So, you have written a book and gotten it published. Congratulations! Now it’s time to get that book into the hands of readers. For a first-time published author, that’s no easy task. But a good first step is reaching out to an author’s natural ally, the independent bookseller.
Here are our top five tips for jumpstarting your book sales by establishing a successful working relationship with an indie bookshop.
The Right Approach
There is a right way and a wrong way to approach an independent bookstore, and it all starts with a little research. Before you ask for an appointment to talk with their book buyer, find out if the store’s audience is a natural fit for your book. Check out the store’s website, and see what sort of books they promote. Visit the store to gauge what kinds of customers show up and when. If there’s a particular crowd that would be interested in your book, look at the displays to see if titles similar to yours are on display.
During your book buyer meeting, keep your pitch brief and targeted to the bookshop’s specific interests. And don’t be shy about talking about what outreach you’re doing. A bookseller will want to hear that they aren’t the only one promoting your book.
Finally, self-published books are a tough sell, but publish with IngramSpark, print with good design and high production values, and be prepared to sell your books on consignment rather than on an up-front purchase agreement.
Targeted Marketing is Key
Once you have done your research and determined the right booksellers to approach and the appropriate contact person, make sure your marketing materials are making a good first impression. The Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association has keen advice:
- Your bookmarks, flyers, postcards and website should be worded “available wherever books are sold” instead of “available on Amazon.com.”
- Include the essential information on your sell sheet: ISBN, price, publication date, availability through Ingram or other distributor, etc.
- Amazon should not be the only purchase option on your website. Choose an independent bookseller or two as your store of choice, and become an affiliate of those stores.
- Cite your sales figures or rankings, but leave out the references to Amazon and competing big box stores.
- In your targeted mailings, sending a copy of your book is not the only option. Send a flyer or brochure that introduces the book and features reviews and comments. If you use email, design your email campaigns to appeal to stores in such a way they will want to open and read what you have to say. Then, follow up.
A Local Connection
You may have considered approaching the independent bookshops local to where you live. Another consideration is the bookstores and libraries local to your book’s setting. Readers are thrilled to see their residence in print. Authors writing about a place’s history or food, or even fiction where the setting is integral to the story, have a built in audience for their work. Capitalize on that hometown pride.
Independent bookstores are members of the various regional book trade associations, and you should be, too. The benefits you receive in return for your membership fees will more than pay for themselves and establish you as a committed member of the community.
For the American Booksellers Association, consider becoming an Auxiliary Member, an individual who supports independent bookselling. The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has a membership level just for authors. It offers extensive marketing and education programs, newsletters, and websites featuring regional literary news and updates.
These associations also present incredible networking opportunities to connect with like-minded parties, expand your reach, and grow your audience. Bookseller education events like spring meetings and regional shows give you an opportunity to meet face-to-face with all of the professionals positioned to get your book in the customer’s hands.