Dear Bookstore Owner/manager/to whom it may concern,
I recently published my new book, THE BEST KIDS BOOK EVER WRITYN, and it’s already a bestseller on Amazon. I am offering signings and (limited) storytimes for bookstores, and am willing to offer you the chance to host an event. You can order copies from my website: www.vanitypress.com or I have several hundred books stored at my home which will go quickly. The book is a retelling of a beloved family tale that my grandfather wrote and submitted to Reader’s Digest, and the illustrations were done by my incredibly talented daughter, who is in the 3rd grade (she is homeschooled). The story offers moral lessons of obedience, honesty, hard work and adherence to family values as it follows the story of a lovable dinosaur and his pet fish, and will be popular for families and in classrooms. Please respond with your proposal for stocking and promoting my book in your store, and I will let you know when I will be available to make an appearance.
This author (note: please do not respond to this email, as this is my personal account. My book website is: www.dinosaurfishwriter.com and I check those messages every Monday)
Dear This Author,
Thank you so much for thinking of us. I apologize for the direct email, however, I had some difficulty with your website (it seems to link to an order form for leggings). We gladly consider self-published authors for events, but request that either a copy of their book or PDF file be forwarded for review. Certainly, we want to host as many authors as we can, but we also want the time to be profitable for you, and not all titles do well in our particular store. I have also attached a basic information form for you to complete. We need to know a little bit more about your book: for example, page length, ISBN, binding (hardcover or paperback), wholesale price or bookseller price, and retail price. Thanks so much, and we’ll be back in touch soon!
Dear Bookstore Owner,
I don’t have time for all those forms. My book is currently being read in a second grade classroom, and the principal of the school bought two copies. I know that this book will be a bestseller in your store, especially for the holiday season. Here’s a copy of a recent review on Amazon: “This book is the best thing ever written for kids, and there’s nothing else like it. I will read this someday to my children if I have them.” To answer your questions, the book is a paperback with a fully illustrated cover, and I am selling it for $21.99. I am not sure how “discounts” work, but I could probably let you have a $2 off per copy as a courtesy, since you are local. As I have not been in your store and I don’t live that close, I would need to also charge shipping to get the books to you. Can you send me your full address?
Oh, friends, perhaps I exaggerate, but truly not by much. As fall approaches, email exchanges like this one (or close to it) are more frequent, and I spend valuable time each day connecting authors with organizations like SCBWI, local writing groups, and other mentors. Sadly, by the time the book is already published, it’s often too late to suggest local freelance editors or graphic artists, who might assist in creating a more marketable product. There are a myriad of publication guides in the library and on our shelves, numerous websites with advice for new authors, and even -gulp- ACTUAL CLASSES at the local college on writing for publication, but still indie bookstores are the community resource for the honest-to-gosh “come to Jesus” talk that so many self-published authors need to hear.
If there were only five things I could impress on authors seeking to market their newly printed book, here they are:
- Visit some bookstores. See what’s on their local interest shelves, and look at lots of titles in the category of your book. What are the bindings, prices, and comparable value of other picture books, chapter books, or nonfiction histories of carved boats made of soap?
- Attend some author events. (no, not your own…. OTHER AUTHORS) Be a supporter of indie stores in your area, see what happens at other events, watch other authors present, and buy copies at signings… or at least support them in your own social media.
- Save your personal sales for events… and promote them. Please, please don’t sell dozens of your books to your family, friends and neighbors out of the boxes in your garage, and then rely on your local bookstore to “drum up” new business. If we are hosting your launch, make it truly a “launch”… not a cupcake party where your cousins bring their previously purchased book for you to sign and post a selfie.
- If you book school or library visits, use your local bookstore to fulfill school orders for the events. We know what we’re doing, and in the long run, this will HELP your sales and your reputation.
- Bring actual copies of your book with you everywhere. Don’t stop by my store on a busy Saturday morning with your business card wanting to “schedule a reading.” Bring us a copy of your book. Put a sticky note on it if you have to with your contact info. Leave it behind…. preferably after you’ve spent a little bit of time browsing in our store. DON’T try to handsell your copy in the aisles… it just doesn’t help, really it doesn’t. And also….
….answer your emails, and not just on Mondays.
See a followup post on this topic, Dear Bookstore Owner, P.S., here.