Thursday, August 16, 2007

Marketing to Bookstores

There were a couple of session on promotion that I attended at the SCBWI Conference that I wanted to talk about, but I think I’ll save that for next week as a recent link on our So Cal SCBWI listserv directed me to this booksellers blog post that I thought I’d like to discuss today.

It has some very good news for fellow Violets…

Here’s the link to the blog post entitled: The Cookie Theory: Author’s Secret Weapon or Crummy Mess?

I think every author and pre-published author should read it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Wasn’t that an incredible amount of helpful information on how to approach booksellers? The whole article was helpful, but there are a few things I’d like to discuss in terms of how they work well for us Shrinking Vis.

In rare moments of quiet, booksellers on the front lines share their war stories about off-putting cold calls, misguided interruptions, unpublished manuscripts about pets and grandchildren, and frustration at the number of would-be authors who want stores to carry their self-published books on consignment.

Here is a good example of one of the many benefits of being an introvert. We are very unlikely to do any of those things, preferring in fact, to have our wisdom teeth pulled.

ABC fields hundreds of calls from authors and publishers every year about who we are, and whether or not we can help them promote their books. (We can’t, other than providing a great network should they want to join.)
I think that last part is really important. Even an association of booksellers can’t really help us promote our books. Doesn’t that take the pressure off? I don’t need to come up with a scheme/trick/schtick/gimmick to get their attention, because they can’t help me with promotion anyway!

But they do have a network we can join. That doesn’t mean quick, drop by postings or massive promotional emails. What it does mean is feeling that independent booksellers selling childrens’ books is of passionate interest to you. Enough so that you’re willing to add one more organization to your busy life in order to support that cause.

More and more, authors in the current publishing climate think that a little guerrilla marketing might help them get ahead.
(I would be willing to bet dollars for donuts that an extrovert coined this phrase!)

They recognize that building relationships with booksellers is important. And they are right, but how to do it? What’s most effective?

One of their answers? WRITE A TRULY EXCELLENT BOOK.
Which relates back to Favorite Marketing Advice #1! Write the most amazing book you can. Spend extra time on it, push yourself and your craft. This is something all introverts can do!

But I’m adding some others, and hope other booksellers might chime in.

* Offer a day’s gift-wrapping backup during the holiday season.
* Put up posters for bookstore events.
* Help staff an out-of-store event.
* Help read and evaluate galleys.

Wow! Aren’t those some great ideas!! And those feel very doable to me; I’m offering to do something helpful and useful, the focus is no longer about me, but supporting stores I believe in! As an introvert, doesn’t that feel more doable to you?

And here’s some more good news listed under the five LEAST effective things you can do to work with independent bookstores:

* Mail a single flyer and then follow up with a hard sell either by phone or in person
* Make a cold call to a bookseller, and then monopolize their precious time with a lengthy sales pitch
Look at that! They hate when people do that! Which means we can permanently cross that off our I-Don’t-Want-To-But-I-Feel-Like-I-Have-To List. Oh, the freedom!

At the most basic level, creating successful and long-lasting relationships in the children’s book business is really about understanding and helping booksellers do their jobs better.
Which really, goes back to one of the introverts strengths that we discussed earlier: making deep, personal connections.

She then goes on to list five ways to make friends with booksellers (where again, she reiterates that written communication trumps a cold call—YES!!) and help them build their business, and I recommend you commit those to memory.

After all, if you’re a writer, chances are books are your passion, and you and the independent booksellers have much in common. And a much better introvert strategy than cold calling or hard selling is building on existing common passions.

And a big, fat THANK YOU to Kristen McLean and Carol Chittenden for telling us exactly what we needed (and wanted!) to hear!

1 comment:

Mary Hershey said...

This is cause for a Shrinking Vi CONGA LINE-- oh yeah! Violets and Vinnies, shake your booty! Whoo-hoo!

Thanks, Kristen and Carol and Robin for sharing this great information that gives us some real insight about what booksellers are dealing with and what they need!

TGS! (Truly great stuff)

Mary Hershey