Monday, September 21, 2009

You Say You've Written a Book..

We get phone calls on an almost daily basis with”I've written a book and it's published by (insert a self-publishing service here)". We love local authors. We love to support someone passionate about what they have written.... but there are some very definite do's and don'ts when it comes to getting that self-published book into an indie bookstore.

First, what do we mean by "self-pubbed". We mean that your book was not bought by a full service publisher that supplies an editor, cover designer, and does all the marketing and distributing of your book, for which you get royalty payments.

Here are some suggestions of how not to and how to approach the indie bookstore with your book

1) DO NOT do a cold call the week after your book comes out. DO visit the bookstore before, after, and during the writing and printing of the book. Bookstores are much more likely to want to carry the book written by the person that has been in the store than by the person that calls them with "I live five minutes away and have never been in your store"

2) DO NOT be rude. DO treat the person you talk to as you would want to be treated. The people working in a bookstore are professionals passionate about books. But they are also overworked and under paid. Coming in with an attitude that your book is the best and we're stupid for not wanting to carry 30 copies immediately will not make us want to make an effort to add your book to our huge pile of books waiting to be reviewed.

3) In your email to us DO NOT mention that it's currently available on the EvilRiverEmpire (or other megachain stores), we know that EVERY book is available on the EvilRiverEmpire... that is NOT a selling point to us. DO tell us how to acquire your book. Is it listed with the major book distributors? Do we get it from the "publisher"? Do we get it from you directly? What is the wholesale price? (It is best to have a set wholesale price so we don't have to haggle with you about pricing. Industry standards are 40-50% off list price)

4) So now that we do have a few copies of your book in stock, DO NOT disappear. You want to sell books, we want to sell books. It's a lot easier for us to sell the book if you let people know they can get it at our store. Link to us in your emails, website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Tell Aunt Martha and Cousin Sue. Are you doing a reading/signing with us? Then please don't leave all the publicity work to us.... make sure we have cover images, author images, a full bio, blurb of the book, any reviews you have already received, etc. Are you doing a press release for the event? Then let us see it first. We have experience with the local book section editor, the local TV station, etc. We can help make sure your event listing appears... but DO NOT expect us to do ALL your publicity, and please DO NOT only link to the EvilRiverEmpire on your online places.... like I said we want to sell your books as much as you do... and we can't if your telling people to go somewhere else to get it.

5) DO NOT invite yourself to do a book signing. DO NOT email (the first one we get from you) and say "I see you are having a Dog Day, my book is about dogs, and can I come?" DO let us know that you are interested in an event at the store. DO let us know when you are available. DO understand that many of our events are set up 3-6 months in advance. DO trust that we know what events work at our location.

6) DO NOT assume that having your book at a chain store is the same as having at an Indie. DO understand the value that an Indie has for your town. You are local right? Your kids went to school here? You've used the local parks, police, and ambulance? Guess who pays for that- NOT EvilRiverEmpire, NOT MegaSameEveryWhere Chain. WE do, the Indies. So having your book in an Indie store is not just about selling more copies and having more places to list that sell it, it is about supporting your community that will in turn support you.

I want to take a minute to highlight again what I think the most important thing to do is- BE NICE.

We are professionals. We know what will and can sell in our store. We know the subjects are customers are interested in. We know the price points they are willing to pay. If we choose not to carry your book, it is not personal; and understand we will not make the decision to carry your book on the spot. We rarely do that with the major publishing houses that send us hundreds of advance reading copies, so we won't do it with you either. Be willing to leave us a copy of your book, with the understanding that we have over 10,000 books already in the store, we cannot guarantee that we can be able to return it to you. Think of leaving that copy as an investment in future sales.

Best of luck!



  1. Thanks for the post this is exactly what I've been looking for. I'm frightfully idealistic and am planning to skip the EvilRiverEmpire for round one of my self-publishing adventure, which means I'll need to reach out beyond the booksellers I already have a relationship with. I've asked my facebook "fans" to give me the names of their favorite Indies, any suggestions for approaching booksellers in far flung locals (booksellers I've never met and am unlikely to meet?)

    Eagerly awaiting your thoughts and suggestions,
    Lisa Tharpe

  2. Fist of all, good luck with your book, Lisa. My advice for approaching non-local indies is do your research. Make sure it is a book that fits with their customer demographics. Your friends should be able to help you with that. Also make sure you know a little bit about the store and mention having a friend that is a customer and avoiding the EvilEmpire, and that you have visited their website etc. It's much better than jsut a form letter and a book shoved into an envelope.

    Sam :)

  3. I am a local and SO thrilled about the KidLit Festival! I will be there!

    Saw in your description of the event that you are still open for presenters...

    I am a freelance writer, artist and aspiring children's author/illustrator. I run children's activities and programs at local schools and bookstores.

    If you have a need that you think I can fill...whether it is a story/craft time, talking to other aspiring kidlit writers, etc. I would love to hear from you.

    Please contact me soon if you are interested, I have a speaking engagement on Nov 17th and want ample time to prepare for both events if I am needed @ Aaron's.

    Thanks! :)
    (PS - I will be there regardless :))

  4. Nice post. I've independently published four regional folklore collections and the local Indie stores are my best supporters.

    I think those who choose to independently publish should ask themselves why they are self pubbing. A regional book, local history book, local collection of ghost stories, etc. will have mainly regional appeal and will do great in an Indie store. A a fictional novel deemed unsalable by a NY house just as likely won't have any local appeal as an self pubbed work either.

  5. Hi,

    My name is Dena Schaffer and I’m the founder of Opening Windows: Virtual Book Tours. Opening Windows is very excited to announce that this November it will be launching the “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” virtual book tour!

    Authored by Lois Herr, “Dear Coach” is the story of Elizabethtown College’s, legendary coach Ira Herr, and the men and women athletes of 1937-1946. More than just a collection of letters "Dear Coach" is the scrapbook of an extended family dealing with a war that forced a generation to grow up overnight.

    Congratulations! Opening Windows has hand-picked your website as a potential host for one of the “Dear Coach” VBT’s stops. If you’re interested in becoming a tour stop host please let us know! We’re eager to team up with your blog in creating a following for this heartfelt book.

    Dena Schaffer

    Opening Windows: Virtual Book Tours

    P.S. If for some reason you’re not interested in being a host but would still like to follow “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” on its virtual journey feel free to stop by the official tour blog! (