Filed under Writing.
AWP Conference Friday February 27 2014
Independent Bookselling: Opportunities for Authors
Since I am working on my own novel I was especially excited about this panel. Here was a roomful of book buyers about to tell me all the secrets to how I could get my book on their shelves. Plus, I happen to like these book stores. Much more than the Barnes & Nobel big brands. “You’ve Got Mail” isn’t my favorite romance just because I like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, but I love the plucky little bookstore fighting the big corporation…and that Meg Ryan’s character finds a place in the industry even though her small business can’t compete.
Ah hem. Back to the panel. Well, it does tie in a bit, you see, there was a plea to support your local indy book store. That without us (authors and writers) championing them, they might not be around much longer. We need to encourage our fans, our family, and our friends to go purchase from them rather than the online route. This was step one to getting your book in their stores. Have links back to their store on your website, recommend them as places of business, etc.
Below are a list of ways to interact which will help your chances of getting your book on their buying list:
- Support them with links and referrals
- Purchase books yourself from them, sign up for email newsletters, go to events
- Start engaging with them up to six month before your book is published (Don’t show up with a box full of your published book and expect they will be interested)
- Be professional and use courtesy when trying to engage them (btw this goes for editors, publishers, and agents too!)
- Make sure your book fits the type of store they have. Will it appeal to their customers?
- Read their staff picks or at least be aware about their store
- Know that there is large nationwide network (informally) of independent booksellers and they all talk amongst each other. If your book is interesting enough, it will get recommended/passed on to others. Be polite to whom ever you engage with.
- Don’t be offended if you hear a no. There is only so much floor space a store has, try again with next book or another time.
- Don’t be offended if asked to provide books on consignment. This is an expected business arrangement often used with indy stores.
- Offer to do events, or provided signed copies, or think out side the box of what kind of event you can offer (maybe several authors together at an event) Be aware events are booked up far in advance.
- Last but not least – make sure your book is professionally edited, and has a designed cover. Needs to look professional.
What do you get out of it? Besides the obvious, your book in their store?
The Independent Bookstore is your ally. They are on the front lines for promoting your book. They provide shelf space, recommendations, events, newsletter blurbs, and a customer base for your books. They are happy to help, they love books themselves. They want to see you succeed.
What makes a successful event?
- Think outside the box for an event: have other authors join you, use visuals, etc.
- Invite people, but don’t expect a lot at the start, ten to twenty people is a great expectation, but you could end up with only three including two family members.
- Make connections with the customers, even if there are only three. You never know who is in the audience, and they could be an influential who will promote your book to others either via social media or otherwise. Treat them with respect.
- Prepare for a good presentation. It should be a mix of reading excerpts with talking about yourself and process, engaging the audience with more insight. Make sure to leave plenty of room for Q&A – this is the most interesting part of a reading anyway. An opportunity for the audience to engage directly with the author.
- Don’t give away your books for free to friends and family. Those are the people who should be purchasing from the bookstore to help support you and the store
- Don’t forget to sell your book. Say a blurb about it, encourage folks to purchase it at the event
- Thank the bookstore and staff for hosting your event