by Suzanne Kuhn
“My dream is to have my book published, but never be found on a shelf in a bookstore,” said no author ever. Instead, it’s every author’s dream to discover their book on the shelves of bookstores far and wide.
But the question remains: How does an author go about getting their book onto store shelves?
One way is to foster a relationship with your local bookstore.
Having been in the retail side of the book industry for more than 20 years, I’ve had countless interactions with authors inside a bookstore. I’ve experienced author-to-retailer interaction done well, and I have experienced it done very poorly.
The author’s goal for these interactions should always be an exchange of goodwill, encouragement, and appreciation of the bookstore. We are all familiar with the saying, “A thank-you goes a long way.” This also applies to retailers.
Many authors make the mistake of having their first contact with a retailer be the one in which they say, “Will you carry my book in your store?” or, “Why aren’t you carrying my book?” or worse yet, “You should be carrying my book.”
Without a previously established relationship, such requests or demands often fall on deaf ears. So what’s an author to do?
Develop, nurture, and cultivate author-to-retailer relationships.
The best way to do this is to shop your local bookstore. Kirk Blank, president of The Munce Group, (a marketing group for independent Christian bookstores) often tells retailers, “Nothing says thank-you like a big fat purchase order.” The same goes for the purchases made within a store. Customers who choose to shop their local bookstore are showing their support and appreciation. Nothing says thank-you to a local store like patronage and purchases.
Your face should be recognizable to the staff of your local bookstore. When you enter the store to discuss your book, they should already be familiar with you as their customer. Small talk, chit chat, and social pleasantries are key elements to forge that relationship.
But tread lightly. Although I highly recommend you become a regular, friendly face, take care to not cross the line of becoming a pest. For budgetary reasons, bookstores are usually run with minimal staff. Most staff members are required to multi-task. When you visit, be aware of what projects staff may be working on. Gauge your interaction based on their availability. Less is more when it comes to taking up the time of a bookstore staff.
Can I guarantee that if authors take these steps, their book will definitely be found on a store’s shelves? No. But the author who takes the time to foster an author-to-retailer relationship stands a much better chance of finding their book on their local bookstore’s shelves. It’s an important step to fulfill your dream.
Suzanne Kuhn, owner of SuzyQ, has more than 25 years of book retailing experience and event sales, including traveling as part of New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury’s team. In 2010 Suzanne launched SuzyQ, a full-service author promotion firm that works with authors, publishers, and literary agents. SuzyQ focuses on coaching and training authors in engagement, developing promotions for increased sales and reader loyalty, and coordinating live events. Suzanne’s experience in the book retailing venue gives her an edge when coaching authors. She loves working with authors, assisting them in making their book and brand more attractive to their audience.
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