Okay, you are marketing your new novel. You are an author with an independent publishing house, using POD press. You want to get a book signing at your local bookstore. What do you do?
Before you do anything, you need to be prepared. You’re going to be having conversations with decision makers, and you need to be ready to answer all kinds of questions. Before you start calling bookstores do the following:
- Gather reviews. Send your book to readers and beg for reviews–honest reviews.
- Write a press release. I say “Write a press release,” because it is ridiculous to pay someone else $300 to write one for you. After all, you need a press release written because you are a writer. (More on that later–like in a separate blog entry.)
- Find calendar dates and times that work for you and write them down.
- Know your ISBN number.
- Research whether or not your book is available for the store to purchase. To do this, go to the store website, and search for your book. If they can order it, it will be in their list. If it is an independent store with no website, you can always call and ask if it is available. Helps to disguise your voice, or practice your British accent.
- Write yourself a little script, so that when you are put on hold for the store manager and you’ve listened to muzak for so long you’ve forgotten why you’ve called, you’ll be able to read your script and still sound intelligent.
- Spend a few minutes in the mirror repeating the following, “My book is good enough. My book is smart enough. Doggone it, people will like it!”
Once you’ve done all that, it is time to start dialing. When you connect with the store, this will happen:
- Someone will answer. It may be someone who sounds like a nitwit. Be pleasant. This should go without saying, but you never know. No matter who answers the phone, or how they answer it, be kind. Ask to speak to the store manager, bearing in mind that if it is a nitwit answering the phone, this might terrify them. No one ever asks to speak to the manager because they are happy, do they?
- When the store manager picks up, say something like this, “Hi, [store manager’s name]. My name is Nextbig Thing. I’m a local author and my new novel is available in your list. I was calling to find out how to set up a book reading and signing event at your store.”
- The manager will probably ask you for the name of your book, or your ISBN. Then, she’ll look it up and see if she already has some in her store, or how easily she can order them.
- Your book is POD. She will say something like, “Oh. Your book is POD.”
- You will say something like, “Yes. I am published through Awesomesauce Press, and I’m getting some great reviews…
You know that’s not going to cut it, right? Here is where you need to be able to sell. You need to be able to tell the manager WHY it is worth their time to have you taking up space in their store. Let them know:
- Why you picked their store. Do you live just down the road, and are all your neighbors excited to come? Do you work nearby, and your whole office building wants to support you?
- How you know your books will sell. Neighbors? Coworkers? You are a Duggar?
- What marketing/promotion/advertising you’ve already done. Did you have a good signing at Coffee Houz? Did the Monday Morning News review your novel? Are you trending on Twitter #YOURNOVEL? Did JK Rowling write a blurb for you?
Anything you can think of to distinguish yourself–be prepared to say it. Be shameless. You already sold your book to a publisher, now you’re just telling a bookstore manager why the publisher thought your book would sell. Piece of cake! Very dry, hard to swallow cake if you hate cold calling as much as I do, but still cake.
After that, the conversation can go any which way. Your job is to keep a positive attitude. If the manager isn’t sure about the book, at least she’ll be sure about you. She might like you so much, she wants to help you.
However the conversation goes, make sure to do two things:
- SAY THANK YOU. The manager just took time out of her day to talk to you. Again, it should go without saying, but it’s important enough to repeat.
- Get the manager’s email address. Tell her you want to send her your contact information. Then, follow up with an email. In that email, say thank you again, attach your press release, any reviews you’ve received, and be sure to include your address so they know you truly are local.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Hopefully, everyone will say yes! If not, eventually, someone will. Just keep plugging away.