Relationships with Bookstores

January 24th, 2019
As an independent author, creating a good relationship with your local bookstore is vital. But remember, it’s a relationship … and no-one likes to be used in a relationship, so make sure you’re supporting them as much as you’d like them to support you.  

It’s a good idea to build this up over time. Be social, friendly, talk to them lots, buy books off them, recommend them to your friends – tag them on social media. Once they’ve really gotten to know you, they will be thrilled to support your books.  

Bookstores receive so many pitches from sales reps and authors they don’t know, so making sure you have a good relationship with your local booksellers can give you a real advantage when it comes time for them to decide which books to stock. 

This relationship can also indirectly help you with your book sales. People who work at bookstores are readers and they aren’t shy about sharing their favourite books. Word-of-mouth sales are every author’s bread-and-butter, so winning over your friendly neighbourhood booksellers could also lead to a spike in your initial book sales. 

Through Little Steps’ publishing model, you can, of course, offer to sell books directly to the bookstore (and your newfound friends!) without involving the distributor. If they go for this, that’s great! If they don’t, don’t fret too much as it is probably due to ease of accounting. Unless you have a connection, larger chain stores are more likely going to turn you down as their systems and processes are already streamlined to work with distributors. You might find you have better luck selling directly to smaller independent stores.  

As online re-sellers slowly take over, independent bookstores are often looking for ways to add value to their store, and you can use this to your advantage. Ways you can help add value to the store are through book launches, author talks and book signings.  

Book signings 
Call or write all your local bookstore (especially the ones you now have a rapport with) and ask if you can do an in-store signing. People like buying autographed books and bookstores give signed books a little push. If you are going to be in another city, get in touch with bookstores there, too. 

Author Talks 
Often, an author talk involves a short reading from the author’s book – the first chapter if it’s a chapter book and the whole story if it’s a picture book. Be prepared to hold a Q&A session on your story, how you came up with the idea and what it’s like to write a book. Organise a few refreshments and invite your friends and family. If you can bring a crowd to the bookstore, you’ll always be welcome back. 

A Little List of Dos and Don’ts: 

  • DO recommend other author’s books. If you only ever talk to a bookseller about your own book, you are less likely to develop a real relationship with them. Share the love and they’ll know you’re the real deal. 

  • DON’T sign books without the bookseller’s approval. Signed books can’t be returned to the distributor if they don’t sell – which might sound great for you, but if a bookstore ends up with a pile of your books that they can’t sell, you can’t bet they’ll order from you again. 
  • DO attend other bookstore events! Does your bookstore host a book club? Are other local author’s holding book launches? Go, and see how others are getting their work out there and find some supportive literary friends in the process.  

  • DON’T expect to be able to build a long-term relationship with a bookstore (or a school, or a library) in a week. Think of it as an ongoing commitment to being involved in your local community you’ll find it pays off in more ways than one. 
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Tags: author, children, bookstore, kidslit, marketing, picture book, publicity, publishing, self publishing

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