Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Where's My Book?
1. I was sitting in on an author's talk at a recent conference. The author in question (who is a darling) mentioned that she has a standing relationship with her local bookstore: she links to them on her website, and they carry everything she's ever published, and people know that they can find signed copies there.
My thoughts: "That's swell. Unusual, but swell."
... And then I noticed everybody else in the room writing this down with fervor. And talking about what a great idea it was.
Oh, the humanity.
2. And then, just this week, I get an email from one of my authors complaining about how she'd been into a little bookstore in North Carolina somewhere while she was on vacation, and her brand new book wasn't there! They hadn't even heard of it! Was our marketing department doing nothing?
3. And all this reminded me of an author friend of mine who sometimes complains about how her local bookstore doesn't carry any of her books, even though they know she's local.
Important Principle: shelf space in bookstores is real estate. It isn't parkland, open to all. Shelf space costs the owner money, so the books on each shelf have to make money.
Yes, many booksellers like to support local authors. But here's the thing: keeping books on the shelves that do not sell uses valuable real estate for no gain, which in bookseller terms means financial loss. Because they're paying rent on every inch and square foot of that store.
Which means that every book in the store needs to be earning money by being bought regularly.
1. If you are a very well-known author with a fan base that does a lot of collecting of signed editions, then you may indeed develop a fan-bookstore to carry all your works. But don't hold your breath.
2. Are you vacationing in some out of the way place, and happen into some adorable little bookshop? And they don't carry your book? Consider that it's because they know they wouldn't be able to sell it there. Who knows their clientele better, you or them?
3. Has your local bookstore stopped carrying your books? Consider that it's because your books did not sell. Bookstores carry local authors' books if they can support the local author financially. The bookstore will not carry your books for moral support.
This industry is full of nice, supportive people who want to help each other. But you'll get the farthest by knowing when you're asking for help, and when you're asking for something that won't help at all.