What I learned about working with bookstores

One of the things I learned by self-publishing my book is that I am now not only an author, but a publisher. And that I would do well to behave as one, and to learn the ins and outs of the trade. So when I found out about a local book publishing organization that includes self-published authors among its members, I called them up and found out about the speaker event “Working with PNBA and NW Bookstores,” and then I went. It was well worth my time!

The speaker, Tegan Tigani, is a woman with many hats: board president, bookseller, children’s book buyer, book editor, blog editor, freelance writer, and children’s enrichment tutor. How she finds the time to do all that, and then come do a speaking engagement, I have no idea!

She was there speaking partly about the upcoming fall trade show for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and partly about how to respectfully work with bookstores. Sounds like the trade show has educational book tabling opportunities for authors. There is also an annual award competition, which she encouraged people to submit to. The cost of submitting would be the cost of mailing the book to the committee members.

The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association has a relationship with Book Publishers Northwest. Book Publishers Northwest always has a booth at the trade show, and members can make use of it. They can leave copies of their books for trade show members (including booksellers and librarians) to read through, and then any display books left over afterward are donated to rural libraries. (Massively cool!)

As for working with local bookstores, Ms. Tigani referred us to a post by author Mark Holtzen, “Advice for self-published authors.” She suggested reaching out with an email first, because some booksellers might want to see the book and some might want a sheet with talking points instead. If you provide a sample, don’t ask for it back . . . because apparently bookseller’s offices are really cluttered up with books. And to be respectful, don’t mention that your book is available on Amazon, because Amazon’s business practices are problematic for brick-and-mortar bookstores and publishers. 

Some bookstores will work on consignment, but some, like Queen Anne Books, don’t like to do that, because it’s so much easier to deal with invoices and returns for one distributor than a bazillion authors. It’s easiest if a book is available through a distributor like Ingram, Partners West, or Baker & Taylor. I asked about CreateSpace, since that’s where I had my book printed, and it turns out that yes, it is possible to make a book printed through CreateSpace available through Ingram. (And when I went home, I found out that yes, it was!) If it’s available through Ingram, many independent bookstores will carry it.

As for asking a bookstore to host an event, Ms. Tigani pointed out that authors have to do most of their own promotion. From my experience reading at Weller Book Works and Third Place Books, I’d say that’s spot on! She suggested pitching an event as a pair or a trio, because each author then brings a fan base, so more people attend the reading. Good plan.

She mentioned that ebooks published on the Kobo platform will work on all newer e-readers, including the Kindle Fire, and someone else mentioned that a good way to get it onto the Kobo platform, as well as other platforms, is through BookBaby or Smashwords. I looked into that, and found out two cool things: one, Smashwords will provide an ISBN for free; and two, Smashwords will make books available to libraries — at way more reasonable terms than publishers currently offer.

 I think I have my work cut out for me now . . .

One response to “What I learned about working with bookstores

  1. Pingback: Linkspam: The ethics of self-publishing | Kristin Ann King

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