A lot of people are shocked to find that books don’t just magically appear on shelves! I am not even being facetious. There is a lot of legwork in-between and the process can seem daunting. Good news though, one of my gigs is working for Barnes & Noble and I want to give you a few tips on getting those books on shelves.
I talk to people in the store relatively frequently that don’t understand how much marketing goes into publishing a book for an author. I think there is a misconception about the process being automatic until you have actually written a book for yourself. You all know how much heart and soul goes into your work so do it a service and continue pouring out your heart after the manuscript is complete.
What do I mean?
You now have to schedule signings, plan a book launch, utilize all of the connections you have available to you. Start with the easy spots. Think about family and friends who may have connections to bookstores, coffee shops, or markets where books are sold. This is usually a pretty quick list. Once you have finished step one and contacted those connections it is time to move on to higher level inquiry.
The best way to start is to decide on an area to concentrate on. Live in the Denver Metro area? Make a list of all bookstores within a certain mile radius. Begin researching and make notes about the best contact emails, any requirements they may have, and a good phone. This can all be found on a website for the bookstore or with a quick call. Through Barnes & Noble there is a nifty feature that allows you to search for stores near you at the top of the screen! Assemble an email stating that you are a local author and would love the opportunity to have your book in their store. Local author is key! A lot of stores will feature local authors in special displays. Not local? Have no fear. A politely worded request will often get you in the door.
“But they only ordered two!”
Bookstores know their volume. They know what is going to sell. And often they order small quantities of unknown books to protect both the store and the author. Keeping returns low benefits both the store and the author. If your book sells out, they will order more!
So, you have your book on shelves. Great work! Ask if the store also does book signings or events. Book signings can be an invaluable marketing opportunity and a great place to connect with current fans. It also shows the bookstore that you are serious about being on their shelves and selling your book. Often, stores will have event coordinators that schedule book signings. Contact these people, explain that you are a local author with a new book, and ask about setting up a signing. The answer will likely be yes. If it isn’t, don’t give up, just move on to the next store on the list.
Once signing day comes, be prepared, attentive, and talk to everyone that you can. Don’t walk around the store and ask people to come to your table, rather try to catch them when they walk in if your table is by the front door. If it is not, be sure you are speaking to every single person that walks by. Many will say no thank you, some will not acknowledge you, but the rest will stop and chat. Those are the valuable contacts. Tell them your story, be engaging, and be concise. Make them believe in you. Whatever you do, DO NOT sit behind the table twiddling the thumbs, being quiet, or READING A DIFFERENT BOOK. I see this ALL the time.
Now let me tell you a story.
LS Hawker, who has spoken on webinars hosted by my publishing company, about setting up a book launch was someone I had barely heard of. I attended her book launch as one of my first activities with Illumify Media Global. Her books are not one of the genres I read. They are not even something I would pick up on the shelf, even though they have magnificent covers. BUT, when she talked about her book you could see, hear, and feel her excitement. It was intoxicating. She believed in her book and so did I. Not only did I walk away with one book I wouldn’t normally be interested in, but I walked away with both of her books and found two new books to love.
If there are two things I leave you with through this blog I want them to be:
1. Be persistent and active. Don’t give up or become discouraged as soon as you get a few no’s. Everyone gets no’s.
2. Be shameless. You need to be able to utilize every connection you have and you need to be convincing and kind. Sitting behind a table and not greeting or not hitting send on that inquiry email won’t sell any books at all.
No go forth and sell all of the books!
Drop your best tips for all of the authors out there below!