by Suzanne Kuhn (SuzyQ)
I write a bi-monthly column entitled Engage+Relate for CBA’s magazine Retailers+Resources. I encourage bookstores to connect with both their customers and their local communities. Likewise, authors need to engage and relate with bookstores. Browsing in a bookstore is the most common way readers discover books. An author who adopts an intentional bookstore strategy is likely to have stores not only stocking, but also handselling their books.
• Show LOVE to your local bookstore. Your local bookstore is working hard for their sales. Support them by becoming a regular customer. By getting to know the bookstore staff as a regular customer, you can become an author who stands out. Offer to be a resource to the bookstore. Anything you can do to help generate sales and more traffic in their store will help you to be a favorite author.
• Timing is everything. Calling a bookstore with short notice and asking to do a last minute book signing is not a realistic marketing plan. Stores need time to order books, schedule staff and stay within budget. When cold calling or canvasing a store, remember that the manager or owner was not planning on your visit. They may be working alone or helping customers, and they may not have the (unscheduled) time to devote to you. If you are passing through, stop in with a small thank you gift. Offer to leave bookmarks. This is not the time to pressure the store to carry your book; instead thank them for the important part they play in helping readers discover great books.
• Discoverability at any price is still discoverability. Authors are understandably worried about sales, royalties and future contracts. But remember, when it comes to a bookstore, an author’s discoverability is based primarily on your book being in stock and secondarily on price. If your book is in the bargain bin or closeout shelf, it’s an opportunity to introduce new readers to you at an entry level price. Hopefully that new reader will become a fan who pre-orders all your new books and seeks out your backlist.
• Influence the influencers. What if you and the bookstore plan a great event but there’s a poor turn out? In my opinion, there is no such thing as an unsuccessful store event. You have just been given a private audience with people who influence book buying decisions on a daily basis. This is your opportunity to shine. Take this time to get to know the staff, pray for them, and be a resource to them. Remember, these are the people who interact with readers who enter a bookstore for the purpose of discovering new books.
When an author makes a strong connection with bookstore staff, it will often lead to their titles remaining stocked and leaving a devoted sales force in place after the author leaves the store.
Suzanne Kuhn of SuzyQ has 25 years of book retailing and event sales experience, including traveling with Karen Kingsbury. SuzyQ is a full-service author promotion firm that trains and coaches authors in reader engagement, coordinates events and develops promotions. Suzanne truly believes in the power of Christian literature to impact and change lives.