Welcome, dear writers. As promised, here is the continuation of last month’s post, Making friends with booksellers.
This month, the stellar advice is courtesy of Maryelizabeth Yturraide and R.J. Crowther Jr., both from Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, California. I was fortunate enough to meet Maryelizabeth and R.J. at the 2017 StokerCon, where they were running the onsite bookstore. They are incredibly kind people who have been champions of my work ever since. (Thanks, Maryelizabeth and R.J.! You’re the best.)
Here is their valuable advice for networking with booksellers. I’m so thankful they were willing to share this with us.
1) Garner a little information about the store before you make contact, via their website or the like. Are they a general bookseller, or do they have a curated focus? Not all stores keep all available titles on the shelves at all times, and not all stores engage in the same kinds of activities — author readings, etc.
2) Find out the bookseller’s correct contact person, and preferred contact method. For instance, Maryelizabeth is the contact for events at Mysterious Galaxy, but not for non-event inventory. And she prefers email, in which she can discern that author “Westin Oaks” [what she might hear on the telephone] is actually “Weston Oakes.”
3) Be clear in sharing your goals. Are you looking to get books in the store’s system/on the shelves? Are you interested in a possible author event? Clarity resulting in effective communication will create a more positive exchange with the bookseller than something vague like: “Hi. I have a new book I’d like to bring to your attention.”
4) Provide at least minimal information about your most recent book, both in your communication to the bookseller, and on your website/publisher’s site, etc. At a minimum, the book title, ISBN 13, and publication date are likely to be desired and relevant information.
5) Do NOT provide information on your book(s) exclusively via Amazon links, either on your online presence or in your contact letter. Directing non-Amazon retailers
6) Is there any additional information that the bookseller may or may not be aware of that might enhance the appeal of your work? For example, does your work offer a connection to Frankenstein’s bicentennial?
7) Remember that while bookselling is art, it’s also commerce, and booksellers not only want to be a part of their community, but also have to make a living off of the already pretty slim profit margins offered by the industry. Bear that in mind as you proceed with a discussion of logistics and terms with a potential business ally/advocate.
8) Make sure it’s in your contract that your publisher will submit your book’s info to Ingram and Baker and Taylor, the two largest book distributors. If your book isn’t published by a major publisher, Ingram and/or B&T are where bookstores will order it from, and if there isn’t a record with a description, ISBN, price, discount, and returnability, bookstores can’t order it. Most bookstores won’t buy your book on consignment, with the possible exception of your local store. Many indie presses offer direct sales, but bookstores prefer to go through a distributor, not dozens of small publishers, because of all the added invoicing, paperwork, and cost of direct returns.
9) Make sure before you approve the cover design that the ISBN and barcode are clearly printed on the back of your book, with the list price of the book printed above it. At StokerCon last year, some of the books came in without any of these, which makes inventory and scanning books a nightmare. Some authors are tempted to leave off a price, so they can charge different prices at different events, but this makes the book appear very unprofessional, and means booksellers will have to hand sticker each book with a price. Again, the less hoops you make a bookseller jump through, and the more professional your book appears, the better chance you have of a bookstore carrying it.
10) Standard Discounts: The standard discounts distributors like Ingram give bookstores is 40%. If your publisher won’t negotiate a 40% discount with Ingram, the “short discount” will be passed on to bookstores who order your book, meaning it cuts into their profit margin. Many indie presses only offer 15-20% discounts to distributors, and bookstores generally won’t order short discount books because they’ll have to mark up the price a ridiculous amount to cover their expenses. The entire bookstore is dependent on that 40% to pay their staff and bills. Before you sign a contract with an indie publisher, make sure they offer standard discounts.
11) Returnable books: Make sure your contract states that your indie publisher accepts returns. Ingram generally charges a small fee to indie publishers to make their books returnable, because of the restocking and shipping fees involved, but it’s well worth it. Bookstores will not order non-returnable books, because they have to eat the cost of every book they order that doesn’t sell. For non-returnable books, consignment is your only option, but that means no national distribution. Also, as I mentioned above, fewer and fewer bookstores are accepting consignments. Sadly, even our store is currently phasing out consignments for non-event books.
I hope you’ve found these posts helpful. Thanks to Maryelizabeth and R.J. for taking the time to share this valuable advice with us.
What’s your favourite indie bookstore? What’s the nicest thing they’ve done for you? How have you made friends with your local booksellers?
** Please forgive me, as I’ve fallen behind in returning blog visits and comments once again. But I’ve implemented a new plan to get on top of it, so your patience will be rewarded. Thank you!
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Great tips for getting into bookstores. I especially like the one about being quite clear about what you’re hoping to achieve.
Thanks, Ellen. Glad you found it helpful. You know what they say–to get what you want, first you have to be able to say what that is.
Sounds like just common sense and professionalism to me. Although I’m sure there are those who lack both.
There were actually a few things I was surprised to find out–like having the price printed on the book. I, too, thought it was better to be able to offer different prices. That’s why I thought the info was worth sharing.
Definitely helpful stuff. Thanks for that! I never would have considered some of those aspects before, but they’ll definitely be in my head going forward.
I’m glad, Crystal. It can really make a difference, and it makes life easier for both authors and booksellers.
Excellent advice! I really liked #3, about clarity and effective communication. That one applies to pretty much everything. 🙂
Very true, Madeline. Thanks for stopping by!
Thanks for the excellent advice. I’m bookmarking this one.
You’re very welcome, Rhonda. I’m glad you found it helpful.
Lots of useful info there, thanks 🙂
You’re very welcome, Angela.
Interesting advice. Thank you for sharing it.
You’re welcome, Tamara. Hope things are well with you.
Thanks for another great list of tips. I learned about Ingram Spark a few years back and didn’t have the best experience working with their system. But it is how our local store buys books, so it makes sense.
From what I hear, they’ve improved, Loni. I haven’t had any problems with them. Might be worth another try.
Excellent information. I’m always interested in learning about how things work behind the scenes. And it really is important to not let Amazon become the only source/resource for authors and readers. There is so much gaming in their system.
So true, Lee. What a lot of people miss is that Amazon is not a “store,” it’s a search engine. A search engine with some pretty bizarre policies that can and does changes its business model on a whim. I’m grateful to Amazon for how easy it’s made things for authors, but we can’t let it “eat” all our other options. The small, independent bookstore needs to be celebrated and supported.
Great advice. I’m trying to figure out the price on the cover thing, though, as CS doesn’t do that. I guess it’s one of those things that mark the books as self-published, and probably helps keep me out of stores.
My biggest issue is the lack of self-confidence, though. I mean, I have a local store that has carried some of my books, but I’ve gotten all weird about going down there with more books.
Bookstores can’t/won’t order from CreateSpace, anyway. If you want to make your titles available to bookstores, they need to be on Ingram as well. It’s well worth it.
If you’re feeling odd, try emailing–introduce yourself and say you’re wondering if they need more books. It gives you an in, and if they ask you for more copies, you won’t feel weird about delivering them and saying hello.
Exactly! Great list. Also, if you want to do an event there, come at them with something planned. Just a signing doesn’t work for a lot of stores. They want an actual event.
So true, Diane. Thanks for mentioning that. The same goes for libraries as well.
I had a used bookstore buy my books once. I was in there to buy some books and got talking to the owner and ended up saying I wrote some books and he got interested and eventually offered to buy a couple copies. It was a happy accident. I’ve been too intimidated to try the local library.
Why intimidated? Librarians are some of the nicest people, and they love authors. If you’re shy, try approaching them via email first. You’ll want to speak to the collections person. Libraries also love author events, so if you think of a few events you can host, it gives you something to pitch that’s of value beyond another author wanting to get their books on the shelves.
Very educational. Thanks so much for posting the info. 🙂
Anna from elements of emaginette
You’re welcome, Anna. Glad you found it valuable.
Great advice. Thanks for all the tips. Bookmarking.
You’re very welcome, Juneta.
I had wanted to get my books into a local bookstore for awhile, and I know of a place that’s big on local indie authors, except I had never been inside. I finally got there a few weeks ago and it was the hipster-iest place I’ve ever set foot it. It made me feel so old, and my beard so inadequate.
I may have made this same comment on your post last month, so I apologize. Still great advice, though!
It does sound familiar. 😉
But hey, beard or no beard, hipsters buy books, so who cares how old they are? Get your foot in that door!
Thanks for the informative post. I know of two local bookstores in my area, but so far I’m still too nervous to approach either about this option. Maybe some day. First I need to look into getting my books on the sites listed.
Just look at the people who own/run the bookstore as potential friends who love books. Drop by, check out the stores. Chat. When they have time, introduce yourself and mention you’re a writer. They’ll probably ask about your books. It doesn’t have to be about the hard sell, and it’s actually better when it’s not–it’s all about relationship building. You won’t regret it.
That’s a lot of great info. I’ll dive more into it later. Thanks for sharing!
You’re very welcome, Chrys. Congrats on your new release!
Thanks for the great tips! There’s a store nearby I’m about to approach.
That’s awesome, Shannon! Good luck. Knock ’em dead, as they say.
Lots of valuable info here. Selling your book is daunting experience. So much to accomplish. Thanks for the tips.
You’re very welcome, Dolorah. Good luck!
Excellent advice. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Diane. I’m glad you found it helpful.
Wow a lot of really good stuff here. I like 7) Remember that while book selling is art, it’s also commerce. Writers need to understand and research and study and be really good at the business side both from writer’sand a bookstore’s POV.
Thanks, Stephen. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I agree–these days, it almost takes an MBA to be a writer.
Thanks, am bookmarking. Have a lovely weekend
You as well, Susan. Thanks for commenting.
Thanks for this informative post!
Number 3 is so important. Clarity of purpose shows professionalism and is important as the network grows and strengthens.
Number 6 is interesting and lends itself to different marketing/advertising approaches.
You’re very welcome, Michelle. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
It’s always interesting to see things from a retailer’s point of view. I would love to get into some bookstores at some point, but for me it’s going to be a bit of a process as my career grows. But I do hope to be listed with Ingram by the time my third book comes out.
That’s a great plan, Misha. Honestly, you can start getting to know booksellers and building relationships at any time. It works even better when you’re not going in with a mission or agenda.
Very valuable tips! Thanks to all three of you for sharing it with us. While your previous post on the topic consisted of a lot of “common sense”, this information is all new to me. I’m bookmarking it, in case I will go the bookstore route with my book (whenever I reach that point..)
No rush in all the return visits and comments, JH. Life can get so busy, or in my case travel and running out of data prevent me of “staying on top”, that the blogging has to take a step back for a little while.
So glad to hear it was helpful, Liesbet! I participated on a panel on this topic at StokerCon, and was floored by all the great advice and suggestions. Had to share some of them here so others could benefit.