Tips and strategies on how to get your books into local bookstores.
Promoting Yourself to Local Booksellers
T. L. Gray
What can you do to promote your book—and yourself--with local booksellers? Plenty.
1. Enthusiasm—if you aren’t enthusiastic about your book, no one else is going to be, either.
2. Don’t assume that because your book is self-published, e-book, POD, or unavailable through big distributors like Ingrams or Baker and Taylor that bookseller won’t be interested. You won’t know until you present them with a proposal they can’t turn down.
3. Promotion is a 24/7 job. If you don’t promote yourself, who’s going to?
Begin with making a list of the local booksellers you want to approach. Get names and addresses.
Next, make a marketing plan that you can present to these booksellers. This should include a Sell Sheet, a press release, a newsletter, bookmarks, author proofs, sample chapters, anything that helps sell the book.
The Sell Sheet: This is the sheet with pertinent information about your book, where to get it, how to get it, etc. It is intended for consumers, booksellers, retailers, etc. It should include: Picture of the book cover, Title, author, genre, format (e-book, POD, print, etc.) Price, publisher, date of release, distributor, number of book pages, size of book, and contact information for you, (if you’re not comfortable giving out your phone number and address, simply list your email addy or webpage.) or your representative. List also the outlets where your book is available, like online outlets, independent bookstores, publisher/author websites. Include a blurb or back cover copy to describe the book. Author info—a little about yourself, your qualifications for writing this book. Your marketing strategy—what you plan to do locally, nationally, on the internet, any articles or interviews you have done or intend to do. Lastly, include review quotes or reader quotes.
The Press Release: This sheet is intended for the media—newspaper, radio, tv, magazines, etc. This should include your contact information. The date of the press release. A catchy headliner such as NEW RELEASE BY LOCAL AUTHOR. Title of the book. A little about you and your qualifications. A blurb or back copy describing the book. Your marketing strategy. Reader/review quotes. Make is short, snappy, and use language that is attention grabbing. Play up the local connection (you), and any other commercial connection you can. Can your book be tied into certain local events, current events, talk-show formats, etc? Mail, email, or fax these sheets to all the local media you can. Online and off. Post on reader boards, bulletin boards, listserves, author boards, writer newsletters.
Your Newsletter. Should include information about yourself, your qualifications, playing up the fact you are a local author. A blurb describing the book. Perhaps a sample chapter or page from the book. Reader/review quotes. Where and how to acquire the book. Your webpage address/email. Give these out to neighbors, friends, family, businesses you deal with on a regular basis, libraries, dr./dentist/chiropractic offices, the barber shop, your mom’s bunco club, church gatherings. Basically, distribute them to anyone and anywhere you can, online and off. This creates a buzz and there’s nothing better than word of mouth to create a stir. Include a picture of the book cover and maybe even your picture.
Ok, now you have your Sell Sheet, your Press Release, and your Newsletter ready to go. Call or visit the booksellers and pitch your ideas. Ask to speak to the Customer Relations Manager (CMR) or the manager, whoever is in charge of ordering books for placement in the store. Some stores are owned by bigger conglomerates that are based in another city, but the manager should have a number to the person who handles ordering for their region. Whether or not you intend to approach a bookseller about ordering books, mail or fax your press release, sell sheet, and newsletter to any bookseller you can. You never know, they may decide to order a few books or contact you for a signing.
MAKE THEM AN OFFER THEY CAN’T REFUSE
If you’re book isn’t available through a distributor they deal with, or it’s a POD (which basically means they can’t return it if it doesn’t sell) offer them a guarantee that you will buy back the books they don’t sell. Now don’t get crazy here, folks. Make up a written agreement that states the number of books they will agree to order and that you will buy back unsold books after a certain period of time, at their cost. Require a copy of the paid distributors invoice—presented within a certain period of time—for the reimbursement. You don’t want them coming back 2 years later and expecting you to buy back books. Limit the number of books you will agree to buy back—say five or ten—this keeps the bookseller from going overboard in ordering. Include a clause that says you are not responsible for books that have been damaged, defaced, stripped or otherwise tampered with by customers or employees. The contract between the bookseller/author can be automatically renewed with each batch of (your number) books ordered, with the stipulation that previous books have been sold.
Also include a clause that states the bookseller may order more than the agreed upon amount of books, but that you (the author) are not responsible for buying back more than a total of (your number) of unsold books at any time. This is a no-risk off for the bookseller. But be realistic when choosing which booksellers to target and how many books are to be ordered. They can always order more, but you don’t want to be stuck buying back 10 books at a time from 5-10 booksellers. This could run into big money.
It’s important to understand this is a legal agreement between you and the bookseller. Get the booksellers name, address of the store, the CMR or manager’s signature. List yourself as the author, the title of the book, ISBN number, genre, and make sure the agreement is dated.
If the bookstore still doesn’t want to order the book, they may be willing to set out a copy of the book for order. Offer to print up bookmarks with the store name and address for free giveaway with sale of any book. This is good promotion for you and them. Customers get acquainted with your book cover, name, and will probably go back to the bookstore to order/buy it.
Offer to give talks on writer night, or at reader groups. Here, you can pass out bookmarks, a sample chapter, do a giveaway for a free copy of the book. And perhaps a signing afterward.
A note on Booksignings
Most booksellers are reluctant to do signings between the months of October and December because these are busy selling months for them. If you can set up a signing with them, great, but be prepared to provide your own books for the signing, or agree to buy back the unsold stock. Be sure to agree on the number of books to be ordered for the signing ahead of time. Check with your publisher, they may be able to provide you with books, or work out an agreement with the bookseller.