I speak as a bookshop owner. Someone who loves books. Most of us that run bookshops do, so please bear in mind that if you want us to stock your book we theoretically, will lend a receptive ear. But here are a few tips to help make the whole submission process a bit easier.
Running a bookshop profitably is a tough gig. Every product needs to earn its place. And yes, we do think of them as products, if you think of them as your baby you can see where the conflict is going to start. Make this the foremost thing you consider before approaching a bookshop. Oh and remove ego (so hard I know) but retain confidence, (even harder, I get it.)
Here are some things to consider.
Step One. Do you just turn up or book an appointment?
This is a heads I win, tails you lose situation. If an author phones me in advance I will generally ask them to send me something rather than a face to face meeting. This is usually because face to face meetings are excruciating for me. The majority of authors have no idea how to pitch and are very emotionally attached to their work. I completely understand that but it can cause awkwardness when I say no.
That said, if you want to wing it and just turn up, make sure that it’s at a quiet time of the day and be prepared to have an immediate and outright refusal. Rare but you have doorstepped them, so be prepared for a flat no. Of course, they could be delightful and pop the kettle on. I amrarely, if ever, delightful. Check their website or FB page in advance, they may have actually written a blog about it.
Step Two. Sending something in the post.
If you can afford to, send a copy of the book for them to keep / sell. Sign it. Honestly, don’t be embarrassed to do it, customers love to buy signed copies. If your book sells quickly the bookshop owner will be tempted to try a second or third copy. Who knows, they may buy enough to fund your villa in Sorento?
If you want the book returned to you, ensure you provide a full paid SAE. Do not expect anyone that has to choose between penury or bookselling, to cough up for postage to return a book that they didn’t ask for and don’t want.
Post or e-mail an A4 sheet, pitching your book. Include your RRP. your discount, reviews, blurb, ISBN, proven sales and cover art. You would be amazed how often cover art is missed off. Trust me, we DO all judge a book by its cover. If you aren’t confident enough about your cover get it re-done. No ifs or buts. If it’s no good your book will never sell.
Check the points outlined in the face to face meeting below.
If you have no sales figures or reviews and you are completely new to this, don’t blag it. Ask for help. Like I said, booksellers love books and we will quite happily offer advice on the marketing of it. Ask me if you want.
Having sent the book or the A4 flyer, follow up with a call. Within the week. Take it on the chin if they say no.
Step Three. Turn Up In Person and be ready.
1. Does your book look good? Does it look professional? If the shop owner suggests that it doesn’t, listen to them, they handle thousands.
2. If you have a proven track record of sales for god’s sake tell the owner. Likewise, great reviews and media attention. Local radio, newspaper etc. You are trying to make a pitch, sell it.
3. Think about how the book fits in with their shop. Stress any local connection, including yourself!
4. Tell them that you will do all the heavy lifting, provide a poster or review card, publicise it on social media.
5. Point out the cross benefits, it will bring more people into their shop or see them on SM. Don’t sell this if you can’t deliver it.
6. Work on a sale or return basis. Give them a decent profit margin. They will start flinching at anything under 40% discount.
7. Be nice. They are tired and broke too
8. If they say no, that’s fine, don’t take it to heart and for god’s sake don’t sulk and really, really don’t slag them off on Facebook. All you do there is give them publicity, make yourself look like a douche and thereby give them extra credit for not taking on a douche.
9. If they say no, consider if your product has a problem. Poorly written, poorly produced. If not, it just wasn’t for them, or sometimes THEY are the douche. It does happen
10. Having gone through this list consider is it worth the effort? If your book is a local walking guide you need to be in there. If not, think about it. Might your book be better as an e-book?
Anyway, those are my thoughts, I have worked with some really great authors and have been able to help them start their career with good advice and feedback. I act as a social media agent for them and generally support them as much as I can. I turn away more than I take on. This is based purely on the quality of the product. I never say no to well-produced talent. As I said at the beginning, I love books. Good books.