Books Outside the Bookstore
by Fern Reiss, CEO, PublishingGame.com
Bookstores are terrible places to sell books.
The margins are low--you gross less
than $4.50 on every $10 book. You get crummy display space—just
the spine of
your book shows. And let’s face it—the competition
But you can sell thousands of books each year to non-bookstore
outlets. Here’s how:
First of all, think audience and think niche. Whatever
the topic of your book, the audience hangs out in places
than bookstores. So think about that audience, and think
about where they’re hanging out. If you have a golf
book, think golf courses and golf pro shops. If you have
a golden retriever book, think pet stores and dog shows.
Any venue that isn’t a bookstore is a great place to
sell books—because you can display your books as you
like, get a larger cut of the retail price, and best of all,
you’re often the only book!
So take your book to the sci fi convention…the firemen’s
ball…the ski shop…the writing convention. Bring
it anywhere there might be an audience for it. And see how
well it will sell in markets that aren’t bookstores.
Second, expand this idea to consider online sales. Your
audience probably hangs out somewhere in cyberspace as
about where those places are. Think about what listserves
they are reading, in what online discussion groups they are
participating, which websites they peruse.
And then make contact. Participate in the lists and discussion
groups yourself. Add meaningful content. Don’t be blatant
about selling your book—people are turned off by blatant
sales on lists. But always include your book title under
your signature, as well as your website or contact information.
And when you find a website that appeals to your audience,
go after it actively. Write to the webmaster, and ask that
they link to your website. Ask if they would be interested
in selling your book, or linking to it through Amazon if
they have an affiliate program. Find out if you can contribute
content to their site (along with a mention of your book,
of course!) It’s amazing how effective this can be.
Third, think about building reality into your book. (This
is especially successful for novels, which can be particularly
difficult to market.) Put in real place names, real restaurants,
real hotels, real associations, real websites and organizations.
And then market your book to those venues. If your book mentions
the local neighborhood Italian restaurant, try asking the
owner if she’d like to sell copies at the register.
If it mentions a real association, find out if they’d
want to consider a quantity purchase for their members. If
it mentions a corporation, find out if they’d like
you to give a talk—and then sell your books at the
back of the room. These are all possibilities, and they all
pay better than bookstore sales.
My latest books, The Publishing Game series, were all written
at my local Seattle’s Best Coffee. (None of my children
live there, so it’s my favorite place to get real work
done.) Because they were so nice to me while I was writing
the books, I mentioned the Seattle’s Best Coffee staff
in my dedication. When the books were published, I brought
them in as a thank you, and to show the staff (who had watched
me chugging mochas for months, in a booth that I probably
should have been paying rent on.) The books were left sitting
behind the counter for a few days, and the next time I came
in the manager asked me if they could sell the books in Seattle’s. “So
many people have come in asking to buy them,” she noted.
At the local bookstore, they only stock one or two of each
of my books. They shelve them spine out. They pay me 45%.
At Seattle’s Best Coffee, they stock ten copies of
each of the three books. They shelve them attractively on
book stands and in carefully arranged stacks—they’re
the only books in the store, so they stand out next to the
coffee paraphernalia. And they pay me 75%.
Guess where I’d rather be selling my books?
So think about audience, think about niche, think about
including reality in your books. And if you want to chat
know where to find me. I’m in the corner booth at Seattle’s
Fern Reiss is CEO of PublishingGame.com (www.PublishingGame.com) and Expertizing.com (www.Expertizing.com) and the author of the books, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, and The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days as well as several other award-winning books. She is also the Director of the International Association of Writers (www.AssociationofWriters.com) providing publicity vehicles to writers worldwide. She also runs The Expertizing® Publicity Forum where you can pitch your book or business directly to journalists; more information at www.Expertizing.com/forum.htm. Sign up for her complimentary newsletter at www.PublishingGame.com/signup.htm.
Copyright © 2011 Fern Reiss