Okay, I was wrong to chastise promoters for being too lazy to risk producing live book fairs. When even the vaunted ABAA New York Book Fair falls victim to the unpredictable ravages of the pandemic, live book fairs seem more like romantic gestures than calculated risks.
Anyway, this weekend’s virtual Ephemera Society show was on, and that gave us something else to think about. For the first time ever, exhibiting dealers were allowed to shop during “setup,” just like at a live book fair. This was something I’d been arguing for ever since we started down the VBF road. Finally, it was here! Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything to buy…
But that got me to thinking about the evolution of virtual book fairs – how they came to be and how we use them today, as well as the role of dealer input in creating them. I know promoter Marvin Getman had dozens, perhaps hundred, of conversations with dealers in order to develop his platform, and I know the ABAA went to similar lengths – generating monkey surveys and making their own dozens, perhaps hundreds, of personal inquiries – to develop their platform.
So, as an example of the sorts of conversations that feed into the development of virtual book fairs, I thought I’d share with you a segment of the email conversation I had with Marvin during this weekend’s Ephemera Society show. He said it would be okay to reproduce the conversation. All I had to do was tell everyone that he did 90 miles in the Pan Mass. Challenge – a charity cycling event that Marvin does every year to raise money for the fight against cancer.
GREG WRITES: I know you’re busy, but can you tell me why two of the items I’ve sold no longer appear in my “booth?”
47. Cunard Line. Camera Studies, RMS Queen Mary. $50. SOLD
48. Four Pictorial Booklets Celebrating Famous Passenger Liners. $100 SOLD
whereas other sold items are still there?
MARVIN RESPONDS: You can probably tell better than I can. Log out and then just go the the main site. And enter and go to your booth. You’ll see what is not shown.
GREG WRITES: Got it. Thanks, Marvin. I know which books I sold – I was just puzzled as to why they had disappeared from my “booth,” and what to do about it.
MARVIN ASKS: Do you think that was a good idea? I had heard from disgruntled customers – probably through you – who were upset to see so many sold items as soon as they entered Saturday in March. The down-side is that it almost looks like nothing sold. 374 items sold yesterday and 204 so far today so many people only seeing the 274. We’re on pace to equal the sell-through rate of March if tomorrow holds firm.
GREG RESPONDS: Let’s hope so! I’ll bet the per/item value at this VBF is a teeny fraction of the per/item value at book fairs.
MARVIN SAYS: Correct. Many low-priced items listed and sold. March per item was $324 and so far, this one is $280.
GREG THEN OPINES: The world will become a perfect place again when your programmers figure out how to remove a “Sold” item.
Or why can’t we do that ourselves?
When we sell something at a book fair, we remove it from the showcase and put it under the table. We certainly do NOT leave on the counter top with a big SOLD sticker on it.
I tried removing one of my sold items and the result shows on the VBF screen as a blank box with a red “SOLD” beneath.
I think this is preferable to the sold item, with full description, remaining onscreen, to taunt the frustrated late-comer, don’t you?
MARVIN SAYS: We can do that now as we did with the preview sales. But we choose not to.
THEN ADDS: Do me a favor and re-enter the asking price. No one will see it and my stats will once again be accurate.
GREG RESPONDS: Remember in the Disney version of “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” when Mickey comes in and starts fooling around with the sorcerer’s stuff and things quickly get out of hand?
Sort of like that…
But I am at a loss as to why you “chose not to” delete sold items.
Why antagonize prospective customers? You say they complained. Well, if you didn’t leave them anything to complain about, there would be fewer complaints.
MARVIN SAYS: Curious if you’ve ever asked the ABAA the same question? (Written from Cranes beach, a place I could never attend during a live show)
GREG REPLIES: I’d love to ask them exactly that. But the problem with asking “the ABAA the same question” is that there’s nobody to ask. Or too many to ask and expect a sensible answer.
Anyway, the ABAA seems to be very far away from entertaining the idea of a VBF with pre-fair exhibitor shopping – whether or not sold items are made to disappear… Do you mind if I quote our conversation in a blog post urging pre-fair VBF sales?
MARVIN GRACIOUSLY ANSWERS: I don’t mind as long as you write that I rode 90 in the Pan Mass Challenge last week.
THEN ADDS: By the way, I’m entertaining the idea of running a special hybrid event, a book fair ending with an auction the day after the fair ends. Dealers would choose which items from their past fair items they would want to auction. More to be worked out. Any thoughts?
TO WHICH GREG REPLIES: It’s a deal.
Regarding VBF/Auction, wouldn’t that just encourage any bottom feeder or “can you do any better” tightwad to try to get a lowball deal on a book he or she should have ponied up for at full price?
Who would want to encourage that?