Since May 2006, booksellers Pat Grant and Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, owners of Windows A Bookshop in Monroe, La., have sunk more than $60,000 into The Book Report, a weekly radio book show that has been broadcast on their local AM station, KMLB 1440. Guests have included numerous notables, such as T.C. Boyle, James Lee Burke and Nancy Pearl. But despite attracting an unquantifiable number of live listeners plus 2,000 people who download archived podcasts from the site each month, finding deep-pocketed national sponsors has proved more of a challenge.
The booksellers pay just $150 per week to produce and broadcast the hour-long show, but three major Web site upgrades, as well as marketing materials that include sample CDs and glossy brochures, have put the booksellers tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket. The pair continues to hope to earn back their investment by selling half of the 12 minutes of available advertising time to national publishers.
To make the show more attractive to publishers, Grant and Grant-Gibson are trying to syndicate the show and are offering it free to any bookseller willing to pay a local radio station to broadcast it. “There is a second six-minute slot in each hour of radio that is typically dedicated to local advertisers,” said Grant-Gibson, “and by using that slot for advertising events for their store, they are able to localize content. It is, essentially, a marketing expense.”
So far, only Mary Gay Shipley, owner of That Bookstore in Blytheville in Blytheville, Ark., has brought the show to her market. For the past year, Shipley has paid $150 a week to KLCN 910 AM in Blytheville to run The Book Report. “I like that there's a Southern flavor to it and that it's affordable,” said Shipley, who goes to KLCN's studio each week to record six minutes promoting the bookstore and local author events. Shipley also said she's often been able to sell advertising space on the show to other Blytheville retailers—such as a local hairdresser—thus often covering the costs of the broadcast. “I don't understand why [booksellers] haven't signed on,” said Shipley. “If you can resell those six minutes you can really make some money.”
Grant-Gibson is in discussions with three additional bookstores—CoffeeTree Books in Morehead, Ky.; Lorelei Books in Vicksburg, Miss.; and Page and Palette in Fairhope, Ala.—to sponsor a broadcast of the show. While none has committed, Grant-Gibson remains hopeful.
The Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance is also giving the show a push at the forthcoming SIBA trade show, where Grant and Grant-Gibson will be staffing a booth, and where previous guests of the show, including novelists Will Clarke and Deborah Wiles, will sign CDs of their interviews. SIBA is also listing the show in the more than one million holiday catalogues that will be distributed to member stores.
“Every week we take off the headphones, look at each other and say, 'That was a great show,' ” said Grant-Gibson. “The authors are always telling us it's one of the best interviews they've had and we ask questions no one else asks. Now we need their publishers to get on board as advertisers.”