Marketing: Meeting the Booksellers
Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Santa Rosa, Calif.
I have a confession to make.
My father was a successful salesman.
My brother is a fantastically successful salesman.
I take after my mother.
With a history like that, you won’t be surprised to learn marketing is my least favorite part of the book business. Nay, it’s worse than that. I’m afraid of marketing.
Indeed, I never attend home parties because I just can’t handle the emotional overload of not buying something a friend is selling.
You can see why that might be a problem in today’s book-selling climate.
So here goes. This week I’m going to talk about what I’ve been doing to market The Dogtrot Christmas, part of Barbour Publishing’s A Log Cabin Christmas Collection, which will release Thursday, September 1. (My debut book publishing experience!) I hope you’ll take away some ideas and discover how much less intimidating the selling of books can be. (I hope I’ll find out that’s true for myself this week.)
I’m actually a little late to this party. I’ve done some work leading up to today, which I’ll talk about later. But today I needed to really get to work and see if I can help the sales numbers at least a little.
I started with those closest to home: the booksellers in my community.
First, I prepared a 4×6 inch card with all the pertinent details to my project. The front of the card has the book cover and here’s what the back looks like:
I took this information off Amazon.com’s page for A Log Cabin Christmas Collection. In particular, I knew the booksellers would need that ISBN-13 number to locate my book in their system.
In addition to the book info, I also included my local contact information, my blog site address and a photo of me. I printed them off on my computer and headed to the stores this morning.
I was nervous but determined to be professional. I chose my clothing carefully and drove the cleanest car, just in case someone looked out the window of the stores. I played Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Victory–you know, “da-da-da-dah” for courage) as I drove.
First stop was the local Family Christian Bookstore where I asked for the manager. Meredith shook my hand, I explained: I was a local author and my book was releasing on September 1. People have been asking me where they can purchase the book, and we’re planning a launch party on September 10. Can you order some copies so I can direct book buyers to your store?
Meredith is a new manager, and when she learned the bookstore had carried a similar title last winter, she was eager to help. She’d have to go up to her manager, and thence to his, but she was pretty confident they could stock the book, probably by September 10. “And would you perhaps like to do a book signing?” she asked, describing how that would work and became quite enthused, as she talked. I shook her hand again, she promised to be in touch, and then I bought my husband a birthday present in her store!
The next stop was Barnes and Noble, and I entered with confidence. The book purchaser was training some new employees who both looked impressed that a local author had come in to shake hands. She looked at my card and asked, “Is this a legitimate publisher? Not self-published?”
I pointed to Barbour’s name and the ISBN, which she checked on her computer. She smiled and nodded. “I’ll have to talk to marketing, but I think we can have copies in by September 10.” She printed off something from her computer, circled my name and date on the card and told me she would pass the information along. She shook my hand, and I exited.
At our local independent bookstore, Copperfield’s, the assistant manager shook my hand and examined the Log Cabin Christmas card. “Is this product available through wholesalers? We have a lot of writers in our community, but I can’t stock anything that isn’t available through Ingrams.“
I assured her it was. She, too, took notes and said she would talk to the person who called in the orders. Once the book released, they could have copies the next day. All three people I contacted assured me they would let me know, or I was welcome to call back.
Of particular interest was that they would only work with a royalty-paying publisher; they wouldn’t stock a self-published book. That’s something to consider as you look to market your own work in a self-publishing system.
I have additional copies of the card I created that I’m carrying in my purse to hand out when people ask about the book. So far, it’s been simple and fun. But I have another marketing scheme up my sleeve that we’ll look at tomorrow.
What has concerned you about marketing your books? What do you fear? What do you think will work best for you? Do you know how many booksellers are in your community–and do you purchase books there yourself? What simple things can you do to help the booksellers in your community stay in business? (It made me sad I had to bypass the Border’s store–which is where I purchased my copy of last year’s Christmas collection).
Meanwhile: Would you buy a book from this woman?