By Colleen Devine Ellis
People who buy and sell books for a living are your best resource as an author. They are invaluable to writers; make friends with them and you can all help one another to reach a larger audience and sell more books.You may even have some fun along the way.
Booksellers influence the book-buying public through in-store displays, newsletters, recommended reading shelf talkers, and many other tools. Librarians are constantly monitoring the interests of their communities and learning about new books. Both of these groups have professional organizations and conferences that provide opportunities for authors to discuss their books to interested and engaged audiences. Both also have publications which discuss and promote books that their members recommend: Booklist for the American Library Association and IndieBound for the American Booksellers Association.
Booksellers: They Do More Than You Might Expect
Booksellers do so much more than ring up your purchases and glare at you when you use a book as a coaster for your sweaty soda bottle. They are the tastemakers for the publishing industry and hold regular meetings and conventions hosted by involved bookselling associations to talk about the business and most importantly, about the books they like, love, and that they predict will blow the doors off (not necessarily the same as those they like and love). Booksellers have a strong network and they take books seriously so it’s in your best interest to take their interest seriously.
Customers ask booksellers for help and for reading recommendations. Even if not asked, an enthusiastic bookseller will still recommend books unprompted. These are the people you want championing your book so engage with them. Go to the store and ask how to get your book stocked. It’s best to ask this before publication so if there are any issues you can work them out without it affecting availability.
If you want to have a book event, ask the store about their policy and advice on hosting events. They know their audience and may suggest something besides a traditional book reading and signing – maybe they find that tying events to community organizations or book groups works better.
If you decide to have an event, make it an EVENT. Booksellers can help you create an event that is as successful as possible. What can you bring to the occasion; will you invite your own friends and family? Serve refreshments? Feature strippers and beer (not for everyone)? Your event is important enough that you should consider investing in it as much as your bookseller is investing by providing the space, their time, staff, advertising, and book stock.
Another good question to ask your local bookseller is what book meetings and conventions they or someone in their store attend annually. There are lots of them, both national and regional, and all include a focus on books and the business of selling. Bookseller meetings include the annual BookExpo America convention and nine regional trade groups that specialize in regional and national books. There are also many book fairs across the country such as the National Book Festival, The Miami Book Fair International, Texas Book Festival, and Printer’s Row Lit Fest, all of which are partly organized and staffed by booksellers. You can find out how to become involved in these influential gatherings as an author by contacting the organizers.
Librarians: Warriors for Literacy
Librarians are warriors for literacy and freedom of speech and the most reliable book buyers today. When a book is on a library shelf it’s part of their collection and is not going to be returned to the publisher as titles in a bookstore may be after a few months. They also support local authors so you should introduce yourself the next time you are at the library. Wait, you don’t go to the library? Don’t even have a card? Here’s a valuable investment in your publishing future to make right now; get a library card and check out the programming at your local branch and other libraries near you. Then start thinking about how you can help each other.
Librarians also have huge industry meetings on both national and state levels. The ALA sponsors an annual meeting that may host over 20,000 librarians and publishing industry vendors each year. State conferences also host meetings that encourage authors and librarians to work together on mutually beneficial events and promotions. They also have fun contests like library cart drill team competitions.
A vibrant and thriving community bookstore and library benefits all authors so considering how an author’s interests and goals can also help librarians and booksellers makes those efforts more powerful and effective.
- 6 Questions to Ask Before Publicizing Your Book
- Setting Expectations Before You Publish Your Book
- Making Book Promotion Work: The Author/Publisher Relationship
- What Is Your Book Community?
- Creating and Finding Media Opportunities for Your Book
Colleen Devine Ellis, a former publicity manager for Barnes & Noble and the University of Texas Press, runs literary consultant and runs Devine Literary Publicity and Marketing in Austin, Texas.