Authors are obsessed with getting their books into bookstores. They believe this will be the key to making sales. After all, bookstores are in the business of selling books. Makes perfect sense.
Except it doesn’t.
Instead of being focused on getting your book into bookstores, start thinking about getting your book into the hands of readers.
People in all kinds of businesses don’t really understand who their customer is. If you’re an author, your customer is the reader, not the bookstore. The bookstore is the middle-man. They may be an incredibly pleasant middle-man, and middle-men have their places, but they are not your customer. That is the reader. The reader is also their customer. As you can see, readers are really powerful entities in this equation.
I work with a number of authors, handling various public relations tasks for them from helping build a social media platform to generating their newsletters, blog posts, mailers, and other assorted chores. Many authors just want to write, and not spend time marketing. Unfortunately, that’s not really very feasible these days.
You will either spend a lot of your time marketing, or hire someone else to do it, and even then it will require your attention. It’s just the ugly truth of business today – any kind of business. This is acutely felt in the book industry. Unless you are a proven author with a stellar track record at a big publishing house, you are likely to be spending a lot of what used to be your writing time on marketing.
If you are an author who has decided to self publish, or work with a publishing house outside the major ones, you’d better decide marketing is your second favorite thing – right below writing. Frankly, it probably is far higher on the list than re-writing, and we all have to do that, so just dig in and enjoy.
But, I guarantee, if you create a demand for your book, bookstores will become very interested in carrying it. Despite the obstacles, if they’re having potential customers walk in every day and ask about buying a copy of “Polly’s Last Chance for Pomegranates,” they’ll beat a path to your door, or at least your inbox.
However, don’t hold your breath on that one. Because those customers are likely to just order the book and have it shipped directly to them, never interacting with a bookstore. In fact, for many people, it’s nearly impossible to shop at a local bookstore because there no longer is one. That’s a pity, but it’s the reality.
For those lucky enough to still have bookstores, please support them in any way you can. Buy books there, suggest others do the same, and give them some love. Understand that rent is high and shelf space is limited and manpower is scarce. Just having the energy to order, rotate stock, and handle business is overwhelming for many bookstores. The people who work in bookstores tend to be readers, and they can offer great suggestions for books. Maybe you want to give them a copy of your book so they’re familiar with it.
I wish I had a better answer. I adore bookstores, but this post is about authors and how to get your book out into the world. Bookstores would be a wonderful, logical option except their business model is not geared to today’s publishing market. So, consider how much time it will take you to swim upstream on that. And realize that while you’re doing that, you’re wasting energy you could be devoting to reaching your real customer, the reader.