Friday, July 12, 2013

Stalking Independent Booksellers

You're the last of a vanishing breed--an independent bookseller. You're going broke despite doing everything possible to survive. You have your own website that offers a newsletter, staff recommendations, and clever little freebees. You host signings for authors and do your best for the publishing industry.

So in walks an author hell bent on promoting their latest book. The first thing he hands you are bookmarks and flyers to distribute to customers announcing the book is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and downloadable on Kindle and Nook.

Ever think of that? I didn't until I received an email from the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association giving tips to authors looking for ways to get their books into stores. I immediately ran to my bookmarks to see if I had done that. I hadn't! Mine referred back to my website and the website of my publisher, Poisoned Pen Press.  The association suggested the wording of "available wherever books are sold." On my website, of course, I have links to Amazon and Nook.

Here's some of my tips for getting your books into local stores.

Case the joint. Does the store sell a mixture of new and used books? Where does the store make the most money? Support the store and learn a little about their customers. Buy books from the store and attend events. Are signings successful? Who shows up and why? I've noticed a very successful store a couple of blocks from me does extremely well with signings when the speaker talks about Colorado. The talks can be related to the outdoors, or historical Colorado, or Colorado entertainment. Whatever. Colorado rocks! But the Lottie Albright series is set in Kansas. S.o.o.o, I plan to see if they would be interested in a talk entitled "When Colorado was Kansas." Historically true. The state once belonged to us.

What do you want? A signing or just for the store to carry your books? Who buys the books for the store? Contact that person and make an effective pitch. Yes, that pesky pitch again. Know immediately what to tell him when he asks who distributes the books. That can be a huge stumbling block. Books must be easy to order and sometimes small stores have shaky finances. They cannot order with anyone and everyone. Be alert to signs of this and offer other solutions at once. Perhaps he would rather you bring in your own books, in which case decide on the split immediately.

Decide in advance if you are willing to make a signing successful. I've done a radical about face on this. It's the author's obligation to do some advance work and promotion. Now before I book a signing, I stop and do a little soul-searching. Am I willing to contact clubs and organizations in a town and urge the members to come? Am I willing to send distribution material to libraries? How can I make this a successful signing for the store's sake so it will welcome other authors in the future? 

Be nice and try not to lie. It's amazing how many writers act like prima donnas or tell the owner a major studio has already optioned the movie rights. Sullen writers who show up for failed signings are legendary in the business. As to why the movie bit? It's what we do. We make things up.

These hints are only a fraction of what could be said. I'll pass along others from time to time. I'm sure other Type M'ers come offer many more.

1 comment:

Clea Simon said...

Working to promote your event beyond just saying "hey, we're doing a reading" is key -- I'm now trying to promote an event I'm doing with the lovely Sheila Connolly and am trying to pitch it as a conversation on writing series -- trying to reach out to aspiring writers as well as our various friends and family. We'll know in two weeks whether this has worked or not. (Have one local news blog doing a story, at least.)