Thursday, July 30, 2009
Visit Your Friendly Bookstores
For all Oak Tree authors and other writers trying to market your independent press book, I want to reinforce Wendy’s post about her local Barnes and Noble. I, too, have been told by staff at B&N’s in several cities that they won’t stock my book because it’s not returnable. I didn’t have the advantage of having a child with me (can we rent out your son for our bookstore visits, Wendy?), but I managed to straighten things out by doing what Wendy did – going with the staff person or manager to their computer and having them look it up. It’s not just B&N; I’ve had similar situations with the other chains, and let’s not even get in to no-thanks-a-million; I’ll take my business elsewhere. Personal contact is the key. I’ve tried the same explanation over the phone and by email with little success. I’ve even emailed a screen-shot of my page from Ingram where it shows the books on hand and states clearly that they are fully returnable, only to have the person on the other end of the line say her computer doesn’t show that! So one of the best things you can do is visit bookstores in person because you get a double bang for your buck. First, many will stock your book after a visit when they wouldn’t do so if you contacted them by post, phone, or email. Second, they’ll remember you, dramatically increasing the chances that when someone asks for a recommendation for a psychic romance or whatever you write, they’ll put your book in the customer’s hand. When I was arranging my signing tour of New Mexico, I tried to contact every bookstore in the state in advance. Tome on the Range, a well regarded indie in Las Vegas (yes, there’s a Las Vegas in New Mexico), never responded to my emails. When I called they were courteous, but the person who could decide what to stock wasn’t in or was busy. They agreed to give the manager my message, but my calls never got returned. A couple of months later, I walked into the store, introduced myself to the manager, and walked out with a check and ten copies of my book on display near the cash register. On the way home to Georgia, we passed through a small town in far west Texas called Alpine. The owner bought five copies. The chances of my placing my book at Front Street Books in Alpine without going there were nil. In the first place, I didn’t know they existed, but I also doubt they would have made a blind decision over the phone. I’m not saying you should drive a thousand miles to sell five books. But keep some in your trunk when you travel. And visit all the bookstores within whatever you consider a reasonable radius. Signings are great, and some people will buy your book from Amazon, but the surest way to get steady sales is to have your book on the shelves of as many bookstores as possible. My plan is to sell a thousand books in the next twelve months. How? Get my book into fifty bookstores and have them average 2 sales a month. Do the math.