Let's face it, regardless of the odds, we authors still want to get into bookstores. But if you've been having a hard time with this, take heart. It's getting harder and harder to get into stores, but not impossible. We're going to look at some of the possibilities here.
First, it's important to understand the pressure stores are under right now. With the increased focus on publishers to get their authors out there, bookstores are being given most of their marching orders by their corporate office. Bookstore shelf space is bought and paid for by the New York publishers, making getting on the shelves or display racks a bit tricky -- if not impossible. So here's a game plan for those of you trying to survive outside of the traditional market.
Events: One way to get into a bookstore is by doing an event. Sometimes when you do an event the store may stock the book before and after you've done your program. Start to follow the types of events they do at the store. Get an events calendar or get on their email list. You'll start to see trends emerge. For example, they might have an independent author night you could participate in. Also be cautious for big releases, like the recent Stephenie Meyer events many stores had planned. If you are trying to capture the attention of a store when they're in the middle of a major book launch, you're likely to be ignored.
- Book signings are boring, offer to do an event instead. Events are a draw, book signings aren't unless you're a celebrity. Plan to talk, educate, entertain or enlighten. This will be a more attractive pitch to the bookstore and will draw more people to your talk.
- Get to know the local authors in your area and then offer to plan events for them. Here's how this works: Bookstores are inundated with local authors asking for a time slot, but what if you went to the bookstore manager and said that you'd be willing to coordinate a once a month event featuring all the local authors? The bookstore could just refer all local, independently published authors to you, you could coordinate this -- and guess what? Not only are you helping the store, but guess who's getting a monthly showcase in their store? You. You can do this with more than one store if you have the time, but keep in mind that with cutbacks often one store manager will oversee a few locations so you might only have to go through one person.
- If they won't let you coordinate a monthly event, suggest that they have an Independent author night if they haven't already started this. If they have an Independent author night you should definitely participate -- it's a great way to gain exposure, not to mention network with some local people.
Getting into bookstores isn't impossible, but it does require a dash of creativity. Keep in mind that if bookstores still aren't receptive after you've tried the tips in this article then maybe you're sitting in a tight market. Areas like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago might be tough areas to get noticed, because these are often the first stops traditional publishers seek when planning author tours and getting stocked on the shelves. If you're near those areas, try looking outside of the city for alternatives that are often overlooked by New York. If that doesn't work for you, then consider non-bookstore shelf space and events. If you're not sure how to do this, check out my other article on events outside of the normal bookstore market.
Over the years we've planned events for our authors in all sorts of non-bookstore venues such as: video stores, electronics stores, gyms and even grocery stores. If events are your focus, keep an open mind and remember: Often the biggest piece of getting your book into a bookstore is the relationship you build with them.