Authors: Where You Link Is Important

Josie Leavitt -- January 23rd, 2014

Indies_First_328x233I have a friend whose first middle-grade novel is coming out. I’m thrilled for him and cannot wait to sell the book when it comes later this year. He recently sent out an email blast announcing the book’s release and included only a link to Amazon. I responded to the email and mentioned linking to IndieBound and he immediately did. But this brings up what I struggle with as an independent bookstore owner: why is Amazon often thought of first? and why do I have to have this “indies first” conversation with so many authors?

That people think of Amazon as the place to go for books is galling, but also a concrete reality in 2014. I totally understand that because of their near total domination of the online book world authors  would think they’re the best place to link to. Here’s the thing: Amazon will list your book, they’ll have all the reviews (legit and not so legit) and some other book suggestion. It’s fast and the site is beautifully run. They will sell your book, ship it to all your friends and family, and the book might just delivered on a Sunday, but that’s it. And we all know, that most books, not written by household names, need more help than that to sell.

I know I talk about this a lot, but every time the chance for education presents itself, I’ll take it: booksellers can do more to sell your book than Amazon. There, I’ve said it. And you know what, it’s true. Here’s the thing, if indies like your book we will talk about it. A lot. When Because of Winn-Dixie came out, no one had heard of Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick did a great chapter teaser mailing and indies fell in love with Winn-Dixie and we couldn’t wait to put in the hands of kids, parents, grandparent, and librarians, etc. Booksellers like to talk about books. Conversation sells books. One person’s excitement about a book is usually more than enough to have someone buy it.

Indies launched Harry Potter as well. Of course no one remembers that, but we did. We read the galley of the first book and put it in the hands of readers. We held release parties for each subsequent book. Readers didn’t have to wait for the mail to get delivered, they showed up at midnight and mingled with other avid fans in line. Kids and their parents talked about the books while they waited for the magic hour that heralded the actual release.

Independent bookstores love having events for authors we love. There is nothing more fun than having an event that introduces one of our favorite writers/illustrators to our customers. Again, it’s the real, honest human connection that makes the difference. So, it does matter where you link your books, because your links are the ways for your friends, fans, etc., to get your books, and that sends a message. If you only link to Amazon you’re sending a message that you’re not interested in bookstore support. And believe me, bookstores notice this. When bookstore owners are offered authors/illustrators for visits, we go to their websites to see who they link to. If there isn’t an Indie Bound link or a local bookstore link, stores sometimes say no to events.

Here’s the takeaway: link to the places that actually help sell your books. In the kids’ world, more often than not, it’s going to be the indies. I’m not saying don’t link to Amazon, although that would make my day, but link to your local independent store and to Indie Bound. (On a side note, this always brings up the frustration of why didn’t the ABA rebrand IndieBound with a name that would alphabetically come before Amazon and Barnes and Noble.)

By linking to indies, you’re acknowledging that we figure in the sales chain. By not doing that, you’re going to raise the ire of every independent bookstore that happens to look at your site, and an angry bookseller doesn’t sell your books. Put these links on your email signatures and your website and make booksellers across the land happy.

18 thoughts on “Authors: Where You Link Is Important

  1. Charlie

    As the owner of a small independent bookstore I love having local authors books available. Each one carried gets a mention on our website page dedicated to local authors. Each one gets a photo and a shout out on our Facebook page announcing that it is available in the store. We host signings, also promoted as best as possible, for any author willing to do them (some are not). We carry most of these books on consignment but never charge a “carrying” fee. Each book is prominently displayed with signage indicating that it is a local author.

    We cannot guarantee a book will sell, no more than we can any other book available, regardless of the author. We cannot guarantee that the signing will draw people in. We host signings and i\like any other item hope for the best.

    My issue with local, self-published authors is …. make the book available! I have had several books that sold well and when I contacted the author to say we need more copies (always accompanied with a check for all copies sold) have had to wait weeks or months for them to replenish.

    Also, please if you are local at least have a clue where the store is located. Don’t call to see if we are interested in either carrying your book or hosting a signing and then have to ask directions to the store. If you want us to be interested in you try being interested in us. Cold calling from the phone book does not make the best impression. Respect is a two way street.

  2. Harry Connolly

    I’ve done experiments where I used Indiebound affiliate links for an entire month, no Amazon. No one clicked on them. I did not make one sale that way. When I put the Amazon affiliate links back in, sales started up again.

    In the second half of 2013, the number of Indiebound clicks was in the single digits and the number of clicks to B&N was 46. In contrast, I had 51 clicks to Amazon’s site in the first week of the year.

    Yeah, we should include all vendors when we send out our promotional material, but readers are the ones making the choices and it doesn’t look good for Indiebound.

  3. Carol Chittenden

    Interestingly, this topic came up in Winter Institute discussions between publishers and booksellers. Booksellers note that they have had very favorable results from establishing relationships with authors, whether because the author resides nearby or is visiting the store. Having an author refer fans to the event expands the audience enormously. And having one or two stores where the author can refer people who would like to obtain personalized copies has proved an ongoing win-win.

    As to what stores do and don’t stock, there are many factors in any such decision, not the least that there are angels and jerks in any given pool of humans. If you’re treated badly, move on. If it happens again and again, perhaps fresh polish on your own halo will help. We only have room for about 12,500 different titles in our store at any one time, so my rule of thumb is that a book has to sell at least once in the first 90 days on the shelf, and at least three copies a year to pay its rent. Even so, I know there are good books out there we’re missing. We encourage local self-published authors to develop and implement a marketing plan, and work with them to optimize their chances of earning and keeping shelf space. Luckily, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Dan Brown, and James Patterson are helping us break even in doing so.

  4. Elizabeth Bluemle

    The bookstore features all kinds of books we love, by authors known and unknown. However, customers — including all of you (us) authors — tend to spend their money on books and authors they have been hearing about. Before authors are household names, their initial sales come about mainly due to (1) friends and family buying copies; (2) reviews in trusted sources that lead people to your book; (3) social media efforts that help your target audience discover your books; (4) word of mouth. For less well-known authors to sell, they need to drive the audience. If authors drive everyone to Amazon, it’s going to be hard for an indie to sell your books if you aren’t driving sales there. We can do our part, absolutely, and authors can do theirs, too.

  5. Dianna Winget

    I’m very proud to offer links to indies on my site. What’s more, when people ask if my books are available through amazon, I tell them yes, but to please consider an indie first.

  6. Deborah Doucette

    Here is the link to a blog that I wrote for the Huffington Post about the plight of the indie bookseller: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-doucette/brick-and-mortar-vs-amazon_b_4589701.html
    If only indie booksellers would help me sell my book, but the fact is, because I am published by a small press, mostly they won’t. Not interested. Indies would prefer to “help” the very same books that every single other bookstore – from Amazon to Wallmart to Cosco – is selling. And then wonder why they are in trouble. They are all fishing in the same small pool, and the other guys have bigger boats. Maybe indies should try fishing from a wider pool.

  7. Traci Olsen

    I’m with you, Theresa. I am lucky to live in a town with not one but two thriving independent book stores, and I shop there and support them as much as possible. However, I work for an indie romance publisher, and I have never been able to get them to stock our books or do an event, not even for a local author! We have authors all around the world, and they also have a hard time getting in or doing events at their local store, if they have one. It’s really disheartening, as I am a very big indie book store supporter. I know romance is not considered “literature”—although we are distinctly not in the bodice-ripper business—however, romance is a big seller and we would be more than happy to partner with indie stores. Any suggestions from the author of this article are more than welcome. Thanks.

  8. Ariela Montgomery

    Maybe it’s because you don’t have to prove yourself to Amazon to get them to carry your books.

    Probably because Amazon will never tell you that your genre or category is beneath them. Probably because Amazon doesn’t have to be convinced that your real book published by a major publisher is actually a real book published by a major publisher.

    Probably because Amazon doesn’t humiliate you by telling you that your publisher sales rep didn’t mention your book, so it’s probably not very good. Probably because Amazon doesn’t book you for an event then only order 5 copies of your book. (I can’t tell you how many times I had to sell my author copies to a bookseller who set up an event and then didn’t order my book!)

    Why do you have to keep telling authors indies first? Because there are some serious jerkholes out there running indie bookstores, very badly representing all indie bookstores.

  9. JLOakley

    I’m an indie author, but I do everything to support my local indie bookstore and I always visit the indies in any new town I go to. I was proud to be one of their authors for Indies First. Sure, I have my book there on consignment but it sells out regularly. Other stores ordered direct through Ingrams or Baker and Taylor. They support me. You’ve reminded me that I need to get that indie badge on my website.

  10. Kristopher

    This is why on my blog, I always link to the publishers page. They typically have links to all the possible retailers (including IndieBound). While I am certainly that a fair number of my blog readers will end up going to Amazon, at least if I link there, they see all their options. It’s the best I can do, since I don’t want to single out a certainly store (or website), but I do want to encourage my followers to buy the books I love.

  11. Stephanie Greene

    I think it’s simply that Amazon=shipping. We have become a shipping society: if you don’t have to go out and get it, great.

    Most of the authors and illustrators I know think about their local Indies first, however. You’re the champs in our books. Your post is a great reminder.

  12. Theresa M. Moore

    My books have always been available to independent book stores, but thanks to Amazon and its predatory pricing policies, and the fact that I publish them myself, the book stores refuse to stock them. Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Vromans all carry them online. Yet, the independent book stores ignore me. I get orders of individual books, not cartons, so that proves it. I’m not publishing my own books to make them happy. I am doing it to make my customers happy. When they start ordering books from my distributor I will consider them worthy of a link on my site.

    1. Martha Reynolds

      Same for me. I’ve authored/published four novels, all very well received by those who have read them. I love indie bookstores! I just wish they’d love me back. I list on Amazon because that’s where I sell books, but I’d be thrilled if my local indie bookstore would want to feature me.

    2. Elizabeth Bluemle

      Theresa, I’m not sure I’m clear on your comment about cartons versus individual books. Bookstores that aren’t doing centralized ordering for a chain are not going to order by the carton for most books. For instance, we carry 28,000 titles in our store. We order between one and ten copies of books based on our prediction of demand. We only order carton quantities if we are having an author visit or the book is a blockbuster, in which case may order several cartons. That’s just the reality of having an actual bricks-and-mortar space; there’s just no room to store cartons for 28,000 different books!

      1. Carolyn

        I think it’s also a matter that an independent can’t deal with 28,000 different self-published authors, all of whom would like to be stocked on shelves in the store. Your best bet, Theresa, is to approach your local independents. They may be willing to go through the paperwork to set up an account for you BECAUSE you are local. You would supply the store with copies of your book (I’m assuming you do not have a distributor that the store deals with on a regular basis) — and don’t be surprised if they just want one or two to test the water. (And you better make sure those copies sell so you can get the store to take more copies.) :)

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