Penny C. Sansevieri
Let's face it, regardless of the odds we authors still want to get into bookstores. But if you've been having a hard time with this, take heart. It's getting harder and harder to get into stores but not impossible. We're going to look at some of the possibilities here.
First, it's important to understand the pressure stores are under right now. With the increased focus on publishers to get their authors out there, bookstores are being given most of their marching orders by their corporate office. Bookstore shelf space is bought and paid for by the New York publishers, making getting on the shelves or display racks a bit tricky, if not impossible. So here's a game plan for those of you trying to survive outside of the traditional market.
1) Get to know your local store. I know this might sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how many authors don't really know the people in their local store. The thing is, if you know them, they know you - and when you're ready to promote your book they might be more open to having you in their store if you have taken the time to get to know them.
2) Start to follow the types of events they do at the store. Get an events calendar or get on their email list. You'll start to see trends emerge. For example, they might have an independent author night you could participate in. Also be cautious for big releases like the recent Stephenie Meyer events many stores had planned. If you are trying to capture the attention of a store when they're in the middle of a major book launch, you're likely to get ignored.
3) Buy a book. Don't just wander the store trying to make friends: shop there. Support your local stores regardless of whether they are a chain or independent. You'd be surprised what a difference this makes when you're trying to get to know the folks who could book you for an event.
4) Book signings are boring, offer to do an event instead. Events are a draw, book signings aren't unless you're a celebrity. Plan to do a talk, educate, entertain, or enlighten. This will be a more attractive pitch to the bookstore and will draw more people to your talk.
5) Get to know the local authors in your area and then offer to plan events for them. Here's how this works: Bookstores are inundated with local authors asking for a time slot, but what if you went to the bookstore manager and said that you'd be willing to coordinate a once a month event featuring all the local authors. The bookstore could just refer all local Independently published authors to you, you could coordinate this, and guess what? Not only are you helping the store but guess who's getting a monthly showcase in their store? You. You can do this with more than one store if you have the time, but keep in mind that with cut backs often one store manager will oversee a few locations so you might only have to go through one person.
6) If they won't let you coordinate a monthly event, suggest that they have an Independent author night if they haven't already started this. If they have an Independent author night you should definitely participate, it's a great way to gain exposure, not to mention network with some local people.
7) Try as best you can to funnel everyone to one store to purchase your book. If you're having a tough time getting shelf space (and aren't we all), funneling folks to one store might prompt that store to keep a few copies of your book on hand. Whenever you do local speaking or media, let them know by name and address where they can get your book. Stores have been known to take in books that they're getting lots of requests for, regardless of how they are published, so if you're sending people to one store instead of fragmenting them to a bunch of different ones you could start building an ongoing interest in reorders.
Getting into bookstores isn't impossible, but it does require a dash of creativity. Keep in mind that if bookstores aren't receptive after you've tried the tips in this article then maybe you're sitting in a tight market. Areas like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago might be tough areas to get noticed because these are often the first stops traditional publishers seek when planning author tours.
If you're near those areas, try looking outside of the city for alternatives that are often overlooked by New York. If that doesn't work for you then consider non-bookstore events. Over the years we've planned events for our authors in all sorts of non-bookstore venues such as: video stores, electronics stores, gyms, even grocery stores - so if events are your focus, keep an open mind and remember: often the biggest piece of getting an event in bookstores are the relationships you build with them.
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a book marketing and media relations expert whose company has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Visit AME