I wrote a book – can I sell it in your store?

In my regular life, I work part time at a small independent bookstore (Aaron’s Books). Almost every week, we have people come in who want us to carry their book, or hold a booksigning for them. In most cases, these are self-pubbed writers (authors who pay to have their book published). Sometimes, they are from small publishers, micro-presses who don’t have promotional staffs or publicity departments. After listening to these people, the owners came up with wonderful tips. These were specifically written for self-pubs, but they apply to all authors who are having signings. You might want to take a look and remember them the next time you want to have one:
1) DO NOT do a cold call the week after your book comes out. DO visit the bookstore before, after, and during the writing and printing of the book. Bookstores are much more likely to want to carry the book written by the person that has been in the store than by the person that calls them with “I live five minutes away and have never been in your store.”
2) DO NOT be rude. DO treat the person you talk to as you would want to be treated. The people working in a bookstore are professionals who are passionate about books. But they are also overworked and under paid. Coming in with an attitude that your book is the best and we’re stupid for not wanting to carry 30 copies immediately will not make us want to make an effort to add your book to our huge pile of books waiting to be reviewed.
3) In your email to us DO NOT mention that it’s currently available on the (insert name of online or megachain stores), we know that EVERY book is available at them… that is NOT a selling point to us. DO tell us how to acquire your book. Is it listed with the major book distributors? Do we get it from the “publisher”? Do we get it from you directly? What is the wholesale price? (It is best to have a set wholesale price so we don’t have to haggle with you about pricing. Industry standards are 40-50% off list price)
4) So now that we do have a few copies of your book in stock, DO NOT disappear. You want to sell books, we want to sell books. It’s a lot easier for us to sell the book if you let people know they can get it at our store. Link to us in your emails, website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Tell Aunt Martha and Cousin Sue. Are you doing a reading/signing with us? Then please don’t leave all the publicity work to us…. make sure we have cover images, author images, a full bio, blurb of the book, any reviews you have already received, etc. Are you doing a press release for the event? Then let us see it first. We have experience with the local book section editor, the local TV station, etc. We can help make sure your event listing appears… but DO NOT expect us to do ALL your publicity, and please DO NOT only link to the mega-chains on your online places…. like I said we want to sell your books as much as you do… and we can’t if you’re telling people to go somewhere else to get it.
5) DO NOT invite yourself to do a book signing. DO NOT email (the first one we get from you) and say “I see you are having a Dog Day, my book is about dogs, and can I come?” DO let us know that you are interested in an event at the store. DO let us know when you are available. DO understand that many of our events are set up 3-6 months in advance. DO trust that we know what events work at our location.

6) DO NOT assume that having your book at a chain store is the same as having it at an Indie. DO understand the value that an Indie has for your town. You are local right? Your kids went to school here? You’ve used the local parks, police, and ambulance? Guess who pays for that- NOT MegaSameEveryWhere Chain. WE do, the Indies. So having your book in an Indie store is not just about selling more copies and having more places to list that sell it, it is about supporting your community that will in turn support you.

I want to take a minute to highlight again what I think the most important thing to do is- BE NICE.
We are professionals. We know what will sell in our store. We know the subjects are customers are interested in. We know the price points they are willing to pay. If we choose not to carry your book, it is not personal; and understand we will not make the decision to carry your book on the spot. We rarely do that with the major publishing houses that send us hundreds of advance reading copies, so we won’t do it with you either. Be willing to leave us a copy of your book, with the understanding that we have over 10,000 books already in the store, we cannot guarantee that we can be able to return it to you. Think of leaving that copy as an investment in future sales.

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