November 24 is Small Business Saturday. In honor of the event, we talked with our favorite small businesses…independent bookstores. Of course, publishers, publicity agents, reviews, Goodreads, and Amazon all play an important role in promoting debut authors and driving sales. But independent bookstores are often overlooked.
Indie booksellers have helped launch many new talents. They can be a new author’s best friend…or not. But how can you get the most out of your local bookseller? Read on for insider tips from indie owners and experts. After you’ve read their advice, make sure you visit your local bookshop tomorrow and make a purchase!
Kathy Detwiler, Owner
Advice for debut authors…
Think, not what we can do for you, but how we can work together. This helps create clear expectations so we can have the best possible event or strategy for promoting your book. Being rooted in the community is our motto, and keeping authors part of this integration is so important.
Indie insider tips…
- Introduce yourself to your local indie, even if you’re just working on a draft. We love networking authors to other authors.
- Plan well in advance for a launch at your local indie. Give ample notice of publication dates. Create a master contact list for blasting emails and social media to promote book launch and signings. Provide a press kit for us—photo of the author, reviews, and book blurbs (short!).
- Create a well-designed website and please link the option to buy at your local bookstore.
- Follow your local indie on social media, share, tag, and repost! Take photos, support our other author events.
- Do pop-by visits, sign books, and do an impromptu photo.
- Give us copies of the book, so staff can read it, recommend it, and promote it before it launches.
What not to do…
Don’t mention how well your book is selling on Amazon. And don’t jump ship for the larger box store if your local has supported you in the beginning! Show loyalty!
All in all, we often feel like a midwife to an author, especially a new one. We like to be involved in the planning process. We know how much work and effort it takes to get a book published and we want to help celebrate and make the book sales a success!
Concord, New Hampshire
Michael Herrmann, Owner
The best way to build a relationship with your local store is…
Be a customer! Learn which booksellers at your local indie share your taste, and get to know them. Attend book events that look interesting to you—watch how they work.
What the indie bookseller can do for you…
We can help with pointers about what works and what doesn’t work in a bookstore environment—what indie buyers nationwide will want to know, and what kind of marketing sets their teeth on edge.
What to do…
Be a part of our community! Our community encompasses traditional publishers, publicists, agents, shop-local activists, book reviewers, small business groups, non-profits with related missions, and everyone else who values independence and community and literature and local culture.
What not to do…
Don’t use Amazon as an element of your marketing to us, whether they’re your publisher, or you want to talk about your Amazon sales ranking, or you want to push for customer reviews there. We understand Amazon is important to your success, but it is irrelevant (or actually hostile) to ours, so leave it out of your conversation with independent bookstores altogether.
Trident Books and Café
Courtney Flynn, Manager
The best way to work with your local shop…
The best relationships with new authors come out of a mutual respect and understanding. We love supporting our local authors, whether they’re independently or traditionally published, but we often need to make sure our relationship with them is two sided.
Indie insider tips…
- When approached by new authors, we always make sure they’re local and willing to direct their community to shop for their books in our store. If authors are from out of town, it’s harder for them to tap into the local community. We are a local bookstore, after all!
- Don’t expect a lot of shelf space. We have a consignment program in place for self-published books, but we’re fairly selective about what we bring in. Though it may seem like we have endless amounts of space, we really have to be careful about what we bring in, so it doesn’t sit on the shelf unsold.
- Invite everyone to your event. We host lots of readings with new authors, and we always tell them that there is no shame in inviting your friends and family to your event. Those are the people who will happily spread the word about your new book and want to celebrate you!
Chris Jarmick, Author and Owner
What to do to get the most out of your indie…
- If you’re an author with a new book, you should already have a very good relationship with a couple of the independent bookstores within 20 miles of where you live and/or work.
- Get someone in the bookstore to read at least a few chapters of your book. Bookstore people LOVE discovering lesser known books they can recommend to their customers. However, be aware that they probably already have 25 or more books they absolutely must read this week (and will be lucky to read one or two).
- Show that you’re doing some marketing and advertising for your own book (in the newspaper, in magazines, on the internet and social media) and are including the name of the local bookstore and a link to its website. The bookstore person will think you are professional and are not wasting his or her time.
What not to do…
Do not ask the bookseller to buy your book from a distributor or from you if you cannot guarantee they will sell the books they buy within 45 days. Most small-to-medium independent bookstores have cash-flow issues at least six to nine months per year. This means they make little or no profit and have to be very, very careful with every dollar they spend. Most bookstores make 60 to 70% of their gross sales between October 15 and December 24. There are too many books the bookseller needs to have in the store that customers might be looking for. It’s not realistic to expect the bookseller to ‘stock’ your book. You can certainly try, but keep your expectations very, very low.
Most independent bookstore owners love books and authors more than they do money. We are on your side and want you to be successful as an author. Make it easy for us to help you and everybody wins!