Don't send mass email press releases about your book and expect booksellers to discover you. Stores receive too many of those, and nearly all get deleted unread.
* Make a direct approach. If you live close enough, visit the store with a copy of your book. If your book is self-published or put out by an obscure press, don't be surprised if the bookseller insists on reading the book before making a decision. A bookstore owner knows what will sell in his store. And if your book isn't distributed through the usual venues, be prepared to offer it on consignment. Arrogance and bullying tactics will just result in your being shown the door.
* Be knowledgeable and realistic about standard book discounts, and don't expect the bookseller to take a financial loss for you. And if your books are not returnable, as all traditionally-distributed books are, expect that if they agree to carry them at all, you'll have to provide them on consignment. Bookselling is a business. You'll garner more respect if you approach it as such.
* Trust the bookseller's judgment about what it'll take to sell your book. If the bookseller advises you to work up an information program, rather than merely stocking the books on a shelf, be prepared to do that. Don't expect the store to work harder to make your book a success than you will.
* Ask the bookstore what they'll need from you for the event…bio, artwork, a description of your talk, etc. At a minimum all authors should have a media kit on their website containing artwork of various resolutions. If you're not computer savvy enough to create that, get someone else to take care of it for you; some periodicals require specific resolutions, and the store should search and beg to get them.
Mostly importantly: if you promise to send something by a particular date, make sure you meet that deadline. Booksellers remember those unprofessional authors who make promises they don't keep. While many stores prepare in-store posters of upcoming events (one reason why they need that artwork), smart authors prepare their own posters and send them along.
* Promote your appearance. It's a good bet the bookstore will employ various, costly means to promote your talk. But booksellers can't reach your family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances the way you can. Don't play the diva — do your part to make your event a success. Be a partner in the process.
* Don't actively discourage sales. Real writers also read extensively — it's one of the best ways to learn to write. If you're one of those writers who has no interest in reading anyone's work but your own, don't brag about it to your audience. Why should the members of your audience buy your book when you've built such a convincing argument for not reading?
* Support the store that supports you. Don't point out for the bookseller — and her customers — all of the titles on the store's shelves that you've bought through Amazon or at Costco. If you want independent stores to be around for your future titles, be prepared to support them now. Besides, booksellers remember supportive authors and go out of their way to hand-sell those authors' books.
* Lastly, consider buying a book or two while you're there. When I was just a touring author and not a bookseller, I showed my gratitude for the bookseller's support by buying something in every store that hosted me — and that was long before I had any idea how hard it is to run a bookstore and get people into the store for events. Buying something is the only meaningful way you can thank someone who's worked hard for you and invested their resources to make your appearance a success.
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