5 Tips to get Indie Authors into Indie Bookstores

Last year, I remember telling any number of loved ones in other states that I’d likely see them in the upcoming months as I launched Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters.

“I’m sure I’ll have a book event somewhere near you,” I said with such conviction.

 

Looking back, I think I must’ve temporarily lost my marbles. Had I assumed a magic carpet would arrive at my door after my book launched?

No such luck.

Book events, especially those out of my hometown in Anchorage, Alaska, have been anything but easy to coordinate.

I’d thought as a debut author published by a small press, indie bookstores would open their arms and doors wide for me. I’m indie, you’re indie sort of deal.

But it hasn’t worked that way. I’ve commiserated with enough other authors in the same boat to know I’m not alone. We’ve learned that when our PR contracts end, we’re often invisible to the bookstores.

For example, I called The Village Bookstore in Bellingham, my old college stomping grounds where I still have a lot of friends. Village Books has a lengthy application form for authors (as do many independent bookstores), and they charge an hourly rate for consultations with authors to discuss the possibility of having an event. Really? Like I haven’t up-fronted enough costs on this venture, I wanted to say.

So I called Bellingham’s Barnes and Noble.  It’s free to chat with them, and I know they’ll order the books and pay shipping for them and do some marketing, so essentially all I have to do is show up. The event planner told me to email her a follow-up request, and said since I was already in their system, having done a Barnes and Noble event before, it’d be easy. So I emailed. And emailed. And called again. Nothing.

I’ve found this experience duplicated with bookstores in other cities like Fairbanks, Seattle, and Portland. So I began asking the bookstore owners what I needed to do to convince them to host a book event for me.

Here are 5 tips they offered, and once I employed them, the doors opened wide.

  • Let the bookstore owner know that you have connections like friends and family or other affiliations nearby to fill the bookstore for your event.
  • Does your story have a connection to the town or city the bookstore is in? Emphasize this when pitching the event planner. I met an author from Washington who had Skagway, Alaska in her book’s theme. She enjoyed an extensive book tour throughout Alaska last summer because of it.
  • Demonstrate you have reach to a wide audience via social media and your author website, and that you’ll use your reach to publicize the book event.
  • Assure the bookstore owner you’ll not cancel your event at the last moment. One Portland owner said  cancellations by out-of-town authors had happened too many times in recent history and resulted in wasting of the bookstore’s time and resources.
  • To sweeten the pot, authors should be willing to schlep their own books to consign with the bookstore. It’s less financially risky for the bookstore when the author manages the inventory.

I’ve found that coordinating events out of my home town is not a passive process. If I simply give up after one or two emails or calls, I will not get the desired results. So I’ve nagged and cajoled and made myself known to the events planners and bookstore owners.

And now, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters will meet some other parts of the country. And for that, I am truly grateful. I’m also grateful that Pieces of Me is in its second printing, and grateful for the reader’s reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  They make a huge difference in sales. Thank you.

Do you have friends in Seattle, Toledo, Portland, or Louisville that might like to attend one of my book events?

Please forward them to lameredith.com/upcomingevents.

Spotted by my friend Ruth at Cabin Fever