Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Get In Good With Booksellers

You want to sell books?  Then do what the title up there says - get in good with the booksellers.

I'm not talking about the owners of a bookstore (okay, well, if it's a mom and pop store then that probably can't hurt), I'm talking about the actual employees who are down in the trenches digging up books for people and - possibly more often than you realize - making recommendations.

I do know that you've probably heard this before, but I don't know how many people actually realize how hard some of us will work to get someone to buy a book because we love it so much.

Did you know that Barnes and Noble employees have access to something called B&N Inside?  It's available only to us, only on our network on our computers at the store.  Books pop up on it all the time.  There's a section of Bookseller Reviews where we send in some of our own favorites and they get featured so we can see what others are recommending.  To my delight, I made it on there once with one of my favorite trilogies (which was re-released into a complete volume).

But that's not all.  There's also a little something called the 100 Club.  I'm sure you can probably guess what that entails.  Yep - this is for booksellers who have sold 100 copies of a title.  While it's all on an honor system (you have to keep track of your own sales), there's no prize at the end of the road so there is no reason to cheat or lie about your numbers.  The people who do this are those who absolutely love specific books and do everything they can to get them into people's hands.  Some booksellers will even turn it into a game as well and challenge one another to see who can beat the other to the top.  But think; one single-minded bookseller can sell 100 copies of your book.  One bookseller sold so many copies of The Christmas Jar that the author actually went to the store to thank them personally.  Some of the books showcased by B&N as a company have come not from some suit sitting in an office in New York, but from a bookseller who just loved the book so much.

Right now, this is what I'm trying to do with not just one title, but two.  The first is - you guessed it - The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith.  The second is The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.  We'll see how it goes.

But not every bookseller is going to hit the 100 Club.  After all, we have a lot of things to do.  And that's just B&N anyway.  So what else can we do for you if we like what you've got to offer?  Easy - we get your book out there in front of people.  Books are supposed to go on various promotions at specific times.  Certain books get to have face-out time (where they are faced so the covers are front and center for all to see).  But if we like what you've got?  We'll put it somewhere people can see it.  We'll craft little areas of our own and put them there.  From employee recommendation displays to extra space we need to use up, if we can get your book there so people see it, we will.  I have both of my titles up there in areas where people can't miss them.  And you know what?  Sometimes we're way ahead of corporate.

For example, in our teen section we were supposed to have either an endcap (display at the end of an isle) or a mission table (think the size of your living room side table with the lamp on it) for The Hunger Games.  Yeah, well, when you get sent over 200 copies of each book in the trilogy plus books featuring movie insider goodies, an endcap or mission just isn't going to cut it.  Our managers took a big pine table instead and filled it full of Hunger Games books.  But we didn't stop there.  Corporate also sent lists of other books to feature on those displays that people might like as well so we made sure to include them on the table.  Of course, we could fit more so we got to choose our own ideas of what people might want to try.  And because I am a Children's Lead, I have reign over the teen section, so that table has fallen into my responsibility 95% of the time.

I had read and enjoyed Veronica Rossi's book, Under the Never Sky.  It wasn't selling too well where it was, and it's got the whole dystopian thing going on that people who liked The Hunger Games could get into.  So I snatched them all up and plunked them down on the table.  Front and center right next to a James Patterson title.  I don't always get to point it out, but now because it's got a sweet location, I don't have to.  And you know what?  The next week on a title list from corporate wanted that book to be on the next Hunger Games display.  I win.  And so does Ms. Rossi.  Now that list has come and gone, but our table is still there and so is her book.  It will come down when I say so - or when a manager decides to get rid of the table (but because we still have over 100-200 Hunger Games books in stock, I think that table is going to be around for a while).

Want another reason to get in good with booksellers?  We'll keep your books and try to sell them even after we get a return download.  When these downloads happen we are supposed to send designated books back to the publishers (or in the case of 99% of mass markets, strip them).  But...if we like your book...or we like you and we think we can squeak in just one more sale...then we'll hang onto them.  Technically i don't think we're supposed to, but I have.  And you know what?  I've sold books this way.  Beth Revis's first book, Across the Universe, was on my teen recommendation shelf for far longer than it was supposed to be.  The hardcover was due out, but I refused to let it go because A.) I was selling it and B.) the paperback wasn't due to be published until several months in the future.  Heck, I ran out and ordered more in while they were still due out.  And we both know that hardcovers net you more money than paperbacks.

We'll go the extra mile for you - this can be true even if we've never had the chance to read your book but know you personally.  If you like someone you want to help them out, right?  I've had the pleasure of meeting Victoria Thompson, but I've never read her books.  But when people are looking for a recommendation or mention they've heard of her books, I'll nudge them in her direction if at all possible and speak fondly of her.  It warms people to the author and the books and can make them more interested in making a purchase.  In the case of Maria Snyder, I've met her and emailed with her a few times as well as read her first trilogy.  When a woman called wanting the first book, I told her about Ms. Snyder as a person as well as how much I'd enjoyed her books.  After that the woman expressed interest in the next two books.  At the time I couldn't find the third book, but because I was determined to get the sale for Ms. Snyder, I kept on hunting until I finally found it.  I added it to the customer's other two books on hold.  I later checked the sales numbers and saw that she did indeed buy all three.  Later when her teen book came out, I hadn't read it, but I currently have it placed on our teen table (not too far away from The Forbidden Game!).

So be cool to booksellers.  We can be your best friends.  Write a great book and that's even better because if one of us falls in love with it, we'll throw it at every customer who walks in the door.

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