Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Who Really Sells Your Books?

by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

I’ve always been a hometown gal. I buy my groceries at the hometown grocer over the larger superstore and shop at the local small town hardware store, who—by the way knows my name and still says, “Hi, what can we do ya for today? I buy my flowers from the street side plant store, and my veggies at the Farmer’s Market.

I love our local small businesses, but when my debut novel hit the shelves, I fell prey to the obvious; the chain stores from the Christian stores to the big boys like Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble. Not one of them carried my book instore. Needless to say, I was disappointed. My book was, after all, published by a large traditional house. Shouldn’t it be on their shelves?
Like any debut author, I could only imagine my novel prominently displayed on the shelves of these retailers. Being a small retail lover, I’m embarrassed our small local bookstore never occurred to me—well, in my defense. . .the store is in the mall and I rarely go to the mall (like I said, I’m shopping small and local over the mall). 

But when a friend approached our local small bookstore and asked if he could get the book, it started a chain of events that I could have never imagined.

The retailer ordered seven books—six for my friend and one for himself. Unbeknownst to me, he read the book and then ordered thirty more. He purchased an ad in the local newspaper, called me to come by and sign the books, and when I did, he plopped a sticker on the front that said, “autographed copy.”

I sent him an invitation to my launch party (he was one of 50 invitations) and I anticipated the law of average—one person for every 10 invitations. In the meantime, I visited his store several times as a patron. This store owner placed a 16x20 framed sign of my book cover at the entrance of his store, and strategically placed it on the top shelf of the main shelf.

Before I knew it, my launch party arrived and I sweated the huge cake my husband insisted on ordering, wondering if those five people I anticipated coming could eat such a big cake.

Not only did those five come but ten, fifty, one-hundred, ONE-HUNDRED-FIFTY people passed through my launch party. We obviously beat the law of average – but not by my hand. By the hand of this local retailer.

All that to say, had it not been for this wonderful small, local retailer, I’d have carried home a big chunk of cake. This retailer prominently placed my launch invitation on his counter and every time he sold a book, he’d say, “Drop by her launch party and let her add your name inside the book.” And they came.

As authors we tend to look toward the big chain retailers. It’s our dream for our books to be “out there.” But what does it mean to be “out there” if your books aren’t in the store? Most folks won’t take time to order the book from the chain store then return days later to pick it up. It’s not convenient.

Meet your local retailers. Get to know them. Advertise their store alongside your book. Send them thank you notes, visit them regularly. These people WANT patrons in their stores and they understand the business of selling books. They take the Field of Dreams Approach – “Build it and they will come.” And they do.

After five months, our I Love Books Bookstore is on the upside of selling nearly 400 copies of Mercy’s Rain. As quickly as he gets the book in the store it’s going right back out in the bags of customers. Mr. Moody’s personal efforts to better his store has given us both success. He continues to run ads in the local paper and make wonderful storefront window displays of Mercy’s Rain. The result. . . he continues to sell books.

Perhaps the bigger picture of marketing our books is not the chain stores, but getting back to the one-on-one customer level of the local small retailer. Big is not always better and it’s certainly not the mark of having arrived. Thanks to my local retailer, four months after the release of Mercy’s Rain local buzz is still growing and the novel is circulating our tri-city area. In the words of my local retailer, “I fully expect to sell another 100 books by summer.”


Support your local book retailers and form a partnership that stands firm. A joint effort brings success on many levels.

TWEETABLE
Who really sells your books? Thoughts from author Cindy Sproles, @CindyDevoted (Click to Tweet)


Cindy Sproles is an author and popular speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions ministries and managing editor of Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the executive editor of www.christiandevotions.us and www.inspireafire.com. She teaches at writers conferences nationwide and directs The Asheville Christian Writers Conference - Writers Boot Camp. 


She is the author of two devotionals, He Said, She Said - Learning to Live aLife of Passion and New Sheets - Thirty Days to Refine You into theWoman You Can Be. Cindy's debut fiction novel, Mercy's Rain, is available at major retailers. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com and book her for your next conference or ladies retreat. Also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

23 comments:

  1. Cindy, What a wonderful post. I wholeheartedly believe in using local merchants. I am so happy for you. I know my local bookstore owner and visit there often. May God bless you with selling 1000 books over the summer.

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    1. The local guys make a huge difference. Thank Hulu.

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  2. Well, this breaks my heart to read of an independent bookstore in a mall. My husband managed one for 20 years with great success, working to promote many authors and becoming the go to guy for books and reading. We met there. For a season, it was a joyful part of our life and my husband loved being a career bookseller. Until the owner sold out after 30 odd years and retired across country. It was a huge loss to the community. The 45 minute drive to the next nearest bookstore (a big box B&N), made the local void greater. Bravo to that local independent championing Mercy's Rain. You are surely blessed to live where this dying breed is thriving!
    Joy!
    Kathy
    PS: Today hubby is an "associate" in a corporate bookstore feeling the loss of the power of an independent bookseller daily.

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    1. Awe. Sorry Kathy. Book retailers all over hVe taken a hit. But for those keep moving they do wonderful things.

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  3. Great post, Cindy. Thanks so much for sharing. Hope you and your family are well.

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  4. Loved this post, Cindy. Such a blessing for you and the bookstore--congrats on those sales!

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  5. What a cool story, Cindy. Thanks for sharing and encouraging the rest of us. :)

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    1. Glad you saw the importance. Thank you.

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  6. I approached a local bookseller in the little beach town where my book is set. She told me she'd be happy to carry it and even offered to host my launch party :) Now to just get it published!

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    1. They are great folks with a true love of reading. Keep at it. You will publish.

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  7. What a cool post, Cindy! I live in a small town and focused on online and big stores. I totally missed the gold mine in my local stores. Thanks!

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    1. These retailers publicize locally in the newspaper, chambers of commerce , etc. They are real gems.

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  8. Cindy,

    Thank you for this uplifting report. You are so right that BIG isn't always BETTER.

    Who sells our books?

    I'd like to suggest that communities in which we may chose to set our stories are also good friends to make. Lindsey has already discovered the importance of reaching out to those people.

    Writers need to remember that sales are really made one at a time. While social media platform is important these days, one-on-one, personal touches are vital.

    Thanks for the reminder and best wishes,

    Carrie

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  9. Wow! That's actually a very touching story, Cindy! It seems to me that you reaped what you sowed! You took an interest in and supported local retailers, and a local retailer took an interest in and supported you -- the LOCAL author! :) And way to go for your friend that got the ball rolling with her request for SIX books! THAT will get a retailers interest! God's ways are awesome, and I am encouraged to trust God for His Plan for me when my book is in print. Thanks, Cindy!

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    1. It's a joint effort. I.ve been fortunate.

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  10. We were never meant to be alone, and I think this just goes to show how when we invest our community and invest in local retailers that our communities are there to be the foundations to lift us up when we need support. Great post!

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    1. So true. Thus is one time I believe it takes a village.

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  11. Congratulations, Cindy. God has certainly blessed you, your book, and the owner of your local bookstore,

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    1. Thank you. But it's not about me. It's about working with one another. The benefits are amazing for everyone.

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