Being An Author Book Stores Will Enjoy Working With, by Lia Weston
Booksellers love authors. Booksellers particularly love local authors, because it’s an excellent selling point and a great way to introduce new writers to their customers.
However, your relationship with your local bookshop (or bookshops, if you’re lucky) is one to be treated carefully and with respect. Normally I wouldn’t think that this would be something that needs to be pointed out. A few conversations with a friend who works in the industry (henceforth known as Bookseller Friend), however, revealed that not everyone thinks this way. Often it’s just a question of simple ignorance, rather than people trying to be a pain in the butt. Nevertheless, it’s an illuminating area, so here goes.
Get your timing right
When The Fortunes of Ruby White was due to come out, I had no idea what to do. I was encouraged to visit local bookshops and introduce myself, which I duly did. In hindsight, two things would have made this process better:
1) having something to hand out (always awkward when said book is not actually in print yet – for those in the same situation, consider getting promotional bookmarks made up); and
2) making a time to meet with the appropriate person, as I seemed to have a knack for turning up just when people had gone to lunch/the dentist/on holidays.
Bookseller Friend confirms that an appointment is paramount. (Oh, hello, hindsight!) Making an appointment is especially important if you’re self-published and are hoping that the bookshop will stock your work. (Yes, some bookshops are happy to take self-published work on consignment.) If this is you, it’s also important to be prepared when you see the buyer. How much do you want to sell your book for? How much will cover your costs but also allow the store to make money? (They’ve got rent and bills to pay, just like everyone else.)
Be clear on what you expect from the shop.
Don’t expect to be displayed in the New Release wall bays: these are prime real estate and tend to be reserved for established names and authors with a publisher’s weight behind them.
An important note here from Bookshop Friend’s co-worker (who is also a self-published novelist): be grateful! A bookshop is under no obligation (and sometimes no gain) to stock self-published works. Whether it sells or not is not solely their responsibility; you still need to be prepared to do your own advertising and marketing. Which neatly brings me to…
Booksellers love an event
Want to hold a shindig to promote your latest novel? Awesome! Events not only give you more exposure, they also bring your bookshop potential new customers. Enthusiastic and organised authors are even better, especially ones with book-loving friends who like a drink. (I always buy more stuff when I’ve had a nip or two. Why aren’t there more bookshop-slash-bars? Actually, that’s probably a good thing. I’m fairly sure I’d bankrupt us within a month. Not to mention the whole waking-up-next-to-a-pile-of-books-I-don’t-remember-buying thing. Think of the hangovers.)
Again, you’ll need to be clear on what you want. Do you want a signing when the shop is open? Would you prefer an after-hours shindig? Who will be responsible for the invites? Are you just wanting to invite your friends, or wanting the bookshop to target their customers? Are you willing to come to the table, so to speak, and contribute financially? As Bookseller Friend so aptly puts it, “Expecting a store to supply food and wine for a bunch of your friends who may or may not purchase the book is a big expectation.” If you have a publisher, can they help you out? Perhaps they can arrange to have posters printed, or covers, or include information about the event in their press releases or social media.
In addition, please make sure that your local bookshop has approved your event before you start inviting people. (True story: my Bookseller Friend received an email advertising a book function in her shop… that she had not actually agreed to.) Confirm everything with the event coordinator, even if you feel like a dill asking so many questions. A questioning, motivated author is much more of a help to a bookshop than someone sitting on their hands and expecting the bookshop to do everything.
Finally, please do not re-arrange the shelves
Print this bit and show it to your well-meaning family and friends as well. Although it’s very tempting to pull your book out and display it in a more advantageous way (especially if you’re like me and your surname starts with a letter so late in the alphabet that you usually end up in a bottom row or hidden behind a column), this is one of the fastest ways to tick off staff. They will remember you – and not in a good way.
So there you go: Lia’s Guide To Being An Author That Your Bookshop Will Always Be Happy To See Instead Of Hiding In The Stacks And Hoping You Go Away.
Many thanks to the lovely Louise from Dymocks Adelaide (who sell self-published material on consignment and love polite helpful authors) for her invaluable tips. Support your local bookshop, people.
Lia Weston’s author website: www.liaweston.com
Writing Novels in Australia