Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Recalling the Pie Riots

"Let them eat pie!"

Recently, I did my first Sweet Read and Pie Tasting. I had the event at a local library, where I read from my Cutie Pies Chronicles, offered samples of pies from recipes in the back of my books and had books for sale. Much to my relief, the event was fun and sucessful.
It is with some fear and trepidation that I planned to do this event. You see, a few years ago I did a big pie and coffee event. A local newspaper gave me tons of advertising for an afternoon of free pie and coffee for 100 people.
The plan was that I would sell books as a vendor at a day-long event, break for an hour to make coffee and slice pies; then do an hour of free pie and coffee, author questions and answers, give away a sneek peek of an upcoming book and take pre-orders for that book.
The original plan included me closing shop for an hour at my vendor table. I was then to go to another room in the venue to set up the pie and coffee. Through no fault of the event sponsor, all of the rooms in the venue were being used for a wrestling tournament that was going on at the same time; which meant I would have to prepare for the pie and coffee for 100 right in the middle of the convention floor.
First problem was that the pies were still warm when I picked them up. This foiled my plan to stow them under the table until serving time. I had to loosen the lids and leave them out so that the steam could escape. Otherwise, I would be serving soggy pie. The sight of pies on the table had people asking when the free pie would be served. Many came back several times over a few hours to ask that question. The free pie and coffee were set for 2:00. My silent mantra became "I will serve no pie before it's time!"
Normally, I would never complain about selling lots of books, but business picked up right when I was supposed to be brewing coffee and slicing pies. Thank God my publisher was helping me! I also recruited a friend who happened to show up during the chaos.
Free food does draw a crowd. By 2:00, we were serving slices of pie at break-neck speed and the coffee was flowing like the Mississippi. I feel that more than 100 probably showed up. Having to set up in our confined space did not allow for the greatest flow of traffic for the pie and coffee line. You'd think that if something is free, people would not complain: but oh, they did!
Some were upset when my sugar-free pie was gone. Others complained about the way the line was proceeding. When at first, one coffee urn dispensed only hot water I thought I would have to exit the room for my own safety. Within a couple of minutes the coffee in that urn began brewing. By that time a meeting from down the hall had sent someone up to get free coffee for them.
What did I learn? Well, I've never had another event for that many people since. If I had to do it again I would have someone else pick up the pies and deliver them right before serving time. I also should have paid for a coffee service. For about $80 I could have had coffee, cups, cream and sweatener delivered to the sight. Still, I sold lots of books, had some positive feedback sandwiched between those negative pie rioters, and would you believe; that there was one unsliced pie left and I sold it right off the table.

Author be warned; free food does strange things to people!

Check out this site for an innovative pie company. Their logo was so perfect for this post that I just had to use it.


Marian Allen said...

Glad you sold lots of books, in spite of the "riot". :D

Thanks for sharing your promotional experiences, especially ones involving FOOD. Now, of course, I want some pie. And a copy of your book. And some coffee.

CA Verstraete said...

sounds like a fun event but thanks for the warnings. I'm thinking of doing a cheesecake event eventually if (when) my diner mystery gets accepted.

Figures, of course, people are so greedy when it's free. Lucikly you sold books too as some people only come for the free stuff!

Lisa Hall said...

I can send books, but the pie and coffee may present a challange! That gives me an idea for a cute giveway or gift basket. My books would be great packaged with a gift card to a coffee shop/bakery.