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What Do We Need to Make Our Store a Reality?

Jenya and penguins at the Salem Holiday Market 2018

I was asked what we need to make our store a reality, and the list I came up with was long and filled with all the things you might expect. However, the first thing we need is to learn how to get people to the store. We’ve had a Facebook page, an Etsy shop, a Patreon, an Instagram account, a now-deleted YouTube channel, an Amazon author page, and a website long enough to know that we don’t know how to get people to any of those. We tried ads. We’ve cross promoted. I’ve used all of my SEO knowledge to rank us higher. I’ve taken classes in marketing, gone through five day challenges, and spent a month with a marketing guru; nothing has worked to bring sustained traffic that converts to buyers.

Is It the Penguins?

A Portrait in Penguins: Willow in the Blue Sweater, Cinnamon in the middle, and Persimmon in Plaid.
How would you caption this?

Our penguins are amazing. Jenya has done a great job designing and sewing them. They are funny, beautiful and have personalities of their own. However, there are two things that have to happen in order for someone to get a penguin. They have to be able to pick up the penguin and hold it, and they have to trust that we’ve made them well. The last part has been enough to get people to adopt our penguins. Most of our penguin parents that have ordered them by mail have been people I know personally. A couple are friends of friends. The penguins aren’t the problem. Finding more people who are interested in them is.

Is It the Books?

Author Signing at Second Chance Books 2020
Author Signing at Second Chance Books 2020

One of my personal failings is that I haven’t concentrated on one subject. It takes knowledge of several topics to become more creative, but that doesn’t help sell books. So, I haven’t done myself any favors by writing books in different genres. I’ve had people tell me my “Disneyland Is Creativity” book helped them get more out of the park. Others have said how much their children enjoyed “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly.” People have enjoyed both “My Life in the Projects,” and “My Life in the Peace Corps.” Still, none of those are in a single genre; there’s a reason why both Stephen King and J.K. Rowling used pen names when they switched from what they were known for to a new subject. I can’t change what I have written; I can just keep moving forward. Fortunately, our goal is to open a store that focuses on indie authors.

How Do We Get People to Join Us?

Even with these considerations, the question is still: How do we get people to…? Adopt a penguin? Join our Patreon? Visit our website? That last one is free! (Thanks for visiting!) It doesn’t matter how well-made things are or how well-written if no one is finding them. We don’t live in Iowa with a magical baseball field. Getting people to our virtual spaces to engage has been nigh impossible. (It’s good we have a few really engaged friends and family members, who support us with likes, comments, and shares.) I’m guessing this will spill into the real world. I’ve seen far too many retail shops where the salespeople are engrossed in their phones because there’s no one to provide service to.

What Else?

If we can figure out how to get people in the doors, then what we need to make our store a reality is a location, signs, shelves, rugs, paint for the walls, WiFi, and a stock supply. I’d like a fireplace and a couple of chairs where we can set up a reading nook with coffee and sweets. I want to do window displays and have a wall of fame. We had a fully formed plan before COVID hit, and it included an indoor archery range. Of course, if we figure out how to get people to our virtual sites, a brick and mortar place may become obsolete – at least until we can all get together to practice creative acts, enjoy author signings, and have fun with penguins and each other.

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