Monday, January 23, 2012

Write Brain Notes: New Models in Publishing, A Bookseller's View

Last week, I attended the Write Brain session, offered by Pikes Peak Writer's. It was a great workshop, which I promised to pass along.

The wonderful folks who ran it were Deb Courtney (Courtney Literary), Robert Spiller (author), DeAnna Knipping (author) and Natalie Johnson (Black Cat Books). For this post, I am going to cover just the first part of the workshop, as it will otherwise be too long.

Natalie Johnson went first, as she had to leave. She is the owner of Black Cat Books, a small bookstore in Manitou Springs. She was quite reassuring on trends in publishing, as far as her store was concerned, and said she'd only seen a drop-off in physical book sales in the last few months. She feels e-books reach a different audience than the physical books in her store. Here are a few of the notable things she said:

1. When contacted by a local author to do a signing/carry a book, she will always do a signing first, which introduces the author to her patrons and lets people know she will be carrying the book. After the signing, she carries the book continuously.

2. When you contact a bookseller for a signing/to carry your book, make sure you know how to get them copies of the book and are prepared to give them your distributor/sales information(they are not just going to buy them from Amazon).

3. Booksellers, both big and small, are more likely to carry your book if it is returnable through the distributor. This is one of the reasons self-published books are often not carried by local stores. Black Cat Books will still give you a chance, but you will be expected to provide your own books.

4. When doing a signing, it is a good idea to also have information to hand someone on how to purchase an e-book format of your book. Whether that's a bookmark, a business card, or something specific to the e-book, this is something authors frequently overlook.

5. Once a store is carrying your book, she recommends you call to check up every six months or so. For her, this reminds her to re-stock the book if it is sold.

6. Booksellers have the right to turn down your book. This might happen because it is badly edited, because it promotes hatred, or for any other reason. Make sure you are bringing a quality product to the bookseller.

7. When doing a book signing, promotional items are great. However, make sure they are not too big; there is limited space in a store, and something smaller will likely be kept out longer than something large and unwieldy (like a large sign/banner, for instance). Bookmarks and small items like that are the best.

8. Speaking of promotional items, if you can come up with something that is unique to you or specific to your book, it can help you get an edge. One author had his information printed on nail files, because people often need a nail file in a pinch. Another author gave out guitar picks, which had bearing on his novel. Sweet treats are good, especially if geared toward something in your book.

9. If you can get an award sticker on your book by submitting it for contests/awards, that book will sell.

10. People come into bookstores knowing what they want, most of the time. She is rarely asked for recommendations by patrons. Have your information out there.

This is the end of the first part of my notes. Come back Monday for the next portion.

Any other pointers for authors when it comes to getting your books out to booksellers, whether big or small?

May you find your Muse.


  1. Those are all good tips. Nice to know there are still bookstores out there willing to give newer authors a chance.

  2. Yay! That was great. Thanks for the notes. I bought fortune cookies with pity sayings for promotional use. I'm calling them CURSES! Cookies.

    I hope to do a signing at Black Cat around the time of the PPW. Wanna grab a drink or something that Thursday before? I'd love to hear all about your projects and hear your pitch!

  3. Good tips. The nail file idea is a first for me.

  4. Excellent and encouraging advice. E-books have become so popular, that e-books are burgeoning. I am not so sure that some of those books are worth 99 cents, let alone $4.99. Thanks.

  5. I tried E-books once in college but they drove me crazy. I'm sure they are much nicer now.

  6. I love these sort of posts. Now that I have finished the novel, I realize how much I don't know about the next steps. I do have the occasional panic but figure this process is a bit like walking. I started out crawling, and hey, I can walk really fast now. Everyday I learn more ....

  7. That whole returnable thing is one of the things that drives me crazy about bookstores and the publishing industry. Why, of -all- retail stores, should book stores get to send back their unsold items? It makes no sense. It's one of the things that needs to change about the book industry.

  8. Shannon...that was great. I learned a lot, thank you for sharing this insightful information.

    I look forward to the next instalment.

    Cheers, Jenny @ PEARSON REPORT

  9. Alex, definitely good to know. Natalie is really nice.

    Julie, I'm not pitching, but I'd love to meet up. Those cookies are a fantastic idea!

    J.L, it's definitely not something I would have thought of, but I can see what he was thinking.

    Susan, I've read some really good e-books, but there have been a couple stinkers, too. Given, I have read some bad physical books, as well.

    BragonDorn, I tried reading books on computers years ago and absolutely hated it. I do like the Kindle, though.

    Brenda, there is truly so much more beyond what we're typically led to believe in books and movies and such.

    Andrew, valid point. Why has it remained that way?

    Jenny, it was a great Write Brain! They are always very informative.

  10. Because it's the only way to get book stores to take a risk on new authors. It's kind of a suck situation all around, but that's also why Amazon and POD and e-books have been so good for new authors. Amazon can carry the products without any actual risk involved. The whole publishing industry needs a real make-over.

    I wonder how a book store would do if it had an actual POD stand in it. You could choose your book and have them print it while you waited. Or come back in an hour kind of thing. Like with photos.

  11. Andrew, I've been waiting and waiting for that to happen. I just heard about a week ago that there is a bookstore in Denver, CO that has a machine that does POD, I believe, but I don't know what bookstore and I haven't verified that yet.

  12. Wow! That would be really cool! Let me know when you find out.

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