October 20, 2004
Marketing to Bookstores - A Waste of Time? By Angela Hoy | printable version
I'm often asked how new authors, both self- and traditionally-published, can get their book into bookstores.
Traditional publishers often don't get the majority of their new titles on bookstore shelves. There are just far too many books on the market for bookstores to carry all published titles on their shelves. Sadly, many authors think that getting a traditional contract means their book will be in almost every bookstore in the country. That's just not the case.
Authors who successfully manage to get their books on a few bookstores shelves are primarily targeting local bookstores which are often happy to help a local author.
However, another thing most authors don't realize is that having your book on a shelf in a bookstore isn't likely to generate many, if any, sales. Your book will be competing with tens of thousands of other books and the customer will only be skimming the spines of those books. The shelf space at the front of the store is reserved for titles that publishers have paid to be featured in such a prominent way. Even book signings, held in bookstores for new and unknown authors, rarely generate enough sales to justify the time and expense of organizing and attending the signing.
If you're a self-published author, what's the alternative to bookstore sales?
The most successful self-published authors market their books directly to the public online. What works? Reaching out to your fans (email list) on a steady basis.
Both fiction and non-fiction authors should:
1. Publish an ezine / email newsletter.
(I consistently sell thousands of dollars worth of my books each month by publishing WritersWeekly.com)
2. Offer a series of free excerpts / chapters / eserials via autoresponder.
(This successful marketing tool was perfected by celebrity horror author, Doug Clegg. Doug's books ARE in most bookstores now because of his successful online marketing techniques!)
Both the ezine and the excerpts should direct the public to an ordering page for your book, whether it be at your website, at your publisher's website, or even at Amazon.
It takes a great deal of effort to market to bookstores and doing so might sell one or two books in the end. It's discouraging, but it's the honest truth, and something many authors don't believe (or maybe just don't want to believe).
Yes, we have heard a handful of stories about lucky (tireless!) authors who sold copies to bookstores, but we've heard hundreds of stories of authors who've spent weeks or months marketing to bookstores, and even attending book signings, but only selling one or two books. I can't tell you how many authors have written in, saying they organized a "huge book signing" and only sold "two copies."
If authors spend all that effort building up their fan list (email list) and marketing online, their profits will likely be much higher. And, you never have to leave your home office!