If your book has been published by a small press, a vanity publisher or a print-on-demand publisher, then you might find you need to do much of the marketing yourself. Larger publishers-such as Penguin, Berkeley and Random House-have PR departments and publicists who will get books into major bookstores, but if you don’t have that kind of support behind your creation, you’ll have to approach local bookstores about carrying your book.
Request a Meeting
Just showing up in your local bookstore with a cardboard box filled with your published books will not go over well, and you probably won’t even get to see the man in charge. Most large bookstores have acquisitions managers who handle the purchasing of all inventory. Call the bookstore and request a meeting rather than just showing up.
You might think that this goes without saying, but if you show up at your local bookstore wearing jeans and a t-shirt- no one is going to take you seriously. Wear a suit, skirt or dress for your meeting with the acquisitions manager and make sure that you look presentable. The manager’s first impression of you will also be his or her first impression of your book.
Present a Marketing Plan
If you’re doing the marketing yourself, most bookstores won’t even consider your proposition unless you’ve created a marketing plan. How are you going to create a buzz about your book once the bookstore starts carrying it? And how will you promote your book from the shelf? These are important questions to answer, so prepare a marketing plan in a professional binder for presentation.
The reason most major bookstores don’t do business with small, vanity and print-on-demand publishers is because those publishers don’t offer returns. For example, when Barnes & Noble orders a shipment of books from Random House, they are given a certain quantity, a discount and the option to return if the books don’t sell. So give the bookstore some incentive by offering to buy back the books that don’t sell.
Provide Sales Figures
It is usually best to wait to approach your local bookstore until your book has been selling online at Amazon and other Internet bookstores. At that point, you can provide the bookstore with sales figures to demonstrate how well your book has been doing. Otherwise, the manager will have no reason to think that your book will fly off the shelves.
The worst thing you can do when approaching a local bookstore to carry your book is pressuring the manager. He or she knows what is best for the store and will make a decision accordingly. If he or she doesn’t believe that the book is a good fit, simply thank him or her for listening to you and leave. Try again after a few months with new sales figures.
I won’t lie to you: It can be very difficult to convince a local bookstore to carry your books when you aren’t backed by a major publishing house. There is a certain financial risk involved as well as the reputation of the store. If you don’t impress the manager with your professionalism, your writing and your book, then he or she is going to pass.
If you are rejected, leave behind a copy of your book for the manager to read in his or her spare time. Let the book speak for itself. In some cases-not many, but some-an acquisitions manager will make a positive decision based on the content of the book and not on your marketing plan or your presentation.