This article is for our Muse Authors, but authors of other small presses might find it useful. 25

Small Press Publisher’s Tips for Approaching Bookstores to Get Your Books on Shelves— Methods and Suggestions that have garnered the best results after much trial and error! by Gineve Rudolph of World Nouveau Publishing

• Have at least 10 books in your trunk at all times
• Every time you go into a new town for an appointment or to visit a friend etc. go early and stop by as many bookstores as you can hit in the area

• Approach the bookstore clerk at the front with a copy of your book in hand and say:                       “Hello, I’d like to talk to someone about placing this title in your store.”
-Don’t say you are the author (yet)
-Don’t give your name (yet)
-Don’t pitch your book (yet)
-Don’t ask for the “Book buyer” because they might say he/she is not here right now, come back later

• With the intro line (in bold) above you might get the book buyer, or if he/she is not there, you will be directed to someone in charge who can influence the book buyer. Never pitch the check-out clerk unless they respond to your into by saying, “That would be me” or “I’m the manager, our buyer isn’t here right now,” etc. in which case you would ask him or her if he/she has a moment to talk or when would be a good time to come back

• If they say no, there’s no one here with book buying authority, ask them the name of their book buyer or manager and when they will be in next.

• Once you get to the right person, introduce yourself and ask if he/she has a moment to chat -DON’T hand them your book (yet).

IMPORTANT: Once you give them the book, their focus is no longer on you. ALWAYS pitch first and hand them the book after, if possible. Sometimes they reach for it and at that point, it becomes awkward if you don’t hand it over. If that happens, go ahead and give it to them, but don’t speak while they are reading the back material. If they begin skimming the pages, that would be your next opportunity to talk.

• If they say yes they have a moment to chat, start your pitch with the same line you gave the clerk (unless the clerk IS the manager or book buyer which happens in smaller stores sometimes).

“I’d like to talk to you about placing this title in your store. It’s called ______ and it’s about__________________…”
-This is your “elevator pitch” here. One or two lines is fine –three at the most –don’t go into detail about the plot or tell them how good it is
-Elaborate only if they ask questions (have a few more highlight details prepared if they ask. Try not to wing it. Writers often ramble when they wing it)

-Let them know you have been published by a small press. Tell them the name of your publisher, and that your book is fully returnable, listed in “Books in Print,” and available through the normal ordering channels with Ingram (iPage is the portal most bookstores use. All WN books can be ordered through Ingram’s iPage portal).
-When you give them the book, let them know it is a complementary copy that they can keep
NOTE: If they seem reluctant to consider it for their store, offer to give them a few copies for consignment (which means you only get paid if they sell). This is a no-risk way for them to test out the popularity of your book. Let them know you will be checking back with them in a month to see how it’s going. Note: consignment often requires paperwork which means more effort on their part, and some bookstores do not offer consignment as an option

-If you can afford it: offer to give them a few free copies to sell in their store as a trial run (this is where the copies in your trunk come in handy) and say “If these copies sell, you can order more through Ingram. That will be sufficient compensation.” This allows them to test the title in their store with no risk and no obligation.

• Always let them know you will be marketing your book in the area to drive traffic to their store. NOTE: If the store is located in or near the city where you live, let them know you are a local author. Bookstores love local authors and most stores will carry your book (including large chain stores like Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million and Powells) if you are local.
• Let them know you are available for book signings.
• Always thank them for their time and let them know you will stop by again to say hi and see how the books are doing.
• Always ask for their business card and give them one of your  business cards in return–one that represents you as an author and has the cover of your book on it. Let them know if they have any questions they can contact you anytime.

• Carry a small notebook (or use a notepad app on your smart phone) to keep track of every store you visit (regardless of their response), record the contact person’s name, notes on what they said, and how many books you left with them. Include the biz card with your notes. Remember to record the date so you know when to follow up. If possible, put your follow up reminders on a digital calendar that can send you a reminder when it is time to follow up. Usually, one or one and a half months (at the most) after initial contact is a good check in point, so they don’t forget about you. THE FOLLOW UP is one of the most IMPORTANT things you do to sell your book!

One last thing. Do everything you can to get people into the store to buy your books but if they are not selling, wait 2-3 weeks and then send a friend into the store to buy a copy of your book… or better yet send two or three friends… just make sure they go in on different days, of course. No bookstore will stock your book for long if there is no interest in it.

Happy marketing!