoy going to a store for shopping and hey, if a hit a price range I get a free, signed book out of it.

  25. 25
    LisaJo says:

    Why did I immediately think of LKH doing a signing at a sex shop of some sort?

  26. 26

    I’ve been working at this from the other side for a couple of years now.  I am a beadmaker by trade, and when I am inspired by a book to create a bead, I try to get the author to let me do a limited edition run where the author signs some books for me and I sell them with the beads and matching ribbon and findings.  They’re not for everyone, but I find at certain times, they’ve sold very well for me.  Here’s an example, with Kate Collins’ Acts of Violets.

  27. 27
    Emily says:

    I don’t think this is that different than writers who are always careful to include what brand name the character’s clothing is. This really used to annoy me (and still does sometimes) mainly because that’s how I was raised (not showing off clothing labels). However since I started reading Lauren Willig, (who Always includes designer labels in the Eloise sections. Actually it still annoys me when Eloise starts complaining her clothes aren’t as nice as others when she has nice clothes from places like BCBG which I can’t afford.) Anyway I have gotten used to it as have somewhat as I think a lot of people have; although I do think using a store like Cold Water Creek either limits your demographic or you just know your demographic real well. It wouldn’t stop a die hard fan though even if he were a young man.
    (oh I also didn’t know she was MHC’s former daughter-in-law. Its annoying no one says which son she was married to. MHC has 2.)

  28. 28
    Nora says:

    Oh, that’s odd, to say the least. I suppose one would not be able to have a previously purchased book signed, given the purchase/giveaway situation, either. If you don’t have fifty dollars to spend on clothes but would spend the $15 or so for her book, you’re out of luck, aren’t you? This would appear to benefit the clothing store more than the publisher, I think, but it’s such a shot in the dark, demographics-wise, and such an odd combination to begin with, I can’t seeing it being much of a success.

  29. 29
    Bill Coombs says:

    Thank you. I am also wondering at first rwad this post but when I realised all I think that it is so great post. My Page : Roth IRAs

  30. 30

    Well it’s different for sure. I don’t think I’d buy $50 worth of clothes just to get the book but if I was already buying, what a bonus.

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