Workshop 19: How Novelists Can Partner With Retailers To The Advantage Of Both
Kathleen Samuelson with Christian Booksellers Association publications shared that ACFW members can sign up to receive the digital magazine CBA Retailers + Resources free at www.cbaonline.org. Monthly articles include business articles directed at CBA retail employees and front-liners, as well as 25 to 30 book reviews.
CBA membership is open to anyone. It is comprised, primarily, of retailers, suppliers, authors and artists, as well as other professionals.
Samuelson said CBA and authors have a shared goal—reaching an audience to touch hearts and change lives. “Fiction carries as strong of a message as any nonfiction book,” Samuelson said, and stressed the importance of authors reaching out to retailers to form partnerships.
Among retailers, there are perceptions that fiction may not be able to speak to a person who walks in dealing with an issue, such as the death of a loved one or divorce. Samuelson urged authors to communicate their hearts and the reason behind the book to retailers in order to educate them.
Many authors find retailers and retail employees standoffish, preoccupied, and somewhat indifferent. The reality is many are overworked and underpaid, but according to Samuelson, they do want to align themselves with authors and their message. She counseled authors that “The retailers are your tribe,” and that “once a relationship is developed, these people can be your biggest evangelist.”
According to Samuelson, Christian stores are different from mainstream stores in that they see their work as a ministry. They attempt to get to know the needs of individual customers and help them locate books or resources that fit their needs or touch on their issues. Many stores reach out to their communities through events and by aligning with churches. These community-geared events can be a great way for authors to participate with the bookstore.
Authors can show their intent to align with retailers by including a link on their websites or blogs to the nearest CBA store. Samuelson mentioned that many author websites link to Amazon.com, but that referring customers to the nearest CBA store or posting a CBA store-finder link can guide readers to stores more in tune with their needs.
Samuelson also spoke about Christian retailers hand-selling books. Authors can best make retail employees aware of their book’s message by sharing their hearts. She advised authors to communicate their hearts with their publicists, publishers, and agents, and make sure that information is imparted via press releases. Samuelson said, “Press releases that stand out are the ones that tell personal stories about authors.”