As I stated in my first post in this series, getting to know your local independent bookseller is very important in your efforts as an author. It is imperative that you establish real human connections in trying to promote you, your work, your writing as a whole…and lastly, your book. Why go through all the trouble of writing a book, trying to get it published, then publishing it in one way or another…and then just sit there hoping that it sells? Hope is a nice thing to hold on to…especially during the trials of life…but as a bookselling tactic? Well, like I’ve told my daughters…hoping for things (or wishing for things) ultimately is a waste of your time. For most of us, if we want something to happen, we need to DO something about it.
So what can you do? Like me, you might be introverted and prefer your solitude. You might not feel really comfortable walking up to strangers and talking to them. I’m okay if I’m with an extroverted person. But alone? It is very difficult for me to just walk up to someone and start talking. Well, I – and you – need to get over it.
Get to know your bookseller. Go to their events. Know the owners. Introduce yourself. Buy books from their store. Do some research on the store – its history, its customers. Know what kinds of sections they have inside and where your book would fit in. My book could fit in a few subgenres. Look to see if they have a section for local authors. Some booksellers have consignment programs for self published authors – take advantage of those opportunities.
On your website or blog, when listing places people can buy your book, list your bookseller first. “Available at xxxxx Bookseller.” Give their store a shout out on social media. Direct local readers to their store. If your bookseller is carrying your book, the chances are the owner or employees liked it. They want you to be successful because then they will also be successful.
If you have an event at your local bookseller, three things that work are food, music and alcohol. Events are expensive for booksellers, so you have to do all you can to make it a successful event for them (and therefore for you). Big publishers give independent booksellers funds to put on an event for their authors. Small publishers and self publishers do not have that luxury. If you are going to bother to have an event, do it well and do it right. Control what you can control. Put together your own press kit and have it available through your website. Ask the bookstore for their media contacts and find out if they handle the media or if they want you to do it. Along with your book, provide copy from your book, images, your website, a book trailer….all prepackaged for advertising. Make everything as easy for your bookstore as you can.
Other ways to get your book in front of readers is through local book clubs, churches, community centers, town events, and libraries. Use your local newspaper or news outlets. Make your message loud and clear “I am local” “Support your local authors” “Support your local bookstores”
If you can afford a publicist, then make use of those services. A publicist can help you maneuver through the marketing quagmire, and oftentimes booksellers prefer to work with a publicist rather than an author.
I wrote a book. That in and of itself puts me and my writing out there into the fray of life and in front of the eyes and hearts of readers. That puts me and my work into a long line of judgment. Some people will like my book and others will not. Erica Jong said something along the lines of once you finish something, you can be judged. Being judged comes in lots of ways as an author…good and bad and mediocre reviews about your book, if you do an interview and people don’t like your voice, if you participate in a Q&A session and people don’t like your answers, if people don’t like your characters – characters who have, in many cases, become YOUR friends; if people think your writing sucks, if people start making assumptions about you based upon your book’s fictional narrative, if people think you’re fat in your outfit at a book event… There are lots of ways in which you will be judged. Of course, some people will like your writing and your voice and your answers and your characters and your outfit. Your book might help someone or move someone or motivate someone to better their lives or seek help for a problem. Like in real life, none of us know the real impact we make on others. No author ever knows the real impact their work has made on others.
You finished something that matters and you put it out there. You put your heart and soul and tears and hours of doubt and elation and frustration and pain and joy and pride into your work. Lots of people never have the courage to do that, so pat yourself on the back and don’t let hoping for things get in the way of doing things. Get to know your booksellers!