Togather.com, a “fansourcing site” designed to make event planning more predictable and easier to promote, is partnering with Barnes & Noble College Stores to provide store managers a turnkey platform for organizing in-store events. Over the last month, Togather has run a “Dream Class” pilot program at 70 B&N school stores to find out what authors and topics students wanted to see at their store.
The 70 B&N College stores used Togather.com to solicit interest from students about what their “Dream Class” would be and used student interests to provide author-events keyed to those interests. Using fansourced responses from the 70 B&N school stores—more than 45,000 votes were cast—Togather.com organized and promoted the most popular topics at well-attended events at 25 stores. Among the top 25 events sought by students were “No Bake Late Night Munchies” with Cristina Krumsick, author of No Bake Makery: More Than 80 Two-Bite Treats Made with Lovin', Not an Oven, held at Fordham and Adelphi’s Universities’ B&N stores and “Apocalyptic Studies” by journalist Andrew Blackwell, author of Visit Sunny Chernobyl, held at Eastern Kentucky University and Wright State University’s B&N Stores. These were among the most popular “experiences” the students wanted as in-store events.
Togather was started in 2012 by Andrew Kessler, a science author looking to find a more efficient way to plan author events and avoid the dreaded barely attended book signing/reading. Since its launch, Kessler said, the venture has redirected its focus away from a single author consumer oriented venture to working more with bigger clients and offering them a “turnkey” way to plan and implement events. Kessler said the company learned the best way to offer an event is to focus on the “experience,” or topic or expertise rather than focus promotion on a particular author. “We’ve been rethinking how authors can use their experiences to get people to the in-store events,” Kessler said, “you see it at places like the tech festival SXSW, where lots of people want to go to experience the event even if they don’t know the specific personalities presenting.”
Lisa Malat, v-p, president, marketing & operations, Barnes & Noble College, said, “Through our partnership with Togather, we’ve unlocked yet another way to connect with students by empowering them to tell us what speakers and events they’d like to bring to their local bookstore, ultimately enabling them to design the experience that will resonate most on their campus.”
Working through B&N College, Togather has partnered with authors from such publishers as Workman Publishing (Artisan), Penguin (Plume), Random House (Crown), Harper Collins (Harper Design), W. W. Norton, Overlook Press, Macmillan (St. Martin’s Press) and Rodale. B&N College operates more than 700 college stores around the country.
Togather.com provides the author events with a Web page and a “toolkit” with analytics and social sharing tools that allow authors or store managers to target the right audience and identify the best sharers. Togather also allows event planners to set up the type of support required to hold the event, be it sell 20 books, or get RSVPs from 80 people. If those benchmarks are not reached, the event can be cancelled or adjusted well in advance. Event planners can post the page to social media, add events or get feedback from fans. If the event requires book sales in advance, the titles can be purchased via the Togather event page and delivered to the fans before the event. And while Togather is focused on authors, Kessler noted that the site can be used to plan and promote all kinds of events.
The site is free to single authors (one event per month) or $225 for a small business for unlimited events at a single location and there is a corporate rate for an unlimited number of events and locations that also provides customized planning and support.
There is some vetting of authors, Kessler said, “there’s some filtering, we vet them and turn them loose. We’re open to a pretty wide variety of authors and we give authors everything they need and answer their questions. We’re a support mechanism.”