By far the hardest thing an author has to learn to do when their first book comes out is promoting. I was lucky in that I had worked in retail in my younger years, so all I had to do was tap into my long-forgotten sales persona to sell myself to bookstores and other businesses where I hoped to do book signings or have them carry my book. Even so, I made a number of mistakes. Some molded the way I do things now…others I rather forget because they were embarrassing, but they do bring laughter to others when my husband tells the stories…Either way, mistakes are how we humans learn so don’t be discouraged by them. Below are some things I learned not to do whether through my own mistakes or those of others:
- Don’t expect to be seen by the Manager or Buyer of the store when visiting unannounced. Yes, I was that person. Not even once was I seen by the manager or buyer just because I stopped by to honor them with my visit. The best thing to do is to visit the business to see if your book is a good fit. Once there, become a customer by purchasing something (even if it is some mints from the cashier’s counter) and request a business card or contact information for the buyer or store manager. If you want, you can actually leave a copy of your book with the sell sheet for them to follow up with an email.
- Don’t restock you consignment books directly on the shelf yourself. Let’s say a store agreed to take a number of copies of your book as consignment. If you are like me you will probably go at least once a week to check on how your book is doing. But if you do what one author did (not me than the heavens…) and keep re-filling the shelf every time he/she saw they were selling without going through the buyer…you won’t get paid! What you should do, is blast out through social media that your book is in stock in that store and as you see the stock going down, offer the buyer or manager more copies.
- Don’t try to sell your new book at regular price in a used bookstore. Yes, this was one of my mistakes…I did a book signing at a used bookstore. The buyer ordered the books directly through the publisher and expected me to sell them during my signing (that was the mistake as my price could not compete with the used book prices, as their customers were there because of their discounted tags). In the end, they returned all the copies they purchased and got a refund. What I should have done is bring my copies and work out a discounted price tag under a consignment arrangement. Having my name on their marquee was really cool though…
- Don’t change your books’ placement in the store. You got your book into a store! That is a big, big accomplishment! Oh wait, they didn’t put them on the Best Seller table…instead, it is in the Local Author section…I know it’s tempting, but don’t do it! Moving the books around is not going to help you sell it. The bookstore people know their customers…and believe me, they do want to sell all of their books. So let them do their jobs. What you can do is drop off bookmarks and postcards about your books at the information desk, the cashier’s counter, and the café. Although, this was not my mistake…I found that all stores appreciate the bookmarks and if you are nice to them, they might even put them inside the purchased books with their customers’ receipt!
Sometimes, authors just have to trust the stores and hope for the best. All we can do is to establish a respectful relationship so that they always welcome us and our books back!