Monday, July 27, 2009

Calling on Bookstores

Reading Girl--Gustav Hennig The best ways to get your book on a bookstore’s shelves are personal visits to the store, phone calls, and emails.

In 2005, there were 172,000 books published in the United States (I couldn’t find more recent data.) Even with mid-size to large publishers, unless you have a bestseller, your book won’t make its way to all the stores.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a natural promoter. When my husband and I were in the mountains a week ago, we walked into an independent bookstore. I was busily burying myself in the shelves when my husband said, “Hey, E, aren’t you going to tell them about your book?” I glared at him. “No! Shh!”

The next thing I knew, he was at the front desk, politely asking for the manager, telling him all about my book, and prompting me to hand them my card.

That’s why he makes the money for the family.

So here, for my fellow reluctant promoters, are my tips for a job you really must do:

If you’re going in person, bring your business cards. Either write the ISBN # of your book on your card, or have it printed there. If you think you might chicken out of a face-to-face encounter (like me), then bring along a spouse or friend.

On the phone: Large chains have community relations managers (CRMs). Ask for them when you call or else your spiel will be wasted on someone who has a line at the cash register and wants you to call back later.

Small stores get busy and don’t have large staffs. Be sure to ask if it’s a good time for you to talk to them about your book.

Have a script: After getting the CRM on the phone and making sure it’s a good time for them to talk, I usually say something like this:

My name. That I have an upcoming release on ______date for my _____ genre book. Could they order a couple of copies for their shelves? I mention my publisher’s name. I give them the ISBN. While they look up the ISBN on the computer (to see if it’s in their warehouse), I briefly share my good reviews. I have quick summary ready if they ask what the book is about. Sometimes they ask if I’m interested in a signing, so I have my day planner near.

Tip: Barnes and Noble wanted all of the information emailed to their CRM. This was very easy for me. Maybe it was easy for them to delete, too? If I don’t hear back from them via email I’ll have to do a follow-up call.

Tip: Independent bookstores sometimes ask the price of the book, its format (trade paperback, hardback, etc.) and whether it’s possible to get signed copies. Be ready to answer those questions. Link to IndyBound on your website instead of Amazon. Be a friend to independent booksellers.

Tip: Use the American Booksellers Association to aid you in your search. Put in your genre for a listing of bookstores that sell it. Not all stores are members of the ABA, but you get a substantial listing. Don’t spam them…use the site as a tool for focused promotion.