Tag Archives: marketing and promotion

Going for the Big Time—Getting your book in Barnes & Noble

Bu Liesa Malik

Okay, so you’ve written a book. And you’re getting it published, either traditionally or through independent means. Today, this isn’t enough. Today, more and more, sales and marketing have become the author’s responsibility.

How do you sell your book? Can you get it on the shelves of big stores like Barnes and Noble across the nation? The straight answer is probably, no. But there are booksexceptions here. You can get your book shelved at all of the big stores when you become a USA Today or New York Times best selling author. Or when you’re rich and famous. Or you grow your book business as most small businesses grow—store-by-store and reader-by-reader.

Recently, I had the chance to speak with Natalie Vande Vuss of the Barnes and Noble at Wadsworth and Bowles in Littleton. She gave me the bookseller’s perspective on stocking and selling your book. And it all starts with a little understanding . . .

booksellerUnderstanding the business

“We all want the same thing,” said Natalie. “We all want people to read, and we want authors to write. That’s important. This is a business I enjoy because it’s a business about ideas. Here you’re shopping for your head.”

Unfortunately, while we may all be after this same goal, everyone is reaching toward it from different directions, so it’s vital to understand your bookseller’s path to selling your book.

“Each Barnes and Noble is unique,” said Natalie. “I can be three miles away from another store and have a completely different customer base. So the community makes a difference. And each building is different. We don’t build cookie-cutter stores.” She said that the stores all have their own layouts, number of bays, end caps, and tables. And the sales will be different from store to store.

“Once you’ve been in the market a little while and the customers have come in and are making their purchases, and you’ve tracked what you’re selling, you determine what to buy based on what your store needs.”

The other huge determinant of getting your books onto a Barnes and Noble shelf is whether or not your book easily fits into the established system. “There may be a product from a mom and pop out of their garage, and it may be a great item, but how is the payable system going to work? How is the reorder system going to work? How, if it goes to the register in sales, is it going to be re-ordered? There has to be some sort of system in place where what someone is trying to sell fits into our process systems for how we manage profit.”

Natalie mentioned Ingram, Books West, and Partners Publishers Group, as distributors whose systems are compatible with Barnes and Noble’s book stores.

The challenge with smaller or independently published books and books-on-demand is that each title requires processing by hand, and as Natalie said, “In our business staff hours are limited. If I have to go outside all of my systems, and go on a clipboard, it’s going to fall way down on the priority list.”

Where you can start . . .

Let’s say you have a book that fits in Natalie’s system, or you’re willing to do the extra work necessary to get and keep your book on the shelves of the store. As an author, where can you start building your presence?

“Please, make an appointment,” said Natalie. “What a lot of authors do is they just pop-in, and they want to talk to you for an hour. You do not have an hour to talk to them right then because maybe you just got 300 boxes in your back door.” She also said that it might be a different titled person you talk to in each store (remember, every Barnes and Noble is operated uniquely with only general structure and a majority of stock ordered out of New York).

And don’t expect your Barnes and Noble contact to be your personal trainer in how the n=bookspublishing industry works. ” I had a gentleman do that to me on a regular basis. Once a week he would pop in and want an hour of my time. I couldn’t do that. It got to the point where when I would see him I would avoid him.” Natalie said she didn’t want to do so, but she just didn’t have the time to meet with him on his whim.

To Natalie, a best practice would be to go into a store and let whomever you talk to know that you’re a local author. Then ask who the person is at that store that handles the type of event you would like to have. Ask if you can set an appointment to meet that person. Then have a short agenda when you do actually get together.

 . . . And finish

The big day comes. Barnes and Noble have agreed to host a book-signing event for you. Natalie said that a surprising amount of authors think this is all they have to do.

“What you have to understand,” said Natalie, “is you need to help me help you. I’ll provide the space. We’ll have employees at the register, we’ll order all the books, and we’ll do all that kind of stuff, but just like Random House would want to sell it and promote it, you’ll have to do that.”

And when your book signing is over? You have to have follow-up in order to keep books flying off the shelves. It is your marketing plan more than anything done at a store that will sell your books.

Authors Behaving Badly … by Kris Neri

By Kris Neri

???????????????????????????????As Charles Manson once said, “Are people strange, or am I just crazy?” Call me naïve, but as a published author myself, I assumed other authors must interact with booksellers as courteously as I do. I’ve always believed intelligence and sensitivity to be typical traits among those who write. For the most part I’ve found that to be true. But I’m also a bookseller— my husband and I own The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, Arizona. During my nine-year tenure as a bookseller, I’ve discovered that, for a substantial minority, common sense among authors is not as common as you might think.

So here are a few of the things I’ve observed that the authors among you, and those who hope to be, might want to avoid:

* Don’t threaten the bookseller. Even before we opened our doors, someone wrote to say, “I have many friends in that area, and I’m going to send them all to your store to buy my books. But if you don’t carry them, they’ll never shop there again.” Now I like threats as much the next person, but that one got my back up. I decided they would sell snow cones in hell before we’d carry those books. To date, nobody has asked for one.

* Don’t expect the bookseller to take a loss for you. This advice is directed to those published by presses that don’t offer traditional terms. Someone emailed us to say she was published by a small press and asked if we could host an appearance for her. I told her to send a copy of the book, and I mentioned if wasn’t available through traditional outlets, she would have to provide it on consignment at a 40% discount. For a store to take less means they must sell that book at a loss.

The “small press” turned out to be iUniverse, a subsidy press that only offers a 20% discount and doesn’t allow for book returns — two conditions that make it impossible for most stores to carry their books. Yet the book was well written. But when I offered to give her an appearance, she thought it was time for negotiations. “I just bought a $32,000 truck,” she wrote in an email, “I can’t give you 40%. I need to make money from this book.”

Okay, let me take a moment here to laugh my butt off at that idea. I wish I could say this was an isolated case, but it’s happened too many times. Every spot on a bookstore shelf is a space that could just as easily go to someone else. When it’s a book of marginal interest, that’s a gift. If they have any issue with anyone, it should be with publishers who aren’t professional enough to understand how other books are sold, and price and sell their books accordingly.

* If you don’t read, keep your mouth shut. I assumed that, like me, everyone who writes is also a reader. Man, was I wrong! Incredibly strong numbers of published authors display no interest in any book without their own names on the cover. Okay, that’s their business, and in my opinion, their loss. But why would anyone who hopes to sell copies of their books share that fact with the members of their audience. Yet they brag about it, displaying superior contempt for those who are so uncool as to still read. Then they’re surprised when those uncool people don’t choose to buy their book.

* Don’t tell them where they can buy books cheaper. Some authors who do read will note for their audience all the covers of books in our bestseller section that they have read. But they don’t stop there. Oh, no. They share how much less they paid for those books in Costco, the supermarket or used on Amazon. Then they’re surprised when someone asks how little their book is going for used online.

* Don’t treat a bookstore like a free swap meet. Some authors have discovered that they can make more money selling their own copies of their books direct to the store’s customers. We learned that the hard way, when an author seized a moment alone with a customer to sell her own copy of her book for cash, rather than the ones we had stocked. Do you think there’s a chance we would ever have that author back?

Well…you get the idea. Authors should display the same level of courtesy to booksellers that they show in every other area of their lives. And if they aren’t polite and considerate — they should learn how to do be.

Now, most of the authors who visit our store are great! They’re considerate, fun, and they see booksellers as their partners in the book-selling process. But the numbers of rude, thoughtless authors are higher than I would have imagined. Wouldn’t you think that, if they aren’t naturally courteous, they’d be more practical? Selling books is hard. Why sabotage the efforts of the people trying to help you? Some days I think it would just be easier to sell “Authors Behaving Badly” DVDs on late night TV.

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Neri_Revenge cover artKris Neri writes the humorous Tracy Eaton mystery series, featuring the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, the latest of which is REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, a madcap romp along the Southwestern Mother Road.

She also writes a humorous paranormal series, featuring a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent. Her latest magical novel, MAGICAL ALIENATION, was a 2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award winner for fantasy. Kris teaches writing online for the prestigious Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School and other organizations, including the Sisters in Crime Guppies. And with her husband, owns The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, AZ.

Why I Decided to Hire a PR Company as an Indie Author

By Colleen Oakes

Last night, at approximately 11pm, I decided that I would make some promo images for my upcoming novel, Queen of Hearts. I’m up late frequently these days, which is not very conducive for sleeping or for having a newborn. I’m up late doing weird things like promo images, because in this new, strange world of indie publishing, social media and promotion is key.

The fact that I’m staying up so late at night doing promotion was one of the reasons I decided, as an indie author, to hire a PR company.

Oakes_EllyA bit of history: I had an agent. My agent disappeared (literally!) and I was left behind in a huge publishing house. What I hated about having an agent (yes, I said it) was the long wait. I waited for a year while they messed around with Elly in Bloom and then at the end, nothing came of it. That was infuriating, and I swore then that my timetable would never again be based on anyone else’s whims. After all, that’s one of the great beauties of indie-publishing, and patience is not one of my virtues. As a control freak, I like and need this.

About six months ago, I was getting ready to launch Queen of Hearts. It has taken me two years to write this book, and that includes a huge chunk of time taken out to launch Elly in Bloom, the first book of my chick lit series. The book, FINALLY, was ready. It felt incredible to be done, to write “The End”. I am so ready for people to read it, to love it, to hate it. I know now that it will be a bit divisive and I can’t wait to see those arguments play out. I was overjoyed to be finished with this beautiful monster. But the idea of launching another book on my own was daunting because I am already sick of it…

Self-Promotion.

Let’s be honest: it’s exhausting! I worry about it constantly. Am I putting out too much? Too little? I don’t have a Tumblr – should I? I only have 250 Twitter followers. I should have more. Do I need two author FB pages, one for the Elly in Bloom series and one for Queen of Hearts? I only have twenty five Instagram followers – that’s pathetic! Do I blog enough? Do I need ANOTHER blog? Do I have enough reviews? How is my Amazon Author Central? My Goodreads author page? My Smashwords page? My LibraryThing page? All of these things have to be kept hip, relevant and recent. It’s overwhelming and intimidating and I worry that it’s annoying to those that know me.

It’s a constant stream, and at times I felt like I was drowning in my own words.

I explain it non-writer friends like this: Imagine that every single day, wherever you work, you had to petition to save your job. You had to remind your bosses of how great you are, every single day. You had to enlist co-workers to publicly state that you deserve your job. You have to email and tweet and stay totally relevant minute to minute, lest your company fires you, because you face that every afternoon. That’s what it’s like to be an indie-author right now. We are all fighting for the same spot, and social media is the key. You want to sell books so that you can write books. To sell books, you have to get readers to find your books. To unleash your creativity, you have to become a marketing expert.

The fact of the matter is that the indie pub revolution is here. It’s happening right now, and the market is flooded with indie-authors. You have to work three times as hard to get noticed, just to rise above the fray. Writing a good book is the first and most important step, but after that it’s all elbow grease and networking. Then, once you’ve risen above the fray, gotten the reviews, you have to maintain that. Blog. Tweet. Post. Facebook. Grow your followers. Make fans. Make friends. Sign books. Do blog tours. It’s a lot.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am blessed to be able to do what I love to do every single day. My dream of becoming an author has come true and it’s everything I thought it would be.

But. But. I did not anticipate the level of PR and self-promotion that I would have to undertake, just to stay relevant and selling books. It has cut dramatically into my writing time, which is something that the writer cannot abide. I find myself often making choices like “PR today or writing?” Do I focus on what I’m writing NOW or do I spend the time promoting what I’ve already written? It’s always one baby that is left in the ocean, and that baby cannot be your writing.

And that’s why I have signed with a very cool PR company, Booksparks. They have taken the load off my chest, and put their resources on what’s most important, which was something I worried about. What promotions were worth it? Which ones were not? One of many obstacles facing indie authors is discoverability and getting your name out there. If you don’t have a huge publishing house churning out your name to potential readers, what do you do? How do you find people? How do people hear about your book? I’m hoping that the PR company is the answer, and that they will not only take the burden of PR off my back, but also because I want to see what my books can do with a little (big) push behind them. It was the perfect time to hire a PR company, because I will be launching THREE books this year. I’ll need help with that.

Hiring a PR company was like an intervention of sorts. A writing intervention.

Now I can get back to business, my business, the business of being creative.

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Colleen OakesColleen Oakes is the author of the best-selling novel Elly in Bloom, which debuted in September 2012. A die-hard Colorado native who really enjoys living in other places, she attended Concordia College in Bronxville, NY where she received her BA in Creative Writing. When not writing, Colleen enjoys swimming, traveling, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. She now lives with her husband and son in Denver. Colleen captures her thoughts about life (the good, bad, and awkward) pretty frequently over at her blog, The Ranunculus Adventures. Her first foray into epic fantasy, the first book of the much anticipated Queen of Hearts series, arrives this holiday season, with the sequel to Elly in Bloom not far behind. She is signed with Sparkpress Publishing.

For more information about Colleen and her books, visit her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.